It’s the most wonderful time of the year! What better way to get in the spirit than a festive book?! If you are looking to maximize your reading time this season, these are the best holiday and Christmas books for adults. I focused on only books I have read and those that are on my TBR list.
The Best Christmas Novels
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Best for fans of classics
A list of the best holiday / Christmas books would not be complete without this one. We all know the story of A Christmas Carol, and how the bitter old Ebenezer Scrooge is transformed in the spirit of Christmas after a visit from the ghost of his former business partner and the Ghosts of Christmases Past, Present and Yet to Come, including Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim of course.
But did you know how compulsively readable and superbly written the original novella is?! I read it as part of my Rory Gilmore reading challenge and, not that I expected less, but I was still blown away by how fantastic it is. An absolute holiday “must-read” for all book lovers.
And — the audio version is exquisitely performed by the incomparable Tim Curry, and your library should have it always available for a loan without a wait.
A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote
Best for fans of classics, nostalgia and Truman Capote
Truman Capote is quickly climbing the charts as my all-time favorite author. The short story A Christmas Memory is an absolute gem, evidenced not only by the 5 stars I gave it but the many other 5 star reviews I saw that made my heart swell a bit. Capote is at his best when he is depicting complex characters in simple sentences.
Oh my,” she exclaims, her breath smoking the windowpane, “it’s fruitcake weather!Truman Capote
This has become one of my favorite declarations in holiday literature. It begins this short and beautiful tale about a young boy in rural Alabama, looking back with nostalgia about his old, but childlike, friend whose face is “not unlike Lincoln’s.”
They save their pennies throughout the year to make 30 fruitcakes as soon as fruitcake weather arrives. They share them with only the most deserving persons, including the one they send to the White House each year, wondering if the President serves it thereafter.
Together, they share more holiday cheer as the old friend comes to the realization:
I’ll wager at the very end a body realizes the Lord has already shown Himself. That things as they are’ – her hand circles in a gesture that gathers clouds and kites and grass and Queenie pawing earth over her bone – ‘just what they’ve always seen, was seeing Him. As for me, I could leave the world with today in my eyes.Truman Capote
The short story A Christmas Memory, and the short stories that follow in this book, which flesh out the character of the boy, are classic American holiday literature at their finest. I intend to re-read A Christmas Memory each year and hope you do too.
For more, check out my full review of A Christmas Memory with book pairings.
The Christmas Pearl by Dorothea Benton Frank
Best for fans of Dorothea Benton Frank, Southern charm and character-driven novels
Dorothea Benton Frank is such a beloved favorite author of mine, who always evokes the most heartfelt Southern charm, and The Christmas Pearl was no exception.
It’s a quick, very character-driven book about Theodora, the Southern matriarch of a family that has grown into “knuckleheads.” And this Christmas in her very old age fails to live up to the extravagant, traditional ones in her childhood.
She nostalgically reminisces about Pearl, her grandmother’s beloved housekeeper and closest confidante, and Christmas becomes what it was always meant to be.
I recommend this as one of the best holiday / Christmas books for adults who love character-driven novels, nostalgia and/or Southern charm. If you are doing a 50 States of America reading challenge, this also makes a great book for South Carolina.
Christmas Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella
Best for fans of lighthearted “Chick Lit”
In Christmas Shopaholic, Becky returns from the States to live in the charming village of Letherby and work with her best friend.
Becky adores the traditions of Christmas in her parents’ home, but this year they ask Becky to host Christmas. Becky becomes overwhelmed by the holiday frenzy and the chaos of pleasing everyone, and she wonders if she can bring the spirit of Christmas to all.
Christmas Shopaholic is a quick and delightful read! It reminded me of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, as it’s all about preparation for Christmas, and how everything goes humorously wrong in the process.
The Christmas Sisters by Sarah Morgan
Best for fans of family stories and a Scottish setting
In The Christmas Sisters the McBride sisters come home to snowy, festive Scotland for Christmas (think: black watch plaid), and they are each finding their own challenges this holiday season. Posie has a budding romance that is the talk of the town. Beth is a mother struggling to decide whether to go back to work. And Hana is a reserved workaholic who plays her cards close to her vest.
However, their adoptive mother is convinced that “this year will be different!” Family drama ensues as Christmas approaches, and it’s unclear whether Christmas will be as magical as their mother hopes. The Christmas Sisters is a delightful and satisfying perfect holiday read.
Evergreen Tidings from the Baumgartners by Gretchen Anthony
Best for fans of lighthearted comedy and midwestern charm
Evergreen Tidings from the Baumgartners was a very charming holiday-ish book about a Midwestern woman named Violet Baumgartner who writes a holiday update letter every year with “evergreen tidings.” When her daughter’s secrets are revealed at her husband’s retirement party, her picture-perfect life unfolds in funny ways.
The dialogue is filled with midwestern wit and charm as you both read Violet’s holiday letters over years past and also learn how the family reacts to the daughter’s secrets in the present.
I love a good character story and was picturing Violet in a Christmas-themed turtleneck like she was straight out of Home Alone the whole time. I recommend this book if you love humorous holiday nostalgia.
Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris
Best for fans of comedy
This festive collection of tales, featuring the irreverent style of humor that is the trademark of Sedaris, includes the diaries of a Macy’s elf (my favorite); being a child locked out in a snowstorm; the nonsensical Christmas traditions around the world; and more!
It’s great for some quick comedic relief during the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season.
In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren
Best for fans of modern rom-coms and Groundhog Day
Amazon Editors’ Pick
In a Holidaze is a holiday rom-com that starts after a Christmas in which a lot goes wrong for Maelyn at her family’s usual “Christmas with friends” at a snowy Utah cabin. She leaves wishing to find happiness, and it seems like things can’t get worse until a car crash occurs.
Maelyn then begins to relive her Christmas vacation as if it were Groundhog Day. But, the others insist a car crash never occurred, and that she just woke up from a bad dream. As Maelyn navigates Christmas all over again in her “dazed” state, she tries to fix everything that went wrong the first time she experienced Christmas. And, of course, there’s a love triangle and some holiday steaminess in store!
Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb
Best for fans of historical fiction
“Paris is always a good idea,” I reply, my breathing heavy as I reach the door. “Especially at Christmas.”Hazel Gaynor & Heather Webb
As the Great War begins, Evie thinks that it will be over by Christmas. Her brother Will and his friend Tom leave for battle, and the group plans to meet for a holiday in Paris when the war is over.
But the war drags on. Last Christmas in Paris wasn’t *exactly* a Christmas book — it was more so a World War I story and a love story told almost entirely through letters and telegrams, with sprinkles of Christmas mixed throughout and penultimate Christmas events at the end.
However, Last Christmas in Paris also evoked themes of family, love, belief and hope that are the spirit of Christmas. It was a great read that kept me engaged in the fate of the characters and brought out my emotions, particularly at the end. I felt connected to the characters and how World War I impacted and forever changed their lives. I recommend this book if you can appreciate an emotional historical fiction holiday read.
Nantucket White Christmas by Pamela Kelly
Best for fans of Elin Hilderbrand books, Hallmark movies and a Nantucket setting
The style and setting of Elin Hilderbrand books meet a Hallmark movie in Nantucket White Christmas. A down on her luck young woman surprisingly inherits an estate on Nantucket and, while spending a “White Christmas” there, makes friends, meets a handsome suitor, explores the island and searches for the meaning of home. It’s the most delightful and enjoyable type of PG-rated fluff there is, and I enjoyed every second of it.
One Day in December by Josie Silver
Best for fans of Love Actually, Bridget Jones and Serendipity
#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
I can be critical of romantic comedy books, but I loved One Day in December! It was a Reese Witherspoon book club selection, described it as a mix of Love Actually, Bridget Jones and Serendipity, and I wholeheartedly agree.
It’s about a British woman who sees her dream man outside of a bus she’s riding in, and later finds out he’s her best friend’s new boyfriend. The story follows their lives for the next ten years, and a lot happens in that time, although I won’t spoil any storylines.
Sometimes books involving love triangles can make the characters unlikeable, but everyone remained likable to me in One Day in December, and it was a really delightful December read. I recommend this book if you love the movies mentioned above.
Royal Holiday by Jasmine Guilloroy
Best for fans of royals, lighthearted rom-coms, middle-aged protagonists and Black Lives Matter books
Royal Holiday was a real delight! And I love that it featured two middle-aged Black people as the main characters — and of course, royalty. I read it soo quickly!
When Vivian tags along on her daughter Maddie’s work trip to England to style a royal duchess, she befriends a handsome private secretary named Malcolm who has worked for the Queen for years and has never given a personal, private tour—until he meets Vivian.
As Christmas approaches, their flirtatious banter turns into a kiss under the mistletoe, and a full-on fling to ring in the New Year. The clock is ticking on this “holiday,” and you will have to read the book to see what happens after the clock strikes midnight!
Skipping Christmas by John Grisham
Best for fans of John Grisham and Christmas with the Kranks
Skipping Christmas is the book upon which the cute movie Christmas With the Kranks is based.
Luther and Nora Krank decide to skip everything Christmas one year. Come December 25, they’re setting sail on a Caribbean cruise. But, skipping Christmas isn’t easy in their town or their family … and their plan comes to a head with some humor on the side.
Grisham truly delivered a well-written comedic holiday classic in this one, and I only wish I discovered it even before the movie, which I also love.
The Twelve Dates of Christmas by Jenny Bayliss
Best for fans of Gilmore Girls
The Twelve Dates of Christmas gave me major Gilmore Girls vibes. The main character is a Lorelai-like 34-year-old single and thriving designer and part-time baker at her old friend’s cafe (a very Luke Danes kind of guy) in a small British town not unlike Stars Hollow.
Her best friend signs her up for a holiday dating experience of twelve dates with twelve different men, which are all quirky and unique in their own right (the dates and the men).
At the same time, she evaluates her feelings about her old friend.
A Vineyard Christmas by Jean Stone
Best for fans of a Martha’s Vineyard setting
Martha’s Vineyard is my favorite place on earth (and where I got engaged), and I will read any book that takes place on this picturesque New England island. A Vineyard Christmas was a cute Christmas-y book in which Annie Sutton rents a cozy cottage on Chappaquiddick, a very private portion of the island. As a blizzard approaches, Annie finds on her front porch a basket containing a baby girl. A note reads: “I named her Bella, after my grandmother. Please help her, because I can’t.”
Annie decides to keep the baby and try to find the birth mother, giving her a chance to change her mind.
But this secret is hard to keep in this small island community, especially around Christmastime. A Vineyard Christmas was another quick and delightful holiday read. I recommend this book if you love New England charm.
Winter Street by Elin Hilderbrand
Best for fans of Elin Hilderbrand, lighthearted family drama and a Nantucket setting
Kelley Quinn owns the Nantucket Winter Street Inn and is the proud father of four grown children, all of whose personal lives are in a state of chaos. The oldest, Patrick, is a hedge fund manager dealing with a white-collar crime. Bartender Kevin has a secret relationship with the Inn’s housekeeper. Teacher Ava can’t get her dream boyfriend to commit. And Bart, the youngest, and the only child of Kelley’s second marriage to Mitzi, is fighting overseas in the Marines.
Christmas approaches, and Kelley walks in on Mitzi kissing the Inn’s Santa Claus, bringing all of the families’ drama to a head. It becomes up to Kelley’s first wife, famous news anchor Margaret Quinn, to attempt to save Christmas.
Those are the best holiday / Christmas books for adults. I hope you found at least one to put you in the holiday spirit.
Before you go: I have one more recommendation to put you in the holiday mood. Be sure to check out my favorite ASMR rooms on YouTube for Christmas, to watch while you are reading your holiday books! ASMR rooms are video feeds of “rooms” of curated environments like a Christmas tree in front of a blazing fireplace, with soft, mood-enhancing sounds, like distant carolers. They can be streamed on any device that has YouTube, including your tv, and let me tell you — they have changed my reading life.
Lastly, pin this post to Pinterest because you can refer back to it year after year. Happy holidays!