One of the best things about Christmas must be curling up with a cozy wintery book… and ideally a warm cup of mulled wine and some freshly baked gingerbread.
When I think about the best Christmas books for adults, these are the books that come to mind (although I have included some Christmas books for children here too).
Read on for unique and cozy Christmas books from unexpected authors, as well as the most famous Christmas books and classics that are still worth reading in 2022. These are all great choices to read in December to get you in the festive spirit. What will you read and enjoy this year?
The best books to read at Christmas in 2022
1. The Penguin Book of Christmas Stories by Jessica Harrison
This gorgeous new addition to the Penguin Clothbound Classics series is a treasure trove of heartwarming Christmas stories. With stunning cover art by Coralie Bickford-Smith, this collection shares the most magical, moving, and wintery Christmas short stories from around the world. It’s especially beautiful as the clothbound hardcover edition.
From frozen Nordic woods to glittering Paris, a New York speakeasy to an English country house, bustling Lagos to midnight mass in Rio, and even outer space, this ultimate festive anthology contains tales from some of the best short story writers, offering little-known treasures from authors including Truman Capote, Dylan Thomas, Saki, and Chekhov.
2. Letters From Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien
Did you know that there’s a Christmas book for adults and children by J.R.R. Tolkien? Well, more specifically it’s a collection of his letters to his kids as Father Christmas.
These heartwarming and wonderfully inventive letters share tales of life at the North Pole – including the reindeer escaping and scattering presents all over the place – accompanied by scrawled notes from the Polar Bear and messages from Ilbereth the Elf in his elegant script.
With gorgeous illustrations and Tolkien’s trademark creativity, these letters are a delight to read at any age (and, of course, wonderful to read to children).
3. Christmas at River Cottage by Lucy Brazier and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
This gorgeous Christmas recipe book is a wonderful addition to any festive library. Christmas at River Cottage is a culinary guide that travels from the autumn equinox, through advent and Christmas, and merrily into the new year, offering inspiration, traditions, and delicious recipes for every festive occasion along the way.
As well as tried-and-tested versions of the Christmas classics, the book shares ideas for show-stopping centrepieces, sparkling cocktails, prep-ahead canapes, edible gifts, and livening up leftovers. There are also some handy tips for planning ahead, making natural decorations, effortlessly feeding a crowd, and orchestrating Christmas Dinner so you can also enjoy the magic of the day.
4. Christmas with L.M. Montgomery
These heartwarming holiday stories about everyone’s favourite red-headed orphan feel like a warm hug. Escape into this Christmas collection to join Anne of Green Gables in experiencing the joys and trials of Christmas and the hope of the New Year.
5. The Deal of a Lifetime and Other Stories by Fredrik Backman
From the bestselling author of A Man Called Ove and Beartown comes this collection of three deeply moving stories about facing life’s greatest struggles and treasuring what’s truly important.
One of these stories, The Deal of a Lifetime, is a profound and compassionate novella set on Christmas Eve, telling the story of the intertwining destinies of a man who has built a global business empire but lost his family in the process and a courageous little girl fighting for her life. This story asks: if you had the chance to change your legacy, would you take it?
6. A Christmas Carol and Other Christmas Writings by Charles Dickens
How could I not include A Christmas Carol in a list of the best Christmas books? Dickens’s classic tale is the quintessential Christmas short story (and one of the best books to make a tradition of reading every December.)
If you treat yourself to a hardcover, I’d recommend this gorgeous Penguin Clothbound Classics edition. It’s a stunningly beautiful book to treasure, complete with some of Dickens’s lesser-known Christmas short stories to enjoy with a slice of stollen.
7. A Literary Christmas: An Anthology by The British Library
This Christmas anthology from The British Library is a real gem of a book. Complete with delicate illustrations, it’s a festive compendium that curates both famous and lesser-known Christmas poems, short stories, and prose extracts by some of the greatest poets and writers in the English language.
From George Eliot to Kenneth Grahame, Jane Austen to Dylan Thomas, read a few pages a day from this wonderfully festive book to soak in the Christmas spirit.
8. Advent: Festive German Bakes to Celebrate the Coming of Christmas by Anja Dunk
Candles are twinkling, the Christmas tree is decorated, the smells of cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove fill the kitchen… the Advent season has arrived.
In her cookbook Advent, Anja Dunk shares her favourite recipes for the very best traditional German festive bakes. From lightly spiced Lebkuchen, to marzipan-filled Stollen, edible tree decorations, and a gingerbread house adorned with delicate treats and sugar icicles, this joyfully cozy clothbound volume with fairy-tale vibes and stunning photos will be a family favourite for years to come.
9. The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
Which children’s books remind you of Christmas? For me it’s either The Snowman by Raymond Briggs (which will always feel like Christmas morning to me) or this iconic choice, The Polar Express by author and illustrator Chris Van Allsburg.
A young boy, lying awake one Christmas Eve, is welcomed aboard a magical train to the North Pole. After passing through nocturnal forests, towering mountains, and a barren desert of ice, the Polar Express makes its way to the city standing alone at the top of the world. Here, the boy will make his Christmas wish.
Now a beloved Christmas classic for millions of adults, children, and families, The Polar Express is also a Caldecott Medal winner as one of the most beautifully illustrated children’s books.
10. Hogfather by Terry Pratchett
For a Christmas book that’s a little different, read Hogfather by the master of comedic fantasy, Terry Pratchett. In this Discworld novel (which is perfectly fine to read as a standalone), Death takes on the role as Santa. The result is a festive feast of darkness, but with jolly robins and tinsel too.
11. The Book Of Christmas by Christopher Winn
Why do we celebrate Christmas the way we do? In The Book of Christmas, bestselling author and acclaimed historian Christopher Winn lovingly casts a revealing eye over the stories, myths, legends, and traditions from around the world of the most celebrated festival of the year.
From the Druidical origins of mistletoe’s symbolism, to why we send cards, hang decorations, sing carols, eat turkey, and much more, discover the fascinating truth (and oddities) behind this very special holiday in this beautifully produced book, accompanied by charming illustrations.
12. Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher
This year, coorie in with one of the coziest books to read at Christmas. In Winter Solstice, the rippling effects of a tragedy bring five characters together in a large, neglected estate house near the Scottish fishing town of Creagan for the shortest day of the year. It’s a slice-of-life romance book about love, loyalty, and rebirth, without much drama or being overwhelmingly sickly sweet.
For more comfort reads to savour at Christmas, enjoy my collections of the most wholesome books that feel like a hug in a book and the coziest winter books.
If you adore books, need a bit of a boost, and would love some gentle comfort and guidance, check out The Sanctuary, a seven-day course from Tolstoy Therapy.