Design Mom’s Favorite Christmas Books

The Best Christmas Books featured by top US lifestyle blog, Design Mom: image of a child reading How to Grinch Stole Christmas

Tis the season to read holiday books while snuggled up on the sofa. Here’s a list of our top family favorites — and a few new-to-us titles too. 

Some of these books are good for older readers (even grown ups) and some for the littlest listeners. Some are religious and sentimental, others are completely secular. But altogether, I think they make a really good collection.

For each title, I’m including links to — it’s an online option that supports local independent bookstores. I’ll also include an Amazon link for each title, because I know some of you have credit there you’d like to use.

A great book-related idea: My sister-in-law Erin wraps up 25 Christmas books and uses them as an advent calendar — her kids unwrap one each day and read it as a family. (If you don’t have 25 Christmas books, you could start with what you have and borrow some from the library.)

You’ll notice this list is focused on Christmas books — because that’s the holiday my family celebrates, and it’s the one I know best. But obviously, there are lots of winter holidays that are celebrated across the world, so if you have recommendations for non-Christmas holiday books, I’d love to learn about them. Feel free to add links or titles in the comments.

Design Mom’s Favorite Christmas Books, in no particular order:

A Child’s Christmas in Wales
It’s enjoyable to read, but I think I like it even more as an audio book, so I can hear his lovely accent.

The Christmas Alphabet
I love a good pop-up book — they feel like magic! And all of Robert Sabuda’s pop-ups are excellent. I can’t believe this one had a 20 year anniversary.

Christmas Day in the Morning
It’s a great story for helping kids imagine what a meaningful gift of service might look like.

The Secret Society of Saint Nicholas
New this year! This book came to be when the author was remarrying and combining two families — one family believed in Santa Claus, the other did not. “This is a story for kids (and their parents) who are heartbroken by certain terrible information about Santa Claus. Think there’s no more magic in the world? Oh, the truth is much more interesting. It’s time to embrace a deeper magic.”

A Christmas Carol
All those Scrooge movies your kids have watched? (I’m looking at you, Muppets!) This is where it all comes from. If you have young kids, and you think the original might be too hard for them to understand, look for an adaptation for young readers, or you can also try an illustrated edition. The other fun thing about A Christmas Carol is that there are tons of pretty gift editions out there to choose from — with fancy covers, or gilded edges.

Dream Snow
This is an Eric Carle book made for very young children, but we still read it every year because it’s just so sweet and magical — the little button at the end is pure twinkly genius. Get the hardcover, not the boardbook!

Silent Night
This is a beautiful book; a reverent and accessible adaptation of a favorite carol. It was out-of-stock last year, but is happily available now.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Still an all-time best Christmas book — and the book is better than all the movie versions.

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey
Another story of a change of heart.

A Christmas Wish
It’s a sweet and simple story, but even if it wasn’t, we would love this for the photographs.

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever
This is a chapter book. We like to read it aloud, a couple chapters at a time over a few nights — it’s a great one to finish on Christmas Eve.

The Gift of the Magi
A story of a young and foolish but loving couple who just want to give each other the best Christmas gifts ever. This is another old story, so there are tons of gift versions available.

Every Man Heart Lay Down
The Christmas story set in Liberia; originally published decades ago and it was long out of print.

Twas The Night Before Christmas
There are lots of versions of this story so you can look around for one that suits you. In my opinion, the best ones have vintage drawings. This one was illustrated by Jessie Willcox Smith who is one of my very favorite children’s book illustrators.

Pick a Pine Tree
All about the all-important family tradition: the Christmas Tree.

Olive, the Other Reindeer
The song lyrics: All of the other reindeer, sound like Olive, the Other Reindeer. That’s the basis for this charming story and it does not let you down.

The Polar Express
I’m not a fan of the movie, but I adore the book. It’s even a Caldecott winner!

The Snowy Day
Not holiday related, but a great winter time book that we like to keep with the Christmas titles. It’s another Caldecott winner.

The Nutcracker
There are dozens of versions of this famous story too. You can pick one with illustrations that you think your kids will especially like.

Who is Coming to Our House?
It’s a board book for very young children and it’s super sweet. You get to watch the animals as they prepare for a little baby visitor.

The Twelve Days of Christmas
Ours is basically it’s the lyrics to the song, with illustrations to match. There are lots of versions of this one, so look for an illustrator you enjoy.

Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree
Christmas is here and Mr. Willowby’s tree has arrived. There’s just one big problem: The tree is too tall for his parlor! What will happen next?

Amazing Peace
This is the book I want to add to our collection this year. The text is a poem by Maya Angelou.

That’s the list! I first published this post in 2011, and try to update it regularly.

One thing to note: I didn’t include much in the way of “character books” like Eloise at Christmastime or Richard Scarry’s Best Christmas Ever or Peppa Pig’s Christmas Wish, even though some are really good, because there are literally dozens and dozens. But if your kids have a favorite character or author, why not get the related holiday book?

Lastly, I’m sure you have favorites that didn’t make my list — I may not even know about them! I hope you’ll include any of your picks in the comments.

162 thoughts on “Design Mom’s Favorite Christmas Books”

  1. This is almost too simple to mention, but the Golden Books “The Christmas Story” has lovely illustrations and tells the story of the first Christmas in such simple, elegant wording that it’s easily approachable to little kids. It’s been a favorite of mine for years.

  2. Treat yourself to The Spirit of Christmas by Nancy Tillman. This is a charming, poetic, beautifully-illustrated book that our entire family (ages 2 to 64 yrs.) enjoyed reading aloud last Christmas Eve. Our 2-year old grandson went off to bed happily whispering about the Spirit of Christmas coming through his door.

    Merry Christmas!

  3. John J. Dunphy

    My all-time favorite Christmas book is “From Christmas to Twelfth Night in Southern Illinois” (The History Press: ISBN 978-1-59629-913-9). Of course my opinion is a bit biased since I’m its author! All kidding aside, anyone with an interest in holiday history and folklore will enjoy “From Christmas to Twelfth Night in Southern Illinois.” I love this season so much that I simply *had* to write a book about it!

  4. A new holiday book that should be added to the list is “I Want an Alien for Christmas,” by Nick Santora. It’s a shorter chapter book which a great read for kids of all ages. I have 2 girls that are 6 years apart and they both loved it! It’s not easy to find a story that can appeal to a wide variety of ages but this one definitely does! It’s got adventure and humor. Check it out- you won’t regret it! It’s a great, inexpensive gift or stocking stuffer!!!!!!

  5. This isn’t “holiday” but a great winter read is “Cold Snap” by Eileen Spinelli. I love the sense of community found in the story. My kids love this book. Another favorite winter book is “The Iciest, Diciest, Scariest Sled Ride Ever” by Rebecca Rule. It’s such a fun story.
    A favorite character Christmas book is Mercer Mayer’s “Merry Christmas Mom and Dad“. I read it growing up and now to my kids.
    Clopper the Christmas Donkey” is a cute retelling of the Christmas story.

  6. I love that idea!! I need 24 books now! I have a friend who is a story teller and I first heard the Gift of the Magi from him, a wonderful wonderful story.

  7. Thank you for the great suggestions–in your post and in the comments. We’ve done the Advent tradition of wrapping books and opening one each day since the kids were small. My husband always did the reading, but a fun thing that’s happened is that the kids have joined in, and it’s quite something when your teenage son reads HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS in his suddenly baritone voice. But the highlight every year is seeing if Dad can make it through THE CHRISTMAS MIRACLE OF JONATHAN TOOMEY without tearing up. So far, he’s never been able to.

  8. A couple of people have beaten me to my recommendations of Tolkien’s book, Letters From Father Christmas, and the Truman Capote book, both favourites around our house!

    I’d also like to add Raymond Briggs’ two books, The Snowman and Father Christmas. Wordless, in the case of The Snowman, but beautifully illustrated. Father Christmas is a bit of a grump, so perhaps better suited for older readers. I believe they’re also both available as DVD’s.

    For older teens or adults, another book I have a soft spot for is Paul Auster’s novella, Augie Wren’s Christmas Story.

    My last recommendation is an old French-Canadian story, The Worker in Sandalwood, by Marjorie Pickthall, which may be hard to find in print, but is beautifully heartwarming and meaningful in its use of Christian symbolism.

    This thread is a wonderful start to the Christmas season; thank you for starting this discussion, Gabby, and thank you to everyone for all the suggestions.

  9. My kids are now in their 30s but when they were young I did the same as your sister-in-law. Every November 30th I would curse myself as I wrapped and numbered the Christmas books so they could unwrap one a day for Advent. But what a wonderful memory!

    I think that this year I will video a bit of a book each day and send it to them. Thanks for the inspiration! :)

  10. Pulled up our library’s website to start putting some of these on hold for us! Loving all the many recommendations. My three year old is obsessed with the Nutcracker and one of the best retellings for young kids was Talullah’s Nutcracker.

  11. LOVE YOUR LIST and all the suggestions added. YES to Mr. Willowby – and all my kids recite “Who Is Coming to Our House” even now as teenagers. :)

    As others have said, AUNTIE CLAUS is a fantastic story. Madeleine L’Engle’s 24 DAYS BEFORE CHRISTMAS is also wonderful, especially for younger families who may be expecting additions. I would add: the picture book CHRISTMAS IS COMING by Claire Masurel. It is a French story, and I was lucky enough to have my first as the book was published and translated into English. Worth hunting for a French or English copy!

    Finally – we keep some winter tales with our holiday books, and only bring them out in December: OWL MOON by Jane Yolen, EVERYTHING BUT THE HORSE by Holly Hobbie, along with her wonderful LET IT SNOW (a toot & puddle book), and WINTER by P.D. Eastman. All cozy and holidayish! So excited to read all the books this month!

  12. Not Christmas but winter themed and beautifully illustrated, Twelve Kinds of Ice. “Our skates spit silver,” the writing is wonderful.

    Christmas at Eagle Pond we usually read over two nights. A boy spends Christmas at his grandparents in rural New Hampshire in 1940. Gorgeous.

    I love Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblin; the illustrations are terrific. Issac Bashevis Singer’s Hanukkah stories in The Power of Light are moving as well.

  13. B Is for Bethlehem: A Christmas Alphabet by Isabel Wilner, illustrated by Eliza Kleven is probably my most treasured Christmas book. The artwork is absolutely stunning. My kids are older now, but that doesn’t stop my from buying beautiful children’s books for my collection!

  14. Our read-aloud every year is “The Fairy Doll” by Rumer Godden:
    ” ‘Dear me! How fortunate,’ said Great-Grandmother. ‘I was just going to say that you needed a good fairy.’ ”

    Christmas in the Country by Cynthia Rylant:
    “Every ornament reminded me of my whole life.”

    My favorite as a pre-teen, and my kids’ current favorite, is “Christmas” by Sandra Boynton.

  15. Diana Robertson

    Be sure to see the brand new picture book, Share Some Kindness, Bring Some Light by Apryl Stott. It’s a charming story about a little girl and her big friend, bear who use acts of kindness to try to win the friendship of other forest animals. When their gifts are rejected, an unexpected event teaches important lessons about friendship and kindness. The wintry forest scenes and stunning illustrations make it a perfect holiday story.

  16. It is the replies to the letters they wrote to Father Christmas. It includes illustrations, stories from the Polar Bear explanations of how the bad black goblins were trying to steal the presents, etc. We just named our baby girl Olive and my mother in law got her Olive the Other Reindeer as a gift. Our toddler loves the pop up in the back.

  17. “Mortimer’s Christmas Manger,” is sweet and profound. I love “The Third Gift” about a boy who harvests Myrrh. “Apple Tree Christmas.” So many good ones! I definitely prefer books without Santa.

  18. I found “The Legend of Holly Claus” by Brittney Ryan at the thrift store and it’s a fanciful blend of mythical creatures, the legend is Santa and good triumphing over evil. I’m looking forward to my children being old enough to enjoy it, I re-read it each year. There is also a picture book version, but it adapts the story for the sake of space at and it’s not nearly as delightful in my opinion.

  19. We love pulling out our Christmas books each year and favorites include Christmas Eve at the Mellops and Olivia Helps with Christmas. The Jolly Postman Christmas book is also a treat, though I confess to finding all the little inserts/pieces tricky to manage. Looking forward to requesting many of the books listed here (and in the comments!) at our library.

  20. The Grinch is my favorite Christmas story/special ever! (Not the movies!). My grandma taught school and had a copy from 1957 that I kept after she passed away. A few years ago I passed it on to my cousin when she had her first kid. She was the last of my grandma’s great grandchildren who was born before her death. Someone asked why I didn’t sell it since it was the first year it was published & I said I felt it was a family heirloom. She read it to all of her grandchildren & 4 of her great grandchildren as well as years of her students

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