Team HIF’s Top Picks: Best Christmas Books

Ah, Christmas – the lights on the tree, the fire crackling merrily in the hearth, Christmas cards on the mantlepiece, family on their way. It’s that time of the year full of nostalgia, romance, and some nice quiet days away from the hustle and bustle of work to curl up with a good book.

We thought we would ask Team HIF for their favourite Christmastime tales to read by the fireside with a nice mug of hot cocoa to help you fill up your Christmas break (or give you a break from family Christmas!). From the classics to the contemporary, adult fiction to children’s literature, here are their top picks:

A Boy Called Christmas – Matt Haig

Author Matt Haig – best known to grown-ups as the man who wrote Reasons to Stay Alive, brings a beautifully heartwarming Christmas story about a little boy from Finland who (spoiler alert!) grows up to be Father Christmas.  It’s heartfelt, brings in the light with the dark, and makes for a perfect Christmas tale with plenty of emotion.

Our Head of Development and Comms Lizzie loves this book because, “It’s the kind of book you can actually enjoy reading along with your children, truly heartwarming and most definitely a future classic.”

A Boy Called Christmas by Matt Haigh front cover
A Boy Called Christmas by Matt Haigh front cover

The Snowman – Raymond Briggs

Another beloved children’s book that still tugs on the heartstrings! Recommended by our Head of Events Charlotte, this book doesn’t have any words at all, but still manages to convey the soaring excitement of finding The Snowman in your garden, and the sadness of him melting the very next day. It’s a Christmas classic!

(If the book doesn’t appeal, then why not re-visit the classic We’re Walking in the Air sequence from the TV animation? Spot the Brighton pier and the aurora borealis when they make an appearance!)

A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens

Who amongst us has not read A Christmas Carol or at the very least, seen one of its many adaptations and iterations? (Sidenote: Following an office poll, we can confirm that Team HIF’s favourite adaptation is 100% A Muppet Christmas Carol.)

The Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future, “Bah, Humbug!” and the plight of Tiny Tim are familiar to everyone, young and old. So why not curl up with a classic this Christmas?

A Boy Called Christmas by Matt Haigh front cover
A Boy Called Christmas by Matt Haigh front cover

Skipping Christmas – John Grisham

We love John Grisham’s crime writing and we were particularly pleased to welcome him to the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in 2018, but did you know that his hilarious festive novel Skipping Christmas was the inspiration for the classic Hollywood Christmas film Christmas with the Kranks?

Luther and Nora Krank have decided that they have nothing to show for the thousands of dollars spent on Christmas decorations, food and presents over the last few years, and so with their daughter away for Christmas, Luther books a Caribbean cruise as they decide to skip Christmas this year. Or, at least, that’s what they think.

Team HIF loves this book because it’s funny, fresh, and takes a look at the other side of family Christmas.

Elmer’s Christmas – David McKee

Originally published in 1993, Elmer the Elephant still holds a very fond place in a lot of people’s hearts, and David McKee’s Elmer’s Christmas follows young elephants as they get ready for ‘Papa Red’ to bring them presents. The beloved patchwork elephant, plus Christmas, equals a big dose of nostalgia and a storybook that’s perfect to read along with any restless neices and nephews this Christmastime.

A Boy Called Christmas by Matt Haigh front cover
A Boy Called Christmas by Matt Haigh front cover

Tenth of December – George Saunders

Though not technically a Christmas book, George Saunders’ collection of short stories evokes the same nostalgia and bittersweetness that the very best of the festive season brings (plus, it’s called Tenth of December).

Literature Festivals Co-ordinator Josie recommends it because, “Whether Saunders is taking us by the hand through a near-future suburb where having a Semplica Girl is the latest trend, or following a man as he hopes to get lost in the wintry woods for the last time, all of his short stories give us a glimpse of humanity and kindness even in the darkest of times – and that’s what Christmas is all about to me.”

It was named by The Guardian as on of the 100 Best Books of the 21st Century, so it’s definitely worth a test drive if you can pick it up in your local library.

Father Christmas Needs a Wee! – Nicholas Allan

Very rarely is Father Christmas so relatable as in Nicholas Allan’s modern classic.

How does Santa manage to scoff all those mince pies and drink all that sherry while still shimmying down chimneys and driving his sleigh? And all in one night? Well, it turns out it’s not so easy as before long Father Christmas really, really, really needs a wee. So much so that he leaves all his presents behind, and the night just gets worse from there.

Team HIF loves this book because it’s a fresh and funny perspective on the plight of poor Father Christmas on his biggest and busiest night of the year, and a top book to read with young children.

A Boy Called Christmas by Matt Haigh front cover

What do you think? Did the Harrogate International Festivals’ team get our top picks perfectly right, or is there a cracking Christmas novel we’ve left out in the cold?

Let us know by tweeting us with the hashtag #yourebooked – we’d love to hear from you!