Have yourself a Literary Holiday

Whatever your denomination or holiday traditions may be, there is something wonderful about taking part in the enchantment of the season. There is a tangible change of spirit in the air, when the snow is falling and the lights are twinkling through our neighborhood. The radio turns into a device of nostalgia, friends and family come into our thoughts, and we take a moment of pause to be thankful, for this holiday or holidays past. This is a sentimental season- so we put together a list of reads, ranging from illustrated children’s books to timeless classics, that explore the themes of family, love, giving, charity, and even magic. Your literary holiday tradition can be full of adventures through the North Pole or discussions about the true meaning of gift-giving. Whatever your denomination or holiday traditions, opening up a book and exploring ideas together may be one of the most meaningful ways we can celebrate the holiday season.

A ChristmChristmas Carolas Carol, by Charles Dickens: The only time when ghosts in December are appropriate. This is a classic tale of a scrooge named Ebenezer, who becomes haunted by three ghosts who are trying to teach him the true meaning of Christmas.

A Christmas Carol, read aloud by Neil Gaiman. Because his voice is wonderful.

pablo neruda

All the Odes, by Pablo Neruda (Ilan’s pick): Neruda’s odes are something you should read, regardless of seasonal appropriateness. Neruda finds a way to love and appreciate even the most mundane objects of the every day (Ode to French Fries, for example). Take a moment to read these to yourself or aloud to your loved ones.

Elves are Worth Believing in this Christmas, by Julia Fisher: GB Associate Academic Director, Julia Fisher, wrote this seasonal piece for the New Republic last year about why, regardless of your denomination, you should take part in the enchantment of the season.


Tgift of magihe Gift of the Magi, by O.Henry: A beautiful short story about a couple, Della and Jim, who struggle to buy holiday gifts for one another. This story provides great discussion about love and the meaning of gift-giving.

The First Hanukkah,” by Andy Borowitz. This story is a part of NPR’s traditional “Hanukkah Lights” compilation. Borowitz is hilarious and has a knack for story-telling, so give it a listen.

Polar ExpressThe Polar Express, by Chris Van Allsburg (Heather’s pick): This is a gorgeously illustrated story of a doubtful little boy’s adventure to the North Pole and back. Note: This one is a tear-jerker. You might want to enlist someone to help you through the last lines of this story.

“Santaland Diaries,” by David Sedaris (Mel’s pick): Give this NPR holiday tradition a listen when you’re baking cookies, wrapping gifts or hanging around the house. David Sedaris reads from Santaland Diaries as Crumpet, the elf, and it will have you in stitches.

Letters from father xmasLetters from Father Christmas, by J.R.R. Tolkien: Stories of the North Pole, written by the author of The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien wrote letters from the North Pole every year for his children, complete with sketches and fantastical stories about the happenings in the realm of Father Christmas. This is a unique take on North Pole stories and perfect for the Tolkien fans in your life.

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