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It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, meaning the weather’s getting colder, the chocolates are being brought out and there’s definitely no better way to spend your spare time then curling up with a good book. The holiday season means different things to different people and from old family favourites to contemporary classics, our Culturefly writers have picked out the stories that say “it’s Christmas!” to them louder than Noddy Holder in a Slade song. When it comes to our favourite festive reads, anything goes but luckily for all of us, there’s a book for that!

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
little-women-book-coverFor me, Christmas is very much a time to spend with your family and no book tells the story of family better than Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. Following the four March sisters – Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy – as they grow up in the time of the American Civil War, this novel explores the bonds of family when faced with growing up, growing apart and finding your place in life. While I don’t need to be the one who sings this novel’s praises to you (there’s already more than enough of that around and all of it justly deserved), what I will say is there’s no time like Christmas to relive the story of the March sisters – and maybe take a break from your own family in the process! MD

The Snowman by Raymond Briggs
the-snowmanOk, so this pick is a bit of a cheat because The Snowman is actually a children’s picture book, but it’s the perfect festive story. Raymond Briggs’ tale of a snowman that comes to life and befriends the young boy who built him is just magical. The book isn’t quite as Christmassy as its television adaptation but the snow-filled scenes and traditional illustrations make it feel festive all the same. What’s even better about this book is that it can be combined with the original animation adaptation, the 2012 sequel and now an enchanting theatre show, all of which prove that The Snowman has lost none of its charm and wonder over the years. It might not have any words but the story still speaks to the imaginative child in all us. NX

Humor For The Holidays by Jennifer Stair & Dennis Hill
humor-for-the-holidaysStop worrying about those bills piling sky high, and thinking about impressing your folks with an elaborate holiday meal. Instead, have a jolly good laugh this season with tales from Humor for the Holidays. Liven up your holiday cheer with stories about wacky holiday traditions, ultimately resorting to dining out at McDonald’s, and the hilarious responsibility of gathering the family for the perfect holiday photograph. All of the craziness, and uproarious tales of the holidays are wrapped up in one book that will be a fun read next to the cozy Christmas Eve fireplace. VP

The Dead by James Joyce
the-dead-james-joyceIf there’s one piece of literature that sums up the traditions, pastimes and feelings of the festive period with unrivalled elegance it has to be James Joyce’s short story, The Dead. The story centres on a man named Gabriel Conroy who attends the annual New Year’s Eve dance of his two aunts and cousin, ‘the Misses Morkan’. The setting is Christmas card perfect – snow falling softly through the dark night, while indoors music booms, laughter resounds and the table almost audibly groans beneath the weight of the hearty fare. Joyce’s tale may have been published one hundred years ago, but the cast could just as easily be found in any contemporary film or soap. Through the interactions between the characters and their shared memories, Joyce creates a beautifully nostalgic festive vision. The Dead has to be the perfect festive read then, for what is Christmastime if not a time for nostalgia? LS

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
a-christmas-carol-charles-dickensYou can’t go wrong with a classic and Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is about as classic as they come. I’m a big Dickens fan and my favourite copy is a King Penguin edition, which has some wonderfully reproduced, colour print illustrations based on the first edition. For anyone not familiar with this story, you will most certainly have heard of Ebenezer Scrooge, a miserly old man who is changed for the better following encounters with the ghost of his previous business partner and ghosts from Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come. A Christmas Carol reflects Dickens’ feelings for the dilemma of poor children in 19th century London, and is a book that reminds me of the goodness of human nature; it’s both amusing and sad, but above all it’s an essential read for any classic literature lovers during the festive season. NY

The Night Before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore
the-night-before-christmasIn amongst a Santa’s sack full of yuletide literary treats, Clement Clarke Moore’s The Night Before Christmas stands out as a mighty and magnificent treasure. This extended poem, which follows a man’s encounter with Jolly Old St. Nicholas on Christmas Eve, epitomises the magic of this most wonderful time of year. The bouncy, bubbling rhythms of Moore’s prose are as sweet as sugarplums and as warming as a roaring winter fire. Even the Scroogiest readers are likely to find their hearts melted by this timeless tale. JM

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
the-lion-the-witch-and-the-wardrobe-02A classic tale of a wintery wonderland, heroic children and talking animals. And, of course, an evil snow queen set on destroying all good in the land. C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia series has captivated reading audiences for decades, and no single book more so than The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe: the first adventure of the Pevensie children as they are swept off on a magical adventure through the wardrobe door into the pseudo-heavenly realm of Narnia. Though not specifically a Christmas tale, it has enough of a wintery setting, spellbinding storytelling and simple good vs evil fighting to suit the season. Fantasy at its finest. AS

The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper
the-dark-is-risingThe Dark is Rising is the second book in the contemporary fantasy series and is far better than the film of the same name. The story starts on the 20th December, which is the eve of Will Stanton’s eleventh birthday. Will falls asleep wishing for snow but the snow brings a kind of darkness with it that Will – the seventh son of a seventh son, who now possesses magical powers – will have to fight. It is a wonderful book that reminds you of the magic of being a child at Christmas time and vividly contrasts the warmth of the Yule log against the forces of cold and darkness that Will must fight. SS

The Best Christmas Present In The World by Michael Morpurgo
the-best-christmas-present-in-the-worldA soldier’s letter to his sweetheart is found in an old, forgotten rolltop desk; it recounts firsthand the Christmas Day truce of 1914 – recently seen on TV as a Royal British Legion-approved Sainsburys ad – where German and British soldiers surrendered arms for a friendly game of football, sharing bratwurst, cake and a tipple at half-time. Writer Michael Morpurgo is one of the great sentimental storytellers: old-fashioned style and engaging prose. Whilst Christmas and the man seem a perfect fit, it is surprising that few of his stories are set during the most festive time of year. Those that are, sparkle. You can find this particular gem published online via the Guardian website, but do find the hardcover – illustrated by Michael Foreman in an eye-catching fashion most suitable for younger readers. The story, over in minutes and likely to catch readers off-guard, is heartwarming, poignant, and nostalgic. The peace of 1914 didn’t last long, but on Christmas Day, in the middle of a war zone, there was no war at all. Suitable and recommended for readers young and old. DO

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