A snowy afternoon, a roaring fire, and a cup of hot chocolate practically beg to be accompanied by a good book. Festive books are a bit like a winter equivalent to beach reads. They are light, fun, and will leave you with all the holiday feels. This list of 32-holiday books, while separated into books by age group, is truly filled with books that will please all ages. Adults will love the timeless magic of the picture books, and even young children will enjoy reading missives sent to the big guy himself in Letters to Santa Claus.

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Festive books with pictures

1. Cozy

By Jan Brett


Jan Bret is the author of many winter-themed classic pictures books like The Mitten and The Three Snow Bears. While any of her beloved books could make this list, Cozy is a 2020 release that will make young readers want to snuggle with a blanket and read. It’s about a musk ox named Cozy who gets separated from his family. Arctic critters like a hare, a trio of lemmings, and an owl find Cozy’s fur a safe space to shelter for the winter, and Cozy makes new friends along the way.

2. Yoon and the Christmas Mitten

Written by Helen Recorvits & illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowska

Yoon and the Christmas Mitten

Yoon is a young Korean girl in America who struggles to meld American and Korean customs. At Christmastime, she brings home a book about Christmas only to have her parents tell her, “We are not a Christmas family. We are Korean.” Yoon perseveres and ultimately convinces her parents to combine Korean traditions with Christmas ones for a unique and meaningful holiday experience.

3. The Christmas Magic

Written by Lauren Thompson & illustrated by Jon J Muth 

The Christmas Magic

The quiet magic and mystery of the Christmas season are captured in this gorgeous book that is about Santa’s Christmas Eve preparations before the big flight. Both the author and illustrator are award-winners; together, they have created a book filled with enchantment.

4. Merry Christmas, Big, Hungry Bear

By Don and Audrey Wood

Merry Christmas, Big Hungry Bear!

The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear, published in 1984, is a childhood classic, but not everyone knows the little mouse makes another appearance in this Christmas tale. The little mouse may be afraid of the big, hungry bear, but not so afraid that he doesn’t worry that the bear will get no presents this Christmas.

5. Every Month is a New Year: Celebrations Around the World

Written by Marilyn Singer & illustrated by Susan L. Roth

Marilyn Singer,  Susan L. Roth

Famous poet Marilyn Singer shares sixteen poems about new year celebrations around the globe. While the American New Year starts in January, not every culture celebrates a new year on January 1. In Thailand, for example, Songkran is celebrated in April, and Enkutatash is observed in Ethiopia in September. This is a great multicultural look at the holiday season.

6. The Legend Of The Poinsettia

By Tomie dePaola

The Legend of the Poinsettia

Beloved author and illustrator Tomie dePaola brings readers this story about the flower of Holy Night, the Poinsettia. This Mexican legend tells the story of why the poinsettia is a sacred flower to the Mexican people and is accompanied by dePaola’s vibrant illustrations.

7. The Shortest Day

Written by Susan Cooper & illustrated by Carson Ellis

The Shortest Day

The Shortest Day is a poem written by Susan Cooper with timeless illustrations by Carson Ellis. The poem tells the story of the winter solstice, also known as Yule, the earliest of wintertime celebrations from which many modern traditions find their early basis.

8. The Dreidel That Wouldn’t Spin

By Martha Seif Simpson

The Dreidel that Wouldn't Spin: A Toyshop Tale of Hanukkah

A shopkeeper is mystified when a father returns a beautiful dreidel, claiming it won’t spin for his two spoiled children. When the shopkeeper gives the dreidel to a child who keeps the true spirit of Hanukkah alive, the dreidel works perfectly.

9. If Picasso Painted a Snowman

Written by Amy Newbold & illustrated by Greg Newbold

If Picasso Painted a Snowman

This delightful picture book is an introduction to different artists and art movements through the shape of the humble snowman. What would a snowman look like if Dali painted him, or Georgia O’Keefe? There is even a page for the young reader to draw a snowman in their own signature style.

10. Bringing In The New Year

By Grace Lin

Bringing In the New Year: Lin, Grace: 9780385753654: Amazon.com: Books

This board book is about a Chinese-American family preparing for their new year celebrations. Fireworks, lanterns, and a dragon parade make for colorful, bold artwork that is page-turning and engaging.

11. Dasher: How a Brave Little Doe Changed Christmas Forever

By Matt Tavares

Dasher: How a Brave Little Doe Changed Christmas Forever: Tavares, Matt,  Tavares, Matt: 9781536201376: Amazon.com: Books

Dasher, the reindeer, has only one wish – to escape the circus for the solitude of the North Pole. She sees her chance and escapes to the arctic, only to meet a jolly man in a red suit who helps her find her way.

12. Oskar and the Eight Blessings

Written by Tanya Simon & Richard Simon & illustrated by Mark Siegel  

Oskar and the Eight Blessings: Simon, Tanya, Simon, Richard, Siegel, Mark:  9781596439498: Amazon.com: Books

Oskar escapes the horrors of Germany in 1938, arriving in New York City on the eighth night of Hanukkah and Christmas Eve. He is searching for aunt he has never met, so the book travels with Oskar as he takes in the magical sights of New York City during the holiday season. His new city and its people welcome Oskar with kindness.

13. ‘Twas Nochebuena

Written by Roseanne Greenfield Thong & illustrated by Sara Palacios

Twas Nochebuena: Greenfield Thong, Roseanne, Palacios, Sara: 9780670016341:  Amazon.com: Books

Written to the rhythm of ‘Twas a Night Before Christmas, a Latinx family prepares for Christmas Eve, known as Nochebuena. They make tamales and sing songs and drink hot chocolate in this festive and fun holiday tale.

14. The Sound of Kwanzaa

Written by Dimitrea Tokunbo & illustrated by Lisa Cohen

The Sound Of Kwanzaa: Tokunbo, Dimitrea, Cohen, Lisa: 9780545018654:  Amazon.com: Books

This picture book in verse is an introduction to the seven principles of Kwanzaa. Swahili words are included with a pronunciation guide, as is a recipe for No-Cook Kwanzaa Brownie Bites.

15. Three Wise Women

Written by Mary Hoffman & illustrated by Lynne Russell

Three Wise Women: Hoffman, Mary, Russell, Lynn: 9781845074470: Amazon.com:  Books

In this feminist retelling of the story of the magi, three wise women, each from different lands, follow a bright star to visit the Christ child offering a special gift. Their gifts are not gold, frankincense, and myrrh, but rather simpler gifts of the heart.

16. The Nutcracker in Harlem

Written by T. E. McMorrow & illustrated by James Ransome 

Amazon.com: The Nutcracker in Harlem (9780061175985): McMorrow, T. E.,  Ransome, James: Books

This retelling of The Nutcracker places jazz music at the center of the story. Set during the Harlem Renaissance, a young girl finds her musical gift thanks to her nutcracker toy.

Middle grade festive books

17. Letters from Father Christmas

By J.R.R. Tolkien

Amazon.com: Letters From Father Christmas eBook: Tolkien, J.R.R.: Kindle  Store

Each year, acclaimed author of the Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien, wrote elaborate letters from Santa for his children. The letters, collected in this book, arrived with a North Pole postmark and told of the exploits of Santa’s reindeer and elf friends in Tolkien’s signature style.

18. Greenglass House

Written by Kate Milford & illustrated by Jaime Zollars

Greenglass House: Milford, Kate, Zollars, Jaime: 9780544540286: Amazon.com:  Books

Milo, the son the Greenglass House innkeepers, wants a quiet holiday, but when a flood of strange guests arrive one after the next, it’s clear he won’t be getting his holiday wish. Soon, he finds himself embroiled in a mystery involving the inn itself in this spooky yet festive story.

19. Nutcracked

By Susan Adrian 

Nutcracked: Adrian, Susan: 9780399556685: Amazon.com: Books

When Georgie is cast as Clara and entrusted with the play’s nutcracker, she is suddenly transported inside the magical world of the play. Each time she dances with the doll, the same thing happens again. It’s delightful, until the nutcracker’s magic starts following her back to the real world, endangering her friends.

20. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

By C.S. Lewis

The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis, Pauline Diana Baynes,  Paperback | Barnes & Noble®

Some of the most festive books are the classics! This best-loved book in the Chronicles of Narnia series follows four siblings who stumble through a magic wardrobe into the ever-frozen land of Narnia. They discover that Narnia is under the control of the White Witch. The lion Aslan comes to rescue the inhabitants of the kingdom in this biblical allegory. 

21. The Family Under the Bridge

Written by Natalie Savage Carlson & illustrated by Garth Williams

The Family Under the Bridge: Carlson, Natalie Savage, Williams, Garth:  8601400699522: Amazon.com: Books

A Parisian tramp named Armand loves the carefree nature of his life. One day, he finds three hungry children huddled beneath a bridge in his favorite spot. While Armand doesn’t particularly care for children, he goes out of his way to help the children find a home. This simple story is a good reminder that Christmas time isn’t about mounds of presents, but rather about helping humankind.

22. The Return of the Light

Written by Carolyn McVickar Edwards & illustrated by Kathleen Edwards

The Return of the Light: Twelve Tales from Around the World for the Winter  Solstice (8601410928513): Edwards, Carolyn McVickar: Books - Amazon.com

Honoring the winter solstice is an ancient practice celebrated all over the world. This short story collection gathers solstice stories about the longest night of the year from around the globe, connecting us to our ancestors with the magic of story.

Young adult festive books

23. The Afterlife of Holly Chase

By Cynthia Hand

Amazon.com: The Afterlife of Holly Chase (9780062318503): Hand, Cynthia:  Books

Teenager Holly Chase, a modern-day Scrooge, is killed in a freak accident and finds herself working for Project Scrooge as their new Ghost of Christmas Past. Each year, the mysterious workers at Project Scrooge find a human who embodies the “bah humbug!” spirit and reenacts the Dickens story in hopes of reforming one Scroogy soul at a time.

24. Carols and Chaos

By Cindy Anstey

Amazon.com: Carols and Chaos (9781250174871): Anstey, Cindy: Books

Set in 1817 and in the vein of Pride and Prejudice, maid Jane Darby finds herself a bit too busy to celebrate the approaching holiday. She also finds herself with unwanted feelings directed toward valet Matt Harlow. The two are thrown together when a counterfeit scheme reaches the estate where they work.

25. My New Crush Gave to Me

By Shani Petroff 

Amazon.com: My New Crush Gave to Me (9781250130327): Petroff, Shani: Books

Charlotte “Charloe” Donovan hatches the perfect plan to win over her crush Teo Ortiz. She rigs a secret Santa game to ensure she gets Teo’s name. Now all she has to do is get him the perfect gift. The only problem is, she has no idea what that is.

26. Together at Midnight

By Jennifer Castle 

Together at Midnight (9780062250513): Castle, Jennifer: Books - Amazon.com

High school senior Kendall and recent graduate Max witness a horrific accident in New York City in the dead of winter, leaving them both contemplating the whole point of life. They vow to perform random acts of kindness for strangers to leave the world a better place, and as they do so, they find romantic feelings growing between them.

27. The Legend of Holly Claus

By Brittney Ryan & Laurel Long

The Legend of Holly Claus - Kindle edition by Ryan, Brittney, Long, Laurel.  Children Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.

Santa and his wife have a daughter named Holly Claus, but she is born with a curse. As Holly grows up, she is determined to break it. To do so, she travels to Victorian New York.  Her adventures are evocative of the fairy tales of old.

28. Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares

By Rachel Cohn & David Levithan 

Amazon.com: Dash And Lily's Book Of Dares: The hilarious unmissable  feel-good romance of 2020! Now an original Netflix Series! (Dash & Lily,  Book 1) eBook: Levithan, David, Rachel Cohn: Kindle Store

The first of three Dash and Lily books, this Young Adult rom-com follows Lily, who leaves a notebook filled with dares in a bookstore. Dash picks up the notebook and takes on Lily’s dares, leaving her a few of his own. They trade the notebook back and forth as their attraction grows – but will the attraction be the same when they meet in real life?

29. Let it Snow: Three Holiday Romances

By John Green, Lauren Myracle, & Maureen Johnson  

Amazon.com: Let It Snow: Three Holiday Romances eBook: Green, John,  Myracle, Lauren, Johnson, Maureen: Kindle Store

Three Young Adult all-star authors combine powers in this volume of three interconnected stories that will gives teens all the Hallmark movie feels.

Nonfiction festive books

30. Letters to Santa Claus

By The Elves with foreword by Pat Koch & afterword by Emily Weisner Thompson 

Letters to Santa Claus: Elves, The, Thompson, Emily Weisner, Koch, Pat:  9780253017932: Amazon.com: Books

Each year, real-life letters to Santa pour into the town of Santa Claus, Indiana. The editors of this collection have compiled more than 250 letters and envelopes from as far back as the 1930s. The letters are, by turns, funny, heartfelt, sometimes heart-breaking. As it turns out, both children and adults write letters to Santa, and they make all sorts of requests that will keep you turning the pages of this fun book.

31. We Are Santa: Portraits and Profiles

By Ron Cooper

Amazon.com: We Are Santa: Portraits and Profiles (9781616899653): Cooper,  Ron: Books

In a style reminiscent of the New York Times series “Humans of New York,” author Ron Cooper has photographed and interviewed 50 Santas from around the country. This portrait and profile collection gives readers a behind-the-scenes glimpse of just who the people are who slip on the red suit each year.

32. Does Santa Exist? : A philosophical investigation

By Eric Kaplan 

Does Santa Exist?: A Philosophical Investigation: Kaplan, Eric:  9780147516428: Amazon.com: Books

Eric Kaplan is a philosophical scholar and award-winning comedy writer, a combination that makes this book wonderful. Kaplan looks at the philosophy of whether something can exist without actually being real. He turns to the mystics of Taoism, Buddhism, and early Christianity and even to the comedy of The Big Bang Theory and Monty Python for advice.

What are you waiting for? Cozy up with one of these great winter reads today!

Other book lists from Amy’s bookshelf you’ll love: 

32 Festive Books to Curl Up with This Holiday Season