So, this is Christmas: soon you’ll be curled up by a fire, under a blanket, drowsy from a morning of overeating, and ready to enjoy a good book on your new or old Amazon Kindle.
Well, whether that’s your standard Christmas Day or not, since you clicked on the above headline, you’re clearly in the center of that Venn Diagram of ‘Christmas fans’ and ‘avid Kindle users’.
To make sure your ereader is well stocked with words, stories and poems, we’ve compiled a list of some of the most worthy festive tales. There are new and old works, classics and class-ishes, kids’ tales and adult-only affairs, novels, shorts, poems and even non-fiction.
Before you ask: “where’s X? It’s a classic!” or exclaim, “this author has clearly never heard of Y, the uneducated brute!” we are intentionally keeping the classics to a minimum. So no, you won’t find ‘How the Grinch stole Christmas’ or ‘A Visit from St. Nicholas’ here.
If you don’t already own an ereader, you can find a ranking of the best Amazon Kindles here. Depending on when you’re reading this list, you might still have time to get one delivered before the big day… or maybe not.
Oh, and you might wonder why we’re sharing links to the books in this article when you can’t read this on a Kindle. Well, if you buy the books on Amazon’s web page, you can set those up to automatically download the next time your ereader is connected to the web. We’re all about saving you some time!
The best Christmas reads
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
We know, we know: we said in the introduction “we are intentionally keeping the classic tales to a minimum,” and we still are! But we also want to avoid the wrath of the entire internet so we’re keeping this classic of Christmas classics on the list – it also works well with the next entry on our list.
A Christmas Carol is arguably the definitive festive story. Some people even attribute the popularity of Christmas to this classic Charles Dickens novel. Originally published in 1843, it’s certainly seen its fair share of adaptations and interpretations.
Thankfully, as a classic text, it’s pretty easy to pick up for free. You can find it on the Amazon US Kindle Store here for just a dollar or here for free if you’ve got Kindle Unlimited, and on the Amazon US Kindle Store for free here.
Charles Dickens: A Life by Claire Tomalin
Since A Christmas Carol is such a popular Christmas text, it’s possible that you’ll want to know more about the author, his life, and what prompted him to even write about three grumpy spooksters in the first place. We’ve got you covered.
This biography by Claire Tomalin comes highly recommended– according to its Amazon reviews – and is written by someone who also published similar explorations of Thomas Hardy and Jane Austen. This book will help you better understand the famous and troubled storyteller.
You’ll have to pay for this book because it’s not nearly 200 years old, but that’s only fair. You can pick it up for $12.99 from the Amazon US Kindle store here, or for just £4.99 from the Amazon US Kindle store here. Oh, but Audible listeners will find it on that service for free.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
The first word of this classic novel is literally ‘Christmas’ – that alone makes this work a perfect fit for our festive Kindle reading list, even though that word is followed by descriptions of characters unable to appropriately celebrate the holiday.
This is another classic and older novel (we promise, modern ones are coming) and it tells the tale of four sisters growing up in nineteenth-century America. Admittedly, it’s not as festive as A Christmas Carol, not that any story could claim that title over Dickens’ classic, but it’s a good alternative read.
Unlike the Dickens text, Little Women isn’t free for Kindle readers, but it’s close enough. You can pick it up from the Amazon US Kindle store for just over a dollar here, or on the Amazon US Kindle store for less than £1 here.
The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
Now we’re onto this author’s favorite Christmas novel, a story much appreciated for its cynicism and dry humor, but also for its place among modern classics of American literature.
The Corrections follows the members of a dysfunctional family as they coalesce for a final family Christmas gathering – the reason this book earns a place on this list. The family members try to make corrections to their lives that will take them off dark paths – the reason the book earns its title.
It’s admittedly a very long read and there’s a lot of weaving between the stories of different characters – according to director Noah Baumbach the story’s complexity is what aborted a partly-filmed TV adaptation of it – but if you’ve got many hours to wile away in front of a fire, this Kindle book might suit you well.
The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
People are often quite surprised when we tell them the popular 2004 film, starring Tom Hanks – and enough creepy motion capture to stop you sleeping for several days – is actually an adaptation of a 1985 children’s book.
This is a book for really young kids, and while the Kindle version has some lovely illustrations, you might not get the full effect of this Christmas classic because of the black-and-white nature of ereader screens.
Unfortunately, we can’t find The Polar Express listed in the UK Kindle store, but you can pick it up from the US one here for $9.99.
Letters from Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien
Yep, Tolkien wrote things outside the Lord of the Rings universe, and for very young readers too. It’s pretty safe to say that most fans of the author’s well-known works are unaware of the festive collection of letters Tolkien penned.
You see, Tolkien’s family used to receive letters from Father Christmas – that’s Santa, for all you US readers – that described life in the North Pole in great detail, with testimonials from polar bears and elves, and stories about wars with goblins… wait, are we sure this isn’t set in Middle Earth?
The 23 years’ worth of notes got collected into Letters from Father Christmas, and was published in the 1970s after Tolkien’s death. The Kindle edition also includes images of the letters, which were written in the shaky handwriting of the famous author.
You can get the letter collection in the US from the Kindle store here, which will set you back $3.99, or in the UK from the Kindle store here, for £2.99. Both regions also have physical copies available, which might make great gifts for any Tolkien fans you know.
The Night Before Christmas by Nikolai Gogol
Don’t buy this book expecting it to start with the line, ‘Twas the night before Christmas’ – it’s a very different story from that (you’re thinking of Clement Clarke Moore’s A Visit from St. Nicholas). Nope, this is not the relaxing festive read you’re expecting. And yep, we’ve descended into the ‘darker festive reads’ section of this list.
The Night Before Christmas is a folklore-inspired Russian story from the 1830s about a blacksmith’s battle with the devil. It’s apparently quite humorous and jolly, but quite a lot more than a mouse stirs in this tale. Oh, and it’s not too short – perfect for a Christmas eve read.
Hercule Poirot’s Christmas by Agatha Christie
There’s no Christmas without murder, and there’s no murder story like those written by Agatha Christie, the monarch of the genre.
Given that Christie wrote 33 novels, two plays and countless short stories featuring her most popular character, it’s simple odds that one of them takes place over Christmas: in this one, the mustachioed Belge must solve a murder… but this time at Christmas.
Christie turns the ‘sleigh bells’ to ‘slay bells’ with this one (I promise, I took a long time trying to think of a great Christmas murder pun, and one tainted search history later, this is what you get. You’re welcome.).
You can pick up the book for $9.99 on the US Kindle store here; in the UK, it’s actually free here if you have Kindle Unlimited, or £3.99 if you don’t have the service. In both regions, it’s on Audible too.
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight by anon, translated by various
This classic Arthurian tale was given a meh film adaptation this year that strayed wildly from the source material. The original poem was written in the 14th Century, and though scholars are still not sure who authored it, the work has been translated from Old English various times by big names like Simon Armitage, J.R.R. Tolkien and Jessie Weston.
The poem – though some translations are presented in prose – tells the story of an overkeen knight of the round table, who over a winter feast bit off more than he could chew by accepting a challenge from the titular Green Knight that involved him only having a year to live.
As we’ve said, there are many translations, and some aren’t available in various regions, so we’d recommend shopping around to find a version you’d be interested in. Armitage, Tolkien and Weston’s versions are seemingly the most popular, and translated by a poet, a novelist and a scholar respectively – these three alone will likely provide alternative interpretations of the same tale.