Holiday books are my jam right now. But I have a problem. I don’t like romance novels, and the vast majority of holiday books are fucking romance novels.
And I’m just not down for that.
So after spending way too much time searching online, checking out Bookstagram, and stalking my local library, I cultivated a list of holiday books that are a bit more my speed.
Sadly, none of them are what I’d call speculative horror. But at least they’re not solely about getting someone to kiss under the goddamned mistletoe.
Santa Claws, By Rita Mae Brown and Sneaky Pie Brown
This is a cute, cozy murder mystery. I have a secret love of these kinds of books. And I’m a long-time fan of this series.
In this one, the main character Mrs. Murphy, a tiger cat, finds the body of a dead monk in a Christmas tree lot. She and her person, Harry, end up tracking down the killer just in time for Christmas.
Is the writing great? No. But it’s quaint, full of small-town charm, and includes a scene where a corgi almost takes a bite out of a dead body.
Twas the Nightshift Before Christmas by Adam Kay
This is a nonfiction holiday book about what it’s like to work in a hospital during Christmas. It’s got some moments, let me tell you. There’s death, blood, annoying upper management. And a holiday tie that goes off at literally the worst time you could possibly imagine.
If you read This is Going To Hurt by the same author, you might have already heard some of these. Read the book, then go do something nice for a medical professional. Like, I don’t know, get your covid vaccine.
Christmas Bells by Jennifer Chivarini
I was worried at first that this was going to be another romance novel. But the historical story of Henry Longfellow was interesting enough to encourage me to keep going.
And I’m so glad I did!
Yes, there’s a love story between two volunteer choir teachers. But there’s also a story of a family whose father is missing overseas. And a young girl who’s accused of plagiarism. A boy accidentally sets a tree on fire. A woman whose husband has just passed on, getting through her first Christmas without him.
There’s so much going on in this book. And the way it all fits so neatly together at the end is nothing short of a Christmas miracle.
Mr. Dickens and His Carol by Samantha Silva
You guys, this is a premiere novel. Can you even believe that? This is her first novel!
This holiday book is about the creation of A Christmas Carol. I thought at first it was going to be a slightly romanticized version of the truth. To be clear, no this is not the case. It is an almost totally fiction story about the creation of A Christmas Carol that includes ghosts, magic, publishing contracts, and long walks through London at night. I loved every single second of this story. And I teared up at parts.
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
This is such a classic, you might be thinking. Why would I even include this on the list? Well, let me tell you why. I talk to people all the time who swear they know A Christmas Carol front and back because they’ve seen so many versions of it. But they’ve never read the actual book.
Don’t do this. Read the original. You can find it for free online. It is worth every second.
(I’ll also be joining the other Haunted MTL writers in reading this ghost story for Christmas. Starting on December 21st, check it out.)
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson
The Herdmans were the worst kids in the history of the world.
So begins this classic tale about a family of neglected children finding the true meaning of Christmas, and reminding a few people who thought they already knew it.
I have a few holiday books still on my list to read. I can’t vouch for them yet, but they look alright. If they’re good, they’ll probably make the cut for next year.
Skipping Christmas by John Grisham
The Christmas Killer by Alex Pine
Christmas Cake Murders and Christmas Caramel Murders by Joann Fluke
Silent Bite by David Rosenfelt
By the way, it would be dumb of me to not mention that I wrote a Christmas book. It’s called Twelve Little Christmas Stories. Like the name would imply, it’s twelve speculative fiction holiday tales. Some are charming, some are ghoulish. All are fun.
Let me know in the comments what your favorite holiday book is. I’d love to lengthen this list.