Cozy blanket, hot coffee, fireplace roaring — the
holidays might just be the best time of year to curl up with a book. If you haven’t browsed all the best Christmas books for book clubs (or solo bookworms), it’s time to pick which ones you’ll add to your “to read” stack.
The best holiday book club reads usually have a few things in common. For starters, the setting: if the characters are navigating snow drifts or talking by a hot fire, well that adds to the festive feel. Of course, the plot should revolve around a holiday like Christmas, Hanukkah, or even New Year’s Eve. (Just think, how many romance novels have used Christmas as a meet-cute or happily ever after scenario?) Bonus points if the book is by an author you know you enjoy, or someone who is always on top 10 Christmas book club reads lists.
But don’t feel like it has to be a brand new, top-of-the-charts book to make it into your book club TBR pile. This list includes plenty of festive tales to put you and your book club in the holiday spirit — some are new releases for 2023 and some have been out for a couple of years, but still incredibly popular. Just pick your favorite, grab a Christmas throw, and get to reading.
1 A holiday spy mystery
Agatha Christie meets Christmas meets royalty in
. Set in 1933 Scotland, Georgie is stuck alone in a snowstorm, but when she gets the chance to host a Christmas party, accidental deaths start happening. It’s delightful and gives you all the vibes of a good, old-fashioned — slightly murdery — Christmas. The Twelve Clues of Christmas: A Royal Spyness Mystery
“What a fabulous read! Perfect for this time of year. It reminded me of lovely Sunday afternoon mysteries. With the added horror of murders,” one reviewer wrote.
2 A Christmas story to make you cry
Ready for one that’ll make you cry?
is a sweet, heartfelt holiday story about two best friends who have spent every Christmas together after losing their parents in very different ways, but now face a season apart. The grief feels like too much, but this story is so sweet and lovely and will remind you of the power of the holidays and love. The Christmas Oprhans Club
“This is a very heartwarming story about four friends who share a Christmas tradition, becoming a found family and spending the holiday together. Although there is some romance, the true heart of the novel are the friendships, which is refreshing. The characters feel real; I was very sad when it was over! The author also seamlessly includes a lot of references and jokes that made my millennial heart happy,” read one review.
3 A fun Christmas romance
Enemies meet again in
, a fun second-chance romance story all about resentment, forgiveness, and the magic of Christmas. Meet me on Christmas Eve
“An enjoyable read. Festive and cozy book that was easily digested, which is perfect for a quick holiday read,” one reviewer wrote.
4 A book for Hallmark movie lovers
It’s Christmastime at the Riverwood Mall in this sweet novel
. Chloe Kwon is the photographer for the mall’s Santa village, and Peter Li runs the virtual reality North Pole experience. Their parents own rival restaurants in the food court, and now, Chloe has to see Peter’s annoying self all day, every day. When the mall is about to be sold to a developer and demolished, the two work together to save their families’ livelihoods (and get pretty close in the process). The Christmas Clash
Publishers Weekly recommends, “Keep the holiday spirit alive with this Romeo and Juliet flavored rom-com.” 5 A Christmas book club read set on a tree farm
While a Christmas tree farm sure is romantic, it’s the least interesting thing about this book. Released in October 2022,
is one of the year’s most highly anticipated LGBTQ romance novels. Artist Miriam inherits her aunt’s Christmas tree farm when she passes, and intends to sit shiva and high-tail it back to the city ASAP after visiting the business. Noelle, the farm manager, wants her gone too, until a spark ignites between them. Season of Love
As one reader review says, “Do you like the idea of those Christmas movies where someone returns to a small town and finds the Spirit of Christmas, but you wish they were gayer and Jewish? Helena Greer’s Season of Love is for you. Season of Love is also for you if you ever wanted to read about a Jewish family trying to save the family Christmas tree farm while grappling with grief and trauma, but in a way that leaves you feeling like someone just handed you the best cup of hot cocoa.”
6 A holiday book club read with twang
It’s not about the Mariah Carey song, but
does have a major musical element. Country musicians Sadie and Max land spots on Starmaker, a competition show. On duet week, the audience is floored by their onstage chemistry, and the network demands that the rivals remain a pair and tease a real-life relationship. But, as you may have guessed, there’s a chance their love becomes real by the finale episode on Christmas. All I Want for Christmas
As one five-star review reads, “This book has a lot of heart and a lot of family, adding the warmth and love of a good family with the secrets that parents hold on to in an attempt to protect their children from heartbreak. Sadie and Max are both smart and naive, inspiring but inexperienced, and they come together as a caring and adorable couple, when they learn to get out of their own way. I loved reading All I Want for Christmas. It was exactly the type of holiday book I was looking for, with hot cocoa, bad decisions, knitting, the Grand Ole Opry Hotel, and some rare Nashville snow.”
7 A book with a classic enemies-to-lovers romance
Protagonist Bea Armstrong is a successful meteorologist who has been dodging her family all year, but heads home for Christmas to the boarding school run by her parents in
. When she lands an interview for her dream job over the holiday, her parents enlist the man they want Bea to marry (and she can’t stand) to drive her. After a few days of travel, who knows — maybe these enemies won’t mind each other’s company so much. Let it Snow
“Every day is a perfect day to read this,” said fellow author Shari Low in her review.
8 A book with high society holiday vibes
Nory is from a working-class family and attended an upper-crust private school, so she has conflicting feelings when two of her old classmates invite their friend group to a literal castle leading up to their wedding. There she meets Isaac, the castle gardener, and the two strike up what could turn out to be a beautiful new romance.
“Jenny Bayliss has done it again.
is heartfelt, poignant at times, and chock-full of characters that make you love them and cheer for them until the last page,” says one five-star review. Meet Me Under The Mistletoe 9 A Christmas romance with a time warp
, Gwen Baker is a hardworking lawyer recovering from a recent breakup, and she’s hoping a holiday visit with family will lift her spirits. Back home, she runs into her childhood neighbor and crush, Dev, also home for Christmas. Then, Gwen finds herself reliving the same Christmas over and over, and falling in love with Dev while trying to figure out her weird time warp. It’s an unexpected but sweet twist on your usual Christmas book club read. The Christmas Wish
“Absolutely screamingly hilarious, full of Christmas-y sparkle and a lovely boy-next-door romance, but with some serious depth to bring you all the feels,” said author Lizzy Dent.
10 A Christmas book store tale
Nora and Simon have owned a bookstore in a small village in England for years in
, but this Christmas is finding them in a bit of a crisis. With their store threatening to go under, Nora and Simon are inspired by a customer to send books to those who are feeling down this holiday season in their village. But will any of this save their bookstore, or will they have to rely on the generosity of others as well? Christmas by the Book
“This is an utterly charming story about a bookshop facing closure and the serendipitous way it is saved (and the people whose lives are changed) by the gift of six random books to random recipients. It's sweet and endearing without being soppy and sentimental, although there are some bits that made me a bit misty-eyed in places. I recommend it for anyone who likes believing that good things do happen,” wrote one reviewer.
11 A book filled with romance and personal growth
, Matthew Prince’s family is capital-W wealthy. For Christmas, they’re sending him to his grandparents’ cottage away from the city as punishment for impulsively buying an entire island. There, he finds his grandpa is loaning a room to student Hector Martinez, and the two men from very different backgrounds do not see eye to eye. But when Hector helps Matthew cope during a panic attack, they form an unlikely friendship that soon develops into something more. You’re a Mean One, Matthew Prince
Publishers Weekly says, “Janovsky is blatant about the ‘holiday romance magic’ at work, but Matthew’s redemption arc is just as gratifying as the love story. The result is a sweet romance that’s sure to put readers in the holiday spirit.” 12 A holiday read for book clubs set in a cat café
, vet and animal lover Kara started her cat café to help adoptable kitties find homes, but the finances aren’t looking good, and she’s worried she won’t be able to stay open after the holidays. Customer Ben happens to work in marketing, and he agrees to help get all the cats adopted and Kara’s money situation back in the green. And all that time spent working together, well, let’s just say they may end up adopting a cat together. A Cat Café Christmas
“Cat owners and fans of Hallmark Channel movies will relish snuggling up to read this novel during the holiday season,” said
Library Journal. 13 A Christmas book club read with a scandalous love triangle
, he wants access to his inheritance money; she could use some financial help. Andrew and Ellie (customer and barista) hatch a plan to fake a marriage they both benefit from. The faux couple travels to meet Andrew’s family over the holidays and, upon meeting his sister, Ellie realizes this woman is someone she used to be in love with. Will Ellie choose money or love this Christmas? Your book club will be all abuzz about it. Kiss Her Once for Me
Publishers Weekly review says, “A sparkling winter wonderland, quirky family traditions, and a messy ‘love trapezoid’ make the yuletide gay in this earnest queer rom-com from Cochrun ( The Charm Offensive).” 14 A Christmas book club read about a family healing from loss
Will and Ella Sullivan, ages 14 and 12, are determined to make their dad happy and actually get something for Christmas this year in
. Since their mother passed away years before, their dad never wants to celebrate, so the siblings set up an online dating profile for him. When one potential match starts sending turtledoves, partridges in pear trees, and more, hijinks (and family holiday healing) ensue. The Twelve Topsy-Turvey Very Messy Days of Christmas
“With outlandish yet joyful elements reminiscent of books such as
Mr. Popper's Penguins, this joint effort by authors Patterson and Safran is a magical throwback to classic children’s fiction,” said Kirkus Reviews. “Scary elements are touched on — a mother's death, a father’s alcoholism, school bullies, shoplifting, and more — but the story itself is uplifting, with friendships rekindled, family love and happiness rediscovered, and neighborliness and kindness shared.” 15 A book about an adult film star turned PG actress
Bee Hobbes has built a successful career as a plus size adult film star in
, but now, her favorite producer is casting her in a family-friendly, made-for-TV Christmas movie. Her costar? Disgraced boy band singer Nolan Shaw, who’s working on his reputation. Sparks fly between the two, but everyone’s secrets could come to light when the reporter who tanked Nolan’s career in the first place reemerges to do it all again. A Merry Little Meet Cute
One reader’s five-star review says, “I ABSOLUTELY love that this gives all the Christmas feels with a huge twist and a heap spice. It’s perfect. I love that bee is not the standard body type and Nolan is obsessed with her. It’s all all around cute story that I connect with on a very personal level. I love reading In general but what I love even more is when I get a main character I can relate to, both in body and in character. 10/10 recommend please go read it!!”
16 A book about a much sexier Ghost of Christmas Past
Bettie Hughes is an influencer who can’t bring herself to admit to her famous family she’s lost most of her money in a series of bad business calls. After a few glasses of wine and scream singing Mariah Carey, she accidentally summons the Holiday Spirit, a.k.a. Hall, who manifests as a hot male suitor, there to grant her wishes in
. Throughout the story, she learns that material possessions aren’t everything, and love is far more important. Just Like Magic
Publishers Weekly says, “This lighthearted and witty tale is sure to put readers in a holiday mood.” 17 An extra festive romance with fantasy elements
, Jack Clausen is a baker in the magical land Julemarked, a place where it’s Christmas year-round and visitors can enter through portals at annual Christmas markets. Astra visits his bakery each year via the Milwaukee Christmas market portal, though only Jack can remember her, until this year when she recognizes him, too. Jack has 24 days to make her fall in love and convince her to stay in Julemarked. Once Upon a December “Though Jack knows all their history, their relationship is entirely new to Astra, so the decision to leave her friends and family won’t be easy,” says the Publishers Weekly review. “The clock’s on their relationship as Christmas Eve approaches, which, combined with some surprising twists, keeps the pages flying. Readers won’t want to put this down .” 18 A Christmas book club read from a beloved, best-selling author
Fans of Christmas novels will probably recognize Richard Paul Evans’ name from his other titles, like
The Christmas Box. In this story, , set in 1967, Richard is having a rough time in school and at home. His brother is killed in Vietnam, he’s being bullied, and his parents are separating. So, Christmas isn’t looking too bright this year. But his new neighbor helps him learn the true meaning of the season, and that love can still exist after loss. A Christmas Memory
“[The] master of the holiday tearjerker… Fans of Evans’ work will be both moved by and invested in this semiautobiographical tale,” writes
Booklist. 19 A Christmas book club book with classic holiday tropes
, Lacy Preston lives a fast-paced life in St. Louis, until she learns her distant grandfather passed away and left her his historic home in a small snowy village. She works to sell the property, meeting residents and one handsome dog sledder along the way. When she asks him for help with an abandoned puppy, their relationship takes off like Santa’s sleigh from there. The Christmas Lodge
As one happy reader writes, “Such an interesting story. It was so easy to get caught up in this. Love Derek and Lacy!!! I was so sad when the story ended. I can't wait for the next one to come out!!”
20 A holiday read about nosy parents and new relationships
The Miller siblings (Ross, Clemmie, and Alice) are determined to keep their prying parents out of their business during their annual Christmas gathering in
. Lucy Clarke is going to lose her job if she can’t secure business from Ross Miller, so she decides to just drop her proposal off at the family home and be on her way. Cue the mishaps — Lucy is mistaken for Ross’s girlfriend, and is snowed in before things get cleared up. But who knows, maybe she will be his GF after the snow melts. Snowed In for Christmas
“Morgan is a masterful storyteller…. For fans of Jojo Moyes, Taylor Jenkins Reid, and Stacey Ballis,” writes
Booklist. 21 A touching, round-the-globe Christmas book for book clubs
, Cassie and Tom lost their parents when they were children, but Tom’s best friend Sam was always there for them, like surrogate family. Now as an adult, Tom is gone too, but he left her the first clue to their annual Christmas scavenger hunt. This year, his clues take her on a journey around the world and straight into love. One Last Gift
Publishers Weekly says, “With this beautiful and heart-wrenching Christmas story, Stone ( Always, in December) delivers an epic story of family, loss, and the triumph of love.” 22 A classic Christmas book that’s heavy on the romance
, Isla Wakefield is headed home to snowy Alaska for Christmas, but when she visits, she always butts heads with Chief Petty Officer Aaron Segura. Isla’s devil-may-care attitude has always frustrated him after his own sister died. Then, an ice-climbing incident causes Isla to wake up with memory loss, and she finally sees Aaron for who he really is. Alaska for Christmas
“This first title in the Wild River series is passionate, sensual, and very sexy. The freezing, winter-cold portrayal of the Alaskan ski slopes is not the only thing sending chills through one's body,” said the
New York Journal of Books. 23 A Christmas book series you can binge or pick and choose
Country star Colton Wheeler was in love with attorney Gretchen Winthrop, but for her, their relationship just wasn’t that serious. This year, Gretchen’s wealthy family offers her a business deal she could really use, turning the finances into funds to help her at-risk clients. But she’ll have to get Colton to be the face of her fam’s new whiskey venture, and in exchange, he wants three dates before Christmas to prove they belong together. This book,
, is part of the Bromance Book Club series, but can also be read as a standalone story. A Very Merry Bromance
“I adore the Bromance Book Club series and
A Very Merry Bromance is at the top of my series' favorites,” says one reviewer. “I love a Grumpy/Sunshine trope and I especially enjoy when SHE is the grump. Colton and Gretchen are the perfect opposites attract couple.” 24 A Christmas book club book based on a fictional monarchy
, the kingdom of Eldovia (it’s giving Genovia vibes) is in financial distress, and Cara Delaney is flown in to help. She immediately finds opposition from Matteo Benz, who has been serving the royal family for years, and doesn’t much like Cara’s way of doing business. But as they work together to restore Eldovia to its fullest potential during its most beautiful time of year, the two find they have quite a bit to work together on *wink wink*. So This is Christmas
As one reader’s review says, “This book is a delight! I can almost taste the cocoa and feel the cold biting my nose. It’s sweet and sassy and oh so good! Mr. Benz and Ms Delaney are a perfect match. This is a solid feel good read — a definite for your tbr list!”
25 A holiday romance that starts with being hit by a car
Yep, Shani almost hits May with her car in
, so you could say they don’t start out in love. Shani is supposed to be focused on her paleontology internship, but her recent breakup is clouding her mind before winter break. When she and May cross paths again and end up spending the holiday together, Shani will question if she’s ready for new love. How to Excavate a Heart
As one reviewer writes, “This YA lesbian romance, about picking yourself up after a breakup and forming healthy relationships — not just romantic ones, but with your friends, family, and yourself—is sweet as heck and with just the right wintry, holiday feelings. It's got strong
Gilmore Girls vibes from multiple angles, like if the Gilmore Girls were Jewish and not so focused on financial class.” 26 A holiday book with a big cast and multiple romances
, Greta is from a small town and her family is super close — like, meddling in her business close. Truman is devastated to learn his boyfriend has been living a double life, and his other life includes a husband and family. So, a mutual friend encourages them to swap houses for the holidays, each getting space from the people they need, and making new connections they may not want to leave in the New Year. The Holiday Trap Publishers Weekly says, “Parrish ( The Lights on Knockbridge Lane) unabashedly embraces rom-com tropes in this charming if slightly overcrowded queer holiday romance. Still, the believable stakes and strong sense of place in both settings keep the romance grounded throughout. This is a fluffy wintertime treat.” 27 A tale of two small-town romances
Camryn returns to her hometown of Wishing Tree and starts up a holiday fling with another local, Jake, in
. River and Dylan are crowned Snow Queen and King for the month, and diligently do their holiday duties in the small, quaint city. Will the couple survive the season despite Dylan’s secret, and will Camryn decide to stay in Wishing Tree with her new beau? Home Sweet Christmas
“Susan Mallery writes beautiful family-themed stories with happily-ever-after endings,” says one reviewer. “Just what is needed for the holidays! You will enjoy this book if you enjoy novels with close-knit families, some romance, and humor.”
So, which books will you read by Christmas tree light (and send gifs in the group text about) this year?
This article was originally published on
Dec. 15, 2018