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7 Classic Books with Holiday Spirit (and Movie Versions!)

From left to right, the covers of Doctor Zhivago, Hercule Poirot's Christmas, and Little Women.
William Morrow/Puffin/Random House

There’s more to holiday reading lists than revisiting childhood favorites. Several classic novels take place at Christmastime. However, if you’re in the mood for something that isn’t all Christmas, all the time, check out one of the titles below. They all incorporate the holiday spirit!

And, as a bonus, if you don’t have time to read an entire novel (or seven), all of our picks have been adapted (some, multiple times) for the silver screen and/or television. A Christmas Carol, for example, has been adapted over two dozen times—and those are just the films. In fact, all of these have been made and remade, so you’re bound to find a few on your favorite streaming service or cable.

Little Women

“Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,” is the memorable opening line of the American classic Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. The holiday plays a major role in the March family’s lives. The novel opens at Christmas and it’s also Christmas when the family is reunited. It’s actually the Christmas celebrations and traditions that constantly bring the family back together, even as the sisters grow up and start families of their own.

A Christmas Carol

When it comes to classic Christmas literature, it doesn’t get any better than A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens’ famous tale of a grumpy miser visited by three spirits to show him the error of his ways. The Christmas setting emphasizes Scrooge’s selfishness and cruelty, as well as his eventual redemption.

Jane Eyre

Christmas might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. However, the holiday plays a role in several moments of Jane’s evolution. Her experiences of multiple Christmases—from the deliberate exclusion of Jane by her aunt and being left out at Thornfield, to making a shocking discovery—all serve as ways to trace her journey.

The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe

The arrival of Father Christmas is a major plot point in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, the most famous book in C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia series. When the Pevensie children arrive in Narnia, they’re dismayed to discover that an evil witch has plunged the world into eternal winter. A winter during which Christmas never comes. When the joyous holiday does finally arrive, it’s of great significance to the story.

Emma

It’s a Christmas party that really kicks Emma, Jane Austen’s most biting novel, into high gear. When a snowstorm forces an early end to a holiday party, the first of several romantic misunderstandings unfold during a snowy carriage ride. In fact, the “awkward holiday conversation” trope might have started right here.

Doctor Zhivago

Russian Christmas traditions and the country’s famous icy winters are all on full display in this classic epic by Boris Pasternak. One pivotal scene, in which a woman tries to take revenge on her abuser, occurs at a society Christmas party. Although it’s not a Christmas story, per se, this novel has definitely become a winter-reading staple.

Hercule Poirot's Christmas

A murder mystery at Christmas from queen of suspense, Agatha Christie? What more could anyone want? Hercule Poirot’s Christmas isn’t quite a cheery Yuletide story. In fact, it’s a rather twisty tale of murder and uncovered secrets that takes place at the home of a nasty millionaire during a holiday party.

Amanda Prahl Amanda Prahl
Amanda Prahl is a freelance contributor to LifeSavvy. She has an MFA in dramatic writing, a BA in literature, and is a former faculty associate focusing on writing craft and history. Her articles have appeared on HowlRound, Slate, Bustle, BroadwayWorld, and ThoughtCo, among others. Read Full Bio »

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