Christmas Reading Recommendations

I enjoy reading Christmas books from the beginning of Advent straight through to the end of the Christmas season – long after most people have dragged their needle-dropping trees to the curb.

These are recommendations from the Christmas-themed novels I’ve read since my #5Faves: Christmas Romance Novellas (and More) post two years ago.

Ordinary Snowflakes (Rock Creek Christmas)Ordinary Snowflakes by Jennifer Rodewald

Ordinary Snowflakes will remind you to look for the extraordinary in the ordinary. Kale’s self-discovery, aided by Joe’s gentle, faithful support and encouragement, is balm for every self-doubting mom’s soul.

Kale is a well-developed, sympathetic character with which most off us ordinary folks, who have made ordinary mistakes, can identify. Smart and self-deprecating, getting inside her head as she realizes God’s extraordinary love for her is the perfect preparation for welcoming the Christ child as He arrives in ordinary, humble fashion.

The only thing that pulled me out of this well-crafted book was the heroine’s name. I thought of the leafy greens in my fridge ever time I read it. Every time. That said, I highly recommend this Christmas novella.

'Tis the Season (Seasons of Love #1)‘Tis the Season by Olivia Folmar Ard

Olivia Folmar Ard is building a reputation for relevant, contemporary women’s fiction with soul. ‘Tis the Season, short enough and, on the surface, light enough for a Christmas read, is a character-driven story. It is THE story most of us need to read at the holidays. It’s a reminder to be more transparent and less concerned with appearance, more merciful and less retaliatory, and more generous than envious.

At one time or another, we all think we’ve got the market cornered on suffering and deprivation – maybe now more than ever thanks to social media. ‘Tis the Season is your antidote – or maybe you’re prophylactic – meant to be read before you head over the river and through the woods to a houseful of passive-aggressive or narcissistic family members. (Fill in your own family dysfunction.)

However or whenever it’s read, it’ll leave you with a spirit of generosity, perfect for strengthening strained relationships and receiving the joy of the season into your heart.

The Strangers at the Manger (Chime Travelers, #5)The Strangers at the Manger by Lisa M. Hendey

The Strangers at the Manger is the perfect Christmas story for young readers. (My daughter started reading The Chime Travelers series in second grade, I think, and still enjoys the books.) The series is basically a Catholic Magic Treehouse. And that’s not to say it’s a rip-off – it’s well written and enjoyable using an established, successful format.

The book will help keep children’s attention focused on the Christmas story rather than all the modern-day trappings that go along with it. If they, and their parents, take away its simple message, it will be well-worth reading: “Strangers are simply new friends, just waiting to be loved.”

Christmas Captive (Men of Valor #6)Christmas Captive by Liz Johnson

Fast-paced and not too heavy despite the ongoing mortal peril the main characters are embroiled in. Amy and Jordan are well-developed, likable characters. (Hard not to like a Navy SEAL who’s principled, skilled, respectful and good-looking to boot.) The obstacles to their getting together seemed a little superficial to me at first, but once the characters’ backstories were revealed, their objections made more sense.

The Christmas setting is incidental to the storyline, so I didn’t get that “Christmas feel” from the book. It was, however, well-written and entertaining, start to finish.

The Christmas BasketThe Christmas Basket by Debbie Macomber

The ridiculous grudges held by two snooty busybodies drive The Christmas Basket. If you can suspend disbelief enough to buy the caricatures, there’s some comedic relief in their ridiculous one-upmanship.

Again, if you can buy that a simple misunderstanding drove 10 years of heartache and hatred, then you’ll find a sweet reunion of the children of said busybodies.

All in all, light, frothy, and fun. So long as you’re not looking for something deep and meaningful, you’ll find something you like in The Christmas Basket.

Although the narrator had a bit of a bored, snobby affectation, overall I though the audiobook was very well done with good voice differentiation.

The Christmas TrainThe Christmas Train by David Baldacci

My enjoyment of this book was due in no small part to the narration by actor Tim Matheson. Well done!

A light and entertaining Christmas read with a few twists and surprises. The characters may have been a bit cliché, but it didn’t diminish my enjoyment one bit.

The ragtag bunch of train passengers weren’t all moral paradigms, but they were delightfully likable in all of their foibles.

I’ve not read David Baldacci’s other books, but I enjoyed his style and voice in The Christmas Train.

Christmas at Gate 18Christmas at Gate 18 by Amy Matayo

Amy Matayo’s writing is as sharp and smart as ever in Christmas at Gate 18. First person point of view, present tense is not a favorite of mine, but the author knows her characters well enough to make it work.

Despite the fact I have difficulty relating to achingly beautiful, supremely rich people, Amy Matayo humanizes the characters enough that I think I could’ve grown to like Rory and Colt more if it weren’t for Colt’s consistent and near-constant objectification of Rory.

I know Colt turns over a bit of a new leaf toward the end, but he so convincingly lusted for Rory from the beginning (even implying he’d used her pictures for self-gratification) that I had trouble buying an instant transformation. Rory herself, despite statements to the contrary, never seems comfortable with the fact that she gets paid big bucks for having her beauty exploited at the expense of her personal dignity. In the end, I only half-heartedly rooted for their getting together.

Silver BellsSilver Bells by Deborah Raney

This sweet and clean romance with well-developed main characters makes for a delightful Christmas read. I enjoyed the 1970s timer period, which I don’t run across often. I’m looking forward to reading more by Deborah Raney.

You didn’t think I’d leave out my own Christmas novel, did you?

Ornamental Graces coverOne of my favorite reviews of Ornamental Graces, from author Stephanie Landsem:

Carolyn Astfalk has once again written a beautiful story of two people falling in love. More than a romance, it’s an exploration of two hearts as they try to figure out if they belong together. Strong characters, excellent secondary characters (something Carolyn excelled at in her debut novel, Stay with Me) and a twisty, turny plot that was far from predictable, Ornamental Graces is a great read that is lighthearted at times, but with great depth where it counts.

And there’s more!

Remembering ChristmasFor some reason, I failed to review Remembering Christmas by Dan Walsh. It’s an enjoyable read more concentrated on family than romance. Set in both the present day and the 1970s.


An Enchanted ChristmasAnd, I also failed to review the first two books in Melissa Tagg’s Enchanted: A Christmas Collection. I thoroughly enjoyed these novellas and fully intend to read the third installment this month! Well-written, sweet, clean, but not fluffy romances that are perfect for the season.

Don’t forget my Christmas book recommendations for all ages:

Xmas Book Giving GuideChild Xmas Book Guide