Whether you’re looking forward to celebrating your favorite holiday or simply looking forward to the upcoming winter break, there’s no better way to appreciate the sweater weather than with a great book! The holiday season may fall during cold snaps and chilly air, but that just means it’s the best time for warmth, love, and even reflection as another year winds to a close.
Spread some magic with 15 books for the holiday season. This post contains affiliate links.
Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
Nothing says “holiday spirit” like a plucky orphan with a big imagination! This classic has been enchanting children and adults alike for decades, and it’s undoubtedly suited for curling up with a few blankets and a mug of something hot. Your students are sure to fall in love with the fanciful, dramatic Anne, who forges life-long friendships and bitter rivalries on her quest for a romantic and adventurous life. As Anne grows and matures, your students will be privy to valuable lessons about following your dreams and the true meaning of home.
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
Most of your students probably know The Chronicles of Narnia at least peripherally, but they must experience the thrill of reading these fantasy novels firsthand! The four Pevensie siblings are enchanting, brave, and flawed, and so are the magical creatures they meet. Torn from their home by World War II and tossed into a different war in a strange in another realm, which will push them to be their best selves or their worst. This novel is a sentimental favorite perfect for reading by a chilled window.
Also note: This book is an exemplary text for teaching allegory because of the rise and triumph of Aslan the lion is an allegory for the struggle of Jesus Christ in the bible.
The Narrow Road to the Deep North and Other Travel Sketches by Matsuo Basho
While composing this classic, Basho was also studying the tenets of Buddhism, which shine through in his evocative writing. In this work, poetry and prose stand side by side, as Basho regales the reader with descriptions of the rich beauty of nature and his journeys through Japan. Your students will be blown away by the mastery and delicate simplicity of the haikus therein, and may even find themselves moved to appreciate the world outside of their smartphones. The essential message imparted by Basho is how the material world can be a trap – something we could all do well to remember in the season of gift-giving.
Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel
Better known by its stage musical adaptation, Fun Home is more than just a compelling graphic memoir about growing as part of the LGBTQ+ community. It’s also a brutally honest, darkly comedic, and heart-wrenching story of a complicated, estranged relationship between a father and daughter.
Students will love the unique interactive element the art brings to the story without detracting from the rich, deeply personal narrative that reflects how one views their own life differently as they grow older. It’s a messy, beautiful, and at times, confusing tale that will make you want to sit down with your parents and just talk.
Little Women by Louise May Alcott
Your students might be familiar with this title, if only because of the upcoming film adaptation starring Saorise Ronan and Emma Watson. Little Women offers four different but close-knit sisters, a storm of literary ambition, and breaking down gender norms – what more could a reader want? This novel has important messages that are close to the heart for everyone this time of year: The significance of one’s roots, virtue over wealth, and of course, good old-fashioned family drama. It’s a book and a holiday soap-opera, all in one.
A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket
This may seem like a strange choice for a time rife with warm and fuzzy feelings, but this series of thirteen short novels is perfect for some light reading with a darker edge. Although it is somewhat overlooked, being technically written for middle-grade children, Snicket’s sarcastic voice and cheeky humor make the series a fantastic read for all ages. Follow the clever Baudelaire children from naivety to moral ambiguity as they learn that the world is a wild, unfortunate place. These books will make you laugh, examine your existence, and, most of all, leave you extremely grateful for your family.
Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth by Warsan Shire
Shire’s debut poetry book has garnered much attention and critical acclaim, and for good reason. Shire weaves the tale of not only her own life, but those of those closest to her – lives steeped in Islam and touched by a certain feeling of otherness that comes with immigration, and embodies a deep. Her words are sensual and striking, so much so that Beyoncé even used them in her album Lemonade. Shire’s work is enriching for students because it provides an insight into a narrative so often ignored and a picture of a family that is often left out during the holidays.
The Princess Academy by Shannon Hale
Suited for middle grade and high school-aged children, The Princess Academy unfolds from the point-of-view of Miri, a mountain girl whose life is disrupted when it is announced that the prince must choose a bride from her village. At first glance, this novel may seem trite and swoony, but in actuality, it tackles classism, family ties, growing pains, education for young women, and the importance of self-worth for a young girl. That, combined with Hale’s gorgeous imagery and compelling voice make this book a truly magical must read!
I Am a Cat by Soseki Natsume
Haven’t we all wondered, at some point or another, what goes on inside of an animal’s head? In Natsume’s novel, students will get the chance to find out as they follow the adventures of a lonesome kitten who wanders Japan, unwanted. Natsume combines fable and philosophy by allowing the reader a glimpse of upper-middle-class Japan in the late 1800s, as well as how foolish humankind can appear in outside eyes. This year, gift your classes with an extra special kitten for the holidays, filled to the brim with whimsy and balanced with a razor-sharp wit.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
A lengthy book sure to keep even the fastest readers captivated, The Book Thief demands nothing less than everything its audience has to give. Best suited for mature middle and high school students, this gripping novel revolves around a young girl in Nazi Germany who discovers the dangerous power of books under a regime that destroys free thought. Raw, challenging, and at times sentimental, the importance and triumph of kindness and love over all else is at the center of this novel.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Follow Aristotle Mendoza and Dante Quintana, two Mexican-American teenagers in El Paso, Texas, as they struggle to navigate their sexuality, racial identity, and generally reach out for healthy, human connection. Sáenz’s writing is honest and real, which reflects his background and emphasizes the importance of open communication, honesty, acceptance, and affection in families. Complete with a happy ending, this coming-of-age story will make your students laugh, cry, and fall in love.
Bonus: Lin-Manuel Miranda narrates the audiobook version of this romantic story of self-discovery!
The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivy
If any of your more mature students happen to be in the mood for a dash of tragedy and yearning, then look no further! When two homesteaders move to Alaska after the stillbirth of their child, the bleak, barren landscape seems to reflect their outlooks on life. But after taking in a wild child they find running through the snowy wilderness, they begin to wonder whether there might be some magic left in the world. This gritty take on a Russian folk tale explores sorrow, healing, and the frailty of contentment.
The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke
Prosper and Bo, two brothers on the run from their shrewish aunt, spend their days in an abandoned movie theatre with the charming Thief Lord and his gang. Fed up with never getting their say, the children wish they could just be adults already. Thanks to an enchanted carousel, maybe they can. But is their wish all it’s cracked up to be? This book will whisk your students away on a magical adventure in which grown-ups are frightful creatures who never understand anything, and a rag-tag group of sneaky kids is the greatest heroes of all.
Cinder by Marissa Meyer
In a future where cyborgs are second-class citizens, moon-people want world domination, and another incurable plague is ravaging planet Earth, Meyer sets her epic retelling of the most beloved fairy tales of all times. This first installment begins with Cinder, a cyborg version of Cinderella, complete with the evil stepmother. If the sci-fi twists aren’t enough, this book boasts supremely real characters, dark humor, and a touch of apocalyptic shenanigans for all of your tweens and teens with a thirst for dystopia. A rich, hopeful tale to be devoured whole.
The Little Prince by Antoine De Saint-Exupéry
If your students open their hearts to The Little Prince’s precocious proclamations about human nature and refusing to allow the world to harden you, they will never be the same. A heartwarming tale about friendship, love, and the fleeting nature of precious youth, this French story is inspiring and whimsical. People of any age could learn from what The Little Prince has to say, and the warmth and bittersweet nostalgia will touch anyone who turns the pages. Now a major motion picture on Netflix!