best Christmas books

Good Books for the Holiday Season and Beyond

Finding a good read can be a difficult task in the sea of new books that are pouring into the market every day. In fact, nearly 2800 new books are added daily to the marketplace in the United States, which factors out to a million books per year! Seemingly everyone has a story to tell, and the ease with which authors can self-publish adds to the glut of new titles. 

Not only that, well-established authors are more prolific than ever, so your reading list can easily become unmanageable if you’re trying to keep up. (Spoiler alert: You can’t.)

With the holiday season upon us, and the doldrums of winter hovering close behind, it’s the prime season for reading, if indeed reading even needs a season. To aid you in selecting your next reading project, we’ve assembled a list of new or new-to-you books that are trending and well-liked (not necessarily the same thing).

Some of these books are on the New York Times Best Seller List. Some rank well on websites like Goodreads and Literary Hub. But all of the books on our list of recommended titles are of a genre and subject matter that will go straight to the heart of our Home & Farming visitors.

So find your Walgreens readers, chase the basset hound out of your recliner and switch on the lamp. It’s “me” time, and that means reading time.

(All of these titles are available in hardcover, paperback, Amazon Kindle and Amazon Paperwhite. Some books available in audiobook as well.)

Let’s be reasonable and add an eighth day to the week that is devoted exclusively to reading.

–Lena Durham

Best Books for the Holidays

A Mrs. Miracle Christmas: A Novel

By: Debbie Macomber

Just in time for Christmas comes this charming tale from the queen of Christmas stories, Debbie Macomber.

Thanks to a mysterious but wonderful home care employee for grandma, a family that thinks they have an unfair share of troubles finds that they are instead blessed beyond measure. It all starts when Laurel and her husband Jack move in with Laurel’s elderly grandmother to help take care of her. On top of this, Laurel and Jack are trying to conceive and have so far met with nothing but disappointment.

When Laurel calls various home care agencies around town to get some domestic help, she finds that there is no one available. That is, until Mrs. Miracle shows up at the front door one day.

The family is not sure what to make of Mrs. Miracle, but one thing is quite apparent – her presence in the house brought life and light to Granny, who had previously existed day-to-day without much joy. Now she was cheerfully setting out Christmas decorations, laughing and enjoying life the way she used to.

In the meantime, Laurel and Zach encounter curious signs that make them believe there will be an arrival of a special baby.

When Christmas arrives, it’s a holiday of heavenly proportions that none of them could see coming. So what gives with Mrs. Miracle? Is she an angel?

About the Author:

Debbie Macomber is a #1 New York Times bestselling author many times over. Over 200 million copies of her books are in print worldwide. The great majority of her titles deal with family relationships, and the hope borne from compassion.

Five of her beloved Christmas books have been developed into Hallmark Channel Christmas movies.

A Nantucket Wedding

By: Nancy Thayer

LIfe presents few opportunities for second chances. Sometimes those second chances are a blessing. Sometimes they’re not. Sometimes it’s hard to tell one from the other.

Alison was a widow given a second chance at marriage. She had lost her husband some years before, and she felt particularly bereft, because her two grown daughters had lives of their own, and were not all that close to each other. Yet she had hope that her upcoming wedding to David – who had grown children of his own – would create a big happy blended family that will bring the joy back to her life.

Furthermore, it was to be a summer beach wedding on Nantucket Island. With all this going for it, what could possibly go wrong? A lot.

Thayer’s masterful manipulation of drama will create an almost overwhelming sense of suspense for the readers, as they anticipate getting to the chapters describing the big wedding day. Will it be a blessing or a bust?

About the Author:

Nancy Thayer has written 19 novels, many of which have been translated into 14 foreign languages. In 2008, her novel Moon Shell Beach was selected by Redbook magazine as a “Hot Summer Read.” Her very first novel, Spirit Lost, was developed into a 13-part radio drama for BBC Radio.

Freshly released (Nov. 2019) is her latest novel, Nantucket White Christmas.

Thayer has taught English in the U.S., France, The Netherlands and Finland, and has a B.A. and M.A. from the University of Missouri at Kansas City.

Her trademark style is taking family relationships and expanding them to a world of new, and sometimes intimidating possibilities.

Growing Season: A Novel (Book 1)

By: Melanie Lageschulte

Here is your chance to get started on a book series dealing with the wonders and challenges of the rural life. There are six books in the series, so that shatters the notion that there is not much to do in the country!

The main character is Melinda Foster, a 40-year-old refugee from the hectic life of the big city who answers a “for rent” sign in rural Iowa where she grew up.

Although in her previous career she worked at a high-profile ad agency, her upbringing seemed to suit her for her new life in the not-so-glamorous realm of long hours in the sun, tending to gardens, taking care of a menagerie of critters and working at her family’s hardware store when she can.

Colorful characters, like the weather-obsessed co-op manager and a farm dog with a heart as big as a barn, weave their way in and out of the storyline, helping spin a tale of joy, frustration, tragedy and triumph in a town whose motto is “The Little Town That Didn’t.”

Once you’ve made your way through Growing Season, you’ll want to dive right in to the next book in the series, Harvest Season. Installments three through six include The Peaceful Season, Waiting Season and Songbird Season.

About the Author:

Melanie Lageschulte knows about rural Iowa. That’s where she grew up.

Her first experiences as a writer were as a reporter for The Des Moines Register, where she learned her craft for putting the stories of rural Americans into words. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Iowa. She minored in American history.

Her style is light-hearted and pleasant, which can soothe the soul in ways we too easily forget.

Where the Crawdads Sing

By: Delia Owens

Number four on the New York Times Best Sellers list after 62 weeks (as of November, 2019), Where the Crawdads Sing continues to intrigue new readers.

A brilliant but extremely eccentric young girl, Kya Clark, lives alone in the wilds of a North Carolina swamp. Abandoned by her parents and siblings and pretty much ignored by the local school system, she found comfort and security in the swamp. 

In a way, she’s like a local Yeti – often talked about, but rarely seen. When she is seen, she is shunned and looked down-upon by the townspeople. The people of Barkley Cove called her “The Swamp Girl.”

But there came a time when she needed human interaction, to be loved and touched. She makes friends with the town’s favorite son, so to speak, and her life takes on new meaning. All seemed bright and beautiful until the boy turns up dead, and she becomes the primary suspect.

The book abounds with long descriptive narratives – even poetry – about nature and loneliness, and some readers may find some of it tedious. Readers who insist that their books be conventional and the plots plausible may have to suspend disbelief beyond what they’re used to. If you can get past those two downers, Where the Crawdads Sing is a richly-penned novel that stirs emotion.

About the Author:

Delia Owens has written three non-fiction books about her life as a wildlife scientist in Africa. She has won the John Burroughs Award for Nature Writing and has been published in a number of wildlife and ecology magazines.

She now lives in Idaho, but the wildlife and people of Africa still tug at her heart.

The Pioneers

By: David McCullough

With the top book on the New York Times Bestseller List, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David McCullough takes us on a journey to the Northwest Territory.

First off, the Northwest Territory isn’t what many people think. It’s the land north and west of the Ohio River and includes the area now occupied by Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin. The territory came into U.S. possession after it was ceded by Great Britain as set forth by the Treaty of Paris, which ended the Revolutionary War.

The story is told through the lives of five major characters whose families created a tiny town in the wilderness and endured a host of calamities, including floods, fires and the typical dangers of the wilderness. 

And while Great Britain and then the United States may have claimed ownership of the territory, the aboriginal inhabitants had something to say about who lived where, and it made life contentious for the settlers. McCullough’s treatment of the native American plight is matter-of-fact and without politics, resulting in some less-than-favorable reviews by people who wanted more content on that topic.

It’s not light reading, and it does not get in a hurry. As with McCullough’s other historical books, The Pioneers is thorough, deep and detailed. Even the full title is a mouthful: The Pioneers: The Heroic Story of the Settlers Who Brought the American Ideal West.

About the Author:

Yale-educated David McCullough has twice won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award and is passionate about preserving the minute details of our heritage for future generations. In addition to the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award, McCullough has received many other awards, including:

  • National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.
  • National Humanities Medal.
  • President’s Medal of Freedom.

His other non-fiction works include books about The Revolutionary War, John Adams, Harry S. Truman, the Wright Brothers and Teddy Roosevelt.

It’s not that I don’t like people. It’s just that when I’m in the company of others – even my nearest and dearest – there always comes a moment when I’d rather be reading a book.

Maureen Corrigan

The Road to Character

By: David Brooks

At surface level, this book may seem like a feel-good, “be kind, be honest, be clean, brave and reverent and life will be good to you,” kind of book. 

Rest assured, it’s not. If anything, The Road to Character is an often cynical evaluation of the human traits that lead us to where we are in life – or point the way to where we could be or should be in life. 

David Brooks, a conservative columnist and commentator for The New York Times, establishes right away that he is not a role model for success, but is closer to being the anti-role model to be avoided.

“I’m paid to be a narcissistic blowhard,” Brooks said. He describes himself as having a “natural disposition to shallowness,” a trait he said he had to work hard to overcome.

The drive for success often pushes people into superficiality, with all of its just-off-the-cheek kisses, insincere invitations to “do lunch sometime”, bogus compassion and the measuring of every interaction for its value to self-interests,” Brooks suggests. The first step toward actualization is to be honest with yourself, confronting internal hypocrisies and showing genuine humility in order to build character.

The Road to Character isn’t a treatise of Brooks’ personal beliefs. He uses quotes and examples from important people in history (or those close to the important people – like their mothers) to illuminate moments of selflessness, grace, sacrifice and generosity.

This is a stirring book, but be warned that your pot of soup might get stirred the wrong way, as some of Brooks’ detractors have commented.

About the Author:

David Brooks is a political and cultural commentator for PBS as well as a columnist for The New York Times. His resumé also includes stints with The Washington Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Weekly Standard, Newsweek, The Atlantic Monthly and National Public Radio.

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek

By: Kim Michele Richardson

Blue people are real. Or were. 

In the book, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, Cussy Carter is the last living descendant of the rare Blue People of Kentucky, who had a genetic disorder that turned their skin a hazy blue color. In 1936, she joined the Pack Horse Library Project and becomes a traveling librarian.

She rides horseback – make that muleback –  from town to town, bringing books, literacy and escapism to the desperately poor people of Appalachia. 

It’s not an easy route. With few highways, rickety bridges, steep hills and creeks to be forded, danger lurks every moment. Cussy – nicknamed Bluet by the mountain folk – also had to deal with a lot of distrust from the backwoods people who didn’t know what to think of her blue skin and her government-backed book library.

Who Were the Real Blue People?

The main character in The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek is derived from an actual family that lived in the Appalachian region of Kentucky. 

In the early 1800s, Martin Fugate married Elizabeth Smith, and settled around Hazard, KY. Both husband and wife were carriers of the recessive methemoglobinemia gene (met-H) and many of their descendants carried the gene as well. The disease causes the skin to turn to a pale blue, as well as shortness of breath, headaches, fatigue, dizziness and fainting. 

The trend continued with the family – called the Blue Fugates of Kentucky – into the 20th century. Modern transportation allowed for greater separation among people and the thick cluster of Fugates in the region dispersed over time, and the disease died out in that clan.

The last known descendant of the Blue Fugates who showed the characteristics of the disease was Benjamin Stacy, born in 1975. With treatment and the passing of years, his blue skin faded and normal skin tone emerged.

About the Author:

Kim Michele Richardson lives in Kentucky and North Carolina. The author of several well-received novels, including the bestselling memoir The Unbreakable Child, Richardson serves as a book critic for the New York Journal of Books.

She volunteers for Habitat for Humanity and is an active advocate for the prevention of child abuse and domestic violence.

Her previous novels include Liar’s Bench, GodPretty in the Tobacco Field and The Sisters of the Glass Ferry.

Best Holiday Books: Honorable Mentions

Hard Scrabble: Observations on a Patch of Land

By: John Graves

Good times, hard times on the author’s farm, named Hard Scrabble, in Somervell County, TX. The author’s style is what he knows – conversational and pleasant, as if you were sitting with him on the front porch.

Still Life with Chickens

By: Catherine Goldhammer

A recent divorcee and her 12-year-old daughter start life anew in a cozy cottage on the sea shore. Knowing nothing about raising chickens, she nevertheless purchases six baby chicks at the local farm store and hilarity ensues.

The Simple Life Guide to Decluttering Your Life

By: Gary Collins

Gary Collins knows what he’s writing about. He has been living a decluttered, off-the-grid and debt-free lifestyle for years and has never been happier. Learn how to let go of things that are superficial, demands thrust upon you by people with expectations and things that fail to deliver on the joy they promise.

We Were Rich and We Didn’t Know It: A Memoir of My Irish Boyhood

By: Tom Phelan

When Tom Phelan submitted his first novel for publication at age 50, the publisher said, “Where have you been, Tom Phelan?”  This, his seventh book, is an account of his life as a boy growing up in rural Ireland.

He speaks of hard work, struggling to survive and doing without, all without any notion that they were on the low end of the economic scale.

Not Your Mama’s Canning Book

By: Rebecca Lindamood

If you’ve ever sat in a kitchen listening for that familiar “ping” that tells you a jar has sealed, you know the satisfaction that comes with canning. This book offers some new ideas – a few of them quite radical – and some new recipes that your mama or grandma never told you.

The Gift of Gratitude: Lessons from the Classroom

By: Claire E. Hallinan

Four things humans have gotten out of the habit of doing are apologizing, forgiving, giving generously and showing gratitude,

Claire H. Hallinan shows how the simple act of showing gratitude can be healing and restorative for both the receiver and the giver. We learned these things in kindergarten. How did we lose sight of them?

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