Usually, my book tastes run pretty dark, but I set that (mostly) aside when it comes to the holidays. Now is the time for some feel-good Yuletide tales. For the most part, I describe my Christmas reading list as “Hallmark movie in a book” and I have zero regrets. When, if not now, can I read books that are designed to warm me down to my very toes? And with the deep freeze my province finds itself in right now, I will take every ounce of heat I can. For additional heat factor, some of these books offer up some significant spice!
Here is my 2022 Christmas reading list. From the classics to the decidedly not, each of these books was a pleasure for one reason or another.
The Holiday Swap, by Maggie Knox
The holiday book that was made to be a Hallmark movie – honestly, this is the book I wanted to read all season. It was twee and sweet and somewhat ridiculous, and I loved every word.
Charlie and Cass are twin bakers with very different lives. Cass runs her family’s bakery in the idyllic mountain town of Starlight Peaks, while Charlie is the host of a baking competition, living in L.A. But both have struggles in their lives – Charlie’s antagonistic co-host is out for her job, while Cass wonders if she could have done something more than stay in her small town with her high school boyfriend.
When an on-set accident leaves a concussed Charlie with no sense of taste or smell, she can’t do her job on air and needs help. The twins decide to pull a life-swap, taking over for the other. What could possibly go wrong?
Only everything! But of course there is romance and silly misunderstandings and sisters who would do anything for the other – including standing up for them in their lives. Honestly, if you are looking for a silly fun holiday book, this is the one for you.
Meet Me in London, by Georgia Toffolo
Meet Me in London is the first of Georgia Toffolo’s Meet Me series, and follows a group of girlfriends as they travel the world and meet the men of their dreams. In London, all romantic chaos descends when two near-strangers try to pull off a fake engagement … while trying to ignore the attraction which has become all too real.
Victoria Scott is an aspiring designer and would kill to find a store to showcase her beautiful dresses. Oliver Russell, heir to the Russell Department Store fortune, is trying to successfully roll out the opening of the newest store in Chelsea, while trying to keep his overbearing parents off his back about settling down. When he runs into Victoria (quite literally), he sees the perfect person to pretend all is well in his life. While Victoria is uneasy about the arrangement, she knows the opportunity to showcase her designs, as well as her underprivileged students, is one she can’t walk away from. If only she knew what to do with the pesky feelings that keep popping up whenever Oliver is around.
The Mistletoe Mischief, by Chloe Liese
A slow-burn enemies-to-lovers workplace romance. It’s like The Hating Game, if it were set inside a Christmas snow globe. Jonathan Frost is a classic Grinch at the holidays, while Gabriella di Natale couldn’t love them more. They are co-managers of an independent bookstore, and their management styles couldn’t be more different. Now they learn only one of them can stay on as manager after Christmas, so they are each fighting to save their job.
Gabriella is autistic and demisexual, so falling for the right someone is essential. She thinks she’s found that person, but conflicting emotions swirling around her nemesis Jonathan send her spiralling into confusion. Will the two figure out how they feel before Christmas? It’s a Hallmark movie wrapped up in a book!
A Merry Little Meet Cute, by Julie Murphy and Sierra Simone
This book ended up being far spicier than I had imagined! Of course, that’s on me because I went into it blind. Bee Hobbes has scored her first acting job on a Hope Channel Christmas movie – the first acting job she’s had outside of her successful adult film career, that is! And she’s starring alongside her former boy band crush Nolan Shaw. But nobody can know that she’s a porn star, otherwise the squeaky-clean Hope Channel will find grounds to give her the boot, and even porn stars need health insurance!
Nolan Shaw is a former disgraced bad boy who needs this gig to work out as much as Bee, and both their careers hinge on them being able to keep things as pure as the driven snow. The only problem is they can’t keep their hands off each other!
I loved this book for many reasons, not just because there was an extremely satisfying amount of spice here (I was reading this one in public and praying nobody on my son’s hockey team peeked over my shoulder, omg!). The story line is very body positive. Bee is plus-sized, and it isn’t a book about how she’s beautiful “despite” being fat – it’s just assumed that she is extremely desirable. I loved that. It is also very sex-positive, and pro-sex workers. While this is an idealistic version of sex work (and even in the book Bee speaks of how her experience is better than many), it doesn’t condemn or moralize that sex work is bad, or that sex is something to be ashamed of. Bee loves sex, loves sharing sex and views herself as someone who spreads joy in the world. I didn’t expect this rom com to go so deep, but the two talented authors have a lot to give with this one. Definitely recommended!
The Ghosts of Christmas Past, edited by Tim Martin
Alright, if you know me, you know I’m not going to pass up horror – even when it comes wrapped up at Christmas! The Ghosts of Christmas Past is a collection of Victorian-style holiday ghosts stories, including one disturbing little flash by Neil Gaiman.
The history of the Yuletide and the winter solstice is far spookier than the commercials would like you to believe, and for centuries a favourite pastime during the darkest days of the year were to gather round the fire and scare the wits out of each other. There are tales of dark wintertime creatures, ghosts of loved ones past, and stories of shadows chilling enough to rival the icy wind outside. This is my wheelhouse – of course I loved it. If you also enjoy horror, and a slightly more pagan view of the holidays, check this one out!
A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens
A Christmas Carol is beloved for a reason, as nothing can touch the sweet charm of this book. Whether you curl up in front of the fire to read the original, watch live theatre, or you’re a Muppets fan, “God Bless Us Everyone” comes around once a year and never gets old.
I’ve been thinking about this, and I realize that Dickens essentially created Christmas as it is today, with all the decorations, the cards, the carolling, the sleigh rides, the gift-giving, the endless buying. I’m not mad about this, even if A Christmas Carol had been written entirely for commercial purposes. Why should that matter? Many good things have come from commercial intent. Like … all of society.
And in this little classic tale, Dickens gives us the very concept of Christmas spirit, and it does warm the heart. Listen to carols on a snow-swept street and tell me it doesn’t hit you in the cockles. Besides, I believe that people are kinder at Christmas.
“Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence were all my business.”
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, by Barbara Robinson
“Hey! Unto you, a child is born!”
Undoubtedly the best Christmas book of all time. Who is able to resist the charms of the sociopathic Herdmans? In an attempt to filch some Communion wine, the very worst kids in the history of the world get caught up in the Christmas Pageant and discover the spirit of Christmas. Unwittingly, they share that revelation with an uptight small town and the entire thing is both heart-warming and kooky.
I used to read this book every year with my family around the Christmas tree. When we were younger my parents would read one chapter a night to us as we counted down to the big day. As we got older, we’d pass around the book along with the wine as we read each other this family favourite. Each and every year this children’s book would reduce us to tears of laughter. This is one of my favourite memories.
Nowadays, I continue the tradition with my kids. We curl up every night and read one chapter. It ends with the two of them in heaps of laughter on the floor. This book helps me find a little Christmas magic every year.
Have a happy holiday season, and I hope that you find warmth and joy during these winter days, no matter where it is you are looking!
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