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12 Nonfiction Books About The Holidays

Finding seasonal reads does not limit you to only the fiction section of the bookstore. There are great nonfiction reads that will also help brighten up your holiday reading list and maybe answer some lingering questions you may have about the season.  So grab your favorite cozy socks, brew a cuppa, and dig into one of these unique and entertaining nonfiction books about the holidays to read (or re-read) and share this year.

Christmas: A Biography by Judith Flanders

In Christmas, bestselling author and acclaimed social historian Judith Flanders casts a sharp eye on its myths, legends and history, deftly moving from the origins of the holiday in the Roman empire, through the first appearance of Christmas trees in Central Europe, to what might be the origins of Santa Claus–in Switzerland–to draw a picture of the season as it has never been seen before.

The Battle for Christmas by Stephen Nissenbaum

Drawing on a wealth of period documents and illustrations, Nissenbaum charts the invention of our current Yuletide traditions, from St. Nicholas to the Christmas tree and, perhaps most radically, the practice of giving gifts to children. Bursting with detail, filled with subversive readings of such seasonal classics as A Visit from St. Nicholas” and A Christmas Carol, The Battle for Christmas captures the glorious strangeness of the past even as it helps us better understand our present.

How to Spell Chanukah edited by Emily Franklin

Ring in the holiday with eighteen writers who extol, excoriate, and expand our understanding of this most merry of Jewish festivals as they offer up funny, irreverent, and, yes, even nostalgic takes on a holiday that holds a special place in Jewish hearts . . . and stomachs.

Dickens and Christmas by Lucinda Hawksley

Dickens and Christmas is an exploration of the 19th-century phenomenon that became the Christmas we know and love today – and of the writer who changed, forever, the ways in which it is celebrated. Charles Dickens was born in an age of great social change. He survived childhood poverty to become the most adored and influential man of his time. Throughout his life, he campaigned tirelessly for better social conditions, including by his most famous work, A Christmas Carol. He wrote this novella specifically to “strike a sledgehammer blow on behalf of the poor man’s child”, and it began the Victorians’ obsession with Christmas.

Kwanzaa by Maulana Karenga

Discusses the origins, values, and celebrations of Kwanzaa, and offers historical and cultural background information.

The Man Who Invented Christmas by Les Standiford

As uplifting as the tale of Scrooge itself, this is the story of how Charles Dickens revived the signal holiday of the Western world.

The Man Who Invented Christmas is filled with warmth, wit, and an infusion of Christmas cheer.  Les Standiford whisks us back to Victorian England, its most beloved storyteller, and the birth of the Christmas we know best.

Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris

David Sedaris’s beloved holiday collection is new again with six more pieces, including a never before published story. Along with such favoritesas the diaries of a Macy’s elf and the annals of two very competitive families, are Sedaris’s tales of tardy trick-or-treaters (“Us and Them”); the difficulties of explaining the Easter Bunny to the French (“Jesus Shaves”); what to do when you’ve been locked out in a snowstorm (“Let It Snow”); the puzzling Christmas traditions of other nations (“Six to Eight Black Men”); what Halloween at the medical examiner’s looks like (“The Monster Mash”); and a barnyard secret Santa scheme gone awry (“Cow and Turkey”).

The Indisputable Existence of Santa Claus: The Mathematics of Christmas by Thomas Oléron Evans and Hannah Fry

How do you apply game theory to select who should be on your Christmas shopping list? What equations should you use to decorate the Christmas tree? Will calculations show Santa is getting steadily thinner―shimmying up and down chimneys for a whole night―or fatter―as he munches on cookies and milk in billions of houses across the world? In The Indisputable Existence of Santa Claus, distinguished mathematicians Hannah Fry and Thomas Oléron Evans demonstrate, with eminently readable clarity, how applied mathematics are so thoroughly interwoven throughout our everyday lives by explaining mathematical concepts through one very merry motif: Christmas.In their quest to provide mathematical proof for the existence of Santa, the authors take readers on a festive journey through a traditional holiday season, wherein every activity, from wrapping presents to playing board games to cooking the perfect turkey, is painstakingly and hilariously analyzed.

Miracle on 10th Street: And Other Christmas Writings by Madeleine L’Engle

Miracle on 10th Street includes excerpts from L’Engle’s most cherished works, reflecting on Advent, Incarnation, Epiphany, mystery, and redemption. In these pages, L’Engle points to the marvels and curiosities that fill everyday life. And, as always, she shows herself to be a one-woman force for celebration–fully believing that delight and wonder must mark the life of anyone who sees God’s love at work.

A Christmas Memory: One Christmas, and The Thanksgiving Visitor by Truman Capote

First published in 1956, this much sought-after autobiographical recollection from Truman Capote (In Cold Blood; Breakfast at Tiffany’s) about his rural Alabama boyhood is a perfect gift for Capote’s fans young and old.

Yule: Rituals, Recipes & Lore for the Winter Solstice by Susan Pesznecker

Yule–also known as the Winter Solstice–is celebrated when nighttime has reached its maximum length, and there is a promise of brighter days to come as candles are lit and feasts are enjoyed. This guide shows you how to perform rituals and work magic with the energy of rebirth and renewal that comes with the return of the light.

Santa Claus: A Biography by Gerry Bowler

In this engaging social and cultural history, Gerry Bowler examines the place of Santa Claus in history, literature, advertising, and art. He traces his metamorphosis from a beardless youth into a red-suited peddler. He reveals the lesser-known aspects of the gift-bringer’s life — Santa’s involvement with social and political causes of all stripes (he enlisted on the Union side in the American Civil War), his starring role in the movies and as adman for gun-makers and insurance companies. And he demolishes the myths surrounding Santa Claus and Coca-Cola.

What do you think about the books on this list?

Have you read any books from this list?  What is your favorite nonfiction book about the holidays?  What books would you add to the list?

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