Dec 18, 2017 at 12:00am ET By Joanna Hughes

The countdown to Christmas is on. Whether you’re already in the holiday spirit and aiming to keep the momentum going, or you’re trying to shake off a case of the bah-humbugs, cranking up the Yuletide tunes and cozying up with a good book can help you embrace the spirit of the season. The best part? You don’t even have to venture out to the library or bookstore to get your hands on one. Instead, check out these six classics -- all available online and guaranteed to deliver Christmas cheer.

1. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Sure, you’ve seen it adopted by and referenced in everything from Disney to Dr. Who, but have you ever actually read the story of Scrooge, his dead partner Jacob Marley, some spirits (including one seriously creepy one), and little Tiny Tim?  If not, what are you waiting for? Insists, “No matter how good, no matter how well-intentioned the adaptation or performance, nothing matches the sheer literary grandeur and mastery of the original classic. It is, in my opinion, perfect from the first sentence to the very last.”

In addition to a masterful read, you also get an uplifting message to go along with it. Continues WKAR, “This lesson of Scrooge transcends different religions, beliefs and non-beliefs. It’s almost too bad this tale is tied to a holiday that comes around only once a year....Everything else — possessions, wealth, and today’s obsession with fame — are meaningless next to the heart of a small, loving boy with crutches. For we all have the capacity to change like Scrooge, to grow, to make a positive difference in this world.”

2. Papa Panov’s Special Christmas by Leo Tolstoy

It may be a children’s story, but Tolstoy’s signature way with words and skill with symbolism come shining through.

Says ThoughtCo, “Tolstoy's short story serves as a good reminder that the spirit of Christmas doesn't revolve around getting material presents, but rather giving to others beyond your immediate family.”

3. The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Andersen

If you feel like a good cry this Christmas, you’ll get it -- and more -- with the bittersweet story of a poor, barefoot little girl just trying to warm up on New Year’s Eve.

But The Little Match Girl is more than just a story; it’s also -- even today -- a call for change.  Says a LibraryThing reviewer, “I am always reminded, when reading it, of Andersen's great admiration for the English author Charles Dickens, as it is clearly a work of overt social commentary, touching upon issues such as poverty, child labor, and child abuse. Sadly, these ills are still with us, making the story as relevant as ever…”

4. A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas

Many people pine for simpler times come Christmas, and Thomas’s remarkable and descriptive prose delivers.

Wrote one Goodreads reviewer, “How did I, a huge fan of Christmas and celebrations in general, manage to ignore this book for so long?...This is a happy tale that is fun-filled and warm, despite, or maybe because of, the dark and constantly snow-spewing skies….This little treasure shall be read every year hereafter. Long live Christmas!”

5. The Elves and the Shoemaker by the Brothers Grimm

If you’ve ever wished someone might come along in the dead of night and help you finish up your term papers, you’ll identify with the beleaguered shoemaker at the center of this feel-good tale. 

“A  wonderful story about humility, industry, and karma,” applauds one Goodreads reviewer, while another insists, “This was so cheery, I can't stop smiling as I write this review. This was absolutely wonderful to read, and I recommend this to anyone who needs a quick read and a smile.”

6. The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry

Don’t have a lot of time on your hands? Look no further than The Gift of the Magi. The definition of “short and sweet,” this sentimental story tells of a young married couple dealing with the challenges of being penniless while Christmas shopping.

Enthuses CINE-BOOKS on Goodreads, “What is a good recipe for a love story? Take a couple madly in love, add some money problems and spice it up with an upcoming Christmas….The Gift of the Magi is a timeless story about sacrifice and love that will never lose its charm and its universal appeal. A beautiful romantic tale that will make you rethink your relationships and force you to go hug the person you love.”

We challenge you to make it through this list without experiencing some phenomenally festive feels!

Learn more about studying literature online.






Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.

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