For those who can’t get enough of the holidays or love a themed read.
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By Zibby Owens
I’m still getting over the sugar high from all that Halloween candy and yet it’s time to think about the upcoming holidays. Hanukkah starts the Sunday after Thanksgiving and then Christmas follows closely on its heels. I’m headed to the American Girl store today to stock up on gifts for my kids before the holiday rush. But what about holiday reads? Not only are holiday-themed books fabulous, but they make wonderful gifts. Here are a few to keep on your radar so you can cross a few loved ones off your list.
Best Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Hanukkah Books for Gifting
Did you know that one intrepid widowed mother, Sarah Josepha Hale, was the original tastemaker who campaigned for a day of thanks?! She was a novelist, essayist, and editor of a magazine that published all the greats of the moment: Edgar Allen Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and more. She didn’t even have the right to vote, but she was on a mission to create a day of thanks. This compelling read about one woman’s heartfelt campaign to create a holiday includes history — flattering and not — of America, the women’s movement, and more. Give this as a gift to any host or curl up over the weekend and read it yourself. There’s even a custom gratitude tea blend you can add for the perfect hostess gift.
Thanksgiving: The Holiday at the Heart of the American Experience by Melanie Kirkpatrick
A complete history of the holiday from George Washington, who lacked the Constitutional power to declare a Thanksgiving, and Abraham Lincoln, who tried to unite the fractured North and South with one day of gratitude, to New England Indigenous People, who boycotted the holiday and declared a Day of Mourning, to the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan, which founded Giving Tuesday. This book, chock full of traditions, rituals, and facts, even includes some historic recipes if you’re brave enough to try them.
Home: A Celebration, edited by Charlotte Moss to benefit No Kid Hungry
Designer and philanthropist Charlotte Moss compiled work from 120 artists, poets, chefs, designers, photographers, and writers to complete a picture of what home means today. Like Edith Wharton before her, whose The Book of the Homeless helped refugee children in 1916 during World War I, this book’s royalties will all go to No Kid Hungry and their mission to help end childhood hunger. As you partake in the abundant blessings of your holiday meal, know you’re helping others by giving this book as a gift.
Moms Don’t Have Time to Have Kids, edited by Zibby Owens
OK, fine. This is my book — out this week! But it’s really the perfect gift for any frazzled mom this holiday season. Fifty-three short essays by bestselling, notable, and award-winning authors (not just moms!) who have been on my podcast, Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books, wrote compelling personal essays inspired by some of the many things we don’t have time for, like seeing friends, losing weight, writing, getting sick, and sleeping. Easy to read and designed to elicit a chuckle, this paperback anthology will make any struggling parent feel less alone during the craziest season in mom-land and remind them to maintain a sense of humor during the chaos.
Going There by Katie Couric
Call us biased but we think this is a great read for the season of giving thanks. In her memoir Going There, our beloved Katie takes a walk down memory lane and honors all the people who helped her find success in life. She’s called it a love letter to her parents. But she also expresses gratitude for her late husband Jay, all the doctors who were by her side during his illness, the well-wishers who kept her going in her grief, and the community that helped her raise her daughters after. She also honors all the major moments that shaped her career. In a way, it’s a book of thanks.
Best Hanukkah Books
This hilarious children’s book gives a family of latkes the chops to tell each other the story of Hanukkah with fabulous illustrations and witty dialogue appropriate for both kids and grown-ups. (For Passover, don’t miss Meet the Matzah!).
Goodnight Bubbala by Sheryl Haft with an exclusive recipe from Ina Garten of Barefoot Contessa
A parody of Goodnight Moon, this entertaining, tender story includes bubbies and zaydes and turns the little bunny Jewish, just in time for Hanukkah. There’s even a new plush bunny to add to this fabulous gift for kids. And don’t miss Ina Garten’s latke recipe inside!
The 100 Most Jewish Foods: A Highly Debatable List by Alana Newhouse and Tablet
Essays, recipes, stories, and more show why these 100 foods are the most culturally relevant foods around. If you’re looking for a good Hanukkah gift, for your food-loving Jewish friend, this is the perfect pick. And then, hopefully, they’ll invite you over when they recreate one of these recipes!
Best Christmas Books
Christmas in Peachtree Bluff by Kristy Woodson Harvey
Three generations of women band together to fight the “storm of the century” descending on their Southern hometown amid the holiday season. New York Times bestselling author Kristy Woodson Harvey writes with her super smart, accessible, and charming voice in this family tale about divorce, travel, family, rescue, community, and family.
The Santa Suit by Mary Kay Andrews
New York Times bestselling author of Hello, Summer and dozens of other novels, Mary Kay Andrews features a newly divorced woman renovating an old farmhouse who discovers a Santa suit in the closet. What did the note in the pocket mean? Ivy resolves to solve the puzzle of the girl’s note she finds and, in so doing, discovers a community and love.
The Wish by Nicholas Sparks
Mega-star author of The Notebook and many novels that have turned into our favorite films, Nicholas Sparks writes his first Christmas book set in 2019 about Maggie, a renowned travel photographer, who is grounded over the holidays due to an unwelcome medical issue. As she shares her past holiday story from 1996 with her assistant, we learn how she found her love of photography and the story behind the lens.
Four stories round out this holiday-themed Amazon Original collection. Stories include “Model Home” by bestselling author of Friends and Strangers, J. Courtney Sullivan; “If the Fates Allow” by Rainbow Rowell; “The Marriage Test” by Suzanne Redfearn; and “Oh.What.Fun.” by Chandler Baker, author of The Whisper Network and The Husbands.
Zibby Owens is an author, publisher, mother of four, and the podcast host of Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books.