Each year we try to repack our Christmas decorations in the order we'll need to get them back out the beginning of next Advent. It looks something like this: nativities, Advent wreaths, Advent calendar, ALL THE BOOKS, everything else.
Little by little over the years, I've added a book here and there to be brought out and enjoyed for a short season. Admittedly, much of my collection has been selected by what's available at the thrift store and library sales. Every once in awhile, though, I find a book so lovely and beloved, it's worth purchasing retail!
I hope you enjoy this little peek into our Advent & Christmas bookshelves. I'd love to hear what books you enjoy this time of year!
(Also, p.s. there are all kinds of affiliate links in this post because I'm trying to be a good steward, and when you buy something through one of these links you don't pay more money, but in some magical twist of capitalism we get a little pocket change. Thanks!)
The Twenty-Four Days Before Christmas: An Austin Family Story by Madeleine L'Engle
*This is far and away my all-time favorite Advent story - probably because my mother read it to us when we were little. Also, because Madeleine L'Engle is dear to me.
*I've often thought it would be fun to make a companion Advent calendar to go along with the story, matching the Austin family's daily Advent activity.
*It just now occurs to me that the Austin family probably lives in Connecticut (thus, the December blizzard). That makes me love the story even more.
A Child's Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas
* I discovered this delightful story a few years back, and every year find someone - anyone - who will let me read it out loud to them.
*If you've ever had the quirky privilege of gathering with a large, loud, multigenerational family at a holiday, you should pretty much be able to recognize each character in this story.
Letters From Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien
*What a wonderful, imaginative man, dear Tolkien. And, of course, his love for Father Christmas reminds me of his writing friend's depiction in Narnia.
*For more than 40 years now, my own father hand writes a Santa letter (including the same sort of disguised shaky writing as Tolkien's). For more than 20 years, my husband has done the same. Somehow, someway I want to hunt down those letters and make our own family book.
*Tolkien's illustrations are priceless.
All Creation Waits: The Advent Mystery of New Beginnings by Gayle Boss
- I ordered this book from the wonderful Hearts & Minds booksellers after reading about it in Byron Borger's Advent Booknotes. Take some time to peruse his suggested reads. I'm learning that I totally trust his recommendations!
- The illustrations and concept of this book is just plain gorgeous. "In twenty-five portraits depicting how wild animals of the northern hemisphere ingeniously adapt when darkness and cold descend, we see and hear as if for the first time the ancient wisdom of Advent: The dark is not an end but the way a new beginning comes."
- Beautiful for all ages!
The Jesse Tree by Geraldine McCaughrean
*We've never done a Jesse Tree as part of our family Advent, but I think we would have if I'd known about it when the kids were little. This is the way I've made up for that omission.
A King James Christmas: Biblical Selections with Illustrations from Around the World edited by Catherine Schuon & Michael Fitzgerald
*I picked this up one year at Book People, Austin's perfectly wonderful book store. The illustrations are gorgeous.
*Excerpts from the Gospels are woven together to form a seamless and easy-to-follow story of Jesus’ birth and infancy, including the Annunciation, the Visitation, the adoration of the Magi, the presentation of Jesus in the temple, and the flight into Egypt. Fully illustrated with reproductions of paintings, sculptures, illuminated manuscripts, and stained glass windows from around the world.
The Spirit of Christmas: Stories, Poems & Essays by G.K. Chesterton
*This book is new for us this year, and it is almost impossible to find. We were fortunate to find it from an online used book seller. I'm only including it in the list for you to keep your eyes open at used book stores and library sales throughout the year.
*Chesterton famously adores Christmas. Each year for over thirty years, G.K. Chesterton would write at least five or six articles on Christmas, along with one or two poems and some other odd piece, that would be spread among the journals for which he was a regular contributor and Yuletide issues of other journals for which he was not. This is a collection of some his best and brightest from all he wrote on the subject.
Shepherds Abiding (A Mitford Story) by Jan Karon
*I haven't read this yet, but my mother gave me the book during a recent visit and promised I would love it. I don't doubt her one bit!
- I just discovered this charming little trilogy of books for the liturgical year from the religion section of our library book sale. I knew Phyllis Tickle's work in the Divine Hours prayer manuals, but had no idea she was a long-time columnist and wrote such lovely prose.
- I also had no idea that Mrs. Tickle was mother to seven children, 5 of whom she and her husband Sam moved to a Tennessee farm when they wanted to recover their own childhood rural roots. Each brief, engaging story in the book is taken from the family's escapades making life work on the farm.
- My favorite story in this volume? The pregnant cow stuck on the ice. It's epic.
Jan Brett's Christmas Treasury by Jan Brett
*It's all about the warm, sweet, earthy illustrations. I never get tired of Jan Brett.
The Bird's Christmas Carol by Kate Douglas Wiggin
*This Victorian-era story certainly falls into the oeuvre of Christmas tearjerkers. I don't care. I love the story. Probably again, because my mother read it to us as kids.
*I recently learned that Kate Douglas Wiggin originally published the book to help fund the Silver Street Free Kindergarten, which she founded in 1878. That makes me like it all the more.
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson
*You'll laugh and you'll cry.
*A perfect read-aloud, if you can find anyone to listen. And they'll be glad they did.
*We love this story so much, we performed it as a pageant in our church years ago. So much fun.
*The story that includes the world in mourning that "It's always winter, but never Christmas." And then Father Christmas comes! Well, there's the Gospel, friends.
A Christmas Carol: The Original Manuscript Edition by Charles Dickens
*One of the best depictions in literature of Gospel repentance, set in the perfectly appropriate season of Advent and Christmas. We watch every version, look at ever illustration. We never want to be too sophisticated to tire of this tale.
Sounding the Seasons: Seventy sonnets for Christian year by Malcolm Guite
- While this collection of sonnets from the Anglican priest/poet/troubadour covers the entire year, his Advent (the O Antiphons) and Christmastide are stunning.
*Madeleine L'Engle's simple poignancy illuminated by Giotto's glorious frescoes from the Scrovegni chapel in Padua (full color throughout, with gold washed edges). Perfection.