9 “Off the Beaten Path” Books for the Holidays

holiday picture of books piled high with tinsel


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Lists of books to read over the holidays typically include some pretty schmaltzy, cheesy romance books. While I enjoy reading from just about every genre, those types of books pretty much come in dead last for me as far as preferences.

Still, I am a devoted seasonal reader and last year, I had trouble finding any holiday-ish books with premises that appealed to me. So, I have spent some time recently compiling a list of very different Holiday books.

While the below list is heavy on mystery and thriller (plus one horror – sorry, I HAD to), I promise it is not completely devoid of romance or stories that warm the heart. It just contains book choices that are a little more “off the beaten path.”

Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor (William Morrow, 2017): Pretty much the best way to get me to read a romance book is to combine it with a historical setting. That is what you get with this book set during World War I. I have had a copy sitting on my shelf since January, but I have held onto it all year to read in December.

No Exit book

No Exit by Taylor Adams (Joffe, 2017): I have had this on my TBR forever and also included it on my “Summer is for Thrillers” reading list this year. I have heard it’s a wild ride with crazy twists and turns. Being set during a snow storm in the Colorado Rockies, I think it is perfect for a December read.

An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena (Penguin, 2018): It doesn’t snow too much in Texas, but I clearly gravitate towards snowy books during the Holidays. This one is a whodunit murder mystery amongst lots of snow in a secluded lodge in the Catskills. Sign me up.

How the Light Gets In (Inspector Gamache #9) by Louise Penny (Minotaur, 2013): When I was a new mother of two tiny little boys, I was in love with these books and had been reading through them one by one. When I reached for #11, The Nature of the Beast, the tale of murder (including a small little boy) revulsed me, and I set the book down. My boys are older and my skin is thicker (necessary for being the mom of boys!) and now I am wondering if I should go back to these cozy mysteries which are set in an idyllic town in Canada. It’s been several years, so I am likely going to need to refresh my memory. I could go through and read the summaries, but I think it would be more fun to start with this one, which is set during Christmas.

Christmas Spirits on Tradd Street by Karen White (Berkley, 2019): I am totally intrigued by this series which includes psychics, ghosts and is set in the deep South. Even though I normally would back up and start with #1 in a series (this one is #6), I might make an exception and read this one first because of the setting.

In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash by Jean Shepherd (Broadway Books, 1991): The movie this one is based on, A Christmas Story, is hilarious and iconic, and I can’t believe I have never read the book. Planning to remedy that this year.

NOS4A2 by Joe Hill (William Morrow, 2013): Ok, this one might be more of a stretch, but after I saw several Instagrammers feature it as a Holiday pick (probably because of the new holiday cover), I decided to add it to this list. Charlie Manx kidnaps children and takes them to “Christmasland,” a horrifying and magical place that also transforms them into something….not quite human. As a child, Victoria McQueen narrowly escapes Manx’s clutches and later in life, haunted by her experience, she is determined to stop him, no matter the cost. I read this in November and can’t even put into words how much I loved it.

The Stupidest Angel by Christopher Moore (William Morrow, 2008): I read the sample of this one before adding it to this list. Let me just say that I love me some snark, and this one HAS IT. If you like stories that are different (maybe even a little raunchy), you will enjoy this book about a group of pretty interesting small town characters and some serious Christmas chaos.

A Redbird Christmas by Fannie Flagg (Fawcett, 2005): Rounding out my Holiday book list is this one by beloved author, Fannie Flagg, who also wrote Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe. It’s about a man who finds out he has months to live, and decides to spend his last Christmas in a small town. What comes next is a heartwarming and humorous story full of rich characters perfect for a comforting holiday read. I hear the audio, read by the author, is particularly good.

What is YOUR favorite Holiday read?

2 thoughts on “9 “Off the Beaten Path” Books for the Holidays

  1. This is such a great list!!! I just added Tradd Street and NOS4A2 to my request list at the library. I’ve never heard of the first one, but it sounds so good!! And I’ve been wanting to read Joe Hill for awhile, so a Christmas horror story sounds like the perfect one to start with! 🙂

    Also, Christopher Moore is hilarious. Did you ever read LAMB by him? Loved it. I’ve also read FOOL, which I liked a lot, too. I think I’ve read one or two more by him, but I can’t remember the names now. It was awhile ago! Sounds like I would enjoy THE STUPIDEST ANGEL. 🙂

    Thank you, thank you for this list!! I am always looking for the non-stereotypical Christmas reads, and I am always coming up short, lol. I’ve started a few Debbie Macomber and some Christmas mysteries this month already, but they are MEH. I crave more. Now, I have it!! 🙂

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