Looking back on these November weekends, my family spent a little time hootin’ and hollerin’ at the TV, watching our Alma Mater Oklahoma State’s football team win some and lose some. My girl and I have probably logged in too much time watching either the Great British Baking Show or any number of Hallmark Christmas movies. We’ve already had a few snow storms this fall-winter. And with only one kid in high school now, we’ve had a smidge more downtime on our weekends.
When those slower weekends and snow days come around, I’m struck at how much I enjoy doing regular things. Chop vegetables and stir soup. Hang ornaments and string lights. Listen to Christmas music and light the citrusy-cinnamon candle. Amidst the work and laundry and driving and crazy, I really can’t get enough of these regular things. They are simultaneously my favorite things.
Looking ahead to the Advent season beginning this Sunday, I wanted to tell you about another “regular type” activity the Strongs are into: reading good books. Below are some books beloved by me and my family–most oriented toward Advent with a couple “just for fun” books thrown in as well.
Now, you may very well have your Advent routines already in place, and there’s no room in the inn for one extra thing to do or book to read. I get that. If that’s you, then by all means, please take what you like but leave the rest. (Or leave them all!) But if you’re like me and feel compelled to balance all your Hallmark Christmas movie watching with something a little more substantial, then you might enjoy this selection below. Several of these books were originally suggested to me by my friend Emily Hill, a wonder of a book-loving friend whose recommendations never let me down!
Advent Books for You:
Light Upon Light by Sarah Arthur: This book is a literary compilation of prayers, readings, and Scripture passages for Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany.
Y’all, I love the way Light Upon Light has enriched this season on the church calendar for me. It offers weekly opening and closing prayers as well as Scripture passages and literary excerpts to read in between. If you’re a lover of literature and poetry or just want to be introduced to a variety of authors in short form, you’ll love this book.Watch for the Light: Reading for Advent and Christmas: This book is another compilation of readings for every day from the last week of November through the first week of January. Some of the writers featured in this book include Sylvia Plath, Henri Nouwen, St. Thomas Aquinas, Madeleine L’Engle, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Brennan Manning, Philip Yancy, C.S. Lewis, Søren Kierkegaard, and T.S. Eliot.
The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas by Ann Voskamp: Ann is my go-to voice for Advent beauty and reflection. This book reaches back to the Old Testament to tell the lineage of Jesus, and each day’s readings point to the coming of Christ. When this book released a few years ago, I kept it in my purse and read it everywhere from sports practice to the commissary lines on payday (fellow military spouses, you know what I’m talking about!). It’s just so good, and I’ve returned to this book again and again.
Haphazard by Starlight by Janet Morley: This book offers a poem a day from Advent to Epiphany with commentary. I bought this last year but didn’t get the opportunity to read much of it, so I’m looking forward to reading more this year. If you’re a poetry fan, you might enjoy this!
Advent Books for the Family:
All Creation Waits: The Advent Mystery of New Beginnings by Gayle Boss: Y’all, this book is so interesting! It offers twenty-five meditations on how animals in the wild adapt during the dark, cold winter season. Each reflection echoes the theme that dark is not an end but the way a new beginning arrives.
I shared one meditation a day (ish) during December of last year with my family, and we all found them so interesting–even my three teens! Elementary kiddos would like this one, too.
Unwrapping the Greatest Gift: A Family Celebration of Christmas by Ann Voskamp: This book is a feast for the eyes as well as heart. Arranged in readings for everyday from December 1st through the 25th, it is something the entire family can use to celebrate Advent together. The exquisite words and artwork inside it feed your soul with gorgeous truth. Even big kids will get something out of the readings, and the years our family went through this I especially appreciated the thoughtful questions located at the end of each day’s reading. They are perfect conversation starters for kids young and old. You can also find tree ornaments coordinated to go with the daily readings here. In addition to the two mentioned here, Ann has a few other Advent offerings as well. Find those here.
The ADVENTure of Christmas by Lisa Whelchel: Geared toward families with young children, this book takes twenty-four traditions associated with Christmas and explains their origins and significance within the season. It includes crafts that accompany each lesson which you can take or leave, depending on your time and interest. In my kids’ younger years, we plumb wore out this book. I especially loved the easy readings that showed them how to find Jesus within each of our Christmas traditions, including obvious ones like the Advent wreath and the Star as well as less obvious ones like Santa Claus and the colors of Christmas.
Bonus Fun Reads with the Kids:
Letters from Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien: Every December, a letter from the North Pole would arrive for the children of J.R.R. Tolkien. Inside those envelopes, “Father Christmas” told stories of his life at the North Pole and the antics of those who were there with him. I’m not the biggest Tolkien fan in the world, but gosh I do love this book!
The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore: After lighting our Advent wreath and reading Luke 2, my husband will read this classic every Christmas Eve. We especially enjoy the illustrations by Cheryl Harness in this particular telling of the famous poem.
P.S. Affiliate links are used when referencing books.
***Giveaway now closed. Thanks to all who entered!***
In the interest of kicking it back to the old-school days of blogging, I’m doing a giveaway of my three favorite Advent books: Light Upon Light, The Greatest Gift, and All Creation Waits. Simply leave a comment below naming your favorite Christmas book or tradition to enter! I’ll randomly choose a winner and get the books on their way to you shortly–a little late for the beginning of Advent but not too late!
Susan Ferguson says
I LOVE reading daily advent devotionals during this season….it’s a chance to slow down and reflect on the wonder of the coming King! Ann Voskamp has been a staple in my home the past few years. I love her books but would also love to dig into something new this year (even if it’s a little late for the start of advent). If I win, I have the perfect friend I could share The Greatest Gift with since I already have that one, and I could dig into the other two with my husband and kids 🙂
My favorite Christmas book is The Christmas Stories of Louisa May Alcott. My favorite tradition is getting a Snowflake Bently ornament. A new one releases every year from his snow crystal photos.
I checked out the Tolkien book from the library last year, that was a fun discovery! Love a good ol’ giveaway!
I read parts of the Watch For the Light compilation every year! I love it but I think its time to try a new book.
Linda U says
It HAS to be The night before Christmas for me ! But looking for something new to add to that too!
Thanks for the recommendations ?
Several of these are new to me! Thank you for the recommendations!
I have several favorites (including Barbara Robinson’s “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever…which probably doesn’t qualify as Advent reading!) . Right now I’m rereading “Touching Wonder” by John Blase, a collection of poetic narrative from the perspective of different characters in the Christmas story.
Audrey E says
My all-time favorite Christmas story is The Lion in the Box by Marguerite De Angeli. My sister and I read this when we were small. But I’m certainly open to something new. Thanks for the list.
Kristin Smith says
We started doing Unwrapping the Greatest Gift on the 1st and are loving it!!
i am needing a new tradition, these may be just what i am looking for.
I grew up in Africa and every year we would go to the river in Cameroon. Each Christmas, we would do Charades in the sand and act them out. Later that night we would make pudding over the fire and listen to the animals. Today I try to continue the tradition of charades with my family on Christmas and try to make pudding too. I would The Creation Awaits book. It would be great to share with my children.
Sarah dear, you are the giveaway winner! Check your inbox for an email from me! Sending love!
My favorite tradition is making paper snowflakes & hanging them around the house and reading the Christmas story from Luke on Christmas Eve. Would love a new Advent devotional!
Theresa H Haskins says
The reading of the Gospel of Luke at Christmas Eve worship service at my Church.
I am embracing the advent season for the first time this year. Looking forward to the new discipline. Thanks for the book recommendations!
Emily Oates says
We are starting a tradition of going to see Christmas lights. This year will be fun with our 2 year old!
Christmas story is Christmas Shoes aww breaks my heart but teaches you what really matters!
I haven’t read any of the books listed, but would love to! I have read some of Ann Voskamp books and love her writing style. Honestly, I am in need of a new tradition….my family hasn’t really celebrated Advent before, but I would love to start.
Lauren van Zyl says
I love the night before Christmas but I love Ann Voskamp’s book , so I think Unwrapping the greatest gift will be on my wishlist this year
Until my sons left home, on Christmas Eve we would read Why the Chimes Rang and then the nativity story at bedtime. My sons are grown now with their own families, but they continue the tradition every Christmas in their own homes.
Marian Frizzell says
Tolkien’s Letters from Father Christmas was one of my favorites as a kid, and this year while we are staying with my parents, waiting to return home after Hurricane Michael, I’m excited to get to share it with my kids. We have a felt Advent calendar that we do every year for Christmas, and by God’s grace were able to save it from the house and are getting to enjoy that wonderful tradition again this year to prepare ourselves for Jesus’ birthday–without my military husband this year but with my parents and grandmother. So much to rejoice in right now (especially bullying my dad into letting me buy a real tree).
Tanya Robins says
IAs a child I always enjoyed the anticipation of Christmas Eve with my mom’s large family. We’d wait until dusk and then gather to listen to the Christmas story from God’s word before opening gifts. .
Chrissy Boerman says
i always enjoy following a she reads truth Advent calendar reading plan. This year i found the Jesus calling for Christmas devotional. It been a good time with Jesus so far. thanks again for hosting a great giveaway. i really want to read Ann’s book.
Catherine Seybold says
I love Advent! Using a calendar with my children when they were young was a wonderful way to celebrate “the waiting “. Now they are grown and using calendars with their families. In the past I’ve followed Ann Voskamp’s writings for daily inspiration.
Our favorite tradition is setting up the Nativity as a family. Then the adults hide the baby Jesus (he doens’t come out until Christmas) and the kids spend the entire season searching for Him!
Cara Olsen says
Our family does a Jesse Tree Devotional series. There are many books, but we use the one written by Dean Lambert Smith. The book has a children’s devotion and an adult devotion for each day. Our church did a Jesse Tree ornament exchange years ago and the kids love to put the ornament on the tree each night. Lately the older ones say they “know” the stories already – so I appreciate the recommendations to broaden our tradition. Thank you!
One of my favorite’s is Waiting Here For You, An Advent Journey of Hope by Louie Giglio.
We used to read a children’s advent book about nature and animals on their way to see the King.
Now I have a Freshmen in college and a Junior in high school, I so cherish your wisdom.
Irene Talaasen says
I love many Christmas books!!! and some of yours are new to me and will look for them. My favorite is
The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski and Illustrated by P J Lynch.
Wonderful story and illustrations for children and a very sweet message!