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The Stylus

12 books and movies to curl up with during the holidays 

Photo credit: Google open source
Photo credit: Google open source

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Clichéd opening? Oh well, it’s the holidays—I’m feeling festive! As a kid, two of my favorite activities were to curl up on the couch with a warm drink and read a book and to tune into those cable holiday movie marathons. So, I’ve compiled a list of six great books and six movies to try this time of year—including my all-time favorite holiday movie at the end.


“Murder on the Orient Express” by Agatha Christie (1934)  

What better way is there to spend the holidays than with a murder mystery? Agatha Christie’s famous Hercule Poirot is the better Sherlock Holmes. That’s right, I said it. Christie’s writing is extraordinarily intelligent, subtlety hilarious, and—simply put—comforting. Reading her mysteries, especially during the holidays, just feels right.  

“The Golden Compass” by Phillip Pullman (1995)  

Phillip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” series is a phenomenal dark fantasy. The first volume in a trilogy, “The Golden Compass,” follows the cunning survivor Lyra as she makes her way north. What follows is a rewarding, wintry adventure with armored bears, witches, and alternate worlds. If you choose to delve into these novels this holiday season, you’re in for a treat.  

“Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott (1868)  

“Little Women” is quite a bit older than the rest of the books on this list, but it’s wonderful, nonetheless. It is, perhaps, one of the best coming-of-age novels—and one that effortlessly captures the themes central to the holidays. If you’re a fan of classical literature, then you’ll want to give this one a read. 

 “Peter and the Starcatchers” by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson (2004)  

For me, “Peter Pan” has always been a holiday story—the same goes for his origin story written by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson. “Peter and the Starcatchers” is a magical adventure for readers of all ages that will help you to forget about that frightful weather.  

“Snowpiercer” by Jacques Lob (2014)  

This is the only graphic novel to make our list this year. With stark black-and-white illustrations, sharp social commentary, and some of the best science fiction writing, “Snowpiercer” is an excellent look into a dark, snowy future. It’s perfect for the holidays—if only because it will remind you how lucky we are to live in the 21st century. 

“The Anthropocene Reviewed” by John Green (2021)  

John Green’s non-fiction debut is the perfect book to close out the year. With short essays on various, human-centered concepts—from Diet Dr Pepper to Auld Lang Syne—Green tows the line between witty, insightful commentary and serious philosophical reflection on the human experience.  


“Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” (2004)  

If you’re only going to watch one “Harry Potter” movie, then it should be “Prisoner of Azkaban.” Alfonso Cuaron’s unique take on J. K. Rowling’s source material was never matched by the other filmmakers who worked on the series. Incidentally, it’s also the only film in the franchise that, I think, truly captures the holiday spirit. You’ll find no other Harry Potter film as earnest as this one.  

“Die Hard” (1988)  

Yippee-kai-yay, it’s a Christmas movie! I don’t care what anyone else says. Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, “Die Hard” is still a perfect movie for the holidays. It stars Bruce Willis and Alan Rickman as one of best hero-villain duos put on film. It’s also insanely quotable, it has explosions, machine guns, Bruce Willis and Alan Rickman, a heist gone wrong, high-stakes action and, as if it couldn’t get any better, it also stars Bruce Willis and Alan Rickman! You can’t get any more festive than that!  

“Batman Returns” (1990)  

In Gotham, not even the holidays are safe. The gothic nightmare that began in Tim Burton’s 1989 “Batman” continues in his snow swept sequel. Michelle Pfeiffer and Danny DeVito tap into their dramatic power with their portrayals of Catwoman and the infamous Penguin, respectively, while Michael Keaton revels in the camp and broodiness of Batman. It’s not your typical holiday movie, by any means. That’s why I love it. For my money, it’s not only one of the greatest Batman movies, but also one of the greatest holiday movies.  

“When Harry Met Sally” (1989)  

There’s something undeniably festive about this romcom. Both Christmas and New Years are central to the plot—and the chemistry that Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan share onscreen feels like a holiday miracle made real. This is only emphasized by Rob Reiner’s refined direction and Nora Ephron’s excellent script. 

 “Elf” (2003)  

I watched “Elf” for the first time this week and boy, I was missing out! Jon Favreau’s comedy is a love-letter to the old Rankin/Bass Christmas movies. It’s surprisingly heartfelt, laugh-out-loud funny and an all-around perfect holiday picture.  

Sam’s all-time holiday favorite movie:  

“It’s a Wonderful Life” (1946)  

I know, I know, this one is listed on nearly every “best holiday movies to watch this year” list, but it’s a classic for a reason. Frank Capra is a master of his craft, and James Stewart is iconic in the role of the affable George Bailey. The wicked, scene-chewing Mr. Potter, played to perfection by Lionel Barrymore, is disgustingly amoral, and I love every moment of it. Watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” is a tradition for me; it’s a beautiful, human-centered story that will make you smile—no matter what holiday you celebrate.  

Although these books and movies may not all be overtly “holiday” themed, I think you folks will enjoy them! For maximum effect, make yourself your winter drink of choice (mine is hot, dark chocolate with a dollop of whipped cream) to accompany whatever you pick. Happy holidays, everyone! 

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