It’s that time of year when families gather for togetherness and merriment, and it reminds me of childhood hours spent in the car heading to this relative and that relative. Carols, snow, big family meals, presents, baking. So much good stuff.
This made me think about books. That’s what happens when you’re a librarian, everything makes you think of books. Our original list of audiobooks for family road trips has some truly great picks, but what if you’re feeling a little extra festive? This is a list of great audiobooks that are about the holidays, but also some that are about families, and the love (and humor) that binds us. It’s a great list for that drive to grandma’s house, but maybe you want to stick one of these on when you’re wrapping presents and need a break from Rudolph and Burl Ives, too.
The 101 Dalmations by Dodie Smith, read by Martin Jarvis
We all know the story of those adorable puppies and the dastardly plot to turn them into a coat by ultimate villainess Cruella de Ville. But if you haven’t read the original 1956 novel it’s really a treat, and this narration is wonderful. The plot to rescue the puppies unfolds on the streets of London with a plan to get all the little ones back home just in time for Christmas.
“The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle” by Sherlock Holmes, read by Alan Cumming
Every year, Audible gives away a free short story for the holidays. A few years ago they offered this Alan Cumming version of the Sherlock Holmes story of a holiday goose and a missing gem. It is so superb, and short (about 45 minutes), and available for $1.95.
All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor, read by Suzanne Toren
This is the first non-holiday book on the list, but it’s a wonderful book that’s just too heartwarming not to include. Five sisters in an immigrant family on New York City’s Lower East Side have daily adventures and grow up together, celebrate the Sabbath and Passover. But this is truly about a tight-knit family and their amazing bond.
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, read by Tim Curry
This is, of course, an obvious choice. We all know Dickens’ tale of a miserly old Londoner who finds the true meaning of Christmas. But for all the great film adaptations out there, here’s Tim Curry reading the original novel. What could possibly be more festive?
“The Greatest Gift” by Philip Van Doren Stern, read by Edward Herrmann
This is the short story that inspired It’s a Wonderful Life, and Edward Herrmann’s narration is so wonderful. If the movie gets you in the holiday spirit, this hour-long listen will send you over the top.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling, read by Jim Dale
I maintain that the first Harry Potter novel is a holiday classic, with all the magic and wonder that a good holiday tale should have. Plus, there is actually Christmas. I think this is the perfect time of year to start reading about the boy wizard with your family.
Hercule Poirot’s Christmas by Agatha Christie, read by Hugh Fraser
I mean, what better way to celebrate the holidays than with a good Agatha Christie locked room murder on Christmas Eve? And with Hercule Poirot to boot? Maybe not for your youngest family members, but why not get the older kids talking with a great whodunit?
Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins by Eric Kimmel, read by Gildart Jackson
When the wandering Hershel arrives in a small village on the first night of Hanukkah, not a single candle is lit. The town is overrun with goblins, and
Holidays on Ice David Sedaris, read by the author
This irreverent collection of new and previously published Sedaris essays on Christmas is great for teens. If you want some wicked humor this holiday season, this is the pick.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss, read by Walter Matthau
Some of the picks on this list are picture books that are actually quite short. But hearing Walter Matthau read the Grinch is worth 12 minutes out of your day.
Knucklehead: Tall Tales and Almost True Stories of Growing Up Scieszka by Jon Scieszka, read by the author
This one isn’t about the holidays, but it is about children’s author Scieszka’s childhood in Michigan with five brothers. This is one of the funniest memoirs out there for kids, and everyone can appreciate these stories of brotherly love.
The Last Holiday Concert by Andrew Clements, read by Fred Berman
Hart Evans is the most popular fifth grader, and now he’s stuck performing in the annual holiday concert after getting in trouble with his music teacher Mr. Meinert. But then Mr. Meinert is told there’s no more funding for his job. It’s up to Hart to save the holiday concert and prove that his teacher’s job is necessary. This is a great, and still timely, middle grade listen from the author of Frindle.
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, read by Michael York
The full Chronicles of Narnia are on our original list of audiobooks for family road trips, but this one is especially great to listen to during the holidays. Santa Claus plays a pivotal role in taking down the White Witch, and what better time of year to read a snowy fantasy about good and evil?
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, read by Jamie Lee Curtis
There are several audiobook versions of Alcott’s classic, but I like Curtis’s the most. It’s really accessible, and while the story isn’t specifically about Christmas it’s a great holiday read. The Christmas scenes are a little bit of magic, but the whole story of family love through good times and bad is exactly what a good Christmas tale should be.
My True Love Gave to Me: 12 Holiday Stories by various authors, read by various narrators
If you’re looking for holiday stories and a great anthology of modern YA authors, this book is so much fun. Share it with your teens to learn why they love authors like Rainbow Rowell and Laini Taylor so much. Pretty much every winter holiday is represented here, and the stories are irreverent, hilarious, and sometimes romantic. Which may have your teens embarrassed to be in the car with you, but it’s still definitely worth a family listen.
The Nutcracker and the Mouse King by E.T.A. Hoffman, performed by various
Any time you have the chance to listen to a BBC radio production of a story, go for it. This particular dramatization of the picture book that inspired Tchaikovsky’s famous holiday ballet is full-on good. Not a straight reading, but a complete performance.