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5 Book-to-Movie Pairings to Read (and Watch!) this Holiday Season

December 18, 2023

By Christa Protano

The holiday break is a welcome opportunity to tackle your TBR list during those blessed lazy days post-Christmas. But if you find yourself searching for a good read, why not take a cue from Hollywood? After all, many holiday blockbusters are, in fact, based on books. Take this year for example: On December 25th, Alice Walker’s The Color Purple is getting the musical treatment, and it’s already receiving Oscar buzz. The origin story Wonka is another highly anticipated December release, inspired by Roald Dahl’s classic Charlie & the Chocolate Factory. We love the idea of catching up on these original page-turners and then taking ourselves to the theater to see how the big-screen adaptions stand up. But if you’d rather not fight the crowds, you could always crack open a classic and stream the movie from the comforts of home. Historically, Christmas Day has always been big for the box office, so we pulled together five of the most successful December 25th movie openings in which the film was based on a book. (Fair warning: most of these are not “holiday” movies, but we do have a few Christmas-inspired treats for you at the end). Here’s what to read—and watch—this holiday season.

The Jungle Book

Fun fact: The 1994 version of The Jungle Book was Disney’s first (albeit unofficial) foray into the magical world of live-action remakes. The film opened on Christmas day that year, and was released to coincide with the 100th anniversary of Rudyard Kipling’s classic of the same name. With our Word Cloud Fiction version, readers will get to enjoy a collection of allegorical stories that take place deep in the Indian jungle. The most famous stories of The Jungle Book are those featuring a young feral boy named Mowgli who was raised by wolves, is friends with a panther, and was educated by the animals of the jungle. Also popular in this collection is “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi,” about a mongoose who protects his human family against cobras.

Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Other Stories

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

The biggest Christmas Day box office opening of all time? It’s a movie inspired by none other than that famous gumshoe of 221B Baker Street fondly known as Sherlock Holmes. Released in 2009, Sherlock Holmes starred the quirky yet dashing Robert Downey Jr. as the lead with a dapper Jude Law by his side as Watson. The film went on to become a Christmastime trilogy, with its other two sequels being released in December the following years.

As for the book that started it all, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle changed the world of mysteries with his creation of Holmes way back in 1887. Whether you’re a devoted fan or you’ve yet to be awed by the detective’s powers of deduction, you’ll love the Canterbury Classics edition of the author’s most famous works, including The Adventures of Sherlock HolmesThe Sign of Four, and other tales.

Les Miserables

In 2012, Les Miserables broke the record for the highest opening Christmas day for a musical. Packed with star power the likes of Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, Russell Crowe and more, this epic drama took on Victor Hugo’s timeless classic about poverty and justice amidst the backdrop of the French Revolution. If you are brave enough to take on the written version, we suggest our handsome leather-bound volume featuring specially designed endpapers, gilded edges, and a ribbon bookmark so you will never lose your place amongst its 1,200-plus pages.

Update: 2023’s The Color Purple topped Les Mis as the second-highest Christmas Day opening, but Sherlock Holmes still holds the top spot.

Les Miserables
Little Women

Little Women

Perhaps just as popular this time of year as A Christmas Carol, Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women is a holiday favorite of bibliophiles and moviegoers everywhere. First published in 1868, this coming-of-age story follows the lives of the adventurous March sisters from Christmas Day 1863 to Christmas Day 1866 during the Civil War.

As for the movie adaptation, while my generation will fondly remember Winona Ryder’s portrayal of Jo, it is the 2019 version starring Saoirse Ronan, Florence Pugh and Timothée Chalamet that earned $6.4M on it’s Christmas Day debut. In addition to its stunning cast, the film was written and directed by none other than 2023’s directorial darling, Greta Gerwig.

Jane Austen Favorites

Anytime of year is a good time to reread a Jane Austen novel, and there are plenty of movie adaptations to choose from, too. But at Christmastime, we suggest directing your attention to—where else?—the Hallmark Channel. In 2018, Hallmark premiered not one but three holiday movies loosely inspired by some of Austen’s classics. So after you finish reading Sense and Sensibility or Pride and Prejudice, check your local listings for Hallmark’s Christmas at Pemberley Manor; Pride, Prejudice, and Mistletoe; and Sense, Sensibility & Snowmen. You’re welcome!

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