The best books to deliver holiday magic with a dark twist

Who am I?

Since I was a child, Halloween and Christmas have held equally hallowed positions in my heart. When I learned of Krampus folklore in my teens, I was immediately fascinated. Krampus offered the best of both worlds—a dose of Halloween creepiness to counterbalance the bright jubilation of the winter holidays. Krampus Confidential, a middle-grade mystery, and adaptation of The Maltese Falcon, is my second children’s book that aims to introduce this magnificent creature to children in a way that doesn’t inspire nightmares. My first, Goodnight Krampus, is a board book for young readers that reimagines the monster as a rambunctious toddler who gives Santa a hard time by refusing to go to sleep on Christmas Eve.


I wrote...

Book cover of Krampus Confidential

What is my book about?

It’s almost Christmas, but the nights in Tinseltown are anything but silent. In this hardboiled parody of The Maltese Falcon, Ruprecht, a twelve-year-old krampus and wannabe detective, gets more than he bargained for when he takes the case of a terrified elf. Finding himself at the top of the Tinseltown Police Department’s naughty list, Ruprecht is joined by his best friend, a ghost named Marley, to explore the underbelly of this festive but gritty metropolis, solve the mystery, and clear his name for good.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Krampus and the Old, Dark Christmas: Roots and Rebirth of the Folkloric Devil

Kyle Sullivan Why did I love this book?

In addition to providing an engaging and well-researched introduction to Krampus (the darkest winter holiday creature of them all), The Krampus and the Old, Dark Christmas is a wonderful exploration of a wide spectrum of delightfully sinister facets of European Christmas tradition. For centuries, grim entities have emerged from the Christmastime shadows to offer a counterbalance to the lightness and joy of the holiday season. Ridenour connects Krampus to this tradition by taking the reader on a thrilling journey to an old world seething with witches, ghosts, demons, and child-eating ghouls. This book provided invaluable context and detail as I crafted the monster-filled, festive and shadowy setting of my own book.

By Al Ridenour,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Krampus and the Old, Dark Christmas as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

With the appearance of the demonic Christmas character Krampus in contemporary Hollywood movies, television shows, advertisements, and greeting cards, medieval folklore has now been revisited in American culture. Krampus-related events and parades occur both in North America and Europe, and they are an ever-growing phenomenon.

Though the Krampus figure has once again become iconic, not much can be found about its history and meaning, thus calling for a book like Al Ridenour's The Krampus: Roots and Rebirth of the Folkloric Devil. With Krampus's wild, graphic history, Feral House has hired the awarded designer Sean Tejaratchi to take on Ridenour's book…


Book cover of The Valancourt Book of Victorian Christmas Ghost Stories

Kyle Sullivan Why did I love this book?

Though the stories in this collection aren’t likely to scare you silly, they will almost certainly give you the creeps. The Victorians loved spending their cold, dark winter evenings with eerie tales of the unsettling, the uncanny, and the unholy. And who could blame them? The 13 tales collected here are diverse in content and tone, but they all offer an ideal candlelit escape when the days grow dark and the cold wind wails.

By Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Walter Scott,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Valancourt Book of Victorian Christmas Ghost Stories as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The first-ever collection of Victorian Christmas ghost stories, culled from rare 19th-century periodicals

During the Victorian era, it became traditional for publishers of newspapers and magazines to print ghost stories during the Christmas season for chilling winter reading by the fireside or candlelight. Now for the first time thirteen of these tales are collected here, including a wide range of stories from a diverse group of authors, some well-known, others anonymous or forgotten. Readers whose only previous experience with Victorian Christmas ghost stories has been Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol” will be surprised and delighted at the astonishing variety of…


Book cover of The Twelve Terrors of Christmas

Kyle Sullivan Why did I love this book?

No list of the delightfully dark would be complete without an appearance by the preeminent gothic illustrator, Edward Gorey. Gorey’s wry, one-of-a-kind style brings to life (and death) John Updike’s dark deconstruction of 12 Christmas traditions. Though it’s now out of print, this title is a must-have for any Edward Gorey enthusiast, and for any fan of the unlimited imaginative potential when artists look beyond the lights of the holiday season to focus on the shadows instead.

By John Updike, Edward Gorey (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Twelve Terrors of Christmas as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Edward Gorey's off-kilter depictions of Yuletide mayhem and John Updike's wryly jaundiced text examine a dozen Christmas traditions with a decidedly wheezy ho-ho-ho. This long out-of-print classic is the perfect stocking-stuffer for any bah humbug. 32 pages, smyth-sewn casebound book, with jacket.


Book cover of A Christmas Carol

Kyle Sullivan Why did I love this book?

In my book, the main character is a Krampus named Ruprecht, and his best friend is a ghost named Viviana Marley. This book-hungry ghost happens to be the daughter of none other than Jacob Marley, the first of four spirits to visit Ebenezer Scrooge in Dickens’ all-time classic, A Christmas Carol. While the Victorian tradition of Christmas-time ghost stories is sadly no longer en vogue, Dickens’ story has struck a chord with audiences of every generation since its debut in 1843, and it’s easy to see why. A Christmas Carol is, among many things, a delightful celebration of the bright and dark sides of Christmas packaged into one jaunty narrative.

By Charles Dickens,

Why should I read it?

12 authors picked A Christmas Carol as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 7, 8, 9, and 10.

What is this book about?

Tom Baker reads Charles Dickens' timeless seasonal story.

Charles Dickens' story of solitary miser Ebenezer Scrooge, who is taught the true meaning of Christmas by the three ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future, has become one of the timeless classics of English literature. First published in 1843, it introduces us not only to Scrooge himself, but also to the memorable characters of underpaid desk clerk Bob Cratchit and his poor family, the poorest amongst whom is the ailing and crippled Tiny Tim.

In this captivating recording, Tom Baker delivers a tour-de-force performance as he narrates the story. The listener…


Book cover of Christmas is Coming: The original verse for children

Kyle Sullivan Why did I love this book?

Nobody does dark holiday tradition quite like the Icelanders. From a gigantic cat that preys on children who aren’t wearing new clothes to an ugly ogre who eats naughty children, Icelandic Christmas folklore is replete with macabre creatures ready to pounce. This collection of poems by Jóhannes úr Kötlum was originally published in 1932 and features the inspiration for several characters in my own book, including Grýla, Jóla the Yule Cat, and the Yule Kids (known in Icelandic folklore as the mischievous Yule Lads).

By Jóhannes úr Kötlum,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Christmas is Coming as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Since the first publication in 1932 Christmas is Coming has been an integral part of Icelandic Christmas traditions and helped preserve age-old folklore in modern culture. A seasonal bestseller from the start, few other books have been reprinted as many times.
A children’s favorite The Yuletide-lads are thirteen mischievous and sometimes scary characters, appearing in towns and farmsteads, one
by one, the first on December 12th and the last on December 24th.
The Ballad of Grýla tells the tale of an ugly and vile female ogre that starves if the children are nice and behave, but is quick to reach…


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Radio Free Olympia

By Jeffrey Dunn,

Book cover of Radio Free Olympia

Jeffrey Dunn Author Of Radio Free Olympia

New book alert!

Who am I?

I’ve always been a child of the woods. I preferred to leave my home and wade a creek or explore a hillside. Nothing compared to the sight of a black snake or the feel of a mud puppy. School was a torture until an English teacher introduced me to Richard Brautigan and then read my first serious story to the class. Since then, this dyslexic nature lover has become a dream fisher and history miner with a Ph.D. in English Literature and Cultural Studies. Retired from forty-one years of teaching, I now write and publish cultural fiction.

Jeffrey's book list on where imagination and nature run free

What is my book about?

Embark on a riveting journey into Washington State’s untamed Olympic Peninsula, where the threads of folklore legends and historical icons are woven into a complex ecological tapestry.

Follow the enigmatic Petr as he fearlessly employs his pirate radio transmitter to broadcast the forgotten and untamed voices that echo through the wilderness. Venture deeper and encounter Baie, the founder of Wildsisters, a cranberry-infused roadhouse that offers solace to lost and wayward women. When a newborn is kidnapped, Baie and her community must unite to recover what has been stolen. Yet, their quest for justice extends beyond the realm of human characters—it must also be served for the fragile flora, the diverse fauna, and the very essence of the natural world.

Radio Free Olympia

By Jeffrey Dunn,

What is this book about?

Unleash the Power of the Wilderness in Radio Free Olympia


Discover the captivating allure of Washington's untamed Olympic Peninsula in Radio Free Olympia, an extraordinary literary masterpiece that immerses readers in a mesmerizing realm of visionaries, folklore legends, and historical icons. With an enchanting blend of magical realism and cultural fiction, the brilliant wordsmith Jeffrey Dunn artfully intertwines multiple narratives, crafting an intricate ecological tapestry that resonates deeply within the soul.


Embark on a riveting journey alongside the enigmatic Petr, a foundling whose path leads him deep into the heart of the majestic mountain rainforest. Armed with nothing but a…


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