The best ghostly Christmas books

Who am I?

I am an Anglo Irish writer who is as filled with a wide-eyed wonder of the magic of Christmas in my middle age as I was as a small child. Alongside my lifelong love of Christmas and its traditions, I have enjoyed an equally long love of ghost stories. Combining these two passions, I am the editor of the Ghost Stories For Christmas anthologies of classic Christmas ghost stories, the first of which was published in 2022. I am also the writer of Ghostly Tales of Japan, a collection of original stories set throughout Japanese history.


I wrote...

Ghost Stories For Christmas Volume One

By Andi Brooks, Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell, Charlotte Riddell, Washington Irving, J. M. Barrie, Algernon Blackwood, Elia Peattie, Fritz-James O'Brien, Mark Lemon

Book cover of Ghost Stories For Christmas Volume One

What is my book about?

Embrace the spirits of Christmases past with this anthology of thirty seasonal tales from the golden age of the Christmas ghost story. Spanning the years 1820-1929, many of the thirty stories contained in this anthology were originally published in the Christmas editions of Victorian and Edwardian magazines and newspapers. Although some were later revised or retitled by their authors for publication in book form, Andi Brooks has gone back to those original versions to present the stories as they first appeared. Within its covers, you will find whimsical tales to bring a smile to your face, poignant tales to bring a tear to your eye, and blood-curdling tales to send a chill of festive fear coursing through your veins.

The books I picked & why

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A Christmas Carol

By Charles Dickens,

Book cover of A Christmas Carol

Why this book?

Out of all of the books I have read, I have read A Christmas Carol more times than any other. An instant phenomenon when it was first published in 1843, it has never been out of print. It is the embodiment of not just a Christmas ghost story, but of a story that encapsulates the very essence of the spirit of Christmas in the popular imagination in a way that no other story ever has. Although I had always loved watching the 1951 classic film Scrooge with the wonderful Alastar Sim in the title role, I didn’t read the book until I was in my teens, when I came across a lovely copy of a 1950 edition in a charity shop. Since then, I have read, and shed a tear over, A Christmas Carol every Christmas – I won't embarrass myself by revealing exactly how many times that is, but I’m looking forward to many more.  

A Christmas Carol

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.

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…


Collected Ghost Stories

By M.R. James,

Book cover of Collected Ghost Stories

Why this book?

Although he only ever wrote one story actually set at Christmas, M. R. James and his ghost stories have become forever linked to the festive season. This began in the early 1890s when, while Provost of King’s College, Cambridge, he read his stories aloud to the undergraduate members of the college’s Chit-Chat-Club on Christmas Eve. The connection was cemented in the 1970s through Lawrence Gordon Clark’s annual adaptations for the BBC’s A Ghost Story for Christmas, of which I was a devotee. I didn’t start avidly reading James until buying this collection in the 1990s. Anyone familiar with only the TV adaptations may find James’ style takes a little getting used to, but the effort will be richly rewarded. With so many classic stories to his name, M. R. James’ reputation as the greatest ghost story writer in the English language is richly deserved. 

Collected Ghost Stories

By M.R. James,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Collected Ghost Stories as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

M.R. James is probably the finest ghost-story writer England has ever produced. These tales are not only classics of their genre, but are also superb examples of beautifully-paced understatement, convincing background and chilling terror.

As well as the preface, there is a fascinating tail-piece by M.R. James, 'Stories I Have Tried To Write', which accompanies these thirty tales. Among them are 'Casting the Runes', 'Oh, Whistle and I'll come to you, My Lad', 'The Tractate Middoth', 'The Ash Tree' and 'Canon Alberic's Scrapbook'.

'There are some authors one wishes one had never read in order to have the joy of…


Christmas Ghosts: An Anthology

By Seon Manley, Gogo Lewis,

Book cover of Christmas Ghosts: An Anthology

Why this book?

This anthology holds a special place in my heart. I received a copy of it as a Christmas present from my dear grandmother in 1979. Just holding it in my hands brings back so many happy memories of that long-departed lady. The book contains just eleven stories, but it is “a collection of deliciously scary fare.” Among the choice delicacies contained within its covers is the shortened version of A Christmas Carol made by Dickens for his public readings of the story, which I read in his imagined voice. Alongside anthology favourites by Hugh Walpole, Algenon Blackwood, and Jerome K. Jerome are less familiar, but equally rewarding ghostly tales by Marjorie Bowen, Oliver Onions, Margery Allingham, and others. I don’t know if it is still in print, but anyone who takes the trouble to find a copy will be richly rewarded. 

Christmas Ghosts: An Anthology

By Seon Manley, Gogo Lewis,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Christmas ghosts: An anthology


Ghosts for Christmas

By Richard Dalby,

Book cover of Ghosts for Christmas

Why this book?

I came across this anthology in my local library in the late 1980s or early 1990s. It is a real treasure trove of classic Christmas ghost stories from giants of the genre such as Dickens, Le Fanu, Peattie, Blackwood, and Nesbit. As an added bonus, it contains M. R. James’ only story actually set at Christmas, The Story of a Disappearance and an Appearance. One thing that I liked about this anthology was that it collected together stories ranging from the Victorian era through to what was then the present day. Although I never owned a copy of my own, it became an annual tradition to reserve it and borrow it from the library to read over the Christmas period. Now living in Japan, it has been several decades since I last read it. Despite the stories being available in many anthologies, this seems a perfect collection, and as I write, I am moved to finally seek out a copy of my own.

Ghosts for Christmas

By Richard Dalby,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Dalby, Richard


The Nightmare Before Christmas

By Tim Burton,

Book cover of The Nightmare Before Christmas

Why this book?

The Nightmare Before Christmas must be unique among books, and films, in that it can be enjoyed both at Christmas and Halloween. Tim Burton really is a wonderful and unique artist, as witnessed by The World of Tim Burton exhibition in 2015. It’s such a pity that he hasn’t illustrated more books. He is, of course, also a wonderful storyteller. The Nightmare Before Christmas brings together both of his extraordinary talents to produce a modern classic overflowing with original characters as familiar and beloved as any in the festive genre. One of the joys of parenthood is to share the things you have loved with your children. My own son is a confirmed lover of both the book and the film, and will no doubt pass on our tradition of reading, and watching, The Nightmare Before Christmas every Christmas and Halloween to his own children.

The Nightmare Before Christmas

By Tim Burton,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Jack Skellington is the most important figure in Halloween Town and for years he has delighted in organising macabre tricks and frights for Halloween. But this year he doesn't feel right - there must be more to life than scaring people? Then Jack stumbles upon a cheerful, colourful place called Christmas Town and he knows what he must do - he will bring Christmas to Halloween!

This is the first book written and illustrated by the incomparable visionary Tim Burton.


5 book lists we think you will like!

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And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

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