Last December, one of our reviewers popped in at her neighbors’ home to discover a delightful surprise. The family of four was counting down the days to Christmas with a unique take on the traditional Advent calendar—one made entirely of books!

Inspired by a concept they spied online, the parents wrapped up twenty-four holiday-themed children’s books, numbered each, and arranged them on a shelf in their living room. Every night in December, sons Henry and Simon unwrapped the package corresponding with that day’s date, then the family sat down together to read their new book before bedtime.

Advent Calendar

Upon hearing this story, our initial thought was, “What a fantastic idea!” (Followed closely by, “Why didn’t we think of it first?”) Not only is this literary Advent calendar a creative way to count down the days to Christmas, but what kid wouldn’t jump at the chance to unwrap one present a day for twenty-four days? And what better gift is there in the world than a good book?

Recreating this special Advent calendar for your children, grandchildren, or students is simple:

1. Collect your books. Start by shopping your own bookshelves; you’ll probably discover you have more Christmas titles than you thought you did. But if you’re still shy a few (or a dozen), well, it just so happens we can help you with that.  

2. Pick your paper. We found it was easiest to buy a single, large, solid-color roll (kraft or butcher paper are affordable options), but you could also mix-and-match from last year’s holiday scraps.

3. Put your books in order. If your titles are all Christmas-specific, the order probably won’t matter beyond which book is opened on Christmas Eve. (We’re partial to this one: an obvious choice, yes, but a classic one.) If you’re incorporating books about winter, New Year’s, Kwanzaa, or Hanukkah, you may want to think more carefully about the order.

4. Number your books. Henry and Simon’s parents used colored markers to identify which of their kraft paper-wrapped books the boys should open when, but you could also use gift tags like this Advent calendar o’books:

5. Set up your Advent calendar. Admittedly, twenty-four books require some space. Display options include: a shelf, your mantel, or a windowsill. If you’re a bit pressed for square footage, you may opt for a vertical stack or a special box:


6. Let the countdown begin!

If you decide to tackle this project for your little ones, check back in with us in January and let us know how it turned out. Or, if you’ve read this far but still prefer a more traditional Advent calendar, we’ve got you covered there too.