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The Greatest Gift: A Christmas Tale

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  1,544 ratings  ·  391 reviews
A beautiful gift edition of the heartwarming story that became the Christmas classic, It’s a Wonderful Life.

For almost seventy years, people the world over have fallen in love with Frank Capra’s classic Christmas movie It’s a Wonderful Life. But few of those fans know that Capra’s film was based on a short story by author Philip Van Doren Stern, which came to Stern in a
Hardcover, 64 pages
Published October 28th 2014 by Simon Schuster (first published December 1943)
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A priceless importance due the film that inspired


It’s not rare if you haven’t read this short story or even know about it. But certainly it could be quite rare if you haven’t watched, at least once, the film that inspired.

The Greatest Gift, by Phillip Van Doren Stern, is the inspiration for the masterpiece directed by Frank Capra and performed by James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore, Thomas Mitchell and Henry Travers. I am talking about...

...It’s a
Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
Dec 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: the-shorts, christmas

4 stars for this 1943 short story, and an extra half-star for its having inspired one of my favorite Christmas movies of all time, It's a Wonderful Life, the great movie directed by Frank Capra and starring Jimmy Stewart.
"Other men are leading exciting lives, but I – well, I’m just a small-town bank clerk. I never did anything really useful or interesting, and it looks as if I never will. I might just as well be dead. Sometimes I wish I were. In fact, I wish I’d never been born!”
George Pratt
Nov 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: christmas
“I want to live again. I want to live again. I want to live again. Please God, let me live again."

Heartwarming and inspirational.

As a collector of Christmas books, I am so glad that I found this one as it was the inspiration for the movie, "It's a Wonderful Life."

I didn't realize until reading the "Afterword" that he had thought of this story while shaving one morning and then spent a couple of years polishing it up before presenting it to magazines that would not published it. Since he
Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂

I read this here Just be aware that there are a lot of typos in this edition.

Also I must be one of the few in the English speaking world who hasn't seen It's a Wonderful Life. Maybe if we still had Sky TV...

This was such a sweet, heartwarming story with a moral of counting your blessings. It appears at first read to be quite a simple tale, but it takes quite a few turns, before ending up in a really good place.

I may never have seen the movie but I'm
Dec 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Best known for its movie adaptation ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’, this really touching tale really highlights the importance of friendship and family.

As George Bailey contemplates suicide, he’s visited by a guardian angle Clarence.
Clarence reveals to George how many lives he has touched in the town of Bedford Falls.

The perfect quick read for the festive period, it really is a wonderful story!
classic reverie
I love Frank Capra's It a Wonderful Life and was happy to read the very short story that started it all. The short story and the movie have differences but the basic story line and the meaning ring true. It was interesting to read the story and see the difference, which any fan of the movie would truly enjoy. The Afterword by Philip Can Doren Stern's daughter is interesting regarding the conception of the story and how it came to Capra. The book is really good but the movie takes it up another ...more
The basis of the Capra classic It's a Wonderful Life. The story was published in a magazine and is too short for the character development and world-building that the movie is so good at, and the supernatural element is much more pronounced and better-explained in the movie. The story is still well worth your time, and barely takes any to read.
Dec 22, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cortos, navidad
Update dec 2019 I still love it

Update: First re-read dic 2018, I still loved it. I think I’ll make it a tradition to read it every christmas.

Rating: I loved it

This is a wonderful, uplifting and beautiful christmas story.

The classic movie It's a wonderful life is based on it. The movie expands on George's backstory and his disappointment in life, his depression and despair. The movie makes the strange man an angel, Clarence, who is trying to get his wings. In the story we don't know who he is
Jeannette Nikolova
Jan 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I'm delighted beyond words right now! It's a Wonderful Life is one of my favourite old movies and I had no idea it was based on a short story.
This is a truly magical tale, which I'm so glad to relieve. There is something so lovely and endearing in it. It may not be Christmas yet, but I don't see how having the Christmas spirit in you all year long is a bad thing. In fact, I hope to stumble upon such precious jewels more often.

...well, I really want to re-watch the movie now.
Dec 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
This was so cute! I read 4 different Christmas books this December and somehow this super short story was the best of them! It had everything I wanted from a Christmas story and it left me with a smile on my face. It was lovely :)
Melissa Veras
Dec 11, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Melissa by: SpookySoto
3.5 stars.
This was very cute, heartwarming short story :)
Alina Maria Ciobanu
Dec 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A beautiful story with a beautiful message, the inspiration for the beautiful Christmas movie "It's a wonderful life"
Sandra Bašić
Jan 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Many thanks to the author for writing this short story. If he hadn't written it, Mr. Frank Capra would not have turned it into a most beautiful Christmas movie ever - "It's a Wonderful Life".
Romee Darling
Dec 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: christmas
Sometimes one short story can change the world. This one surely did, and it warmed my heart on this Christmas Eve.
Dec 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: christmas, own
This is a reprint of the Christmas story that inspired the movie, 'It's a Wonderful Life.' When the author's story was rejected multiple times, he chose to print up about 200 copies himself and sent them out as Christmas cards. One of those copies ended up in the hands of Frank Capra, and the rest is history. The following is taken from the afterward, included in the book.

Of the process of developing the movie that would become a beloved Christmas classic, Jimmy Stewart said, of his meeting
Dec 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Que lindo!

..."You had the greatest gift of all conferred upon you, the gift of life, of being a part of this world and taking a part in it. Yet you denied that gift".

Muy apropiado para este día. Que lindo!
Nov 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: christmas
Wonderful short story that inspired the movie It's A Wonderful Life.

“You had the greatest gift of all conferred upon you-the gift of life, of being part of this world and taking a part in it. Yet you denied that gift.”

“I thought I’d lost you. Oh, Mary, I thought I’d lost you!”

The same idea of "It's a wonderful Life" but the events are a little bit different.

A wonderful story ..

Recommended to anyone.
Mary Lou
Aug 25, 2016 rated it liked it
A nice little story - not great, but okay. Thank Goodness for Capra's vision. The movie took this interesting idea and developed it into a well-constructed, heart-warming piece of Americana, as well as making film history.
Dec 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Nice to read a short story that resulted in one of my two favourite Christmas movies.
Victoria Welter
Dec 21, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: owned-books
Cute Christmas story!
Kim Hamilton
Dec 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: christmas
The fifth in a series of Christmas-themed books I chose to read this season. This is the short story that the classic movie "It's a Wonderful Life" was based on. A good, very quick read.
Reading In The Dark
RE: the story itself

Reading this story gave me a new appreciation for It’s A Wonderful Life. That’s not because it pales in comparison—it doesn’t—but because of just how faithful the film was to its source material.

Suffice it to say that The Greatest Gift is a more efficient, direct tale than its filmic offspring. This tale will feel very familiar to anyone who’s a fan of It’s A Wonderful Life, and frankly it’s remarkable how true the film was to the heart of this story. But there is something
Dec 06, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very quick read but a good one. It could maybe have been longer, not something that I say very often but it would have been nice to spend more time with George and the other characters.
Ngọc Trần
Aug 10, 2016 rated it liked it
It's beautifully written. The message is conveyed in a lively way. But I was affected by the impression of watching the film based on it "It's a wonderful life". And because the film is so wonderful in all aspects, I can't rate this book any higher than 3 stars. The film builds up a logic plot and the events are more dramatic, so it's more touching.

Besides, I hardly can imagine any difference if I hadn't been born to this life. This wonder may usually lead us to a question that: who have we had
Viola Walton
Nov 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019-reading
Short but sweet. How the movie A Wonderful Life came to be.
Michele Long
Aug 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's A Wonderful Life is my all-time favorite movie. I have watched it countless times, and not just during the holidays. I watch it to calm me when I'm not doing so well. My love for the movie led me to purchase this book, as I was intrigued by the idea that it all started with a little Christmas card. I have watched the interviews with the actors and director, all pointing toward the original story. I wanted to know exactly what the story was.

I'll admit it was a bit different than I expected,
Dec 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
Having seen the movie "It's A Wonderful Life" (which is based on this book) so many times before reading the original story, I actually like it better than the book. But oh, to have been the one who dreamed up this classic tale - a lesson in the value in a single life, and the difference it can really make in the world... Thank you, Mr. Van Doren Stern. I am glad you decided to write and re-write, and eventually send this story out in a Christmas card - and I'm equally as glad that Frank Capra ...more
Stephanie P
Dec 06, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: christmas, classics
12/2019: I was itching to reread this one this Christmas season and I’m glad I did. The background info is so fascinating to me and the story carries themes that I think we can never get enough of: every person matters and every life touches others in ways we don’t fully perceive.

1/2015: I was really surprised and excited when I saw this book in a store and learned that It's a Wonderful Life (a movie I grew up with and love) was based on this short story. This is a short and simple, but very
Monique S. (The Ginger Librarian)
With It's a Wonderful Life being one of my favorite films of all time, I just had to read the story that inspired the film! This is a short story about a man who, while contemplating ending his life, is visited by an angel who temporarily grants the man's wish to never have been born. In seeing the effects of his nonexistence on the town the man has always called home, as well as on the people he knew and loved, the man finds that the life he lived was more meaningful than he ever could have ...more
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Retro Reads: Dec. 22-28, 2018: "The Greatest Gift" 11 16 Dec 23, 2018 02:13PM  
Goodreads Librari...: Missing Cover - The Greatest Gift 3 16 Dec 01, 2015 04:53AM  
2015 Reading Chal...: The Greatest Gift by Philip Van Doren Stern 1 11 Aug 17, 2015 03:57AM  

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Philip Van Doren Stern was an American author, editor, and Civil War historian whose story "The Greatest Gift," published in 1943, inspired the classic Christmas film It's a Wonderful Life (1946).

Philip Van Doren Stern was born in Wyalusing, Pennsylvania into a family of humble means. His Pennsylvania-born father was a traveling merchant of Bavarian descent, who came to Wyalusing from West
“Wouldn’t do what?” George asked sullenly. “What you were thinking of doing.” “How do you know what I was thinking?” “Oh, we make it our business to know a lot of things,” the stranger said easily. George wondered what the man’s business was. He was a most unremarkable little person, the sort you would pass in a crowd and never notice. Unless you saw his bright blue eyes, that is. You couldn’t forget them, for they were the kindest, sharpest eyes you ever saw. Nothing else about him was noteworthy.” 0 likes
“I understand right enough,” the stranger said slowly. “I just wanted to make sure you did. You had the greatest gift of all conferred upon you—the gift of life, of being a part of this world and taking a part in it. Yet you denied that gift.” As the stranger spoke, the church bell high up on the hill sounded, calling the townspeople to Christmas vespers. Then the downtown church bell started ringing.” 0 likes
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