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The Girl Next Door

Katie Holmes Reveals Her Go-To Holiday Gift: It's 'Almost a Tradition Each Year'

"It's something I love to give as gifts, especially to my family," Katie Holmes tells PEOPLE

By Dave Quinn and Georgia Slater

Katie Holmes has a staple when it comes to holiday shopping.

The actress tells PEOPLE exclusively that when buying for the people in her life every year, she typically returns to an easy go-to gift: books.

"I have always loved old hardcover books — from the way they smell, the way they feel while reading, to the decorative quality they have on the shelf," Holmes says. "It is part of my lifelong love of reading. I always have a book with me, around me, and it's something I love to give as gifts — especially to my family — as almost a tradition each year."

It's something the Dawson's Creek alum has long loved, even when she was a kid. "I was always reading when I was a kid, just like now!" she says.

Holmes joined Epic, a digital reading platform for kids, on Dec. 7 in New York City for their "My Winter City" event. There, she read to the young guests in attendance her favorite holiday book from Hit the Books, and enjoyed some of the festive arts and crafts.

A mom herself, to 15-year-old Suri Cruise with ex Tom Cruise, Holmes says the holidays for her are all about "spending quality time with family and close friends."

"Since my birthday falls so close to Christmas, we tend to do shared celebrates," explains Holmes, who turns 43 on Saturday. "Typically, we cook together, making favorite dishes — I love to bake — and of course, watching The Nutcracker, listening to music, and reading books for quiet time (my favorite holiday books are [Clement Clarke Moore's] 'Twas the Night before Christmas and [Dr. Seuss'] How The Grinch Stole Christmas)."

"It's a pretty traditional celebration with family," Holmes adds.

The season of giving is also a chance for Holmes and her loved ones to be thankful.

"Coming together and celebrating celebrating the holiday usually includes sharing what we are grateful for — health, happiness, etc." she says.

She has plenty to be grateful for in the career department too. In November, it was announced that Holmes will star, direct, produce, and co-write (alongside Phaedon Papadopoulos) the adaptation of Kathleen Tessaro's novel, Rare Objects.

The book tells the story of a young woman coming face to face with her traumatic past after rebuilding her life while working at an antique store.

Derek Luke, who starred alongside Holmes in 2003's Pieces of April, will also star.