The Greatest Gift: The Original Story That Inspired the Christmas Classic It's a Wonderful Life, recently at a local book store. I had to read it!
Admittedly it is hard to judge the story on its own merits, in light of the fact that the movie version starring Jimmy Stewart is so well-known. Suffice it to say that this version is different, but the main components are there. It is very interesting to read and compare.
Perhaps the most interesting part of this 1996 edition is the afterword by Van Doren Stern's daughter Marguerite Stern Robinson. She shares how the idea for the story came to him on February 12, 1938, when he was shaving. It wasn't until 1943 that he showed the finished story to his agent. It never found a buyer. The author had become fond of the story, however, and decided to pay to have 200 copies printed in pamphlet form which he sent out for Christmas in 1943. The rest, as they say, is history (but definitely worth reading about!).