10 Books To Read Over The Holiday Break

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My family has been known to gift anywhere between 75 and approximately 75,000 books to one another for the holidays — gathering to open presents is basically the world’s most chaotic book swap. Needless to say, after our annual family gift exchange I’m well supplied with an entire suitcase full of books to read over the holidays. (And tons of titles to last me through the long flight home, too.)

Books are essential holiday survival gear, in my opinion. Not only do they get you through hours of sitting on planes, trains, and the occasional Greyhound, they’re also the perfect escape for when quality family time gets to be just a little too much. (After all, there are only so many times you can say “I don’t, in fact, have plans to get my life in order and grow a tiny human inside my body any time soon,” before you start to wonder why you left your quiet apartment in the city in the first place.) Books never get to be a little too much.

Here are 10 books to read over the holiday break — and they’ll get you through it all, from compiling your New Year’s resolutions, to that nagging I-should-be-doing-something feeling that comes after days (or, you know, seven minutes) of relaxing, to family members that just won’t quit with the personal questions. Check ‘em out.

1. How to Be Idle by Tom Hodgkinson

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You killed it this year, from nailing that promotion, to taking those Pilates classes, to doing all your laundry in a timely manner — so the next few days (or weeks, if you’re lucky) are a great time for you to kick back, relax, and do a whole lotta nothing. Except that being idle is surprisingly difficult. Learn the art of being happily unoccupied this holiday season with How to Be Idle , a guide to taking a break from the fast-paced everything you do the rest of the year.

2. Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris

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From the comforting image of whatever on-the-rocks adult beverage that is on the cover, to the laugh-out-loud tales of everything from Sedaris’s stint as a Macy’s Christmas elf in his mid-30s, or himself and his sister leaving their family’s holiday dinner to retrieve a prostitute from her drunken boyfriend, Holidays on Ice is a collection of stories guaranteed to make your own holiday-hyped family seem a whole lot tamer.

3. A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote

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For those who want to keep the holiday-themed reading going, this short story packs a whole lot of Christmas-y punch (though be warned, the ending might leave you in tears.) A Christmas Memory is the autobiographical retelling of one Christmas in Truman Capote’s rural, childhood town — filled with kite flying, fruitcakes, blackberry jam, and home-brewed whiskey — as experienced by a young boy named Buddy and his older cousin Sook.

4. Rising Strong by Brené Brown

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Set yourself up for successfully accomplishing all those New Year’s resolutions you’re about to set for yourself with the latest title from the voice of being your best self, Brené Brown. Rising Strong is all about meeting failure head on, celebrating brave vulnerability, and deriving strength from heartbreak and disappointment. It’s the perfect pre-2016 rallying cry.

5. The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr

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Let’s face it: Sometimes all that quality family time that fills the holidays can be a little, well, challenging… Learn how to mine your family’s usually annoying antics for tales too good not to tell with The Art of Memoir , Mary Karr’s guide to reflecting on your past, understanding your identity, and turning your life into art. Maybe you’ll finally even be able to check “write memoir” off your 2016 bucket list.

6. When I Was a Child I Read Books by Marilynne Robinson

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There’s nothing like a holiday visit home to reconnect you with all your childhood memories — many fond, but some probably not so much. Another book that will make you consider all those memories in a new light is Marilynne Robinson’s collection of personal essays When I Was a Child I Read Books . Plus, her literary voice is so soothing she’ll totally mellow any holiday-induced stress.

7. In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume

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OK, so this might not be the cheeriest of holiday tales, nor a novel you should probably read mid-flight (as it features a devastating plane crash) but In the Unlikely Event is still a totally compelling holiday read. After a commercial jet crash carrying home-bound holiday travelers devastates a small New Jersey town — where differences of faith, ethnicity, and wealth permeate the community — the residents begin to look at themselves and their neighbors with a new perspective.

8. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

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Because at 1088 pages Infinite Jest has been on your reading bucket list since literally forever.

9. Eight White Nights by André Aciman

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Spanning the eight nights from Christmas Eve to New Year’s Eve, André Aciman takes readers on the journey of an entire relationship, accelerated. Eight White Nights tells the story of two longing-for-love twentysomethings who meet at a Christmas Eve party, and spend the next eight nights — until New Year’s Eve — meeting at the same theatre, and experiencing enough emotions to last a lifetime.

10. Ordinary Light by Tracy K. Smith

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If you haven’t had the opportunity to dive into this 2015 must-read yet then definitely pick it up before the clock strikes midnight on December 31, because Ordinary Light is not a book to be missed. In her memoir, Tracy K. Smith explores family from all angles: the past and the present, the personal and the political, what we believe as children versus what we come to know as adults. It’ll make you think about how much you’ve changed since the holidays of your childhood, and make you appreciate all the different places you’ve learned to call home as an adult.