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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Eventis
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.
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.
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.