With the holidays right around the corner, we’re all looking forward to a few days set aside solely for r&r, family time and a few sacred hours spent snuggled in a blanket with a good book. We’ve pulled together a round-up of reads for those quiet moments in between the festivities – a few paperbacks to take with you on your travels, a few titles to stuff under the tree for others, and finally, a few new releases to kick off the New Year, making that “read more” resolution all the more attainable.
To take on your travels...
1. History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund
This book was one of the most anticipated of 2017, released last January and now available in paperback. Emily Fridlund’s haunting debut centers on 14-year-old Linda, who lives with her parents on a decaying commune and befriends a young family that has moved to the lake for the summer. Without giving details away, this novel is dark, atmospheric and will stay with you long after the final page. A great pick for a long flight, this one is hard to put down and more difficult to forget.
2. Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler
We imagine only a few people who haven’t yet read Stephanie Danler’s debut novel, Sweetbitter. If this is you, now’s the time. It’s a perfect holiday read and the ideal blend of coming-of-age and insider scoop into the NYC restaurant world. Danler paints an incredible scene, and her writing sears – the tone is absolute perfection.
3. Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff
Fates and Furies, told in two parts, is both stunning and surprising. Lotto and Mathilde are the perfect golden couple at age 22. Ten years on, their marriage still looks perfect from the outside, but from the inside, tiny cracks are growing, much as they do in any marriage. Groff poignantly shows the two sides of their relationship and the secrets and omissions that keep the wheels moving – it’s a brilliant portrait of contemporary marriage.
4. Just Kids by Patti Smith
We often use winter vacations as a time to revisit our old favorites, like Just Kids by Patti Smith. In this lyrical memoir, Patti Smith recounts her youthful romance with Robert Mapplethorpe and their lives as young artists in downtown New York in the 1960s. It’s a beautiful love letter, not only to a person, but also to a distinct time and place.
To tuck under the tree...
1. Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado
This debut collection of short stories is delightfully weird, provocative, insightful and fun, bringing a bit of fantasy and necessary confusion to the holidays. Sure to trigger discussion around the fire, this collection is brilliant, stunning and strange – a wholly evocative read.
2. The Burning Girl by Claire Messud
If you aren’t familiar with Claire Messud’s writing, she’s one of the best, and her latest, The Burning Girl, is a great place to start. Here, Messud takes on adolescent friendship – the tenuous alliances and raw emotions that define high school – and tells a haunting story that illuminates both the bonds and deceptions entwined with becoming who we are.
3. Devotions by Mary Oliver
A just published compilation of Mary Oliver’s Poetry, Devotions is perfection. Jenn Pearsall, the co-founder of Sefte, cites it as her go-to for comfort and recharging. In her words, “My mother introduced me to poetry as a child. We’d read it together…she even wrote poetry for my sister and me. I still turn to poetry for comfort. Right now, Mary Oliver is on my nightstand. She’s been there for about two years now. Yes, I turn to her for comfort again and again.”
4. Theft by Finding Diaries (1977-2002) by David Sedaris
An often comic, genuine and altogether intriguing look into an artist’s mind, David Sedaris’s Theft by Finding Diaries is a go-to gift for book lovers. And now, more than ever, we can use a little time spent with the author’s wit and his insight.
To kick off the New Year...
1. The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn
A little bit Girl on the Train and a little bit Rear Window, this is the January read that begs for a glass of wine, a blizzard and nowhere to go. Curl up and settle in as Finn spins a story that reads like Hitchcock – cinematic and suspenseful. It’s the quintessential vacation read.
2. The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
Without question, Benjamin’s The Immortalists is one of the most unexpected books we’ve encountered. With a narrative wrapped around the question, “What if you knew the date of your death?” and the implications following, Benjamin traces the lives of four siblings who learn the dates of their death in childhood. The narrative is broken into four parts, each following a particular sibling. Though you might expect the story to follow a familiar trajectory, it surprises, astounds and keeps you reading from page one.
3. Everything Here Is Beautiful by Mira T. Lee
This is a heart-wrenching story of two sisters, one of whom struggles with mental illness and the other of whom is her protector. Told in alternating points of view, Everything Here is Beautiful is ultimately a tale of the great sacrifices made for those we love. Its stunning prose accompanied by the most human themes makes it one of our top picks to start 2018.
4. The Afterlives: A Novel by Thomas Pierce
At the core of this novel is the central question, “What happens after we die?” Pierce’s main character Jim Byrd dies for just three minutes, and returns with no memory of an afterlife. What follows is a funny, moving and entirely entertaining look at one couple’s quest to find out what’s next (if anything) after life.