Books to read over the holidays

Books to read over the holidays

With Thanksgiving coming up (and Christmas not far behind), I’m looking forward to the opportunity to decompress from all that food by diving into a book or two. If you’ve got a little time off for the holidays, why not add to your list of books read in 2015 before the year comes to a close?

Fiction and personal essay collections are my favorite books to read when I’m holed up for a few days to enjoy the holidays and avoid Black Friday insanity. Here are a few recommendations so you can do the same!

You could read…

An old favorite

Some books make such an impression on you that you’ve just got to read them twice. I know, I know—there are too many books to read and SO LITTLE TIME, but what better time than the holidays to spend with a book that has changed you?

For me, that was Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck. I picked this one up from the library earlier this month because the book I’m writing for NaNoWriMo has similar themes, and it had been years since I read it. I’m so glad I picked it up again—it was like reading it for the first time. There was so much more to appreciate about this book the second time around, just as I imagine there will probably be when I’m closer to the age John Steinbeck was when he wrote it. So many of his observations about American culture in the early 1960s when it was published were still relevant today, even prophetic.

The great thing about rereading an old favorite? You already know you’re going to love it.

A new author

Not just by reading one book, but two or more (chronologically) by the same author. If you’re curious about an author’s style and techniques, study their body of work to appreciate how their voice has developed and changed over the years.

I recently checked out Miranda July’s collection, No One Belongs Here More Than You, and novel, The First Bad Man. July’s short stories were so off-putting and perverted, yet her distinct and strange voice was compelling. Plus, her short stories prepared me for diving into a longer, weirder story. When July interviewed and wrote a profile on Rihanna last month, I thought, Yep, that’s July’s writing. You’ll be able to spot an author’s work from a mile away if you spend lots of time with them.

A collection of short stories or essays

If you want something you can easily pick up and read in short bursts (or between breaks in other books), try a collection of letters, short fiction or essays by an author you love. This is also great way to sample an author you’ve been meaning to read, and if you don’t have the chance to read the whole thing at once, you can pick it up any time.

Aside from July’s short stories, Lydia Davis’ collection Can’t and Won’t is another recent favorite. Some stories are merely a sentence long, often peculiar or witty observations, while others like “The Letter to the Foundation” are funny yet vulnerable portraits of anxiety. I also recommend Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist, an enjoyable critique on pop culture from start to finish.

A book on writing

Looking for inspiration or motivation? Countless authors have written some fantastic books on writing that will remind you why you want to be a writer in the first place.

I love a good book on writing, particularly those that are more literary and observant than how-to. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott is an old favorite I’ve read more than once, and Annie Dillard’s The Writing Life is wonderful in ways I didn’t expect from a book on the craft. I’d like to read Joyce Carol Oates’ The Faith of a Writer next.

Something from your bedside table

You know the one—that book you’ve been meaning to read for months. Quit putting it off and crack that book open already! The Christmas tree can wait.

I’ve got a few on my bookshelf I’d like to read, plus several that have been on my library wish list for a while, including Leslie Jamison’s collection, The Empathy ExamsI’ll let you know what I think after I’ve read it!

Currently I’m reading The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer, and Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan is next on my list. (I can’t get enough of those library books.)

What’s on your to-read list? Anything to add here?


I’m taking the rest of the week off from the blog and newsletter to properly work on that reading list, enjoy the holiday, and end NaNoWriMo strong (hopefully—it’s been rough, guys). I’ll be back next week. In the meantime, happy Thanksgiving to everyone celebrating!

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  1. Ohh I can never resist your book posts! I read The Interestings a few years ago and still think about it sometimes. The story was so detailed. I also read Mr. Penumbra’s. Right now I’m on a non-fiction kick with Big Magic and Essentialism, but I’ll need a fiction read after these, so I’ll check out some of the ones you listed above. If you’re into YA novels, “Made You Up” is one I read recently that I loved.

    • So glad you like the book posts, Danielle! I want to start doing more of them. 🙂 I was on a nonfiction kick for a LONG time, and it’s been so wonderful getting back into fiction these past few months. I’d really like to read Big Magic, though, and Essentialism also sounds like something I’d enjoy right now. I’ll have to check out Made You Up! It’s been too long since I’ve read YA. Thanks for the recommendations!

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