Best Books to Read Over Christmas Break

The semester is finally starting to wind down. Suddenly, you find yourself with some down time, traveling in busy airports, spending time with family, waiting for overdue doctor’s appointments. You no longer are overcome with the guilt you might have during the semester when you chose to read for fun, over reading for history class. Sure, you probably read more than a dozen articles on your phone every morning instead of getting up for your morning classes, but you probably haven’t taken the time to nurture your passion for reading since the semester started. It’s hard, your syllabi alone are practically novel-length on their own.


At first, reading sounds pretty mundane. All semester, you’ve been daydreaming about how you’ll spending your newly found free time. Once you start getting into your book of choice, you’ll be absorbed back into the pursuit of literature. The great thing about reading as a hobby is that it’s wholly independent. You can read whenever you want, and don’t have to rely on syncing up with your friends (although you can always organize a book club back home for the holidays!). Reading can be very relaxing: you can read in the bathtub, outside, in the comfy chair in your living room, and for the time you’ve engaged in your book, you’re less anxious about the stressors usually on the forefront of your mind. You are also bettering yourself. Even reading fiction helps build your ability to think creatively, and to view the world from different vantage points. Once you choose your book, you’re set for an adventure. Below are my suggestions for some great winter reads.


For Those Who Want to Travel:

Perhaps one of the best ways to experience the world from afar is to read about it. Even better if there’s a movie version you can watch afterward! Consider reading a book about a foreign country, from a foreign author. Translations are definitely okay!


1. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. Okay, this book is a beast. You could honestly use it for a doorstop when you’re done. But, hear me out, there is a reason that this book is a classic. Set in Russia, Anna Karenina is a breathtaking view of problematic romance, forgiveness and acceptance, society and class, and loneliness. Anna is a problematic heroine, you’ll either love her or hate her, but you’ll definitely find her captivating. Tolstoy’s prose is beautiful, and you’ll shortly find yourself at the end of the novel, swirling at the end of the plot. Bonus, the movie adaption is one of the most beautiful films I’ve ever seen.



2. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. This novel was written for dreamers. Its contents are full of magic, love, travel, and overall adventure. It reads a little bit like an Indiana Jones movie runs. Originally written in Portuguese, this novel has been translated into 80 different languages, and holds the record for the most translated novel by a living author. Mostly set in Egypt, this novel will instill in you a desire to go on an adventure, and live out your wildest dreams, a la Goonies style. The overall lesson from this book, is to listen to your heart and to trust yourself, which I know I could always serve to be reminded of.



For Those Who Crave an Empowered Woman Lead:


1. Circe by Madeline Miller. Circe is a re-telling of the witch from the Odyssey that turns men into pigs. While the Odyssey paints her as a vile creature, Circe gives her a backstory and allows the reader to see the story from her point of view. It gives Circe her voice, and depicts her as a strong, powerful lover, mother, sibling, and daughter. Circe has themes of romance, individualism, personal strength and resolve, and reminds us to constantly look at things from another perspective. It reminds us that no one-side story has the whole truth. Circe is a re-telling of a strong, empowered women. It’s bewitching.



2. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. Keep in mind that this is a Victorian novel, and the bar for badass empowered women was fairly lower. It’s safe to say that Jane surpasses the barriers put in place for her. She shows her strength in various places throughout the story, but is still soft and full of hope, despite the world being literally out to make her miserable. She doesn’t give up, and she keeps fighting for what she believes in. Maybe her choice of men is somewhat questionable, but her self-respect and resilience is unparalleled by women in novels at her time (except maybe Pride and Prejudice’s Elizabeth Bennett, but in my opinion the Keira Knightley version does that story enough credit alone). Jane Eyre is a classic, it’s a long but I read it in a day last winter break. Bonus here, watch the movie with some hot tea and kettle korn, the rainy scenes almost demanding it.




For Those Who Want to Stay in Reality


1. Hidden Figures: The Untold True Story of Four African-American Women who Helped Launch Our Nation Into Space by Margot Lee Shetterly. The most important reason to read this book is to recognize a history forgotten, othered, and left-out of the conversation. Women in STEM matter, and have mattered for a long time. Women of color have made great achievements in furthering our society, and this novel serves to remind us of that simple, but often overlooked fact. Beyond that, Shetterly’s retelling of this story is riveting, honest, and moves quickly. You’ll gain inspiration from reading this novel, and you’ll be more in the know. This is a book that every college girl should have on her bookshelf. Plus, the movie is incredible. Make it a girl’s night, read the book and come together for the movie.





2. The New Yorker. Gift yourself a subscription this Holiday break. It makes for a great coffee table read, and is broken down into easily digestible chunks of art, culture, and literature. Think of it as a sampler to find out what kinds of news, and art you like to consume. Plus, you look really classy reading it on the bus. Full of inspirational stories, award-winning prose, and conversations about American political identity. The New Yorker is a capstone of American Magazines, and even better - it has the best book reviews!




Even if nothing on this list catches your eye, I encourage you to pick up a book this break. It’ll give you a sense of productivity, and help keep your mind active in between class sessions. Happy reading!