The Top Ten Books You Should Read This Christmas Break

From an incredibly young age, both my parents included my sister and I in grown up conversations. After being introduced to topics and having them explained in simple words, we were asked for our opinions on matters that seemed incredibly important at the time. We were never cut out of conversation or told that our opinions didn’t matter because of our age. In fact, they were encouraged. Questions were celebrated and immediately, looking for a solution to the problem at hand became our number one task. 

Books were thrown in to the equation at a very young age. In fact, I don’t remember a time in my childhood in which books weren't celebrated and loved in our home. We cuddled up on the couch after a long day and listened to stories about faraway lands and made up characters that soon became our best friends. I giggled as we read about the crazy adventures of Junie B. Jones and sobbed (for about a week) when we read Old Yeller. Reading has always been and will continue to be an amazing thing in my heart (and millions of others)! 

In observance and honor of November being reading month, I think it’s important to talk about the importance of reading as well as some of the most amazing books that you should read – in my opinion. It’s no secret that people tend to read less as they get older. What was once exciting and rebellious – we all remember staying up late to read – becomes boring and nerdy as we grow older. According to dosomething.org, 53% of 4thgraders admitted to reading for fun each day and by the time those children are in 8thgrade, the percentage has significantly decreased to merely 20%. 

Reading is so incredibly important. As college students, it seems as if we are doing plenty of reading. But how much are we actually learning from it? While academics are (and should be) our number one priority as college students, we should be tackling ourselves as people as well. This is the time to expose ourselves to new things, to improve our ideas and understanding of the world. Books allow us to do that, as well as prepare to take action in the world, gain experience from others, learn how to communicate, connect with our own brains, and boost imagination and creativity. 

After you’ve had a long hot shower and an extremely long nap in recovery of the impending finals that are upon us, pick up a book and read for pleasure. Whether you pick up an old favorite or something completely new, you’re bound to enjoy your time reading. You’ll learn something new, maybe laugh (or even cry) and come away with new experiences. 

Listed below are ten of my favorite books – some have made me laugh, some have made me cry, and some have left me thinking about life for weeks afterwards. 

1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee 

You may have already read this book in high school. It’s phenomenally done and beautifully written. Following the story of Atticus Finch as he serves as a Tom Robinson’s lawyer, Robinson being a black man who has been accused of raping a white woman, Mayella Ewell. The story is told through the eyes of six year old Scout, who brings an innocent perspective to heavy topics such as racism in America and rape. It’s a book that can be read over and over and you will catch something new each time. It’s a beautiful perspective on something so heavy and will leave you inspired to be a better person – following in the footsteps of Mr. Atticus Finch. 

2. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

In 2013, the story of Gatsby was once again retold on the big screen – this time with Oscar winner, Leonardo DiCaprio. It’s a tragic love story told from the eyes of Nick Carraway – a Yale graduate, veteran of World War 1, and cousin to Daisy Buchanan. Nick receives an invitation to one of Gatsby’s parties – as grandiose and obnoxious as ever. Gatsby uses Nick to arrange a reunion with Daisy which then leads to a full-fledged affair over the summer. While a beautiful story, it goes to show that money is not everything when it comes to love.

3. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Set in 1939 Nazi Germany, Liesel, after the death of her younger brother, moves in with her new foster parents, Hans and Rosa Huberman. One night, a Jew turns up at their home – the son of a friend of Hans’ from World War 1. Although they know the risk, they take in Max and allow him to live in their basement. Max and Liesel become great friends and he writes her a beautiful story – written on white-painted pages of Mein Kampf. In the midst of the war, she begins collecting books that the Nazi’s are trying to get rid of – creating a world that inspires everyone who reads this book. 

4. A Child Called It by Dave Pelzer 

Not going to lie, this book is definitely not for the faint of heart. It’s a real life story, a memoir of his experience with his childhood abuse. His mother was physically and emotionally abusive throughout his childhood – beginning at the mere age of four. His mother starved him, forced him to drink ammonia, stabbed him in the stomach, burned his arm on a gas stove, and forced him to eat his own vomit. This heartbreaking story is 1/3 of a series of books written on his abuse. I promise you, you’re going to need a box of tissues and you’re going to have to take a couple breaks. 

5. The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank 

This is another book on my list that you may have already gotten the chance to read in high school. If you read it when you were fourteen, you should read it again. I caught on to so much more when I recently read it. The Diary of Anne Frank is just that – the translations of the diary that she kept while her family hid during the reign of Nazi Germany. She expresses her feelings about the whole thing before and during their hiding. Anne writes of her experiences in the annex – about her family, the others in the hiding place, and her friendship with Peter. She writes on faith and courage, bringing a fresh and innocent insight to the horrors of World War 2. 

6. The Giver by Lois Lowry 

The Giver is the story of Jonas, a 12-year-old boy who lives in a dystopian community isolated from the rest of the world. At twelve years old, the children are assigned careers at the Ceremony of the Twelve. There, Jonas is chosen as the next Receiver of Memory, who is to be trained by the current one. The Receiver of the Memory is the person assigned to bear the burden of the memories from all the history of the world – the only person allowed access to history books beyond those allowed at school. The Giver begins to transfer the memories to Jonas – he learns of snow, colors, hills and mountains. Unpleasantly, he learns of war, pain, death, and hunger. It’s a perfect story of what happens if we ignore history and refuse to learn from past mistakes. 

7. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi 

Just a note – you will cry. You will lay in bed and think about life and death for hours on end. You will be different when you finish this book. When Breath Becomes Air is the story of Paul Kalanithi, a neurologist who finds himself diagnosed with lung cancer. It is his story of experiences with life and death from the perspective of a doctor as well as a patient. It’s beautifully written and has an ending so tragic that I sobbed for a good five minutes after I finished reading it. 

8. The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger

Everyone who has seen this movie can vouch for it’s ability to be quotable and hilarious. The novel itself is based on Andrea Sachs, a recent graduate from Brown, with high hopes for a career in publishing. With her eyes set on The New Yorker, she settles for a job as a junior assistant for Miranda Priestly – inspired by Vogue’s Anna Wintour. Andrea’s struggle through the year she works for Miranda is sometimes hilarious, other times frustrating, but all around amusing. This book is a quick, easy read and is sure to lighten the mood. 

9. Unbroken: A World War 2 Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand 

Warning: This one will make you cry too. Louis Zamperini, a former track star turned Army Lieutenant is on a search and rescue mission, when after mechanical difficulties, the plane crashes in the ocean. Along with Russell Allen Phillips and Francis McNamara, the three are forced to live off captured rainwater, raw fish, and birds that happened to land on the raft. On day 33, McNamara dies and is sent off into the sea by Zamperini and Phillips. On day 47, the two reach land in the Marshall Islands and are taken as prisoners of war by the Japanese Navy. His story of resilience and survival will leave you inspired and will definitely make you cry. PS, the movie is fantastic! Definitely give it a watch. 

10. Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen 

Girl, Interrupted is written as memoir by Susanna Kaysen – relating her experiences as an 18 year old girl in a psychiatric hospital. In this, she reflects on the nature of her illness and questions how the doctors treat mental illness. She goes through a period of depersonalization – it is then that she bites open flesh on her hand after being horrified that she has “lost her bones”. It’s an interesting story of a girl who has had to question her sanity and will leave you asking the same question she did – “Was insanity just a matter of dropping the act?” 

 

This Christmas break, after your long nap to recover from finals, make yourself a cup of tea and indulge yourself with a new book. You never know what you might learn. 

 

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