12 Books for Winter Break
Arguably more fun than working through a last-minute shopping list: lining up your stack of books to take you through the winter months. To get you started, here are a dozen books that we’re into that check off a lot of literary boxes (i.e., escapism, classics fix, new year inspiration, adrenaline rush). In addition to some new-ish reads, we’ve included our selects of books publishing very soon to keep your TBR pile current.
For a classic (re-listen).
A few people in the office have been going back through some of the classics this fall, but our senior director of marketing reads Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol every year to help put her in the spirit. This December, she listened instead, and went for Patrick Stewart’s dynamic rendition of the OG tale: “the best revisiting of this classic novel I’ve had in a long time and the best audiobook I’ve listened to in a long time.”
Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull with Amy Wallace
For new year inspiration.
If you’re looking to sneak something more overtly educational (while still entertaining) into your book rotation, we finally caught up and highly recommend Creativity, Inc.. It’s a book about the rise of Pixar and how to spark and encourage creativity in company culture that is inspiring in and of itself.
Cuba on the Verge: 12 Writers on Continuity and Change in Havana and Across the Country edited by Leila Guerriero
For the holiday tourist.
This is a thoroughly captivating collection of essays edited by Argentinian journalist Leila Guerriero (A Simple Story: The Last Malambo) that looks back at Cuba’s complicated past, attempts to make sense of the many ways it has transformed, and asks, where is the country going next? The stories transplant you in time and place but this isn’t a book that needs to be read front to back, and the essay format means you can drop in and out quickly—i.e. ideally suited for airport reading in more than one way. A standout from the collection is Cuban poet and novelist Wendy Guerra’s “Glamour and Revolution,” a poignant portrait of the roles aesthetics, sexuality, and the feminine, have held among Cubans over time.
For the literary highbrow.
From one of the biggest names in contemporary fiction comes a new collection of twenty-plus essays that thoughtfully explore and illuminate the works of other literary geniuses. Here, Coetzee, himself a Nobel Prize-winning author (as well as an acclaimed literary critic), is mostly considering early historical giants (moving from Daniel Defoe to Leo Tolstoy) but he also tackles, for example, works by Irène Némirovsky’s and Philip Roth.
For a book and a doc combo.
As if anyone ever needs an excuse to read Joan Didion—this year, the writing great published a couple of longer excerpts from her previously private notebooks and her incredible life was the subject of the Netflix documentary The Center of Will Not Hold, which was directed by her nephew, Griffin Dunne. The paperback edition of South and West comes out on January 2, and we’re reading it for our next #goopbookclub (another unnecessary reason: Didion seems a particularly fitting companion for LA winters).
For a marathon trilogy read.
If you haven’t read Jojo Moyes’s 2012 mega-bestseller Me Before You, we envy you and wish we could read it for the first time again. Consider this your holiday assignment: Fall in love with self-described ordinary Lou Clark who finds herself in an entirely unfamiliar world, caring for a man who feels he has already lost his extraordinary life. You will laugh, and you will cry (seriously, have an entire box of tissues nearby). Next, continue your love affair with Lou in the sequel After You, and watch the film adaption of Me Before You, starring Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones) and Sam Clafin (Hunger Games). Pre-order and eagerly await the drop of Still Me on January 30—no spoilers here, but Moyes’s easy way of making you instantly care for her characters (deeply) prevails.
For deep thought.
The catalyst for this story may be unusual (unless you, too, have a psychic neighbor who can predict the date of your death), but the flawed humanity in Chloe Benjamin’s gripping characters feels incredibly familiar. The Immortalists follows the four Gold siblings who live their lives with the knowledge of when they will die. With that comes some big philosophical questions: Do we shape our futures or are we fated for a certain destiny? And if fate does exist, can we do anything to change it? The children’s subsequent life stories range from illustrious career journeys to dangerous decisions, OCD and unrealized dreams—and an exploration of how each member confronts death. If you’ve ever had an existential thought in your life, you’ll see yourself in every sibling—in their gut-wrenchingly human existence—and be reminded that life is by turns complicated, fun, disastrous, painful, and out of our control.
For a poetry craving.
In this evocative, curious, probing first book of poems, Molly McCully Brown imagines what it would have been like to live at the Virginia State Colony, which opened in 1910 in the center of the eugenics movement. Brown, who grew up miles from the state institution and recalls driving past it in her childhood, has a way of giving voices to the voiceless that feels remarkably true. The read is (not surprisingly) haunting and heartbreaking from page to page, but, more so, it’s a really beautiful reaffirmation of the power of poetry to move us.
For the Gone Girl set.
Poised to be one of 2018’s most talked about thrillers, The Wife Between Us (releases January 9) has already been optioned for film by the team behind The Girl on the Train. It’s a twisty, fast, mind-rushing story with an anything but average love triangle at its heart. Interestingly, The Wife Between Us is written by a duo (who we hear is already at work on another book, although not a sequel): Greer Hendricks is a publishing insider who spent a couple of decades as an editor at Simon & Schuster and Sarah Pekkanen is a former investigative journalist and bestselling author of several previous novels. Strong evidence that the power of two minds…may sometimes trump one.
For fans of family sagas.
While there’s always something super new and shiny to read, we’re currently in the midst of, and enthralled with, Bethany Ball’s debut What to Do About the Solomons, which came out Spring 2017. It tells the story of the Solomon family, which has its roots in a kibbutz community in Israel, and follows younger generations as some depart for NY and LA. There’s a financial scandal, career tribulations, romances gone awry—but it isn’t any one particular thread or detail or religious belief that matters. Like all good family sagas, it’s the characters who draw you in, not in spite of, but because of, their hilarious, real, and very human flaws.
For the art buff.
Not all love stories are happy ones—and Suzanne Mallouk’s on-again, off-again relationship with artist Jean-Michel Basquiat was doomed from the moment they met at the bar Night Bird in New York City. “Widow Basquiat was a morbid nickname, given to me by [poet] Rene Ricard, many years before Jean-Michel died,” Mallouk recalls. Clement, a friend of the couple’s, wrote this biography, and inventively paired it with Mallouk’s own words, italicized at the end of each story. Mallouk was there to witness Basquiat’s struggles with drug addiction, ascent to super-stardom, and the fallout that came with it, at times as his muse and lover, at others as a banished-from-the-fold pariah. This brilliant and quick read (just 186 pages) is quirky, cerebral, and filled with revelations about what life with Basquiat was actually like—and (more interestingly) what life was like after.
For your lover/BFF.
This cleverly illustrated book of vignettes looks at the many different ways love shows up in our lives. There’s complicated love, which begins, “Emma is looking for a lover/ who is not too tall and not too hairy./ A beautiful man, funny but not too funny.” There’s athletic love, the love of details, managing love, the end of love, and even clairvoyant love. Get one for you and someone else you love.