Holiday reads: A festive book list
Editor’s note: Winter hols are the perfect time to catch up on your TBR list. Grab a hot cuppa, find a nook and tuck into these feel-good recommendations from splainer news editors Nirmal and Anannya.
Inciting Joy: Essays by Ross Gay. Holidays are often a time for reflection and a lot of thinking. Ross Gay, through this collection of essays, offers a way to look at your life and find moments of delight and joy. Through his writing he shares stories of playing pick up games, skateboarding, gardening and even the sorrows of taking care of a dying parent. From the outside it might seem like a “self-help” book, but Gay’s poetic prose flows through and will leave you thinking about the joy and sorrows of your life.
Himawari House by Harmony Becker. This graphic novel is perfect for anyone who is currently navigating the feeling of being lost. The story is about three women Nao, Tina and Heyjung—all of whom are foreign exchange students who have travelled to Tokyo from different countries. They live together in the Himawari House, and the story follows their daily lives living in Japan, navigating struggles of growing up, being confused and alone in a new city. Becker’s art is beautiful, intricate and unique. Throughout reading this, you leave with a sense of nostalgia and warmth about your own lives.
Thursday Murder Club Series by Richard Osman. This series is about a group of old folks in their 70s and 80s and their Thursday meetings aka Thursday Murder Club at Cooper’s Chase, an upscale and exclusive retirement village. Every Thursday, they gather to investigate and discuss unsolved murder cases. The members all come from different walks of life—a former spy, a psychiatrist, a trade union activist, a nurse—and they pool in their different experiences and expertise to solve confusing and complex murder mysteries. This is a lighthearted read, and the premise is refreshing. An easy way to get out of your reading slump.
Beartown by Fredrik Backman. Initially, this book starts off as a tale about the sport of Hockey. Beartown is an ice hockey town. Everyone loves ice hockey and their junior ice hockey team is about to compete in the national semi-finals. The boys on the ice hockey team may be high school students, but they are beloved in their community. Soon, things start breaking apart after the star player of the team is taken to police custody right before the semi-match. The incident divides the town, and we see the story shifting away from hockey to more fundamental issues of being a good human. Fredrik Backman has a unique ability to craft stories that break your heart but also give you a warm hug in the process. This is one of those stories.
Hopscotch by Julio Cortazar. This 1963 novel—is somehow physically arranged in the form of the childhood game of Hopscotch—while it follows the story of an Argentinian writer whose life is upturned because of a child’s death and the disappearance of his mistress. The account of the protagonist’s adventures has been written in an experimental format—so the novel has 155 chapters, the last 99 designated as "expendable." Some of these "expendable" chapters fill in gaps that occur in the main storyline—which might help the reader solve the mystery themselves. The author even provides different methods by which one might want to “hopscotch” through this book. This half-puzzle half-mystery makes for one hell of a holiday read.
The River at Night by Kevin Huizenga. This very aesthetically pleasing graphic novel tells a story that is empathetic, warm, funny—but also philosophical as it explores the passage of time. It is a series of short interconnected stories about sleep, sleeplessness, insomnia—explored by a husband and wife, and how their realities shape-shift into different narratives about the ‘concept of time.’ Best to cosy up this book with a warm beverage and some cookies—because you will read through this in one night!
Biography of X by Catherine Lacey. This one is a bit meta too—as it is a 2005 biography of a fictional character—called X—written by their obviously fictional widow. It is also set in an alternate timeline in history which depicts the US to have created some controversial borders within itself. As X’s widow uncovers many details about the deceased’s life—she immerses herself in the history of a fascist theocracy that existed before the borders were created. Renowned to be one of the best books of 2023—it seems fitting to use up time in your holidays to deep-dive into this immersive and poignant read.
Who Gets Believed?: When the Truth Isn't Enough by Dina Nayeri. This powerful non-fiction narrative highlights the lived realities of refugees by asking unsettling questions related to lies, truths, and the difference between being believed and being dismissed in situations spanning asylum interviews, emergency rooms, consulting jobs, and family life—since most honest asylum seekers are dismissed as liars. Part-memoir and part-journalistic account—this serves to be an urgent read on an issue that has been pertinent to our world for sometime now.
Important to know: Our editorial team makes their independent choices. But the Amazon links are part of an affiliate program. So we could earn some revenue if you buy from Amazon.