This story was originally published in the December 2016 edition of SHIFT Magazine.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year—to read. With classes almost finished, flights almost boarded, and homes almost come home to, leisure time has finally returned. Why not fill some of that newfound time reading what you want to read instead of reading what you have to?
Thanks to the seemingly-endless stream of books released each year, it can be daunting to choose exactly which thrilling, scary, or heartbreaking title is worthy of your precious holiday break. With this in mind, SHEI compiled a list of some of the season’s essential books so you can go back to more important holiday choices. Like which Christmas cookie to eat next.
Underground Railroad – Colson Whitehead
Recently awarded the National Book Award, Underground Railroad asks the question, “What if the Underground Railroad was a literal railroad rather than a mere metaphor?” Through a cast of vibrant characters and some creative storytelling, Whitehead exposes the terrors of the antebellum South while exploring the contemporary American landscape born from that brutal past.
The Mothers – Brit Benett
The New York Times Bestseller The Mothers is already causing quite a stir. Set in a contemporary black community in California, The Mothers concerns big themes like community, love, ambition, and the decisions that haunt us. Follow Nadia Turner, a grief-stricken teenager mourning the loss of her mother, as a secret she must carry affects her throughout her life.
Hillbilly Elegy – J. D. Vance
Perhaps the most poignant book published this year, Hillbilly Elegy gives readers a look into the author’s childhood in working class Appalachia. Mixing his personal story with social analysis and historical critique, Vance explores how America’s underrepresented working class lost faith in any chance of upward mobility. Essentially, Elegy details how an entire region of the country watched the American Dream disappear. It’s a brilliant book that couldn’t have come out at a better time, one that will help many understand the feelings and fears of their fellow Americans.
In The Woods – Tana French
There’s nothing like a good psychological thriller on a cold, winter night. In the Woods begins with almost menacing simplicity: one day, three kids go missing in the neighborhood woods. Only one of the three is ever found. His shoes are filled with blood, and he has no memory of the last hours. Years later, that same little boy (now grown up, and serving his town as a murder detective) is tasked with investigating a crime in the very same woods. A page turner filled with beautifully chilling prose, In The Woods is the perfect fireside novel.
Scrappy Little Nobody – Anna Kendrick
Because, everyone loves Anna Kendrick and, believe it or not, her book is almost as entertaining as her.
Autobiography of Red – Anne Carson
Autobiography of Red is many things: it is equal parts novel and poem; it is a re-creation of an ancient Greek myth; on top of that, it is even a coming-of-age story. It’s mesmerizing. It’s odd. You better believe it’s unconventional. Simply put, it’s perfect for poetry and prose lovers alike.
Life After Life – Kate Atkinson
Whether you love historical fiction or not, Kate Atkinson’s novel will have you hooked from the first chapter. Ever wondered what it would be like to live again, and again, and again? In Life after Life, readers step into the shoes of Ursula, a woman stuck in a cycle of death and continuous rebirth. It’s a genius concept that makes for a thrilling read. Life after Life leaves audiences questioning just how one life can change the course of history.