The holidays can be a trying time—financially, emotionally. From unreasonable family expectations to the inescapable strains of Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer, little mounting annoyances can sour a merry mood. Sometimes all you want to do is curl up in a comfy chair and wait until it’s all over. We believe that there’s nothing a great book and a mug of hot chocolate can’t improve. So whether you are a mistletoe enthusiast or a misanthrope, here’s a list of literary antidotes for what ails you.
TRADITION, LONGING FOR
A Christmas Memory, Truman Capote
Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, you can’t help but fall in love with this book. Set in the 1930s, it tells the story of a close friendship between a 7-year-old boy, Buddy, and his elderly aunt and evokes the simplicity of childhood and country life. Tender and charming with a twist of melancholy, it will fill you with nostalgia. Best paired with kids and freshly baked cookies.
DOWN IN THE DUMPS, FEELING
Theft by Finding, David Sedaris
If you find yourself moping about the house, looking forlornly and a bit accusingly at the jolly carolers, this one is for you. Compiled from 25 years of diary entries, it follows the author and comedian’s rise to notoriety, and the many mistakes (mostly alcohol-related) and realizations (he’s gay) he makes along the way. By the end, you’ll be sore from laughing and feel like Sedaris is your best friend. Best paired with a good sense of humor and a box of chocolates.
COLD, THE COMMON
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Agatha Christie
Knocked out by a headache and chills? This classic paperback mystery will keep you entertained without requiring too much mental energy. Best paired with a bowl of chicken soup and some candles to set the mood.
FAMILY, COPING WITH
Autumn, Karl Ove Knausgaard
Getting a little too much of the ones you love? This new novel from the Norwegian author will remind you of how to see the beauty in the frustration. Written as a series of 60 short (three-page) meditations for the author’s youngest daughter, it is a straightforward and philosophical look at family life and the many ways relationaships teach us to explore the universe. Best enjoyed in the early morning with a cup of coffee and some good light.
FAMILY, COPING WITHOUT
Men Without Women, Haruki Murikami
Feeling lonely? Well, you’re not the only one. Stealing its title from Hemingway, this new collection of strange and poignant short stories follows various men as they deal with loss and absence. Full of longing, love-affairs, and late-night reveries, this most recent book from Murakami, with its moody melancholy, will make you feel better about being on your own. It’s a little spooky and a little surreal; if you like David Lynch, you’ll like this. Best paired with a dark snowy night and a glass of that good whiskey your aunt sent you.
GRANTED, TAKING YOUR LIFE FOR
A Little Life, Hanya Yanagihara
Not for the faint of heart, this stunning 800-page novel may consume many nights by the fire before you finish, but it will be well worth it. The story, which follows a group of four college friends throughout their lives, is difficult and, at times, disturbing, but always compelling. As characters age, secret pasts are revealed, trust is broken and rebuilt, and relationships develop in beautiful, unexpected ways. This book will break your heart, ruin your week, and make you grateful for all of it. Best paired with a box of tissues and an energy bar to keep you going.
HANGOVER, HAVING A KILLER
Tortilla Flat, John Steinbeck
Hit the egg nog a little too hard? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Charming, witty, and a quick read, this all-but-forgotten classic is perfect for a groggy Sunday. Best when paired with a leftover turkey sandwich and hair of the dog.
Cooked, Michael Pollan
It happens to the best of us, and rather than give you tips to avoid the bulge (we’re sick of those, too), we’re leaning in. A deliciously in-depth exploration of different cooking styles from barbecue to baking bread, Cooked will never tell you to go light on the butter. Best paired with a pulled-pork sandwich from Townline BBQ and your favorite beer.
Rules for Aging, Roger Rosenblatt
Another year, another reminder of just how long we’ve been stringing tinsel and stuffing turkeys. But, fear not, there’s now a handbook for how to grow older with grace (and more than a few laughs). Best read aloud with family and friends, perhaps in the lazy lull after the big meal.