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A Winter Reading List, For Holiday-Season-Specific Situations

So, what’re you up to over the holidays? Maybe you’re cohosting a big potluck, spending quality couch time with the fam or getting in some (real) last-minute shopping? Whatever your plans are, we hope you can squeeze in a few good reads that are spot-on for the season.

If you wanna hang out with a dysfunctional family (aside from your own):
How to Behave in a Crowd by Camille Bordas

Wonder what Holden Caulfield might’ve been like before he got so world-weary? Meet the very un-phony Isidore, protagonist of Bordas’s charming novel about being the odd one out in a superacademic, eccentric family. Two major tragedies, several half-hearted runaway attempts and one romantic pen pal later, Isidore learns his sensitive nature is just as worthy as his siblings’ smarts.

If you’re having a little social anxiety:
The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker

Parker puts it plain right off the bat, declaring: “How we gather matters.” In this practical and insightful volume, she interviews over 100 “gatherers,” from Buddhist monks to Japanese tea masters, and offers new ways to think about get-togethers. Whether you’re planning a holiday party or a quick meeting at work, you’ll want her fresh perspective about making more meaningful connections.

If you’re skipping the whole New Year’s resolution thing this year:
What If This Were Enough? by Heather Havrilesky

Havrilesky’s writing is no-nonsense, nuanced and often, really funny—just read her Ask Polly column on The Cut. This book of essays is no exception, with each piece harking back to the title through a variety of lenses—Disneyland, Kondo-esque minimalism, her father’s death. Through it all, Havrilesky urges us to embrace the flaws in everyday life, to break from the need to constantly better ourselves and accept what we have and who we are, right now.

If you need a page-turner to get through a long flight:
The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner

Prepare to be instantly engrossed in the story of Romy Hall, a young mother from San Francisco who finds herself serving two life sentences in Stanville Women’s Correctional Facility (after a certain encounter we won’t spoil). Kushner’s extensive research on life while incarcerated is apparent in the incredibly human characters she’s created—they’ll stick with you long after you finish the final page.

If you prefer heat and humidity over snow-covered everything:
Florida by Lauren Groff

Sinkholes, murky water, lurking panthers, hidden snakes—these almost sinister (and particularly Floridian) kinds of symbols recur over and over in Groff’s latest book. But for the characters in these 11 short stories, threats are often psychological rather than physical—and yes, you’ll get all wrapped up in it with them thanks to her gripping prose.

If you’re ready to round out the year with a creative (and emotional) boost:
Passing for Human by Liana Finck

New Yorker contributor and insta-famous illustrator Finck tells what she calls “a neurological coming-of-age story” in this utterly original graphic memoir. Themes of loneliness, isolation and creativity as a cure are all woven together as Finck asks big questions about human connection, self-acceptance and the parts of ourselves we often hide away. By the end you’ll find—indicated as the pages turn from black to white—that there is in fact light at the end of the proverbial tunnel.

Want more recs? We’ve got plenty.