The holiday break is fast approaching, and book lovers are building their reading lists (and checking them twice)! Whether you’re looking forward to hours of uninterrupted reading time or are only be able to squeeze in a few pages after the kids go to bed, we’ve compiled a list of recommendations based on your plans. Take a look at our suggestions of new vacation books below, complete with publishers’ descriptions.
If You’ll Be Relaxing on the Couch
Mr. Dickens and His Carol by Samantha Silva
Laced with humor, rich historical detail from Charles Dickens’ life, and clever winks to his work, Samantha Silva’s Mr. Dickens and His Carol is an irresistible new take on a cherished classic.
Charles Dickens is not feeling the Christmas spirit. His newest book is an utter flop, the critics have turned against him, relatives near and far hound him for money. While his wife plans a lavish holiday party for their ever-expanding family and circle of friends, Dickens has visions of the poor house. But when his publishers try to blackmail him into writing a Christmas book to save them all from financial ruin, he refuses. And a serious bout of writer’s block sets in.
Frazzled and filled with self-doubt, Dickens seeks solace in his great palace of thinking, the city of London itself. On one of his long night walks, in a once-beloved square, he meets the mysterious Eleanor Lovejoy, who might be just the muse he needs. As Dickens’ deadlines close in, Eleanor propels him on a Scrooge-like journey that tests everything he believes about generosity, friendship, ambition, and love. The story he writes will change Christmas forever.
Why we recommend it: If you enjoy historical fiction and want to lose yourself in a book, Samantha Silva has crafted a lovely novel about Charles Dickens. It’s the tale of an author in the midst of writer’s block who is taken on a journey of self-discovery to rival Scrooge himself. Mr. Dickens and His Carol will bring a delightful bit of sparkle and joy to your Christmas vacation.
If You Need to Escape the Holiday Madness
Year One by Nora Roberts
It began on New Year’s Eve.
The sickness came on suddenly, and spread quickly. The fear spread even faster. Within weeks, everything people counted on began to fail them. The electrical grid sputtered; law and government collapsed — and more than half of the world’s population was decimated.
Where there had been order, there was now chaos. And as the power of science and technology receded, magic rose up in its place. Some of it is good, like the witchcraft worked by Lana Bingham, practicing in the loft apartment she shares with her lover, Max. Some of it is unimaginably evil, and it can lurk anywhere, around a corner, in fetid tunnels beneath the river — or in the ones you know and love the most.
As word spreads that neither the immune nor the gifted are safe from the authorities who patrol the ravaged streets, and with nothing left to count on but each other, Lana and Max make their way out of a wrecked New York City. At the same time, other travelers are heading west too, into a new frontier. Chuck, a tech genius trying to hack his way through a world gone offline. Arlys, a journalist who has lost her audience but uses pen and paper to record the truth. Fred, her young colleague, possessed of burgeoning abilities and an optimism that seems out of place in this bleak landscape. And Rachel and Jonah, a resourceful doctor and a paramedic who fend off despair with their determination to keep a young mother and three infants in their care alive.
In a world of survivors where every stranger encountered could be either a savage or a savior, none of them knows exactly where they are heading, or why. But a purpose awaits them that will shape their lives and the lives of all those who remain.
The end has come. The beginning comes next.
Why we recommend it: If you can’t take one more Christmas carol and the thought of going shopping makes you want to scream, Nora Roberts will save you. Swap your holiday chaos for the chaos of a fictional plague that starts on New Year’s Eve and marks the end of the world as we know it. Year One — a thrilling post-apocalyptic novel — is something new from the talented and prolific Roberts.
If Christmas Is Your Favorite Holiday
Moonlight Over Manhattan by Sarah Morgan
Determined to conquer a lifetime of shyness, Harriet Knight challenges herself to do one thing a day in December that scares her, including celebrating Christmas without her family. But when dog walker Harriet meets her newest client, exuberant spaniel Madi, she adds an extra challenge to her list—dealing with Madi’s temporary dog sitter, gruff doctor Ethan Black, and their very unexpected chemistry.
Ethan thought he was used to chaos, until he met Madi—how can one tiny dog cause such mayhem? To Ethan, the solution is simple—he will pay Harriet to share his New York apartment and provide twenty-four-hour care. But there’s nothing simple about how Harriet makes him feel.
Ethan’s kisses make Harriet shine brighter than the stars over moonlit Manhattan. But when his dog-sitting duties are over and Harriet returns to her own home, will she dare to take the biggest challenge of all—letting Ethan know he has her heart for life, not just for Christmas?
Why we recommend it: If you love a Christmas love story and think New York City is the most romantic holiday setting, you’ll love Sarah Morgan’s new novel that Booklist calls, “A little sweet and a lot sexy.” Moonlight Over Manhattan is a charming tale that will brighten your holiday with romance and laughter.
If You Can’t Wait for Warm Weather
In the Midst of Winter by Isabel Allende
Worldwide bestselling “dazzling storyteller” (Associated Press) Isabel Allende returns with a sweeping novel about three very different people who are brought together in a mesmerizing story that journeys from present-day Brooklyn to Guatemala in the recent past to 1970s Chile and Brazil.
In the Midst of Winter begins with a minor traffic accident — which becomes the catalyst for an unexpected and moving love story between two people who thought they were deep into the winter of their lives. Richard Bowmaster — a 60-year-old human rights scholar–hits the car of Evelyn Ortega–a young, undocumented immigrant from Guatemala–in the middle of a snowstorm in Brooklyn. What at first seems just a small inconvenience takes an unforeseen and far more serious turn when Evelyn turns up at the professor’s house seeking help. At a loss, the professor asks his tenant Lucia Maraz — a 62-year-old lecturer from Chile–for her advice. These three very different people are brought together in a mesmerizing story that moves from present-day Brooklyn to Guatemala in the recent past to 1970s Chile and Brazil, sparking the beginning of a long overdue love story between Richard and Lucia.
Exploring the timely issues of human rights and the plight of immigrants and refugees, the book recalls Allende’s landmark novel The House of the Spirits in the way it embraces the cause of “humanity, and it does so with passion, humor, and wisdom that transcend politics” (Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post). In the Midst of Winter will stay with you long after you turn the final page.
Why we recommend it: If winter leaves you cold and cranky, let Isabel Allende sweep you away in this historical novel. Guatemala, Chile, and Brazil are stops along this memorable journey as the lives of very different people intersect. In the Midst of Winter is a warmhearted, captivating novel.
If Staycations Give You Cabin Fever
Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak
It’s Christmas, and for the first time in years the entire Birch family will be under one roof. Even Emma and Andrew’s elder daughter — who is usually off saving the world — will be joining them at Weyfield Hall, their aging country estate. But Olivia, a doctor, is only coming home because she has to. Having just returned from treating an epidemic abroad, she’s been told she must stay in quarantine for a week… and so too should her family.
For the next seven days, the Birches are locked down, cut off from the rest of humanity — and even decent Wi-Fi — and forced into each other’s orbits. Younger, unabashedly frivolous daughter Phoebe is fixated on her upcoming wedding, while Olivia deals with the culture shock of being immersed in first-world problems.
As Andrew sequesters himself in his study writing scathing restaurant reviews and remembering his glory days as a war correspondent, Emma hides a secret that will turn the whole family upside down.
In close proximity, not much can stay hidden for long, and as revelations and long-held tensions come to light, nothing is more shocking than the unexpected guest who’s about to arrive…
Why we recommend it: If the thought of being cooped up with your family for a week leaves you feeling a little claustrophobic, you’ll identify with the plight of the Birch family in Seven Days of Us. Francesca Hornak delivers a clever story of a family quarantined over Christmas and forced to deal with each other’s quirks and secrets. It’s a novel full of wit and heart, and is sure to make your break seem pretty blissful by comparison.
If You Love a Winter Wonderland
Merry and Bright by Debbie Macomber
Merry Knight is pretty busy these days. She’s taking care of her family, baking cookies, decorating for the holidays, and hoping to stay out of the crosshairs of her stressed and by-the-book boss at the consulting firm where she temps. Her own social life is the last thing she has in mind, much less a man. Without her knowledge, Merry’s well-meaning mom and brother create an online dating profile for her—minus her photo—and the matches start rolling in. Initially, Merry is incredulous, but she reluctantly decides to give it a whirl.
Soon Merry finds herself chatting with a charming stranger, a man with similar interests and an unmistakably kind soul. Their online exchanges become the brightest part of her day. But meeting face-to-face is altogether different, and her special friend is the last person Merry expects—or desires. Still, sometimes hearts can see what our eyes cannot. In this satisfying seasonal tale, unanticipated love is only a click away.
Why we recommend it: When we think of Christmas, we think of Debbie Macomber’s heartwarming stories of family, friendship, and love. If you’re looking for a charming holiday love story, Merry and Bright will warm your heart.
If You Wish You Were Traveling
Christmas at Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan
In the Cornish coastal village of Mount Polbearne, the Christmas season has arrived. It’s a joyous time for family, friends, and feasting, as decorations sparkle along the town’s winding streets and shop windows glow with festive displays. And in Polly’s Little Beach Street Bakery, the aroma of gingerbread cookies and other treats tempts people in from the cold.
Though Polly is busy keeping up with the demands of the season, she still makes time for her beekeeper boyfriend, Huckle. She’s especially happy to be celebrating the holiday this year with him, and can’t wait to cuddle up in front of the fireplace with a cup of eggnog on Christmas Eve.
But holiday bliss soon gives way to panic when a storm cuts the village off from the mainland. Now it will take all of the villagers to work together in order to ensure everyone has a happy holiday.
Full of heart and humor, Jenny Colgan’s latest novel is an instant Christmastime classic.
Why we recommend it: A Cornish coastal village at Christmas? Yes, please! Jenny Colgan has written an utterly charming Christmas tale sure to delight fans and readers new to her work. You may not be traveling this holiday season, but you’ll be swept away by Christmas at Little Beach Street Bakery.
If You’ll Be Spending Time With Friends
The Story of Arthur Truluv by Elizabeth Berg
For the past six months, Arthur Moses’s days have looked the same: He tends to his rose garden and to Gordon, his cat, then rides the bus to the cemetery to visit his beloved late wife for lunch. The last thing Arthur would imagine is for one unlikely encounter to utterly transform his life.
Eighteen-year-old Maddy Harris is an introspective girl who visits the cemetery to escape the other kids at school. One afternoon she joins Arthur—a gesture that begins a surprising friendship between two lonely souls. Moved by Arthur’s kindness and devotion, Maddy gives him the nickname “Truluv.” As Arthur’s neighbor Lucille moves into their orbit, the unlikely trio band together and, through heartache and hardships, help one another rediscover their own potential to start anew.
Wonderfully written and full of profound observations about life, The Story of Arthur Truluv is a beautiful and moving novel of compassion in the face of loss, of the small acts that turn friends into family, and of the possibilities to achieve happiness at any age.
Why we recommend it: Elizabeth Berg’s feel-good novel is about the life-changing effects of true friendship. If you have friends who are like family and enrich your life with their presence, The Story of Arthur Truluv will delight you.
If Your Reading Time Will Be Limited
Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks
A collection of 17 wonderful short stories showing that two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks is as talented a writer as he is an actor.
A gentle Eastern European immigrant arrives in New York City after his family and his life have been torn apart by his country’s civil war. A man who loves to bowl rolls a perfect game — and then another and then another and then many more in a row until he winds up ESPN’s newest celebrity, and he must decide if the combination of perfection and celebrity has ruined the thing he loves. An eccentric billionaire and his faithful executive assistant venture into America looking for acquisitions and discover a down and out motel, romance, and a bit of real life. These are just some of the tales Tom Hanks tells in this first collection of his short stories. They are surprising, intelligent, heartwarming, and, for the millions and millions of Tom Hanks fans, an absolute must-have!
Why we recommend it: When you don’t have much time but you still want something to read, short stories are satisfyingly perfect. Proving that he is as talented a writer as he is an actor, Tom Hanks’s Uncommon Type is filled with delicious bite-sized stories of literary brilliance for those quiet hours before bed.
If You’ll Be Traveling
Best Day Ever by Kaira Rouda
“I glance at my wife as she climbs into the passenger seat, and I am bursting with confidence. Today will be everything I’ve promised her… and more…”
Paul Strom has the perfect life: a glittering career as an advertising executive, a beautiful wife, two healthy boys and a big house in a wealthy suburb. And he’s the perfect husband: breadwinner, protector, provider. That’s why he’s planned a romantic weekend for his wife, Mia, at their lake house, just the two of them. And he’s promised today will be the best day ever.
But as Paul and Mia drive out of the city and toward the countryside, a spike of tension begins to wedge itself between them and doubts start to arise. How much do they trust each other? And how perfect is their marriage, or any marriage, really?
Forcing us to ask ourselves just how well we know those who are closest to us, Best Day Ever crackles with dark energy, spinning ever tighter toward its shocking conclusion.
Why we recommend it: If you’re looking for something to pass the time during the hours you’re traveling this holiday season, try this taut, chilling psychological thriller. Kaira Rouda’s Best Day Ever starts with a couple on a road trip and ends with a stunning shocker. It’s the perfect immersive read to make you forget the crowds and hassle of holiday travel.
If You Want to Read to Your Kids
The Book of Dust by Philip Pullman
Malcolm Polstead is the kind of boy who notices everything but is not much noticed himself. And so perhaps it was inevitable that he would become a spy…
Malcolm’s parents run an inn called the Trout, on the banks of the river Thames, and all of Oxford passes through its doors. Malcolm and his daemon, Asta, routinely overhear news and gossip, and the occasional scandal, but during a winter of unceasing rain, Malcolm catches wind of something new: intrigue.
He finds a secret message inquiring about a dangerous substance called Dust — and the spy it was intended for finds him.
When she asks Malcolm to keep his eyes open, he sees suspicious characters everywhere: the explorer Lord Asriel, clearly on the run; enforcement agents from the Magisterium; a gyptian named Coram with warnings just for Malcolm; and a beautiful woman with an evil monkey for a daemon. All are asking about the same thing: a girl — just a baby — named Lyra.
Lyra is the kind of person who draws people in like magnets. And Malcolm will brave any danger, and make shocking sacrifices, to bring her safely through the storm.
Why we recommend it: Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy captured the imagination of a generation. Seventeen years later, he’s returned with a wildly imaginative book that serves as a companion to his earlier trilogy. If you plan to read to your children this holiday — and want to choose a book that enchants you, too — The Book of Dust is a brilliant choice.
If You Want to Get a Head Start On Your Resolutions
Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown
“True belonging doesn’t require us to change who we are. It requires us to be who we are.” Social scientist Brené Brown, PhD, LMSW, has sparked a global conversation about the experiences that bring meaning to our lives — experiences of courage, vulnerability, love, belonging, shame, and empathy. In Braving the Wilderness, Brown redefines what it means to truly belong in an age of increased polarization. With her trademark mix of research, storytelling, and honesty, Brown will again change the cultural conversation while mapping a clear path to true belonging.
Brown argues that we’re experiencing a spiritual crisis of disconnection, and introduces four practices of true belonging that challenge everything we believe about ourselves and each other. She writes, “True belonging requires us to believe in and belong to ourselves so fully that we can find sacredness both in being a part of something and in standing alone when necessary. But in a culture that’s rife with perfectionism and pleasing, and with the erosion of civility, it’s easy to stay quiet, hide in our ideological bunkers, or fit in rather than show up as our true selves and brave the wilderness of uncertainty and criticism. But true belonging is not something we negotiate or accomplish with others; it’s a daily practice that demands integrity and authenticity. It’s a personal commitment that we carry in our hearts.” Brown offers us the clarity and courage we need to find our way back to ourselves and to each other. And that path cuts right through the wilderness. Brown writes, “The wilderness is an untamed, unpredictable place of solitude and searching. It is a place as dangerous as it is breathtaking, a place as sought after as it is feared. But it turns out to be the place of true belonging, and it’s the bravest and most sacred place you will ever stand.”
Why we recommend it: Brené Brown inspires us to be brave and commit fully to whatever we do. In Braving the Wilderness she shows us how to find our place in the world and use our voices to connect and belong while still being authentically ourselves. It’s a great message to read as you head into the new year.
What are you reading over the holiday break? Share in the comments!