Five books to add to your winter break TBR list

By Jessica McKenzie, Culture Editor

Thanksgiving break is one for the books.

Some students spent this past week with their noses in their textbooks (or in front of their laptops) preparing for finals. Others knew there were a million things they had to do for school, but did anything but that. As someone who admittedly identifies with the second group, I’ll say that just because I waited until Sunday to do my homework doesn’t mean I didn’t have a productive break.

If you’re anything like me, you took this time to catch up on your “to be read” list. As students struggle to survive finals over the next two weeks, here’s something to look forward to ─ winter break. Here are five just-for-fun book recommendations that span across genres ─ for when students can finally escape the textbooks.

1.  “Super Host” by Kate Russo

Kate Russo’s debut fiction novel follows struggling London artist Bennett Driscoll as he navigates life after divorce and his declining career. After losing his passion for painting, he turns his home into an Airbnb, where he meets a variety of individuals passing through his home.

Maybe this sounds depressing, but it’s marvelously executed into a heartwarming novel. Every chapter alternates between Bennett’s perspective and the perspective of the passing Airbnb guests. The novel amusingly portrays people’s judgment of strangers, as well as characters’ reactions when life goes in unexpected directions. I originally read it purely because of its detailed portrayal of life in London ─ which is a bonus if you want to get to know a historic foreign city.

2. Anything by Colleen Hoover

Let’s face it 一 no author has conquered the internet like Colleen Hoover since the age of Wattpad. Originally a self-published romance author, Hoover gained a following on TikTok and other social media platforms ─ she has 3.9 million followers across all platforms 一 and has sold 20 million books as of October. Her books hold nine of the 15 slots on “The New York Times” Paperback Trade list. Admittedly, I’ve only read “Verity,” a psychological thriller and romance that unpacks loads of family drama, love and mystery, with so many plot twists that it will make your head spin. I made it my goal to read as many Hoover books as possible during winter break.

3. “Do You Mind If I Cancel? (Things That Still Annoy Me)” by Gary Janetti

The book is a collection of humorous essays about Gary Janetti, a television writer and producer, trying to find his way as a comedian over the years of his adolescence, or as he puts it, “things that still annoy him.” Janetti is one of the writers of “Family Guy” and the executive producer of “Will and Grace.”

In one of the essays, “The Star At the Edge of Dreams,” Janetti details his experience at a summer acting program at Oxford University when he was 19, where he befriended David Schwimmer, who went on to play Ross in “Friends” decades later. When they meet again after Jannetti attends a live screening of “Friends,” Schwimmer doesn’t remember him, and Janetti has an existential crisis: “I’m completely unhinged. Did I even go to Oxford? Was I ever even 19??”

For those who prefer nonfiction with a witty, relatable narrator, this is a quick read with a lot of laugh-out-loud moments.

4. “Here Lies Daniel Tate” by Cristin Terrill

Cristin Terrill’s young adult thriller follows a teenage con artist who escapes an abusive mother and goes on the run. He stumbles upon the famous story of Daniel Tate, a young boy from a glamorous town in California who went missing six years prior. In order to avoid going into a shelter, the main character decides to identify himself as Daniel Tate. 

If you’re looking for a fast, refreshing read, this is the novel. The book is 400 pages long with no chapter breaks, and as dreadful as that might sound, I read this book in two days. I literally could not stop reading, because there was no safe place to stop. While you’re trying to figure out who murdered Daniel Tate, you’re also trying to figure out the main character’s deal. He’s the definition of an unreliable narrator, and repeatedly takes the reader down misleading paths 一 Terrill writes entire scenes, and then the next paragraph will say, “Yeah, but that’s not really what happened.”

Lovers of soapy, whodunit mysteries will think about this book for days after they finish it.

5. “Deep and Dark and Dangerous” by Mary Downing Hahn (or any book you loved as a kid)

This was my favorite book when I was 10 years old. I don’t care what anybody says 一 just because you’re older now doesn’t mean you won’t benefit from reading children’s books. It can bring you down memory lane and give you that childlike, excited feeling about reading again.

Mary Downing Hahn was one of my childhood heroes and she still is, because she writes quick, page-turning mysteries and ghost stories. “Deep and Dark and Dangerous” follows 13-year-old Ali as she spends the summer at a lakehouse in Maine to babysit her cousin, Emma. When she realizes there’s a family secret about something that happened at the lakehouse when her mother and aunt were kids, she also discovers that a ghost is haunting her family.

Even if ghost stories aren’t your thing, you should take some time during break to read a novel that you loved as a kid 一 it can remind you why you started to love reading in the first place.