Christmas and the whole of the Holiday Season is defined by a break from studies whether you are just a few months into kindergarten or a grad student. But it isn’t a time for pausing the learning process or a time absent of thought. Christmas time is when you want to be cuddled with a good — or even great — book by the fireplace. It is a time for reflection and reading. So grab your hot chocolates and enjoy our favourite books — or poetry anthologies — to read over the Holiday Season.
1. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, 1873-1877 (Consensus Pick)
This 800+ page absolute masterpiece of fiction brings the drama of Russian aristocracy into every every reader’s life with the relatability of love. But this is not a love story, it is quite the opposite; it is humanity manifest in art.
2. Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books by Azar Nafisi, 2003 (Gabriel’s Pick)
An intricately woven feast for every reader. This subtly political memoir tells of avaricious readers and university students walking, and inevitable crossing, the line drawn in the sand by the overzealous censor.
3. The Feast of the Goat by Mario Vargas Llosa, 2000 (Osvaldo’s Pick)
A taut novel that entices the reader into turmoil using historic political figures. Four stories of life before, during, and after the rule of Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo. This novel paints an eerily real picture of dictatorship, oppression, assassination, and revolution.
4. Night Train to Lisbon by Pascal Mercier, 2004 (Madeleine’s Pick)
This is philosophical novel that is not light reading. Questions about life, dictatorship, and religion are unraveled as we travel with an introverted Swiss professor as he investigates the life of an obscure Portuguese writer whose works touched him greatly.
5. My Name Is Red by Orhan Pamuk, 1998 (Toshiro’s Pick)
Nothing says Holiday Season like a surrealist novel, a book within a book, and a miniaturist. This elaborate work of metafiction takes place in the Ottoman Empire but the reach of the storytelling transcends everything else.
6. The Prague Cemetery by Umberto Eco, 2010 (Antonio’s Pick)
A complex and difficult novel using real historic figures except the bitter protagonist. This story connects every 19th century conspiracy theory you might have ever heard into one conglomerate of fear and hatred. After reading this you might want to hug someone.
7. Al-Ghazali’s Philosophical Theology by Frank Griffel, 2010 (Kamran’s Pick)
This book is an extensive examination of the totality of works by one of the greatest minds in Islamic thought. Al-Ghazali’s influence is put in new light and in an accessible lexicon.
8. No Matter The Wreckage by Sarah Kay, 2014 (Rahman’s Pick)
A collection of poems and illustrations that reveal the author’s stunning and tender relationship with words. A must-read for fans of modern poetry.
9. De Niro’s Game by Rawi Hage, 2006 (Ahmed’s Pick)
This novel depicts two inseparable friends in civil war torn Beirut and the two different roads their life choices lead them on. It is a poignant and poetic depiction of friendship, struggle, and the lasting legacy of war.
10. Ingrid Bergman: My Story by Ingrid Bergman & Alan Burgess, 1983 (Anders’ Pick)
A wonderfully elegant and revealing biography of one of cinema’s greatest treasures. She discusses herself in an utterly charming manner. Regardless of everything else her humanity, love, and motherhood come shining through.
11. The Gendarme by Mark T. Mustian, 2011 (Zurab’s Pick)
A gloriously haunting novel that asks can a dying man repent for his sins? Even if that sin is not preventing the Armenian genocide of 1915. And do the good actions of a dying man matter when he can no longer remember them? Even if that action is saving a life.