Whether you’re heading home to family, adventuring abroad, or treating yourself to a cozy staycation, these holiday reads will enrich your time off with fresh ideas for the new year. Below, find the best books for travelers to read this December.
Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino
There are always books that enter the cultural zeitgeist that one ends up missing for some reason or another. Luckily, holiday travel is a perfect time to catch up. In nine essays, New Yorker staffer Tolentino goes long on topics including her relationship with ecstasy (both the drug and the frenzied religious state), #MeToo on college campuses, her stint on reality TV in the pre-Twitter era, the legacy of literary heroines, the wedding industrial complex, the act of creating a cult of personality on the internet, and much, much more. Tolentino’s ability to precisely capture the confusing, infuriating, and (sometimes) magical world we live in today with intelligence and humor will leave you buzzing. When you read it, both time and space (and long layovers) evaporate; you’ll emerge brimming with topics to chat about over any holiday occasion.
The Friend by Sigrid Nunez
The holidays are often a time of joy and merriment and togetherness. For some, they can also be tough. Thankfully, Sigrid Nunez’s National Book Award-winning novel offers a bit of comfort in a season that can bring up some difficult feelings. It follows a woman who has lost a close writer friend to suicide. Amidst her mourning, she finds out that her friend has left her a parting gift: his giant, aging Great Dane. Together, the woman and the dog create a new life in the absence of their shared pal. They go on long walks, laze in bed, and comfort each other in their mutual grief; the woman even risks her lease in a rent-controlled, yet pet-unfriendly, apartment building, all for her new roommate. It’s a gentle ode to friendship, loss, grief, and canine companionship that will warm your heart.
What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami
When it comes to resolutions, getting into shape is notoriously popular. If you’re considering adding it to your to-do list—or are just curious for a peek behind the curtain of one of our great literary minds—we recommend picking up Haruki Murakami’s nonfiction love letter to running. In it, he likens his running habit to his writing practice—slow, steady, and consistent. Like writing, running has been a constant companion, one that he can continue to practice just about anywhere his life has taken him. For Murakami, the two obsessions are almost spiritually linked: “To keep on going, you have to keep up the rhythm,” he writes about writing, but could easily be applied to a 5K. “Once you set the pace, the rest will follow.” Written in tender and simple prose, the book emits a soft hum of approachable motivation, one that might inspire you to lace up and hit the trail.
Sea Monsters by Chloe Aridjis
It’s the 80s in Mexico City. A teenager named Luisa runs away on a whim to follow a mysterious boy named Tomás. Together, they board a bus headed towards Oaxaca to find Playa Zipolite, also known as the “Beach of the Dead,” in search of a traveling troupe of Ukrainian dwarves. Meanwhile back at home, Luisa’s father has embarked on a journey of his own: to find his missing daughter. This slim novel is all sorts of fantastical—and it’s a real trip for any reader who’s craving a wild escape from reality. There are plenty of strange gothic characters to go around (and lots of cool 80s rock bands to soundtrack the adventure), encounters with beautiful living creatures, and a grand confrontation with the powerful and deadly Pacific Ocean. It’s a satisfying thrill that will hold you over during a short getaway.
Nothing Fancy by Alison Roman
It’s the holidays and we’re (still) hungry as hell, so we’re recommending a cookbook this month. Nothing Fancy is the latest by Alison Roman, a millennial-aged chef who’s so supremely delightful on social media that even the most anti-cook may be inspired to fire up a dish for their next Friendsigiving or family gathering. Follow @alisoneroman on Instagram (or better yet, watch her NYT Cooking videos) and you’ll see why—she’s stylish, she’s got strong opinions, and she creates bangin’ meals from her small Brooklyn kitchen that will have you thinking, “I, too, have got this.” And that’s exactly the attitude of Nothing Fancy, a book that’s essentially for people with champagne taste on a beer budget. Snacks, sides, mains, and desserts are all represented in this massive cookbook: There are marinated anchovies atop kettle potato chips, chicken that’s cooked entirely in a single pot, cookies described as “chocolatey,” and more. There’s a lot to devour.
Uncanny Valley by Anna Wiener
The tech industry is weird—but like everyone else, we’re here for all of the controversies. In Anna Wiener’s incredibly juicy, gossipy, and laser-focused recounting of her 20s in the Silicon Valley startup world, readers get a firsthand look at all of the nuances of this bizarre industry through observations that are at once hilarious, sharp, and terribly devastating. The young CEOs, the billion-dollar fundings, the wildly toxic work environments—this memoir goes in deep, and it spares no details on the “inside baseball” secrets. If you currently work a job that asks if you’re “down for the cause,” Wiener’s book will surely resonate. And if you’re simply an active participant in startup culture (as a user of apps, websites, or social media), this book is equally illuminating, and a total blast.