I like to avoid the term reading for pleasure whenever possible because I enjoy reading required course material literature as much as anything else. But in general, when people say reading for pleasure, they mean reading for no other reason than because they would like to, when there’s no grade attached to it and it won’t do anything to directly advance them in any statistic game as commands. towards GPAs will.
Now I have a particular fondness for syllabus readings, and there’s no shortage of great discoveries you can make from engaging with them, such as a fondness for types of literature that will lead you in the direction of what you might enjoy reading. your free time.
But now that we’re getting quite a bit of free time, it occurs to me that it’s been months since I’ve read a good novel, simply because I wanted to read a good novel, and I’m sure I’m not alone.
If this is the case, what better time to compile a list of reading books that are just for fun to cozy up to during winter break?
Books come in all shapes and sizes, and there’s something for everyone: from stimulating, thought-provoking studies of human nature to wild adventures in cities and wardrobes – from happy-ending romances to occult deals of the soul – there’s nothing better to fill the quiet moments of winter than a good book and a hot drink, a window, a fire or one of your own comforts for the holidays.
Without further ado, here are nine books — in no particular order — that I heartily recommend for passing your quiet time on hiatus.
1: Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger
If you’re looking for a book that’s both easy to read and masterfully carries tremendous weight—something that makes you feel and tugs at your heartstrings, but blows past in difficulty and time to read—this is the book.
The votes are divided on the sympathy of Holden Caulfield, the main character. Insufferable, spoiled brat? Sympathetic, troubled, sincere young man? You decide.
This book has the bonus of a Christmas setting – join Holden on his three-day misadventure in New York City on the cusp of the holidays, a tale filled with questions, musings, nicotine, familiar faces, strangers, and a general tumult of boyish youth as he avoids going to go home and face his parents after getting kicked out of school – and then either love him or hate him.
“And I have one of those very loud, stupid laughs. I mean, if I ever sat behind myself in a movie or something, I’d probably lean over and tell myself to please shut up.
— JD Salinger, Catcher in the Rye
2: Mansfield Park, Jane Austen
This is something of the ugly red-haired stepchild of Austen novels, generally the least favorite of Austen aficionados. Personally it is one of my favourites.
Another novel with a main character who split the votes, Fanny Price is not an outspoken, feisty Elizabeth Bennet; she is a quiet, thoughtful young woman with a strong but hidden inner world who is abused by her wealthy relatives, reminiscent of a Cinderella.
This book was the only novel by Austen that her mother did not like, because Jane Austen was in an engagement situation (she got an advantageous marriage proposal and rejected it for lack of love), just like in this novel, and it caused the same kind of excitement in Austen’s family as in Fanny Price’s.
If you’ve read Jane Austen, you know the relative difficulty of her writing style as a reader, but it’s a delightful experience that I highly recommend if you’re looking for a little challenge, medium length, and a typical Jane Austen all’s-well happy end.
“I was silent, but I was not blind.”
—Jane Austen, Mansfield Park
“We all have a better guide within ourselves if we paid attention to it than any other person can be.”
—Jane Austen, Mansfield Park
3: Ella Minnow Pea, Mark Dunn
A remarkably unique epistolary novel, or a novel in letters – a pun in itself, of which the novel is full.
This book follows a curious fictional island town, Nollop, whose government honors a town sign with a phrase: The swift brown fox leaps over the lazy dog. This is a famous pangram or phrase that uses every letter in the alphabet at least once.
The reverence for this phrase and the man who created it is so intense that when a letter falls off the board, the government decides to ban the letter. The letters keep falling off and more letters are gradually banned, and the reader watches as the language of the people of Nollop becomes more and more restricted by their letters to each other as the story progresses.
Let’s say the letters ‘a’ ‘n’ and ‘w’ were just banned in Georgia Southern; I discover that I am verse limited to composing simple sentences. It’s a fascinating, entertaining study of puns, linguistics, and censorship, and it reads quickly and has a good, solid ending.
“There is indeed power in words. Most of the lasting changes brought about in the history of this world have come not from wielding the swift and bloody sword of battle, but from the molding scalpel of ideas, and what are ideas without the words to express them? to bring?
—Mark Dunn, Ella Minnow Pea
4: Three Stripes of Bitters, Jack Simmons
You may recognize this author’s name as one of our philosophy professors on the Armstrong campus.
Three Dashes Bitters is something of a boozy New Orleans twist on the Regency-style leisure class story — follow Timothy Schmidt as he stumbles through a thoroughly disorienting few days back home for Christmas from Boston, struggling with love, relatives, messy cars, friendship, existentialism and hangovers.
The book contains recipes for cocktails that I recommend you try (if you are of legal age, of course), such as milk punch, which is a type of bourbon latte for lack of a more appropriate description, which I have tried and thoroughly enjoyed . (Hint: If you don’t want the milk to curdle in the alcohol, try non-dairy milk. I used oats.)
“This is the secret of desperation – that it confronts absurdity and tries to bargain with it. German and French philosophers had written countless chapters trying to explain the dark nature of despair, but if they had been sports enthusiasts they might have gotten to the point more easily.”
—Jack Simmons, Three Dashes of Bitters
5: Middle March, George Eliot
George Eliot, a pseudonym for Mary Ann Evans, is a big name in the Victorian era of literature. Her Middlemarch is certainly not an easy read, nearly a thousand pages long.
I read it in about a week and a half in the spring, and while it can certainly be a taxing experience, it’s totally worth it. Middlemarch is the intricately intertwined story of the lives of a considerably large group of people in the titular city, after scandals, marriages, deaths, money problems, disapproved loves, and in short, all the things that come together and make up life. There’s a plethora of moving parts to keep track of, and each character has a rich, stunning life and personality of their own. people do, and to witness the great feat Eliot accomplishes in keeping everything together as if it were a real city, simply captured in all its intricacies.
“..for the growing good of the world depends in part on unhistorical deeds; and that things are not so bad with you and me as they might have been, is half due to the number who faithfully lived hidden lives and rested in unvisited graves.
—George Eliot, Middle March
6: Chronicles of Narnia, CS Lewis
I loved these books when I was a kid – I had an old paperback copy of the entire series and I read it over and over until it completely fell apart.
I can’t recommend anything other than The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe to start with, but I do remember loving Voyage of the Dawn Treader. There’s an allegory of the coming of Christ in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and coupled with its whimsical wintry setting, it’s the perfect book to curl up by a fire and venture into a land of hidden childhood adventure just up the road. time for Christmas.
“They were, of course, pretty tired now; but not what I would call bitterly tired – just slowly and feeling very dreamy and tired like you do when you come to the end of a long day out in the open.
—CS Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
7: The photo of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde
The Picture of Dorian Gray starts strong with its infamous preface that acts as a manifesto of aesthetics, the idea that art should exist for art’s sake.
In this, the only novel ever written by Irish/English playwright Oscar Wilde, an impossibly beautiful young man at the height of his youth and beauty becomes aware of his beauty and youth upon seeing a portrait of himself and becomes so terrified to lose its prime that his will forges an appeal of his soul to keep it. What follows is a philosophical, somewhat amoral masterpiece, a study of indulgence and sin.
“We can forgive a man for making something useful as long as he does not admire it. The only excuse for making something useless is to admire it intensely. All art is utterly useless.”
–Oscar Wilde, the foreword to The Picture of Dorian Gray
8: And Then There Were None, Agatha Christie
If you like horror movies and murder mysteries, you’ll love And Then There Were None. A truly disorienting and disturbing classic Agatha Christie murder mystery.
My copy of this book begins with a note by the author from her autobiography: “I had written this book because it was so hard to do that the idea fascinated me…it was well received and reviewed, but the person who wrote it really happy with it was myself, for I knew better than any critic how difficult it had been.
Ten people come to an island mansion under mysterious and puzzlingly different circumstances, all unclear who their host is. Soon the scene dissolves into chaos after the course of a poem, and the ten guests come to a horrifying realization that the killer must be one of them.
This is a quick read – I finished it in an afternoon – and it’s an elusive, masterfully written sensation.
“When the sea recedes, boats and men come from the mainland. And they will find ten dead bodies and an unsolved problem on Indian Island.
–Agatha Christie, and then there weren’t any
9: A Separate Peace, John Knowles
This book is one of my all-time favorites if not at the top; Heartbreaking, messy and painfully intimate, John Knowles’ stunner follows Gene Forrester and his turbulent relationship with his roommate and best friend, Phineas, during a brief stint of their teenage years at boarding school in New England during World War II.
If you feel like crying, this is it. Best friend, rival, roommate, victim, inseparable part of yourself: this book is a haunting exploration of the intensity of an intimate friendship through the eyes of an unreliable narrator: a suspicious, bitter, angry sixteen-year-old boy, and how he tries to control his mind. to wrap around the reality of Phineas, the radiant, golden, charismatic, gifted optimist who is his closest and most loyal companion in the world.
“It was hard to remember in the heavy and sensual brightness of these mornings; I forgot who I hated and who hated me. I wanted to burst into tears at stabs of hopeless joy, or unbearable promise, or because these mornings were too beautiful for me, because I knew there was too much hatred to be controlled in a world like this.
–John Knowles, A separate peace