This past fall quarter, I wasn’t able to pick up a single book to read, what with school, extracurriculars, and social life. I couldn’t even make myself invest in an audiobook.
The cure? I read a ton of books over my winter break (or, rather, starting the day I finished my last final exam), and today I wanted to share what reads they were!
I ended up trekking to the Seattle Public Library with my friend Hannah (who’s also a bookworm 😍 !) and we picked up a ton of books – we looked so ridiculous walking out, our handbags bulging with the many hardcovers. But hey, indulge.
The first book I picked up was The Vacationers by Emma Straub. I read half of this one earlier in September, but didn’t finish it because sorority recruitment started and by then, it was too late. I started from the beginning again and read it straight through.
One sentence summary from Goodreads: “An irresistible, deftly observed novel about the secrets, joys, and jealousies that rise to the surface over the course of an American family’s two-week stay in Mallorca.” The Vacationers has some pretty mixed reviews on Goodreads, and I really didn’t expect to like it as much as I did. Straub’s writing style is witty and funny, and the sass in some of her characters really shined through. I thought she did a fantastic job portraying a dysfunctional family and exploring the nooks and crannies of the different types. I’m a huge fan of The Vacationers.
The thing I love about winter break is that once you finish one book, you’re kind of on a grind and you’re allowed to pick up another book immediately. Keep in mind I was still without internet at this point, so it was the perfect time to binge-read A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara.
Going into this one, I had super high expectations: A Little Life was a National Book Award finalist and based on some book reviewers I follow, they had said this would be their favorite book of the year.
I’m not even going to tell you what it’s about because it’s one of those books to best go in blind. It’ll hit you full-force for sure. I’m not sure how I finished this 700-page book in the course of 6 days, because it is emotional, filled with heavy topics, and will probably leave you a little distraught. It’s most definitely not for the light-hearted – brace yourself. It’s also one of the most depressing but beautiful books I’ve read because Yanagihara somehow – somehow – captured the questions and many nuances of life that I’ve never even wondered about. I love how much A Little Life made me think. I would say it’s my favorite book of the year, but it was just so sad.
Following A Little Life, I returned to another of Emma Straub’s: Modern Lovers. My friend had enjoyed Modern Lovers more than The Vacationers, but personally, I still liked The Vacationers more. Modern Lovers follows two families who used to be linked by a college band, and now live just a few minutes from each other.
Straub’s stories always take a little while to sink and and become addicting, but once the reader gets past a certain point, the story is un-put-down-able. Modern Lovers has Straub’s same wit and humor, as well as the detailed plot points that all tie in together in the end. For me, the characters were a little less nuanced than I liked, which is probably why I enjoyed The Vacationers more.
My last book I read – okay, I finished it after winter break ended, but I read the majority of it during my break – was The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. I love WWII stories, and I had only heard amazing things about it, like how it is comparable to All the Light We Cannot See, one of my favorite (if not my favorite) books of all time. You could say I had high expectations.
The Nightingale primarily follows the plot of two sisters who grow apart during the war in Paris due to lack of family connection in the past, but the struggles of the war bring them together over time. The Nightingale had its moments: the imagery, the heartfelt moments – but it was just okay for me. I didn’t feel all the emotions I wanted to like I did in All the Light We Cannot See, and Hannah’s prose wasn’t breathtaking like everyone said it was. But overall, it’s still a decent story if you’re in need of a WWII historical fiction fix.
That’s all I read over my winter break! I’d say that’s pretty productive, right? Nothing like my history of reading voraciously, but I count it as a victory. I’m not sure when I’ll be picking up a book next – probably over spring break – but for now, I hope you all pick up one of these reads in the meantime!
Have a great week,