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Here are some good reads for when you have downtime this coming break

Reading is a dreary reminder of cramming for finals for many students, but these book recommendations might just change your mind. – Photo by Tim Wildsmith /

Somehow October became November and there are only a few weeks left of the semester. As we prepare for the only slice of solace some of us have to look forward to during the treachery that is sure to come — Thanksgiving break before finals — one of the ways to unwind and regroup is through reading. 

For students, reading is a chore, a bore, an assignment that often doesn’t get done, because um why would you read if you’re just going to talk about the readings in class? But reading is a richly beautiful pastime that can be a healthy way to cope with the stresses of school. And who doesn’t want to curl up beside a window as words become animate and watch leaves fall to the Earth? Dark academia vibes forever. 

There’s a quote that goes, “It is what you read when you don't have to that determines what you will be when you can't help it.” The source of the saying depends on the site you access it on, either Oscar Wilde or Charles Francis Potter. No matter who said it, the words ring true. 

Reading is an intimate experience. When every part of our lives is seemingly permeated by forms of media like social media platforms, movies and television, reading can be wholly private and beautiful. 

Here are some book recommendations for when you have downtime during the semester, or if need to stock up for Thanksgiving break:

“Dune” by Frank Herbert 

You’re probably rolling your eyes at this recommendation, but Herbert's “Dune” is not only the $165 million “cinematic odyssey” that’s in theaters right now. It’s a 1965 novel-turned-series that has inspired so much of our culture whether we know it or not — including "Star Wars."

The movie’s quality is debatable, but the book’s genius is indisputable. Herbert’s imagination is a treasure to humanity. The language of the novel is descriptive and moving, the characters feel so real and the technology imagined in the novel is truly amazing.

The entire book is a journey without parallel –– not even to its questionable remakes. 

Your well-meaning relative may try to talk to you about the movie over Thanksgiving break, and it’s always fun being the Hermione Granger-like figure who’s all too ready to say, “Actually in the book it goes like this …” 

“My Heart is a Chainsaw” by Stephen Graham Jones 

Jones is a Blackfeet Native American author that explores genres like horror and science fiction. His book “My Heart Is a Chainsaw” is not just culturally significant for its offering to fiction, but also because it’s an homage to horror movies, or “slashers."

The main character, Jade Daniels, is all angst and anger. As she struggles to move about an Idaho town where she doesn’t fit in and combat the hardships of having an abusive father and absent mother, the only saving grace are horror movies. And she knows a lot about them. Jones does a brilliant job of writing a female angry-girl character without coming from a misogynistic place, and it’s exciting and fun to keep up with Jade. 

“Beautiful World, Where are You” by Sally Rooney

This book is boundlessly generous in its analyses of the precipice human society currently finds itself at. It is a gorgeous interpretation of our times, and a hopeful way to combat the despairs of political instability, climate change, coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and so much more. 

Anyone who has read Rooney won’t shut up about it, which can be irritating for anyone who hasn’t. But it’s for very good reason. Between the amazing sex scenes and continual decision to highlight the importance of human connection, Rooney’s “Beautiful World, Where Are You” is already an instant manifesto for the future. And if you want to read a review with minimal spoilers about this book, click here.

“The Boys Volume One: The Name of the Game” by Garth Ennis and Derrick Robertson 

If you’ve heard of “The Boys” television series, you know that it’s incredibly raunchy and violent. The graphic novel is even worse. It’s not like this book is at all pleasant, but to use an actually-proven Oscar Wilde quote: “The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame.”

“The Boys” provides an interesting and unpopular analysis on superheroes. It leaves you wondering about morality, truth, propaganda and cultural imperialism. As we live in a continually media-frenzy world that is largely dominated by corporations like Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe, it’s really refreshing to get outside perspectives that critique the mainstream. 

If you have a weak stomach or an aversion to genuinely disturbing images, this is not the book for you. But if you want to explore the more disturbing underbelly of our society, then you’ll definitely like this book.

“Peril” by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa 

Woodward is most famous for his legendary reporting about the Watergate Scandal in his epic partnership with Carl Bernstein. Their book, “All the President's Men,” is a glorious dive into how the two The Washington Post reporters uncovered one of the biggest revelations in American history: former President Richard Nixon’s corruption. 

In "Peril," Woodward is at his best, this time with Costa, a reporter. The two of them interviewed hundreds to put together a truly terrifying story of the Trump presidency transitioning to the Biden Administration under extreme circumstances such as the pandemic.

This is the perfect book to read before the annual Thanksgiving dinner debate against your ill-informed family members. Acts rooted in such a lengthy investigation become armor against misinformation.

Add these books to your list to read over Thanksgiving break to thoughtfully reflect during this time, and contribute to the inevitable potentially heated dinner arguments. Happy reading!

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