It’s the holidays, and we all know what that means—lots of fun, quality family time that you’ve been craving! Just kidding; it’s the worst. If, like me, you’re also looking to hide from Uncle Joe’s long, boring rants about how he used to walk up hill both ways to school (“IN A BLIZZARD”) or Aunt Margery’s alcohol-fueled desire to know the intimate details of your family planning (“WHEN ARE YOU HAVING KIDS?!”), I have just the thing for you. Books! Glorious books! The rather annoying aspects of family obligations absolutely disappear as I stick my nose into a book. Read on to discover which books are sure to help you escape from family this holiday season. Best of luck, and God speed.
Books That People Claim to Have Read, But Are Afraid to Discuss
These kinds of books are the ones that people like to have claimed to have read to appear intelligent. Books under this category include Crime and Punishment, Dune, Lord of the Rings, War and Peace, Outliers, A Brief History of Time, The Da Vinci Code and Ulysses. These are the tried and true, a mix of non-fiction and fiction, just to give you a variety to choose from. These are the books that help you grow, are highly entertaining or educational and, as an added bonus, they are great to tick off that must-read list.
Pros: Your obnoxious cousin who is always trying to seem better than you will not want to talk about any of these books if they haven’t read them or have lied about having read them and will leave you alone. Also, you could be expanding your mind and exploring a masterpiece of literature that takes time and BOY— do you have time to waste this holiday by not talking to family!
Cons: Your obnoxious cousin who is always trying to seem better than you might have actually picked up one of these thicc books and will proceed to talk at you about how quickly they read it and how slow you are at reading, “right Grandma?”
I’m talking Where the Crawdad’s Sing, Cilka’s Journey, Unsheltered, The Testaments, The Secrets We Kept, The Beekeeper of Aleppo, The Lightest Object in the Universe, The Dutch House and so many more. These are the books you can’t put down, that suck you in and hold on to you and refuse to let go long after you’ve put them down. These are movers and shakers of our modern literary age with authors like Margaret Atwood, Barbara Kingsolver and Ann Patchett.
Pros: Any of these make for an easy topic change if someone brings up politics or religion since they are on everyone’s TBR list. You can even find out if any of these would make a good gift for the holidays. Plus, if you’re in the midst of one of these all-absorbing books, you may completely miss out on the dramatic play-by-play of the inevitable Annual Family Fight.
Cons: Well, they’re listed as bestsellers for a reason. Everyone’s read them, which means at any point your younger sister can drop a spoiler or your uncle’s new wife can give you her opinion about why the TV series is just soooo much better than the books. That’s great, Karen. I don’t care. Let me read in peace.
These are the books you might have had on a reading list long ago, like Lord of the Flies, Fahrenheit 451, Slaughterhouse V, The Scarlet Letter, Of Mice and Men, The Great Gatsby, Little Women, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Grapes of Wrath, 1984, Moby Dick, Frankenstein, The Call of the Wild and hundreds more. Maybe I didn’t list your classic favorite, but why don’t you go ahead and give that one a good re-read, too? These books were on your must-read list in school for a reason, and it’s wonderful to read these as an adult with a different perspective.
Pros: These are all fabulous, unique books that might help you relate to some family members or might provide the perfect distraction for the holidays. The younger nieces and nephews may identify these on their school lists and want to talk to you about them, which is a great way to relate to the youths of today. You know, through The Classics.
Cons: Look, these books haven’t changed much since you last read them. If you hated them then, you might find you still hate them now, and that’s not their fault. Maybe you’ve changed; maybe experience will help you see them through a new lens. But reading The Classics does carry a big WARNING sign to your family that you’re available to talk… after all, you’ve read them once.
Books Literally about Escaping
Maybe you need to read about a daring escape in books like Robinson Crusoe (ok, this one is more of a castaway, but it counts), The Count of Monte Cristo, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Papillon, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, Different Seasons (includes Shawshank Redemption) and The Underground Railroad.
Pros: Reading about daring escapes, whether from being falsely imprisoned, slavery or an exploding planet, might just be the ticket to relaxing and enjoying mandated family time. You’ll be able to think back to all of the protagonists of these novels and contemplate whether hiding in a bodybag to escape your family would be considered melodrama if you weren’t out for revenge after the fact.
Cons: These are all really great books, so they’re definitely going to catch the eye of Grandpa in those moments his eyes aren’t glued on the football game. Which simultaneously is amazing, because who doesn’t want to talk with Grandpa about when he read these books and infuriating because he keeps interrupting the discussion and re-focusing on the game. So, essentially, you’ll have the same 15-second interaction again and again. Oh, maybe re-watch Groundhog Day while you’re there?
Books about REALLY Messed Up Families
There are some books out there that detail the lives of REALLY messed up families, like in East of Eden, The Glass Castle, Normal People, Hamlet, The Vacationers, The Goldfinch, Orphan Train, Running with Scissors, Everything I Never Told You, Where’d You Go, Bernadette, The Virgin Suicides, Little Fires Everywhere and My Absolute Darling.
Pros: Thoughts like “Hey, maybe my dysfunctional family isn’t that bad!” begin circulating, and you actually begin to enjoy the much-dreaded dinners and board games after reading just one of these books.
Cons: If you begin to recognize a family member in these books, well… they say writing is therapeutic. Maybe you should give it a go!
All in all, the holidays are about recognizing what’s important to us. We are limited in our time on this planet, so read the books you want and spend time with the people you love. If I missed another escape route or you need to let me know what Grandma Lettie said about our latest Book Club Selection, please let me know in the comments below!