December Books List: What to Read This Holiday!

Photo: Sally Griffiths

From the books we read to the company we keep to the food we eat, the holidays are a season for comfort and joy. This month’s selection of reads invite a cup of hot chocolate and some quality time on the couch. Each book deals with the powerful bonds of family and how we learn to love each other even when we are less than perfect and what happens when we hit decidedly difficulty and hard-to-love moments. Sometimes it’s nice to escape one’s own family into a good book about someone else’s family drama! It can help reframe how we think about our own and remind us how grateful we are for the people who love us.

In Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong, the main character, Ruth, returns home for the holidays after a broken engagement to help care for her father who has been diagnosed with dementia. At lose ends in her own life and questioning her own sense of self, she moves back in. Her father’s dementia results in uncharacteristic behavior but Khong inserts diary entries from his past where he marvels dailies at the developing personality of his growing daughter, her own nonsensical quirks, but how they make her so uniquely, adorably herself.

“Today you scraped seeds off a bagel and planted them out front. I didn’t have the heart to tell you there’s no such thing as a bagel tree. Today I thought: I’m nuts–I’m just nuts–about you.”

The line brought a tear to my thinking how wondrous children are to parents and how deep their love is. It reminded me when I get frustrated with my own father or mother for hat I feel are inexplicable behaviors, to remember, that those are the things that make them who they are. They come from a good and innocent place. Sometimes we’re the hardest on those who are closest to us. It reminds me to be gentle with the people I love the most.

“Nuts” is an apt description of Patricia Lockwood’s memoir Priestdaddy which is premised on an unusual bylaw in which a married man with children can become a Catholic priest, and still maintain his family. Her dad. It sets the tone for her wholly unconventional life story. Her parents are so unusual as individuals and yet familiar as parents. After all, isn’t it the norm to find our parents sometimes embarrassing and hard to fathom?

When she meets her eventual husband, Jason, via the internet, her parents are aghast in the most hilarious parental way.

“‘What they [men] want to do is cyber… they’ll tell you anything if it means they get to cyber.’ I took a moment to wonder what constituted my mother’s understanding of ‘cybering.'”

But she also writes with exquisite, jewel-like elegance and perspective. Ordinary life is more beautiful through her eyes. The night she leaves to go away with Jason, she looks back at her home,

“All of it grew small behind us; I watched it grow small. The stars came out one by one, and the moon: I saw a hinge and a doorknob in the sky.”

I read Ghosted by Rosie Walsh in one easy sitting. Perfect for travel or over a couple glasses of wine before bed. Based on the riveting premise of what a woman imagines when the man with whom she has a whirlwind romance that feels like the real thing–ghosts her. Utterly believable from her perspective, she can’t let it go and turns to social media and Internet sleuthing for answers. (Sound familiar?) What she finds is a plot twist that she never imagined in all of her scenarios. It’s a sweet breeze of a read.