Ask a Literary Lady: Alone For the Holidays?

Dear Literary Lady,

My family won’t be able to get together for the holidays this year, so I’ll be spending it alone. Any suggestions for books to read when you’re missing your loved ones?

– L.Y., Atlanta, GA

Dear L.Y.,

I grew up far away from my family, so this is a question that I’m all too familiar with. There have been many holiday seasons where I’ve loaded up on books, curled up in my bed, and just hibernated until the holidays were over.

It’s hard to be surrounded by families when you’re not with your own, and the festivities of the holiday season can make you feel especially lonely. You don’t want to go out because the stores are either mobbed or closed. When you do make it out of your house, everything reminds you that you’re very much alone. You could spend the holidays with a friend’s family, but the thought of someone else’s crazy family is exhausting and makes you miss yours more.

So what’s the best thing to do? Stockpile books (and hot chocolate) and wait out the winter holidays.

In my experience, it’s important to get a wide variety of books to combat holiday moodiness. Sometimes you’re going to want a book that reminds you of home. Sometimes you’ll want a feel-good book about the holidays. Sometimes you’ll want to forget that it’s the holidays altogether. Sometimes you’ll want to be cheered up, and other times you’ll be craving a good cry. Make sure you get books for all those moments.

Here are some of my favorite books to read, and reread, whenever I’m alone for the holidays:

1. A Fine Balance, by Rohinton Mistry
This is a story about finding friendship and family far away from home. If you’re ever feeling alone and inconsequential in an uncertain world, this novel will speak to you.

2. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, by Dave Eggers
Read this book whenever you miss your siblings. In fact, read this book whenever your siblings are driving you nuts and you think you don’t miss them at all. You will.

3. The Harry Potter Series, by J.K. Rowling
Look, sometimes you just want to pretend you’re an orphan with magical powers and that’s why you’re spending the holidays alone and it’s absolutely not because your boss wouldn’t give you time off and flights were too expensive…

4. Where’d You Go, Bernadette?, by Maria Semple
Sometimes we’re all just too caught up in our own family drama to see the lighter, funnier side of things. Here’s a novel that will make you embrace all the dysfunctions and quirks of your family.

5. The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, by Barbara Robinson
This list wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t share one throwback book from my childhood. I have a yellowed, dog-eared copy of this book from the 80’s that I will keep forever. If you were ever a kid in a school holiday play (or if you were ever an adult who had to sit through one) this gem will have you rolling on the floor.

What books help you through the holidays?

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