Thursday, December 7, 2023

Winter Break Reading Recommendations

The end of the semester is almost here! Amid the flurry of final exams and the holiday rush, it might be hard to find time for your perfect winter break book. But a good read can help pass the time on long flights or airport delays, as well as give you a great way to wind down for the night at the end of busy holiday festivities. To help you find something appealing to read before you go, here are seven recommended titles that the Goodson Law Library staff have enjoyed recently.

Book cover of Number Go Up by Zeke Faux
Number Go Up: Inside Crypto's Wild Rise and Staggering Fall, by Zeke Faux (Request a print copy  or put a hold on the e-book!) "In this up-close-and-personal account, Faux reveals the highly entertaining and, frankly, horrifying (for human beings and the environment) worlds behind the current crypto scandals. An investigative reporter for Bloomberg, Faux also manages to make abstruse cryptocurrency concepts digestible here. For my fellow legal news junkies looking for a deep dive beyond the FTX/Binance headlines, this book is a nice complement to the better-known Going Infinite: The Rise and Fall of a New Tycoon by Michael Lewis (also available in print or e-book).” – Laura Scott, Assistant Director for Reference, Clinics, and Outreach and Senior Lecturing Fellow

Blue and white book cover with a photograph in middle of statue of mother hugging child
Gravesend, by Cole Swensen (Request a print copy or read the e-book!) "In this poetry collection, Swensen uses her mastery of the paced prose poem form to explore ghosts, the ghostly, and liminal grief. I adore Swensen's lyrical descriptions, but what made me unable to put this book down is the way in which she uses white space to weave the descriptions together, to allow the descriptions to work through juxtaposition and gesture: precise language but then, too, precise absence." – Emilie Menzel, Collections Management & Strategies Librarian

Book cover featuring title Annihilation in large text with green vines or leaves growing around it
Annihilation, by Jeff Vandermeer (Request a print copy!) "This book is a cannot-put-it-down level of good. It is a dystopian novel about a team that enters Area X on a scientific mission. Area X is an environment threatening both physically and psychologically. The characters and environment shift as you read, and the plot twists and additions seem natural as they continue to enthrall the reader. This book is the first of the Area X trilogy, and it was made into a movie starring Natalie Portman in 2018 (available for streaming at Duke, although the book is better and quite different from the movie adaptation). I especially liked the complexity of the characters within the novel and the authenticity of the interwoven story of the narrator's relationship with her husband that adds to the development of the characters." – Chelsey McKimmy, Research Services Librarian and Lecturing Fellow

Green and yellow book cover labeled The Fraud: A Novel by Zadie Smith
The Fraud, by Zadie Smith (Request a print copy or access the e-book!) "A tale spanning decades of 19th-century British history, it's not hard to see why this sprawling novel appears on almost every best-of-2023 book list. The Fraud follows a fictionalized version of Eliza Touchet, the widowed housekeeper to her cousin William Harrison Ainsworth, a now-obscure novelist who in his day hobnobbed with the likes of Dickens and Thackeray. Mrs. Touchet and the second Mrs. Ainsworth both develop a fascination with the Tichborne Affair, a sensational legal case in which an Australian butcher claimed to be an English nobleman who had been presumed lost at sea a decade prior. Smith pays meticulous attention to detail, using these real-life historical figures and events to create a vivid novel about justice, freedom, and legacies." – Jennifer Behrens, Associate Director for Administration & Scholarship and Senior Lecturing Fellow

Book cover of chalk-style drawings of despairing people on a black background
Song for the Unraveling of the World: Stories, by Brian Evenson (Request an interlibrary loan!) "Currently reading this book of short stories by Brian Evenson. While this book has been on my list to read for some time, it felt particularly relevant considering its title. Evenson masterfully weaves disturbing narratives that delve deep into the darker aspects of human nature. Each story is beautifully crafted, with haunting imagery that lingers long after you've finished." – Julie Wooldridge, Research Services Librarian and Senior Lecturing Fellow

Cover of book Generation Kill depicting US Marine soldier holding a gun
Generation Kill: Devil Dogs, Iceman, Captain America, and the New Face of American War, by Evan Wright (Request an interlibrary loan!) "The author, then a reporter with Rolling Stone, wrote about his time embedded with First Recon Battalion during the invasion of Iraq. I enjoy the fly-on-the-wall perspective that Wright brings to his writing. He does a remarkable job of placing the reader in the near-death situations that the Marines, and occasionally he himself, were often in. He does an equally great job at capturing the boredom, frustration, and nagging sense of aimlessness felt by many of the young men he was embedded with. I was not expecting this book to be as funny as it is, but it makes sense, as humor was often the only weapon that the Marines had to fight against everything they were coping with." – Elisa Pfau, Acquisitions Assistant Senior

Book cover of antique book
Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management, by Isabella Mary Beeton (Request a 2000 print copy or read an e-book of the 1880 edition!) "Initially published as a serial, Beeton started working on this book at the age of 21. In 1861, it was consolidated and published as a complete volume. Shortly after her death in 1865, an expanded version of over 2,000 pages was released, and has been further expanded on since. Because of the time of its publication, many of the 'household' and even some of the 'cookery' (the term used for cooking at that point) suggestions will read as, to be kind, outdated. However, the cultural significance of the book cannot be ignored. The food supervisor on Downton Abbey referred to it as a most important guide, and the later volume of the book was featured on Good Omens held by none other than Jon Hamm playing the angel Gabriel. Isabella Beeton has been described as 'the grandmother of modern domestic goddesses' by some of the most famous women chefs of our time. Personally, I look forward to testing some of the recipes soon." – Wickliffe Shreve, Head of Scholarly Services and Senior Lecturing Fellow

Don’t see your next read on this list? For even more recommendations, check out NPR's 2023 Books We Love and the New York Times' 100 Notable Books of 2023. The library database NoveList Plus includes "Recommended Reads Lists" such as "Best of 2023," "Book Club Best Bets," or options to curate your own recommendations based on keywords and filters. For more help with identifying and locating your perfect winter break read, be sure to Ask a Librarian.