Cozy Up with The Student’s Winter Reads

This December, editors recommend suspense-filled whodunnits, surrealist fiction, book-to-movie adaptations, and more. Dive into our winter reading list over the break!

Cozy Up with The Student’s Winter Reads
Ottessa Moshfegh’s “Eileen” was recently adapted into a feature film. Managing Arts & Living Editor Sophie Durbin ’25 recommends it alongside other editors’ picks. Photo courtesy of Penguin Random House. 


Recently adapted for the big screen by William Oldroyd, Ottessa Moshfegh’s 2015 debut novel, “Eileen,” is the perfect addition to your holiday reading list — darkly funny, bleak, and brimming with Christmas moodiness. “Eileen” tells the story of a disturbed young woman in 1960s New England who splits her time between working as a secretary at a boy’s prison and caring for her alcoholic father. Her world is upended when the prison hires a glamorous new psychologist, Rebecca, who draws Eileen into her orbit with consequences she can’t possibly imagine. While the movie adaptation is delightful in its own right, it’s more Patricia Highsmith than Ottessa Moshfegh, closer to the noir eroticism of “Carol” than the bluntness I expect from the author of “Lapvona” and “My Year of Rest and Relaxation.” Before you hit the theaters, make sure to pick up a copy of “Eileen” and immerse yourself in Moshfegh’s twisted humor.

— Sophie Durbin ’25, Managing Arts & Living Editor

“A Wild Sheep Chase”

I read Haruki Murakami’s “A Wild Sheep Chase” this past summer, but it really is the perfect winter read. Set in the snowy mountains of the remote Japanese countryside, this part magically real, part mystery, part postmodern adventure tells the story of a young, bored, man and his girlfriend who are sent on a mission to find a very particular sheep. You will encounter a Tokyo advertising firm, some bizarre tattoos, and the bottom of a bottle of whiskey. There is no telling what will happen on the next page. Like much of Murakami’s other work, you might find the rules of his universe to make very little sense and have you questioning parts of your own existence. What better time to lean into obscurity and stray from common sense than the deep depths of J-term.

— Sarah Weiner ’24, Managing Arts & Living Editor

“Franny and Zooey”

Some people meditate, some go for a run, others cry. But when I’m stressed I buy books that I don’t have the time to read. A couple weeks ago, with an essay deadline hours off, I found myself filtering through the used section of Amherst Books. I came across a copy of “Franny and Zooey” by J.D. Salinger. The book is two interlinked short stories about a college student who’s going through a sort of spiritual crisis and her older brother who’s already gone through a sort of spiritual crisis. When I first read it two summers ago, I myself was going through a sort of spiritual crisis, and it helped. Although I could go on at length about its razor-sharp dialogue or philosophical underpinnings, I don’t think I’d be able to do it justice. What I’ll say is that the tattered copy I found in Amherst Books cost $4.50, so I bought it with no intention of reading it again anytime soon. You can have it if you’d like.

— Liam Archacki ’24, Editor-in-Chief

“The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes”

The highly anticipated Hunger Games movie “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” recently hit theaters. The movie is adapted from Suzanne Collins’s novel written in 2020 and is the perfect winter break read. A prequel to the original “Hunger Games” series, the novel follows Coriolanus Snow and his path to becoming the tyrannical leader of Panem. This novel is a perfect read for any “Hunger Games” fan as it includes multiple references to the original novels. Even if you’ve already watched the movie adaptation, the novel provides insight into Coriolanus Snow’s thoughts and includes details that were left out of the movie. While it may be tempting to rewatch Tom Blythe play Snow in the movie, try giving the book a chance.

— Abby Kim ’27, Assistant Arts & Living Editor

“The Hunting Party”

A New Year's Eve celebration. A group of friends from Oxford. An isolated cabin in the Scottish Highlands. A murder. Lucy Foley’s novel “The Hunting Party” is the perfect winter whodunnit that will keep you guessing until the very last page. The story follows a gang of college buds who reunite to celebrate New Year’s in an idyllic estate. While the trip is intended to be a fun, boisterous weekend of reminiscing, secrets and resentments quickly bubble to the surface. Two days later, one of the friends dies. You will love unraveling the twists and turns of this captivating mystery, best enjoyed in front of a crackling fire with a steaming cup of hot cocoa.

— Lauren Seigel ’27, Assistant Arts & Living Editor

“All the Pretty Horses”

I recently read Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road” for an English class, which was really well-written but also depressing and bleak. Another McCarthy novel, which is only slightly less depressing and bleak, is “All the Pretty Horses.” Straddling the Texas-Mexico border, the story follows a teenage ranchhand in the mid-twentieth century trying to find his place in a changing landscape. The book plays out like a masterful Western epic, with high-adrenaline chases, horse thievery, and a star-crossed love story. If you’re the kind of person who loves to read about survival, cross-country road trips (horse trips?), or just really like thoughtful descriptions of desert landscapes, McCarthy’s cowboy chronicle should be next on your list.

— Nina Aagaard ’26, Managing Graphics Editor

“Now is Not The Time to Panic”

Kevin Wilson’s latest novel, “Now is Not The Time to Panic,” comes after a decade and a half of books leading to his eventual mainstream success. As a fan since 2018, I’ve loved seeing his surrealist prose evolve into the nostalgic and pragmatic tone of this novel. It’s a summer read about a dull town in Tennessee that two teens decide to shake up by plastering their enigmatic signs everywhere, all reading “The edge is a shantytown filled with gold seekers. We are fugitives, and the law is skinny with hunger for us.” Though it means little, it sends the town into an uproar, the effects of which haunt its protagonists years later. Its summer setting, filtered through a regretful memory, is the perfect winter read.

— Madeline Lawson ’25, Managing Arts & Living Editor

“The Book Eaters”

“The Book Eaters” by Sunyi Dean is a dark, thrilling tale about people like humans in all ways except one: They eat books for sustenance. The aristocratic society of the book-eaters is maintained by a fragile balance of arranged marriages and patriarchal households which the protagonist, Devon, has left — with her young son in tow. Her son, however, is no book-eater — he instead eats minds. Although “The Book Eaters” is not for the faint of heart due to its unabashed bloodiness, I thoroughly enjoyed this exciting urban fantasy novel.

— Willow Delp ’26, Assistant Opinion Editor

“I Am Homeless if This Is Not My Home”

If there is any genre I am obsessed with, it is probably the road trip — especially the road trip novel. A road’s “and then, and then, and then, … ” always makes for a really weird reading experience — and Lorrie Moore’s new novel is definitely weird. It took me kind of a while to get into, and I really don’t know how to describe it (a love affair with a dead person, but extremely literal?), but I will say that reading the novel was a lovely break from what seemed like 30 books in a row with prose absolutely obsessed with itself (which really just means I had read a bunch of books in a row written by men). But, even though it wasn’t quite as vain, Moore’s prose is still weird, and captivating enough to stop me from putting the book down. I finished, after two sittings, with the kind of wobbly-legged, sore-eyed exhaustion usually associated with a too-long drive.

— Dustin Copeland ’25, Senior Managing Editor

“Crying in H Mart”

For many of us, winter is associated with family, for better or for worse. “Crying in H Mart” is a winter read for those of us with complicated relationships with our families, those of us who both yearn for and dread going back over break. This memoir by Michelle Zauner (you may also know her as the lead singer of music group Japanese Breakfast) is a set of essays reflecting on her complicated relationship with her Korean mother through and after her mother’s pancreatic cancer diagnosis and death, and her journey of grieving, healing, and moving on (The title references the first line: “Ever since my mother died, I cry in H Mart”). I read this book last winter and spent most of it in tears, often at the undeniable similarities I saw in my own familial relationships and worldview. This is a book that makes you reflect on the complicated things we often don’t want to think about — on family, grief, loss, rebuilding, culture, identity, and hope — in all the best ways.

— Tapti Sen ’25, Managing Opinion Editor

“Demon Copperhead”

As a long-time Barbara Kingsolver fan, Pulitzer-Prize winning “Demon Copperhead” was at the top of my reading list this year. But purchasing the thick hardcover seemed daunting, so when Managing Graphics Editor Nina Aagaard ’26 lent me her copy, I couldn’t wait to begin. “Demon Copperhead,” a modern-day adaptation of David Copperfield set in Appalachia, is a saga emphasizing the unresolved effects of institutional poverty. Demon’s resiliency prevails even as family and friends die around him, ravaged by addiction and loneliness. The simplicity of the end is beautiful as Demon leaves the place he grew up in and finds love. The novel’s bleakness and length mirrors East Coast winters, so in my opinion, now is the perfect time to read.

— Julia Gentin ’26, Managing News Editor

“The History of Love”

I devoured “The History of Love” by Nicole Krauss over the course of a few snowy days last winter break. I’ll never forget the gut punch of its ending, which left me happily crying on a rumbling subway. Krauss’ book traces the lives of two very different individuals, who both live in Brooklyn: 14-year-old Alma and 80-year-old Leo. Somehow, miraculously, Krauss inhabits each character’s voice authentically. “The History of Love” is a hard book to describe. It has a very specific plot, involving a book that Leo wrote as a young man in a Jewish town in Poland, the book’s journey, and how it intertwines with the lives of Alma, Leo, and each of their families across the world. But the book manages to transcend the specific plot to also read as a meditation, a history of love itself. Full of twists, connections, and contemplative writing, it reads easily but is not soon forgotten.

— Sonia Chajet Wides ’25, Managing Features Editor

“The Power Broker”

Though I read this book over the summer, “The Power Broker” by Robert Caro is a perfect winter break read. The book details Robert Moses, one of the most influential figures in New York City history, who designed and orchestrated the construction of the highway system, bridges, public housing, and so much more. Caro brilliantly recounts how Moses worked to amass vast amounts of power, often through unethical means. But it is so much more than a biography of Moses: It is a biography of New York City in the 20th century. It has everything you could want in a book: rivalries, backstabbing, court battles, family feuds, affairs, and an odd amount of swimming. “The Power Broker” is long, at over 1300 pages, but it was worth every word. Plus, winter break is long — you have time!

— June Dorsch ’27, Assistant Features Editor

“The Sun Also Rises”

There are three things to note before heading into this novel: It’s an allegory for the Lost Generation, it’s Hemingway’s first book, and the narrator is unable to have sex due to a war injury (please remember that last part; it’s a key plot point that is easy to miss). “The Sun Also Rises” follows a group of American expatriates as they travel from France to Spain during the 1920s, laughing and watching bullfights along the way. Roped within the novel’s simplistic language is a fiery love triangle and an abundance of bruised egos, a short and simple read that has the potential for great analysis — emphasis on simple and brief; don’t expect anything flowery from Hemingway!

— Edwyn Choi ’27, Assistant Opinion Editor