We could all use a new read over the holiday season. Titles to take our minds off of our everyday. A much-needed escape that we need right now. So, grab your hot cocoa, your champagne, your charcuterie board and cozy up. Here are a few titles that will whisk you away, maybe escape, maybe to help find clarity and comfort, maybe to inspire and may even spark conversation…all good. Perfect gifts and a worthy download on your eReaders too!

If I Knew Then by Jann Arden:

Bestselling author, recording artist and late-blooming TV star–is back with this funny, heartfelt and fierce memoir on becoming a woman of a certain age. The power, gravity and freedom she”s found at fifty-seven are superpowers she believes all of us can unleash.

Digging deep into her strengths, her failures and her losses, Jann Arden brings us an inspiring account of how she has surprised herself, in her fifties, by at last becoming completely her own person. Like many women, it took Jann a long time to realize that trying to be pleasing and likeable and beautiful in the eyes of others was a loser’s game.“Letting it rip, and damning the consequences, is not only liberating, it’s a hell of a lot of fun: “Being the age I am–that so many women are–is just the best time of my life.”  ~ Jann Arden

Jann weaves her own story together with tales of her mother, grandmother, and great grandmother, and the father she came close to hating, to show her younger self–and all of us–that fear and avoidance is no way to live. “What I’m thinking about now aren’t all the ways I can try to hang on to my youth or all the seconds ticking by in some kind of morbid countdown to death,” she writes, “but rather how I keep becoming someone I always hoped I could be. If I’m lucky one day a very old face will look back at me from the mirror, a face I once shied away from. I will love that old woman ferociously, because she has finally figured out how to live a life of purpose–not in spite of but because of all her mistakes and failures.”

How to Pronounce Knife by Souvankham Thammavongsa:

Winner of the 2020 Scotiabank Giller Prize. Named one of Time Magazine‘s Must-Read Books of 2020 and one of the best books of the month by The New York Times, Salon, Vanity Fair, Bustle, The Millions, and Vogue, and featuring stories that have appeared in Harper’s, Granta, The Atlantic, and The Paris Review, this revelatory book of fiction from O. Henry Award winner Souvankham Thammavongsa establishes her as an essential new voice in Canadian and world literature. Told with compassion and wry humour, these stories honour characters struggling to find their bearings far from home, even as they do the necessary “grunt work of the world.”

A young man painting nails at the local salon. A woman plucking feathers at a chicken processing plant. A father who packs furniture to move into homes he’ll never afford. A housewife learning English from daytime soap operas. In her stunning debut book of fiction, O. Henry Award winner Souvankham Thammavongsa focuses on characters struggling to make a living, illuminating their hopes, disappointments, love affairs, acts of defiance, and above all their pursuit of a place to belong. In spare, intimate prose charged with emotional power and a sly wit, she paints an indelible portrait of watchful children, wounded men, and restless women caught between cultures, languages, and values. As one of Thammavongsa’s characters says, “All we wanted was to live.” And in these stories, they do–brightly, ferociously, unforgettably.

A daughter becomes an unwilling accomplice in her mother’s growing infatuation with country singer Randy Travis. A boxer finds an unexpected chance at redemption while working at his sister’s nail salon. An older woman finds her assumptions about the limits of love unravelling when she begins a relationship with her much younger neighbour. A school bus driver must grapple with how much he’s willing to give up in order to belong. And in the Commonwealth Short Story Prize-shortlisted title story, a young girl’s unconditional love for her father transcends language.

 

Untamed by Glennon Doyle:

This is how you find yourself. There is a voice of longing inside each woman. We strive so mightily to be good: good partners, daughters, mothers, employees, and friends. We hope all this striving will make us feel alive. Instead, it leaves us feeling weary, stuck, overwhelmed, and underwhelmed. We look at our lives and wonder: Wasn’t it all supposed to be more beautiful than this? We quickly silence that question, telling ourselves to be grateful, hiding our discontent—even from ourselves.

For many years, Glennon Doyle denied her own discontent. Then, while speaking at a conference, she looked at a woman across the room and fell instantly in love. Three words flooded her mind: There She Is. At first, Glennon assumed these words came to her from on high. But she soon realized they had come to her from within. This was her own voice—the one she had buried beneath decades of numbing addictions, cultural conditioning, and institutional allegiances. This was the voice of the girl she had been before the world told her who to be. Glennon decided to quit abandoning herself and to instead abandon the world’s expectations of her. She quit being good so she could be free. She quit pleasing and started living.

Soulful and uproarious, forceful and tender, Untamed is both an intimate memoir and a galvanizing wake-up call. It is the story of how one woman learned that a responsible mother is not one who slowly dies for her children, but one who shows them how to fully live. It is the story of navigating divorce, forming a new blended family, and discovering that the brokenness or wholeness of a family depends not on its structure but on each member’s ability to bring her full self to the table. And it is the story of how each of us can begin to trust ourselves enough to set boundaries, make peace with our bodies, honor our anger and heartbreak, and unleash our truest, wildest instincts so that we become women who can finally look at ourselves and say: There She Is.

“The braver we are, the luckier we get.” ~ Glennon Doyle

Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey:

From the Academy Award–winning actor, an unconventional memoir filled with raucous stories, outlaw wisdom, and lessons learned the hard way about living with greater satisfaction. It’s also a guide to catching more greenlights—and to realizing that the yellows and reds eventually turn green too.

“I’ve been in this life for fifty years, been trying to work out its riddle for forty-two, and been keeping diaries of clues to that riddle for the last thirty-five. Notes about successes and failures, joys and sorrows, things that made me marvel, and things that made me laugh out loud. How to be fair. How to have less stress. How to have fun. How to hurt people less. How to get hurt less. How to be a good man. How to have meaning in life. How to be more me.” ~ Matthew McConaughey

Didn’t See That Coming by Rachel Hollis:

Fear. Grief. Loss. Betrayal. Rachel Hollis has felt all those things, and she knows you have too. Now, she takes you to the other side.  With her signature humor, heartfelt honesty, and intimate true-life stories, #1 New York Times bestselling author Rachel Hollis shows readers how to seize difficult moments for the learning experiences they are and the value and growth they provide.

“I want you to know that what’s been good will always be good: the smell of coconut sunblock, a five year old showing you the spot where his front tooth used to be, a home-cooked meal, when your love kisses that exact spot on your neck, a grandmother’s handwriting, a job well done, the kindness of strangers, the human spirit, an appaloosa horse, the ritual of your faith, laughing until you pee your pants a little, holiday dessert tables, first birthday parties, a perfect cup of coffee. What’s good will always be good, and one of the most awful, beautiful things about the hard seasons is that unless we experience hardship, we’ll never truly appreciate the goodness.” ~ Rachel Hollis

But, as Rachel writes, it is up to you how you come through your pain—you can learn and grow, having changed for the better, or stay stuck in place, where your identity becomes rooted in what hurt you. With her signature humor, heartfelt honesty and true-life stories, in Didn’t See that Coming Rachel Hollis shares how to embrace the difficult moments in life for the learning experiences they are, and that a life well-lived, is one of purpose and focused on the essentials. Inspirational and aspirational, this small book is about big feelings, and an anchor that shows that darkness can co-exist with the beautiful.

Wisdom From A Humble Jellyfish: And Other Self-Rituals from Nature by Rani Shah: 

We could all learn a thing or two about living in balance from our friends in the plant and animal kingdom. Take, for example, the jellyfish, one of the most energy-efficient animals in the world, moving through the ocean by contracting and relaxing, with frequent breaks in between. Or the avocado tree, which can credit its existence to a mutually beneficial relationship with the pre-historic sloth, followed by some hungry, hungry humans and the advent of agriculture. And then there is the oyster, producing a pearl as the result of an immune response when a grain of sand invades her system. What better example exists of how adversity can produce something beautiful? We need look no farther than nature—from the habits of the porcupine to the sunflower to the wombat to the dragonfly—for small and simple things we can do to slow down, recharge, and living more thoughtfully, lovingly, and harmoniously.

The Meaning of Mariah Carey by Mariah Carey:

The global icon, award-winning singer, songwriter, producer, actress, mother, daughter, sister, storyteller, and artist finally tells the unfiltered story of her life.

“It took me a lifetime to have the courage and the clarity to write my memoir. I want to tell the story of the moments – the ups and downs, the triumphs and traumas, the debacles and the dreams, that contributed to the person I am today. Though there have been countless stories about me throughout my career and very public personal life, it’s been impossible to communicate the complexities and depths of my experience in any single magazine article or a ten-minute television interview. And even then, my words were filtered through someone else’s lens, largely satisfying someone else’s assignment to define me.

This book is composed of my memories, my mishaps, my struggles, my survival and my songs. Unfiltered. I went deep into my childhood and gave the scared little girl inside of me a big voice. I let the abandoned and ambitious adolescent have her say, and the betrayed and triumphant woman I became tell her side.” ~ Mariah Carey

The Gifts of Imperfection 10th Anniversary Edition by Brené Brown:

For over a decade, Brené Brown has found a special place in our hearts as a gifted mapmaker and a fellow traveler. She is both a social scientist and a kitchen-table friend whom you can always count on to tell the truth, make you laugh, and, on occasion, cry with you. And what’s now become a movement all started with The Gifts of Imperfection, which has sold more than two million copies in thirty-five different languages across the globe. What transforms this book from words on a page to effective daily practices are the ten guideposts to wholehearted living. The guideposts not only help us understand the practices that will allow us to change our lives and families, they also walk us through the unattainable and sabotaging expectations that get in the way. In hardcover for the first time, this tenth-anniversary edition of the game-changing #1 New York Times bestseller features a new foreword and brand-new tools to make the work your own.

Eat a Peach: A Memoir by David Chang:

From the chef behind Momofuku and star of Netflix’s Ugly Delicious—an intimate account of the making of a chef, the story of the modern restaurant world that he helped shape, and how he discovered that success can be much harder to understand than failure.

In 2004, Momofuku Noodle Bar opened in a tiny, stark space in Manhattan’s East Village. Its young chef-owner, David Chang, worked the line, serving ramen and pork buns to a mix of fellow restaurant cooks and confused diners whose idea of ramen was instant noodles in Styrofoam cups. It would have been impossible to know it at the time—and certainly Chang would have bet against himself—but he, who had failed at almost every endeavor in his life, was about to become one of the most influential chefs of his generation, driven by the question, “What if the underground could become the mainstream?”

Chang grew up the youngest son of a deeply religious Korean American family in Virginia. Graduating college aimless and depressed, he fled the States for Japan, hoping to find some sense of belonging. While teaching English in a backwater town, he experienced the highs of his first full-blown manic episode, and began to think that the cooking and sharing of food could give him both purpose and agency in his life.

Full of grace, candor, grit, and humor, Eat a Peach chronicles Chang’s switchback path. He lays bare his mistakes and wonders about his extraordinary luck as he recounts the improbable series of events that led him to the top of his profession. He wrestles with his lifelong feelings of otherness and inadequacy, explores the mental illness that almost killed him, and finds hope in the shared value of deliciousness. Along the way, Chang gives us a penetrating look at restaurant life, in which he balances his deep love for the kitchen with unflinching honesty about the industry’s history of brutishness and its uncertain future.