There are so many reasons to escape into a few good books this holiday season — to avoid reality, to relieve boredom during long hours of travel, to avoid speaking to others (both fellow travelers AND family members), to take a tech break. Preferably it’s just for pure enjoyment if you’re lucky enough to be relaxing in a hammock or curled up by the fire. Whatever your reasons are for sinking into a good book, we’ve gathered a solid collection of titles to keep you happily occupied.

My Ex-Life by Stephen McCauley
Fall head over heels in love with this smart, witty, heartbreaking comedy of manners. David and Julie are a middle-aged couple — a gay man and a straight woman — who were briefly married many years ago. When they find themselves going through mutual mid-life crises, they end up turning to each other for help. This charming novel ultimately celebrates family, love and soulmates in whatever form you find them.

The Dakota Winters: A Novel by Tom Barbash

A page-turning family saga about a family living in Manhattan’s fabled Dakota apartment building in the years leading up to John Lennon’s assassination. Anton, the 23-year-old narrator, has returned from the Peace Corps straight into the chaos of life at home with his complicated family and other famous (John and Yoko!) inhabitants of the Dakota.

The Friend: A Novel by Sigrid Nunez
Winner of the 2018 National Book Award (and recipient of countless rave reviews ) this quietly wonderful novel is a mediation on grief, friendship, loss and loneliness. When a woman suddenly loses her best friend and mentor, she not only has to deal with her own grief, but the surprise burden of becoming the caretaker of the dog her friend has left behind. 

Josephine Baker’s Last Dance by Sherry Jones
This fascinating historical novel chronicles legendary singer/dancer Josephine Baker’s rise to fame as a showgirl and the (many) loves and challenges she experienced during her life. Told through the lens of her last performance, we learn that aside from Baker’s incredible talent she was also a courageous WW II resistance hero, a civil rights activist and, ultimately, a true survivor. 

Best Friends Forever: A Novel by Margot Hunt
Best Friends Forever is the kind of binge-worthy page-turner you’ll read in a day. Kat and Alice enjoy an intensely close friendship until Kat’s husband tragically plunges to his death. When murder is suspected, their friendship is immediately put to the test. A fast-paced psychological thriller that begs the questions “How well do you really know your best friend?”

Evening in Paradise: More Stories by Lucia Berlin
Sometimes we can’t commit to a whole book. That’s where short stories come in — especially these gems from a master of the genre. Evening in Paradise is a stunning short story collection from the late writer Lucia Berlin, author of the 2015 literary sensation, A Manual for Cleaning Women. Happily, this compilation of Berlin’s remaining stories is every bit as good as her first!

The Adults: A Novel by Caroline Hulse
A divorced couple take their new romantic partners and their young daughter on vacation so their daughter can have a “normal” family Christmas. What could possibly go wrong? Turns out, a lot! An entertaining debut novel about blended families gone wrong that is a bit like Big Little Lies – with a lot more humor.