Gina Vaynshteyn
November 27, 2014 11:30 am

It’s FINALLY Thanksgiving (aka, the best holiday in the universe) and whether you’re a full-grown adult with a job, or a student still submerged in academia, you probably have a little bit of time off this week to enjoy some pie and family time. And those of you who are working (including me!) will need a little bit of some R&R after the work week is done —what’s a better way to relax than reading a brand new book while sipping on hot chocolate and snacking on Turkey Day leftovers? (Answer: there is no better way.)

This list of novels contain new fall releases, stories about crazy families (they’ll definitely make you thankful for yours), and tales that are so mesmerizing, you’ll never want to stop reading.

1. Ugly Girls by Lindsay Hunter

This gritty story is about two best friends, Perry and Baby Girl, and they’re anything but functional. Perry is mesmerized by her own beauty, obsessed with being tough and desirable, while Baby Girl struggles with her own ugliness, shaves half her head and wears brown lip-liner to look fierce. The two routinely ditch school and steal cars, and when they’re not doing that, they’re texting and messaging Jamey, a supposed high schooler whose intentions are anything but innocuous. Ugly Girls will definitely have you hooked from cover to cover.

2. Dr. Mutter’s Marvels by Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz

Reading up on science and medicine doesn’t seem incredibly exciting, but it TOTALLY is, especially if you’re into this season’s American Horror Story. Listen up: in Aptowicz’s debut novel, she unveils the horrors and wonders of 19th century medicine and introduces Dr. Thomas Dent Mütter, a man who revolutionized the way we treat patients, how we teach medical classes, and the methods of effectively (and safely) performing surgery. If you’ve ever heard of or visited Phildelphia’s Mütter Museum, you’ll also know that he found ways to treat and operate on patients with severe birth defects. Wonderfully eerie and incredibly informative, this biography is a must-read.

3. Democracy by Joan Didion

Democracy is one of Joan Didion’s most underrated books by far. Told from the perspective of a semi-fictionalized version of herself, Didion follows the lives of Inez Victor, her husband and problem children, Jack Lovett, and the way we allow journalism and media to swallow us whole. This super meta novel also looks at family structure and the political events taking place in 1975.

4. Family Furnishings, Selected Stories from 1995-2014 by Alice Munro

Alice Munro, one of the most brilliant short story writers of our time, dives into the human condition and reveals how our ordinary loves are actually quite extraordinary. Stories like “Love of a Good Woman,” “My Mother’s Dream,” and “Hired Girl” are astonishingly ethereal and smartly written.

5. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Sherman Alexie’s quasi-autobiographical book is about Junior, a dorky, resilient, and witty Native American teen who lives on the Spokane Native American Reservation and struggles to fit in anywhere. After throwing his math book at his geometry teacher, Junior is advised to switch high schools so that he’s able to get out of the Rez and pursue his dreams. This YA novel is wonderful and eye-opening to the lives of marginalized groups living in the US, and how hard it is to create your own destiny when so many factors stand in your way.

6. The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen

Franzen’s The Corrections is a dark family comedy that centers on the Lamberts, a dysfunctional midwestern family we can all relate to on some kind of level. Enid Lambert, who is preparing Christmas dinner, expects all her children to come home, but this feat proves more difficult than imagined.

7. California by Edan Lupucki

If you love a good post-apocalyptic novel, then you will adore California. The protagonists Cal and Friday have abandoned their home in LA and now live in the wilderness trying to survive. Things go from bad to worse —Frida discovers she’s pregnant, and fears for her baby’s life. Much like The Walking Dead, Cal and Frida try to find shelter with a community —but as all know, sometimes it’s safer to go at it alone.

8. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

The Goldfinch is about a 13-year-old boy, Theo Decker. He somehow survives an accident that tragically kills his mother, and leaves him orphaned. A wealthy family takes him into their luxurious home on Park Avenue and introduce him to an entirely new life. Uninterested by riches, Theo just misses his mother terribly, and conjures her memory through her art. Beautiful and sorrowful, the Goldfinch is a story about love, fate, and harrowing loss.

9. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

Narrated by Rosemary Cooke, we are introduced to the broken, dysfunctional Cooke family. Rosemary’s brother is wanted by the FBI, her mother is nothing like the woman she used to be, and her witty father has grown hateful and solitary. Entertaining, captivating, and deliciously complex, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves is a book you will not be able to put down until you finish every last word.

10. Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

The amazing Jacqueline Woodson, winner of the National Book Award, writes a story that illustrates what it was like as an African American in the ’60s and ’70s. Gorgeous and powerful, Woodson crafts a book that is incredibly rich with imagery and wisdom. Brown Girl should be mandatory reading across the board.

11. Texts From Jane Eyre: And Other Conversations With Your Favorite Literary Characters by Mallory Ortberg

Mallory Ortberg, who might know from The Toast (she’s the co-creator), or her clever, LOL-worthy Twitter, combines 21st century technology with fictional ladies of bygone eras. Ever wondered what a text from Scarlett O’Hara would be like? Or what the messages from Jane Eyre and Mrs. Rochester would entail? We all know Daisy Buchanan would text while driving, because duh, she’s Daisy. Prepare to laugh forever when you read Texts From Jane Eyre.

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