Some call the holidays the “most wonderful time of the year,” but it can also be the most stressful time of the year.
In the midst of your planning, shopping and socializing, take some time for yourself with a good book. According to research, reading is a great stress-buster, sort of a mini-vacation for your brain.
Here are some great titles, perfectly designed to help you recharge.
“The Turn of the Key” by Ruth Ware is the story of Rowan Caine, the new nanny at Heatherbrae House in the Highlands of Scotland. She thinks she’s gotten lucky when she lands the high-paying position in a sumptuous house and meets the attractive and ideal-seeming family, but it doesn’t take long before it becomes clear that something isn’t right.
Consisting of her correspondence with her lawyer from jail after the death of one of the children, the novel details her growing trepidation. Soon after her arrival, she is left alone with children who turn out to be nothing like the angels she was led to believe they were. Constant electronic monitoring and a “smart-house” system that randomly turns lights off and on increase her fear. Based on “The Turn of the Screw” by Henry James, “The Turn of the Key” is a riveting and disturbing mystery.
In “The Tattooist of Auschwitz” by Heather Morris, Lale Sokolov is a charming Slovakian Jew that is popular with the ladies. When he is sent to Auschwitz, he is given the advantageous job of tattooing his fellow prisoners with their numbers, a position that he uses for his own gain. When he tattoos the young beauty Gita, he falls in love.
As their relationship grows, his hope to marry her inspires him to become a man worthy of her. Based on a true story, Morris’ novel portrays the horrifying life in the prison camps and the power of love to survive in the worst of conditions.
“American Spy” by Lauren Wilkinson begins in 1992 with Marie Mitchell fleeing her home with her young sons. When she reaches a place of safety, she begins to chronicle the story of her career as an FBI intelligence officer, so that her sons can read it when they are older. When she began her career in the mid-1980s, her status as a black woman restrained her to desk duties. She jumped at the opportunity when her race makes her the best candidate for the task of infiltrating the inner circle of Thomas Sankara, the president of Burkina Faso, in order to sabotage his position.
A Communist-leaning trail-blazer, Sankara is more complex than he is portrayed by the bureau, and Mitchell spends the next year experiencing upended perceptions of herself and her career, even while accomplishing her mission. A mix of espionage and literary fiction, “American Spy” provides suspense along with an insightful exploration of family and race in the era of the Cold War.
In “Where the Crawdads Sing” by Delia Owens, Kya Clark raises herself from a young age in the marshes of North Carolina after being abandoned by her family. As she grows into a young woman, she encounters two men who befriend her.
When one of them dies in a fall from a fire tower, Kya is the lead suspect. Although the mystery adds suspense, the true star of this 1970s story is the expressive language. Kya becomes intricately attached to the life in the marshes, and the descriptions of her relationship with the natural environment that surrounds her are accomplished. This is a good read-alike for those that enjoy Barbara Kingsolver’s work.
Take a few moments for yourself during this busy holiday season to stock up on a few fun reads at Manhattan Public Library, then put your feet up and escape into another time or place. You deserve it.