Escapist Reads for Stressful Holidays

Holidays often involve gathering with your family- either the one you were born into or the one you have chosen. These can be joyful reunions but also hold the potential for stressful conversations at the dinner table and the revisiting of old conflicts. Retreating into worlds of fiction was a socially acceptable form of escapism in my household, and one that remains very soothing when things get stressful. Below are a few of the books I like to pack in my holiday travel bag, featuring a wide variety of family dynamics- from the fun to the dysfunctional, the familiar to the aspirational- that bring me laughter, comfort and a feeling of being understood. 

If you need to diffuse the tension with laughter...

Holidays on Ice

David Sedaris is a hilarious writer and this holiday-themed collection features stories about his time working as a department store elf and the struggles of trying to explain traditions like the Easter Bunny to another culture. Try it on audiobook to enjoy his distinctive voice and perfect delivery. 

If you're a wizard among muggles...

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Would you rather spend the holidays at Hogwarts playing Wizard Chess? Do you wish Mrs. Weasley would knit you one of her famous jumpers? Winter is the perfect time to revisit Harry Potter and enjoy all of the charm and world-building details that make this series a modern classic.

If you're reliving teen angst...

Ghost World

Cartoonist Daniel Clowes captures coming-of-age ennui perfectly in this moody graphic novel. The story follows two best friends who are going through the painful process of growing up and growing apart, set against the bleak background of increasingly homogenous strip malls and suburbs- a landscape that is all too similar to the one where I grew up.

If your destination vacation isn't going swimmingly...

A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again

David Foster Wallace might not be best known as a writer of beach reads but reading this collection of incisive essays made me feel so much less alone onboard a tropical cruise ship. If you are also the kind of person who manages to have a bad time while everyone around you enjoys limbo competitions and margarita-fueled karaoke, this might be the book for you.

If you always wanted to be a Tenenbaum...

Franny and Zooey

The Royal Tenenbaums is one of my favorite movies of all time and it's easy to see how director Wes Anderson may have been influenced by reading the work of J.D. Salinger. The author frequently writes stories about the Glass Family- a clever, quirky bunch of precocious children. Just like any family- they're not perfect, but I would be happy to count Franny and Zooey as siblings. 

Are there families in fiction you wish you were a part of, or a book you read every winter as part of your holiday traditions? Tell us in the comments!