Frankie Mancini / Gavel Media

A Winter Break Booklist

Given weeks of much-deserved down time, it’s normal to reach an eventual point of boredom. As a cure to combat feelings of winter restlessness, The Gavel advises you snuggle in with a book. Short attention span? On a memoir kick? We’ve got book picks for anyone and everyone.


Educated by Tara Westover

This memoir captures the adolescence and young adulthood of Westover, a young girl growing up in Idaho in a devout Mormon household. Her reflections on this time, while incredibly unique and personal, speak to universal questions that we all must grapple with including ones of identity, family, and the intersections between them. Absolute 10/10.


A Promised Land by Barack Obama

In mid-November, just after its release, a tweet went viral for referencing former President Barack Obama’s memoir. In the tweet’s pull quote, Obama discusses channeling “pseudo-intellectualism” during college in an attempt to gain romantic attention, an anecdote demonstrating the intimate and reflective quality of his first book. Consider spending some time this winter diving into the life story of America’s first Black President…and as if you needed more convincing, it’s worth mentioning that this was named one of the New York Times Book Review’s “Top 10 Best Books of 2020.”


All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, this novel follows the lives of two young-adults during WWII and their respective struggles with identity and family.


Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance 

Vance reflects on his family’s history in Kentucky and his childhood in Ohio through the lens of values taught and impressed upon him. A memoir surrounding addiction and family allegiance, readers learn about the poverty that affects poor communities as well as how to escape economic hardship and abusive households. The book, a New York Times Bestseller, has since been captured in a somewhat controversial 2020 Netflix film starring Amy Adams and Glenn Close.


Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo

This novel captures the lives of twelve different Black women based in the United Kingdom and their unique personal histories. Spanning a range of occupations, ages, and family roles, their stories combine to create a heartfelt and engaging kaleidoscope of female identity crises, relationships, and overall strength.


Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine

Claudia Rankine explores topics including systematic oppression, racial injustice and microaggressions through this book of poems and passages. 


American Dirt, by Jeanine Cummins

This novel tells the story of a young woman on the run with her son, forced to leave their home in Acapulco, Mexico, after her husband releases a story on the head of a drug cartel. Their destination is the United States. After reading this book, the #1 New York Times Bestselling author Ann Patchett declared, “I will never stop thinking about it.”


Normal People by Sally Rooney

This coming of age novel follows the on-again, off-again relationship of Connell and Marianne, two troubled young adults living drastically different lives in Ireland. They are both greatly misunderstood by most people—except each other. When they’re teenagers, Connell hides his relationship with Marianne from his popular friends, and Marianne remains proud, lonely, and private. The two end up at Trinity College in Dublin together, Marianne having found a new sense of confidence and Connell now the shy one. Their lives intertwine once again, both still searching for meaning while attempting to avoid self-destruction. Pairs fantastically with the recent television adaptation on Hulu.


The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday

This daily guide gives readers quotes and lessons from stoic philosophers who offer advice on mindfulness, life management, personal growth, and much more. A short and simple practice for those who need a little perspective right now.


Untamed by Glennon Doyle 

Named one of the best books of the year by Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, and Bloomberg, Untamed is an absolute must-read. Through challenging, thought-provoking, and incredibly honest messages, this memoir inspires readers to reflect, feel empowered, and pursue the lives they truly want to live. 

The following authors contributed to this piece: Lauren Blaser, Molly Caballero, Devyn Casey, Jacqueline Geller, Kaitlin McCarthy