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5 Novels to Catch Up on Over Winter Break

By Anna Grace Usery

It’s finals week at the University of Mississippi, which means a month-long break is near for thousands of students and professors.

For the perfect relaxation activity, try picking up one “those books.” You know, the ones you meant to read in high school that you wrote an entire paper about. Or the one your freshman literature professor “suggested” you read for good measure. Or, if you’re not into the literature of the past, try cracking open two of the hottest books to hit the shelves in 2018.

Save watching the final season of “How I Met Your Mother” for the seventh time and pick up one of these timeless and soon-to-be timeless books of literature. 

  1. “In Cold Blood” by Truman Capote

Warning – this is not a happy read. We love Truman Capote for many reasons, but one is for his friendship with childhood friend Harper Lee. (Add “To Kill a Mockingbird” to another one of your reading lists if you haven’t already.) Lee even ventured to Kansas with Capote to help tell this story. The book details the murders of four members of the Clutter family in 1959 who lived in the small community of Holcomb, Kansas. A manhunt ensues. Can the murderers turn inward and reflect on themselves in their time of trouble? This thriller will keep you turning page after page and continually asking, “Why?”

2. “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” by C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis is a Christian writer who based his series “The Chronicles of Narnia” on a rendition of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection. “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” is the first book in the series and was adapted in 2005 as a Disney film. Though there are some critical themes and allegories that snake in and out of the text, the elements of mythical, talking creatures and crossover from wartime to a fantasy world make this book one to explore after a hard semester of being serious all the time.

3. “Catch-22” by Joseph Heller

Joseph Heller spent his part of World War II in the Plexiglas nose of a B-25 bomber. Based on those missions, he typed out one of the funniest, saddest, most satirical and most realistic war novels ever written, “Catch-22.” The book is fiction only because it jams into one airfield all of the air war: the casualties, the crackups, the snafus, the pilots and the colonels, the weekend passes in Rome. Heller was a friend of Mel Brooks, and it shows in his sentences: “Orr was from the wilderness outside New York City.” “And if that wasn’t funny, there were lots of things that weren’t even funnier.” 
4. “Sweet and Low” by Nick White
White is a natural born storyteller who garnered most of his material from the Mississippi Delta. His portrayal of the South is hauntingly southern gothic, and the way he weaves stories that intertwine between characters is almost scientific. “Sweet and Low” peels back the curtain on masculinity and identity in the Deep South, as Publisher’s Weekly put it, and is a sweet taste of home for those who find solace in a little bit of hurt and loneliness. Although his anecdotes aren’t overwhelmingly happy in any sense, you’ll be left with a sense of complacency and appreciation for what made you who you are. 
4. “Sing Unburied Sing” by Jesmyn Ward
“Sing Unburied Sing” is another southern stinger. Jojo, a mixed-race teenage boy, lives with his grandparents, who are his rock. His mother, Leonie, is often unaccounted for due to her nightly antics that usually involve drugs. Desperately seeking a space to become the best man he knows he can be, Jojo tries to embody his grandfather’s work ethic. When his white father, Michael, get released from Parchman prison Leonie hitches Jojo and sister Kayla in the station wagon to retrieve him. What happens along the way is a mix of rural Mississippi truth-telling and familial heartbreak. 

Hottytoddy.com book editor Allen Boyer contributed to this article

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