12 Books to Give Your Mind a Vacation This Holiday Season

Updated 06/01/19

Winter is the perfect time to curl up with a good read. We've rounded up our favorite titles and organized them by genres for your reading pleasure. We have gripping books inspired by truth, intriguing tales that are mindful classics, thriller style fiction that will help you totally escape, and a few motivational reads to help you start 2016 off right. Scroll through for our reading list.

The Cartel by Don Winslow $13
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If you were a fan of the Netflix original series Narcos or had any interest in Johnny Depp as a seductive cocaine dealer in Blow, then The Cartel is the book for you. The Cartel is the second in a two-part series, but it stands alone as an excellent saga inspired by the war on drugs. Think The Godfather, but substitute the cartel for the mafia.

M Train by Patti Smith $14
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The New York Times calls Patti Smith's latest literary feat, M Train, an "achingly beautiful kaleidoscopic ballad about the losses dealt out by time and chance and circumstance." Smith's sobering reflection on the evolution of life and inevitability of death are a must-read. While her last book, Just Kids, focused on her rock-star life in New York during the 1960s and 1970s, M Train is a capsule of memories, focused more on the confines of Smith's mind than the geographic boundary of Manhattan.

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown $10
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This epic about nine Americans and their quest for gold at the 1936 Berlin's Olympics is 2015's answer to last year's remarkably dark Unbroken. However, The Boys in the Boat focuses more on the remarkable achievement and shared dreams of a crew team told through the lens of their journals and first-person memories of defeating Adolf Hitler's German rowing team. 

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho $10
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Chances are if you haven't read this paper-thin yet profoundly moving novel, it's been on your list for a while. What better time than to consume The Alchemist, a mystical book about wisdom, wonder, and self-discovery, than over your holiday break? Let Coelho lead you to fully understand the importance of following your dreams. 

The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera $11
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Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being is absurdist literature at its best. Indulge in one of the most interesting books in the universe by one of the world's greatest writers. The Unbearable Lightness transcends genre. It is a brilliant composition of a variety of styles woven together in a novel that you can only really appreciate when real life is on pause. 

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez $9
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One Hundred Years of Solitude is a portrait of the people of the mythical village of Macondo. To quote The New York Times, "the book is a history, not of governments or of formal institutions of the sort which keeps public records, but of a people who, like the earliest descendants of Abraham, are best understood in terms of their relationship to a single family." Márquez weaves together relationships, emotions, and the trials and ecstasies of life like no other author we've read. 

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins $14
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The Girl on the Train is a page turner if we've ever read one. Its intensity and multiple points of view are reminiscent of Gone Girl. If you're like us, you might devour this in one sitting, even if that takes you into the wee hours of the morning. Hollywood couldn't get enough of the suspense either—Emily Blunt and Justin Theroux are currently filming the big-screen adaptation. 

The Secret History by Donna Tartt $10
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Donna Tartt, the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Goldfinch, delivers another astounding novel with The Secret History. In this mystical drama, a group of intelligent, eccentric undergraduate students escape the banalities of college life by devoting themselves to their study of the classics. However, as they delve deeper into their own world, the boundaries of morality dissolve, and things take a turn for the dangerous. The book opens with this line: "The snow in the mountains was melting and Bunny had been dead for several weeks before we came to understand the gravity of our situation."

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern $9
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In the middle of the night, a black-and-white circus appears. It's called Le Cirque des Reves, the circus of dreams. Celia and Marco are the heart of the circus—they face off as enemies but, against all odds, fall in love and put the fate of the entire circus at stake. We are obsessed with The Night Circus. Its black-and-white motif, magical love story, and vivid imagery make this tale irresistible. 

Thug Kitchen $15
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Thug Kitchen: The Official Cookbook gives you the tools and knowledge to "eat like you give a f*ck." Gwyneth Paltrow says "this might be my favorite thing ever," and Thug Kitchen's half a million followers would have to agree. Thug Kitchen takes the health info and clean-eating diet that every blog preaches about and puts it into a real-world context. Dig into this cookbook to start your year off right. 

The Greatest Salesman in the World by Og Mandino $8
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The Greatest Salesman in the World will teach you to be better at all things in life. Looking to excel in your career? Want to get everything you want out of life? Read this inspiring classic and you will be better off financially, and, more importantly, you'll find greater happiness. 

The Road to Character by David Brooks $17
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David Brooks used his writing process for The Road to Character as his own road map to building a life worth something. Now we can all learn how to build a life of meaning from this New York Times best seller. First lesson: You can live your life for your résumé or your eulogy. What would you rather be remembered for? Your career or your character? 

What's on the top of your reading list? Share with us in the comments.

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