Top 15 Best Short Story Collections

If you want to write good short stories, it is important to read them, too. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Margaret Atwood: Dancing Girls

    Atwood writes about the complexity of human relationships with a rare intensity which mixes humor and violence, laughter and pain. Her characters feel real and relatable, and I have to admit I was hooked from the very first page. Some of the main topics Atwood focuses on in this collection are the failed communication between men and women, and also the tough choices they are sometimes forced to make. The surreal elements in her stories are a distinctive feature of Atwood’s superb storytelling.

  2. Frode Grytten: Song of the Beehive

    Grytten’s collection focuses on the inhabitants of several apartment blocks in a small town in Norway. Each story is about one person who lives there, and every narrator has a very distinct voice. It’s a great portrayal of the micro-universe consisting of different people living together in a small place with limited contact with the rest of the world. What could possibly go wrong?

  3. Raymond Carver: What We Talk About When We Talk About Love

    Every short story writer has been told to go read Carver at one point. I have to admit I was stubborn at first, and refused to give it a shot precisely because of his admirable reputation. Of course, after reading his stories, I realized there is a reason why he is one of the most celebrated short-story writers in American (and world) literature. Carver accomplishes more in the span of one page than some other authors in an entire novel. A must-read for all writers.

  4. Lorrie Moore: The Collected Stories

    Moore writes about the gulf between men and women, about having one’s heart broken and about eternal craving for intimacy. It is both a funny and a deeply moving collection, portraying men-women relationships with an astonishing accuracy. It is a huge collection, truth to be told, but it is also a a page turner, so you will probably read it sooner than you think.

  5. Lydia Davis: The Collected Stories

    Lydia Davis is one of those writers you either love or hate. Her short stories are really unlike any other and belong to their own category. Davis writes about things so ordinary you would never considered them to be a good sorce of inspiration for writers, and them she twists and turns them until something unusual and extraordinary comes out. Strange in the middle of ordinary really sounds like her writing motto.

  6. Alice Munro: Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage

    A Nobel Prize winner, Munro has written an emotionally affecting, bitter-sweet collection, which is my favorite book of hers so far. The themes range from the underestimated effect of small unkindnesses built up over many years to the disappointment that is a result of a poorly-made compromise. Munro’s characters often times seem to be living perfect lives: until you scratch the surface, of course.

  7. Flannery O’Connor: A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories

    Connor’s wonderfully gloomy outlook on life is reflected in her stories, which are often grotesque and comic at the same time. This is a deliciously twisted and dark collection. O’Connor takes bizzare and turns it into a piece of art. She writes about ridiculously wise children and insane adults, about self-fulfilling prophecies, about deaths, secrets, assaults and deformities. This is one of my favorite collections on this list.

  8. Isabel Allende: The Stories of Eva Luna

    While Eva is lying in bed with her lover, she answers his request for a story “you have never told anyone before” in twenty-three short stories which are contained in this collection. Her world is magical and poetic, full of extraordinary imagery of love and sadness. Allende’s stories focus on eternal themes: the suppressed memories of first love, aging and death, greed and revenge. All in all, it is a great read for those who enjoy the South American mystical realism genre.

  9. Ernest Hemingway: The Snows of Kilimanjaro and Other Stories

    This collection contains ten of Hemingway’s most acclaimed short stories. To me, Hemingway’s stories always felt pure, almost sublime in their simplicity and remarkable storytelling. If you get past occasional misogynism (after all, Hemingway was a notorious womanizer and this is obvious in his writing), you will find a rare beaty in his stories, where not one word is a surplus.

  10. Neil Gaiman: Fragile Things

    If you read other Gaiman’s work, you know it is impossible not to be hypnotized by his magical storytelling. This collection is no different. It proves that Gaiman is equally brilliant in his short fiction as he is in his novels. His stories continue to send shivers down the spines of readers of all ages. Fragile Things, a collection of short stories but also poetry, will shock and terrify you, but also make you laugh. This weird and magical collection is an excellent read for the lovers of fantasy genre

  11. Edgar Allan Poe: Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque

    One of the oldest entries on this list has earned its place among contemporary authors by its eternal themes of murder, passion and obsession. I really love the title of this collection, it is probably one of my favorite book titles ever. Some readers may find laughing at foreigners and their customs a bit repulsive, but don’t let that put you off this wonderfully dark classic.

  12. Anton Chekhov: Selected Stories

    Chekhov is one of the several writers on this list whose area of expertise were precisely short stories. And expert he was: the tragedy in his writing, the nihilism that often permeates his stories, the little moments of sad life for these belonging to the lower social class do not overshadow the profound beauty of Chekhov’s writing. His characters feel very real and colorful and amazingly human, and so they make up for author’s eternal pessimism. If you want to write better stories, reading Chekhov and studying his story structure is a way to go.

  13. James Joyce: Dubliners

    Dublin is one of my favorite cities in the whole world. That being said, Joyce’s Dublin is a very different city from the one I know and love. The collection reflects life in Ireland at the turn of the last century and offers glimpses into Irish middle class. Joyce writes about love and routine, violence and longing for escape, religion and epiphany. If you are one of those people who reject Joyce because of his difficult, Modernist novels, such as the Portrait, this collection paints a different picture of him and puts him firmly among greatest short story writers of all time.

  14. Italo Calvino: Invisible Cities

    This dreamy collection written by an acclaimed Italian writer feels more like poetry than prose. It abounds in powerful imagery full of symbolic meaning. One could say that the protagonists of this collections are, in fact, the cities themselves, which are different versions of the same city that doesn’t exist. It is impossible to say what this book is about – every reader comes up with a different interpretation. I would say that this is probably the most difficult read on this list because of the extensive symbolism, but it is definitely worth the effort.

  15. Haruki Murakami: After the Quake

    I have previously written about my love for Murakami, and this mesmerizing collection is no exception. It containes of six stories, all set at the time of the catastrophic 1995 Kobe earthquake in Japan. The surreal themes, which are familiar to those who have read other novels from the same author, are also present in this collection. The earthquake acts as a catalyst for his characters, which then start rethinking their lives. Murakami is not afraid to dig into the psychological consequence of the traumatic crisis, resulting in this wonderful collection.

Do you agree with my list?

Book Review: Frida’s Bed by Slavenka Drakulic

Today I have decided to write a review of Frida’s Bed, a novel written by one of my favorite Croatian authors, Slavenka Drakulic. The literal translation of the original title (Frida ili o boli) is: Frida or ‘on pain’, which emphasizes one of the main themes of Drakulic’s novel: pain and love. And who could be a more suitable protagonist of such a novel than Frida Kahlo, a Mexican painter who, due to her extensive health problems that followed her during her whole life, was very well acquainted with pain. Consequently, Kahlo’s pain was a recurrent theme in her art. One could say that Drakulic’s novel studies the intricate relationship between pain and creativity.

The novel begins at Frida’s childhood and tells the story how she was stricken with polio, and how she had to deal with a lifetime of physical and psychological pain as a consequence. The author manages to write about suffering in such an elaborate, and yet raw prose, that it is transformed into something beautiful and pure, something that enriches one’s life instead of debilitating it. There are some artists whose art is a mere intellectualism, a game, an experiment: on the other hand, Frida’s art is extremely personal and her emotions can be considered to be a driving force behind her painting.

Despite all the suffering she endures, Frida’s story can also be seen as an inspiration for all those who suffer from chronic condition, to encourage them to rise above a life full of pain and to try and participate in life as actively as possible instead. Without her illness, Frida would not have become an artist she eventually came to be. However, Drakulic not only shows us Frida as the famous artist, but she also offers us an intimate portrait of the women behind the artist. The style is simple and pure, but also poetic without being melodramatic, which couldn’t have been easy to achieve considering the chosen subject.

Drakulic’s collage-style composition works very well and creates a mesmerising effect on the reader. The author has clearly done her research on the life and work of Frida Khalo, however, she also offers us her own perception of what it might have been like to be Frida, resulting not only in a historically accurate but also emotionally compelling novel.

The takeaway? Creating art, or writing, can be an excellent way to relieve physical, or emotional pain and to escape from the prison of bodily limitations.

All in all, this book was a delightful read and I highly recommend it.

The Dubious Feminism of Stephenie Meyer

Stephenie Meyer, the queen of vampire romance and self-proclaimed feminist, has published a new book. After her best selling four-book collection and her SF novel The Host (which is my favorite Meyer’s novel, by the way), The Chemist was released in November, and it was advertised as Meyer’s departure from YA fiction and her plunge into the world of thriller/mystery novels.

I gave this book a fair try, I really did. I was eager to see Meyer use her indisputable talent for writing page-turners to create something more mature and substantial, something less of a: I-am-a-clumsy-girl-with-a-twisted-taste-in-men-who-waits-to-be-saved and more of a badass main protagonist. I was excited when I read that Alex, the heroine of the novel, seems to be a complete opposite to Bella Swan, the please-turn-me-into-a-vampire girl in the Twilight series. After having read the novel, I was very much disappointed. And here is why:

Despite having promised us a vastly different heroine this time, deep down, Alex and Bella are not so different at all. Alex is an agent working in a particularly shady branch of government and does not hesitate to use violent methods to reach her goal. She is also in a constant fight-or-flight mindset: she sleeps with her gas mask on to prevent suffocating from various deadly chemicals that are set to release in case someone breaks in. You would think this girl would have other things on her mind instead of finding Mr Right: but no, Alex falls in love at first sight with Daniel, a puppy-eyed school teacher (who is apparently fine with the fact that she just tortured him, because, you know, boobs). Her boss gives her one last job, which includes kidnapping and torturing Daniel. However, she soon realizes that he is one of the good guys and spends a giant portion of the book swooning at the sight of him. Now, this whole: is-he-a-good-or-a-bad-boy premise is strangely familiar to me, as to all those who have read the first Twilight book.

What really bothers me is the fact that a novel who is supposed to be a deadly mission of a female assassin in a world filled with mystery and intrigue turns out to be mostly conversations about dogs and food. Not only the initial premise of the book failed to deliver, but also the actual romantic plot significantly lacked substance (that’s just a nice way of saying it was really boring). Obviously, Meyer didn’t realize that making her heroine geeky and skilled in all sorts of weapons is not enough to make her a feminist character. Because, in the end, her life still ends up revolving around her love interest. My actual thoughts while reading? Alex, your Bella is showing.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I have read and enjoyed Twilight. I was 17 when the book came out, and reading Bella’s thoughts felt like reading my own diary. The reason why Twilight managed to attract such a huge amount of readers is not only Meyer’s ability to write stories that feel as comforting and addictive as eating junk food, but also the non-descriptiveness of the heroine: Bella is relatable insofar as she reflects each and every insecurity of the novel’s target audience: fear of being unlovable, less-then, unworthy of the attention of others. It sure did reflect my fears and insecurities at the time. Not only that, but it made me see my boyfriend as romantic and mysterious instead of violent and abusive as he was.

The truth is, while I have grown up to be a feminist and a person who knows her value and does not allow others to mistreat her, at 17 I wasn’t so self-aware. I found comfort in reading about Bella’s divorced parents (just like mine), about her not fitting in any group and her clumsiness. Hell, Bella and I even shared the same literary preference: we both loved Jane Austen. So when I met a tall and mysterious boy who sent me mixed signals and performed big, dramatic gestures to convince me of his affection I really fell for it. I have read about it so many times. I thought that’s what love is supposed to look like. But my “Edward” didn’t have the excuse of being a supernatural being like the one in the book: he was just a messed up kid with a lousy childhood who was just as clueless as I was about how love and relationships work. We hurt each other a lot those months we spent together, but that time also taught me a valuable lesson: if you ever meet someone whose behavior resembles the one of the brooding prince of darkness, run for your life. Do not romanticize violence or unpredictable behavior.

Why am I sharing this with you? To explain my complicated, love-hate relationship with Meyer’s novels, and my own path towards becoming a confident feminist I am today. Because, when I recently picked up the Twilight books, and afterwards The Chemist, I was appalled at the feeble-minded Bella and her putting up with Edward’s aggressive and controlling behavior. I was honestly disgusted at myself and my own love for these books, seven years ago.

Besides the argument that this is hardly a feminist read, my other objections to this book are that some “solutions” seem like just plain lazy writing. I mean: twin brothers? There is hardly a more unimaginative option. It reminds me of Vampire Diaries. Also, the boss asking the heroine to complete one more job is the basic plot of so many action movies I have lost count.

This might be due to my everlasting love of dogs, but the parts I enjoyed the most were those focusing on Kevin and his relationship to his extremely intelligent dogs.

To be fair, I have to say this: my 17-year-old self would have loved The Chemist. And maybe, just maybe, Daniel is a healthier literary crush that Edward, despite his willingness to endure torture if the torturess is hot. Oh well. Maybe Meyer is just a master of writing for her target audience. However, I must say I am glad that I am no longer that audience. My inability to relate to her heroines and to enjoy plots in which a woman’s life revolves around a man proves to me that I have managed to move away from my teenage mindset. Don’t get me wrong: I am not hating on Meyer, I’m just saying that, for someone who claims to be a feminist author, her novels are strangely un-feminist. Both Twilight series and The Chemist can be an entertaining read if you are into that sort of stuff, however, I think that Meyer should at least be honest and admit that they are hardly feminist novels.

As we take part of the society that is on the path to equality, I think it is important to be aware of all the (more or less) hidden messages in our literature and art, because only then we will be able to make informed choices and think critically about what we read and listen to, instead of being passive consumers.

Have you read The Chemist? Did you like it?

Best Books About Running

If you have been reading my posts lately, you know that I love running. However, it wasn’t always like this. It was my boyfriend who first inspired me to take up running. Knowing I was also a bookworm, he recommended me some of the books which really got me into this whole philosophy of long distance running. Later on, I went to hunt for books about running, and here is the short list of my absolute favorites:

  1. What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

Both my boyfriend and I are big Murakami fans, so this is the first book I have ever read on the subject. I must say I was completely blown away by it. This book combines my two passions: reading/writing books and working out. It really opened my eyes to the spiritual dimension of long distance running. Since I am an aspiring writer, it was interesting to me to read another writer’s approach to running, instead of picking up some generic “how to” manual. The main revelation of this book is the huge impact that running has on writing. Certainly, to compare myself to Murakami would have been a sacrilege, however, I must say that running often times help me clear my mind and organize my thoughts in a much more concise way. Running leaves me refreshed and ready to continue working on my stories. In fact, if you are suffering from writer’s block, running is definitely the one thing that I would recommend to get your creative juices flowing. All in all, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running is a great book for all of us writing folks who just can’t see the point of running.

  1. Born to Run by Christopher McDougall

This book is very different from the previous one on this list: instead of an intellectual perspective, it shows us the sheer power of human body and what it’s capable of. The novel focuses on the tribe of world’s greatest long distance runners, the reclusive Tarahumara Indians. The narrator not only gets to meet Caballo Blanco, a legendary runner who lives among the tribe, but also trains for the challenge of a lifetime: a fifty-mile race

taking place in the dangerous Tarahumara country. Other contestants include a famous, but surprisingly modest ultramarathoner, a hot young surfer, and a guy who feels strongly about only running barefoot regardless of the circumstances. This is an exciting story about surpassing the limits that once seemed unreachable. I might not be running with the Tarahumara tribe, however, I believe that running is more about training your mental strength than just physical endurance. It was also a very educational read, as it offers some interesting answers to the questions that every runner wonders from time to time: why do we run? And why are we good at it? To find out, read McDougall’s book. You won’t be disappointed.

3. Running Like a Girl by Alexandra Heminsley

This is a great, relatable read for first time runners. When Alexandra Heminsley decides to take up running, at first she fails miserably despite careful preparations (a.k.a. Eating toast and honey for breakfast and creating a perfect playlist). This is a refreshing novel that tells it how it is for the beginners: running is not always a blissful experience, and to achieve some progress you really have to push yourself forward and be consistent with your training. However, the novel assures us that it’s all worth it at the end, because the benefits of running outweigh by far its cons (a.k.a. Our laziness to get going instead of watching another episode on Netflix). All in all, this is a fun and inspiring read and I would definitely recommend it to everyone who is just starting to hit the road and feels like running is a mission impossible. Because it does get better . And once it does, you will be amazed by what you can achieve.

These are my favorite books about running. If you have any recommendations, let me know. I am always in search for new reads.

Strong Female Characters In Literature

Here is a list of my top 10 favorite badass female characters:

  1. Scout (To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee)

Scout, the young narrator of the novel To Kill a Mockingbird is a curious, intelligent and extremely observant little girl. She asks difficult questions and is not afraid of the answers she gets. She is a tomboy, and is often being told that she is not “girlish” enough. It is precisely her refusal to conform to the standards of how girls should behave that puts her apart from others and makes her a fighter for justice both as a child, and later on in life.

  1. Hermione Granger (Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling)

The only girl of the famous Potter-Weasley-Granger trio for solving mysteries in the wizarding world is often considered to be a nerdy, bookish, plain-looking girl who spends all her free time at the library (raise your hand, fellow Potterheads, if this description reminds you of your own adolescent years). However, during the course of action, Hermione is revealed to be both smart and generous, ready to risk it all for her friends regardless of the danger. Besides, everyone knows that Ron and Harry would have never completed their education if it weren’t for her.

  1. Jo March (Little Women, Louisa May Alcott)

Jo March has always been my favorite character in the novel. Unlike her sisters, she was bold and adventurous. When Jo wished she “had been a boy”, she actually longed to be able to do all the things that boys were allowed to do, unlike girls: however, that didn’t stop her from whistling and using slang words. I admire Jo for her refusal to succumb to the pressures imposed on her sex at the time, and her determination to become a writer.

  1. Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins)

Katniss might very well be the most “badass” woman on this list, considering her ability to survive relying mostly on her bow and arrow. Katniss struggled during her whole life: she faced poverty, hunger and loss. But it is not only her physical strength and her ability to fight that makes her a badass: her choosing to sacrifice first to save her sister, and then Peeta, shows that she is also selfless and brave, especially when it comes to protecting those she cares about.

  1. Jane Eyre (Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë)

While the ending of the novel might not be considered a feminist one, because Jane ultimately resorts to marriage, I believe that she can still be considered a strong female character. Her childhood and her education is marked by abuse. As she grows up, she comes to realize that she doesn’t deserve to be treated that way. It is her refusal to be treated as a “less then”, and to betray her principles for love that marks her as a feminist character.

  1. Becky Sharp (Vanity Fair,  William Makepeace Thackeray)

This is a story of another orphan of low birth, who is nowhere near Jane’s moral beliefs. Becky is a true social climber with almost sociopathic tendencies. However, despite her flaws, I still found myself rooting for her while I was reading the novel, because she is so charmingly evil. I was also willing to forgive her for actions because of the poor circumstances she was born into that shaped her character and pushed her towards not so honorable actions.

  1. Anna Karenina (Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy)

Princess Anna Arkadyevna Karenina has done something that very few women would dare to do: she risked everything for love. She abandoned the security of a loveless marriage, the conventions of her social circle, and even her own son in order to stay true to herself. Instead of being passive and suffering in silence, she had the courage to fight for her happiness. Because of her courage and determination, she deserves a place on this list.

  1. Offred (The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood)

First of all, I must say that Margaret Atwood is one of my favorite writers of all time. The Handmaid’s Tale is her first book I have ever read, and I enjoyed it immensely (while also being a little terrified, as with all of her writing). We are given very scarce information about how Offred looks, however, we know that she has viable ovaries, which speaks volumes about the way women are treated in this book. Offred’s identity is stolen from her, and yet, she uses every chance she gets to protest against this world she is trapped in. Her dark sense of humor is her biggest weapon against the unimaginable horrors of her daily life.

  1. Lily Briscoe (To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf)

Having written my MA Thesis on Virginia Woolf and feminism, Lily Briscoe has always fascinated me. Her refusal to conform to the traditional values of the society at the time and to stay unapologetically herself is truly remarkable. Lily knew what she wanted (to be a painter), and what she absolutely didn’t want (to marry and have children), and didn’t compromise her beliefs despite the fact that they condemned her to poverty. Lily gave me a lesson in integrity that I think is absolutely worth remembering.

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  1. Lisbeth Salander (Millenium Trilogy, Stieg Larsson)

One of the most recent characters in this list, Lisbeth Salander is a protagonist unlike any other. This pale, skinny young women with short hair and pierced nose and eyebrows is as far from traditional female characters as possible. Her professional path is also an unorthodox one, to put it mildly: she is a world-class hacker and investigator. Due to her traumatic past, she takes pleasure in punishing men who abuse women. Despite her aggressive ways, Lisbeth’s refusal to be victimized makes her a truly powerful character.

Do you agree with my selection? Are there some strong female characters that you feel should also be a part of this list? Let me know!

Rosa Montero: “The Madwoman of the House”

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“A writer always writes. That is, actually, the beauty of being a writer: the never ending swirl of words inside your head”, claims Rosa Montero, a Spanish journalist and fiction writer.

Throughout the collection of autobiographical essays, there is an underlying question: do you became a writer as a consequence of things that happen to you in your life, or do you give meaning to seemingly unimportant events, retrospectively turning them into stories, because you are a writer?

Montero confesses that she’s afraid of shaping her ideas into stories, because everything sounds better in one’s head. Putting your stories on paper means trapping them into the limitations of physical world and making them susceptible to criticism. She fears that she might not do justice to what she believes is a great idea. I think that many authors have occasionally felt the same way. I know I did.

Montero is writing about her life, and about her writing. The two seem to be be inextricably linked, and it appears that, for her, it is impossible to write about one without also writing about the other. The end result is a pulsing, living entity of a book. Reading Montero’s thoughts made me feel like I have just had coffee and a chat with my friend, a fellow writer: we have complained to one another about our struggles and fears related to our writing, but at the end of the day, we are both convinced that the end result is worth every sacrifice. Throughout the book, there were many passages when I thought: “finally, there is someone who understands”.

The author writes about the wonderful, but also about the dangerous aspects of being a writer. She warns about the writers’ propensity towards vanity, and their constant thirst for building their readership. In a way, she is offering us a mirror: neither a flattering, nor a twisted one: a plain, regular mirror which shows the image as it is. I for one admire her for her honesty, and her ability to write so accurately about the things that, it seems to me, many writers struggle with.

“The Madwoman of the House” is not merely an autobiography, neither is it fiction: perhaps the most accurate description would be to call it a meta-autobiography.

I would definitely recommend this book to all writers, regardless whether they are already established authors or are at the beginning of their artistic path.

Have you read the book? Did you like it?

Top 10 Winter Reads

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There is no way around it: winter is finally here. The city is full of Christmas decorations, each shop shines in gold, red and green. The smell of gingerbread cookies and mulled wine permeates every corner. Sometimes, while rushing from one place to another, we hear a familiar melody, an old Christmas tune, or smell the cinnamon rolls, and we are taken back to our childhood. When we come home, we have only one wish: to drink our tea, curl on a sofa underneath a warm, cosy blanket, and read a book which would remind us of some of that Christmas magic we felt as children. Which book do we pick up?

1.Letters from Father Christmas, J. R. R. Tolkien

The first title that comes into my mind is a well known Christmas classic written by an author we all know and love. Originally intended for Tolkien’s own children, the Letters are a dream come true to every little boy or girl who has ever written a letter to Father Christmas. The adventures of a North Polar Bear who fell through the roof of Father Christmas’ house are hilarious and adorable at the same time and are sure to warm your heart this winter.

2.The Chronicles of Narnia, C. S. Lewis

The Chronicles of Narnia are one of the most well known classics of children’s literature, loved also by adults. The image of a Faun in the woods, holding an umbrella for a little girl on a snowy day is one of the iconic illustrations in the series. Readers should keep in mind one thing, though: the correct order of reading the books (as specified by the author), is not a chronological one. However, even if you decide to ignore this, each book can be read (and enjoyed) separately.

3. Little Women, Louisa May Alcott

Alcott tells the story of a family of six: a caring mother, a farher who is far away because of the war, and four sisters, each with her own set of virtues and faults. (Jo, the tomboy, has always been my personal favorite. Which one is yours?) The book reminds me of simpler times and also sends a strong message that honesty and virtue are more important than material possessions, which the sisters learn throughout the novel, each on her own way. In today’s world, when love is often measured in gifts, it is important to remember that there are other ways to show your family and friends you care about them, without expensive presents underneath the Christmas tree.

4. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Ransom Riggs

While this may not be a typical holiday read, it is a story that undoubtedly evokes the magic of Christmas. Miss Peregrine is a caretaker at the orphanage which brings the saying “all children are special” to a whole new level. There is an invisible boy, a girl whose mouth is on the back of her head, and that’s just the beginning. The protagonist, Jacob Portman, is just as astonished by this discovery as the readers, and following his steps allows us to learn about the new dangers that threaten the orphanage. This is a book that teaches us to embrace our differences, even those we see as flaws, because they are what makes us special (a notion which might come in handy during feisty Christmas discussions with your family).

5. Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë

Christmas is a time when we are forced to spend a little more time than usual with our family. Some strong emotions may arise, and Wuthering Heights is all about that: there is romance, betrayal, jealousy and more. So, even if your uncle or aunt (everyone has someone like that in their family) makes a sexist or a racist joke, at least remember that the situation is unlikely to get out of hand like it did with the Earnshaws: when Cathy’s father adopts the orphan Heathcliff and she develops feelings for him which surpass those between siblings, all hell breaks loose. The windy moors also accentuate the drama.

6. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudice is another novel which raises important questions about social inequalities. It also opens our eyes to the things which matter the most. I have first read it when I was eleven, and Jane Austen has remained one of my favorite authors to this day. If you do not feel like reading, I will let you get away with the movie adaptation this time, but only if you stick to the BBC version: the sight of the elaborate dresses the Bennet girls wear immediately create a celebratory atmosphere.

7.The Thirteenth Tale, Diane Setterfield

The protagonist of the novel is called Vida Winter, which to me sounds like something straight out of Frozen. However, The Thirteenth Tale is much darker and much more mysterious. This is a book so full of secrets that you cannot trust anyone to tell the truth. Yet, you’re eager to find out. I have read this book in one day, because I simply couldn’t put it down. It is a perfect read for a lazy winter afternoon, but beware: you might jump out of your chair if you hear a strange noise while reading this book.

8. The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern

The Night Circus is a love story which transcends the limitations of the genre and develops into something much more etheral and mesmerizing. I was in love with this book from the very first sentence, and than it got better. The story is set in Victorian London, and follows two young protagonists, Celia and Marco, the Romeo and Juliet of fantasy world. Reading this story feels like a treat, like watching a personal circus performance. Still, do not think for a second that this is merely a feel-good book: there are deeper and darker things in there which only add to the complexity of Morgenstern’s debut novel.

9. The Book Thief, Markus Zusak

When was the last time you have read a book in which Death was the narrator? Thought so. Liesel is a girl who is both brave and timid, confident and sensitive, who “hates and loves” words at the same time. One thing is sure: she is a real bookworm. There is a part of her in each of us, or at least that’s what we like to think. That is the reason why we identify with her so easily, despite the fact that she lives in Germany during World War II. I should warn you, though: this book will break your heart. But you will enjoy every single moment of it.

10. A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens

A list of winter reads could hardly be complete without Dickens’ Christmas Carol. This Christmas, silence the Scrooge inside of you and embrace the Christmas spirit, even if you don’t feel like it. Because, underneath all the decorations and heavy Christmas meals, there is a message about the importance of being there for one another in times of need, which, no matter how you feel about Christmas trees and hanging with your extended family, is an important takeaway from all Christmas customs.

These are my suggestions of great winter reads, and are definitely the ones I will be picking up these holidays. What are you reading?