cover image

Illustration Courtesy of Mariam Diab

The Gazelle Recommends: Curate Your Winter Break Reading Lists

From young adult fantasy to illustrated book and crime mystery to romance, The Gazelle’s staff share their book recommendations for the winter break.

Dec 12, 2021

The end of the semester also signals the arrival of a break and change in the state of mind. For those who like to retire early on Thursday nights and enjoy a book in their warm blankets with a cup of hot chocolate on their bedside table, The Gazelle has you covered. Our staff and some NYUAD faculty recommend books that you can devour during the winter break: everything from histories and memoirs to romantic novels and illustrated texts, this list has it all.
Happy reading from The Gazelle!
Deepak Unnikrishnan, Assistant Arts Professor of Literature and Creative Writing
How to Catch a Mole by Marc Hamer
What does a former mole-catcher know about loving, leaving, wandering and and living? Plenty! Hamer's sentences returned me to the art of looking, something I have missed doing. It is also possible in the act of reading I may have inadvertently discovered my spirit animal, a small dark creature that's aloof, can barely see, has reasonably sized arms, and treated as a pest by lawn-loving humans in multiple countries.
Amina Rotari, Staff Writer
Normal People by Sally Rooney
Normal People is a story about two people, Connell and Marianne, who are both battling their inner demons and trying to find their way through life. It's a story about love and heartbreak, losing yourself and finding yourself, but most importantly, it's an exploration of the subtleties of family relationships, friendships and romantic attachments. It's also centered around life at university and everything that goes along with being a student. So, it's almost granted that everyone will find something to relate to, be it the stress of finals, impostor syndrome or social life related issues.
Grace Shieh, Senior Features Editor
The Boy, The Mole, The Fox And The Horse by Charlie Mackesy
This is an illustrated book that takes you along the wonders and friendship of four characters, speaking through sincerity headed to the heart. It's a book that can take twenty minutes or twenty hours to read, one that leaves you lost between words and the rhythmic tenderness of the illustration. It's also a great book to read together with friends and family over a warm mug of tea.
Vatsa Singh, Managing Editor
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalinathi
This is a book that always makes me pause. It is poignant, it stays with you and makes room for sustained internal turmoil and reflection. It is the book that I gift on important birthdays. It is the book I recommend during the atrociously long summer breaks when home can feel overwhelming. The premise: Paul Kalinathi — a wildly successful Stanford neurosurgeon — is diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer at the age of 36. An autobiographical account framed around embracing, or coming to terms with death, and finding purpose in the remaining few months of his life, this is a book that will take you on a journey of self-inventory. Like I said — it is framed around death, but in an intriguing way, it frames life.
Dale Hudson, Associate Teaching Professor of Film and New Media and Curator of Film and New Media
A People's History of American Empire by Howard Zinn, Paul Buhle, and Mike Konopacki
Since NYUAD is largely a U.S.-centric and U.S.-exceptionalist institution, this book is essential reading for all NYUAD students, faculty, staff, and sub-contracted staff, as a means of understanding how U.S. empire functions—from union-busting to war-mongering, from crushing student protests to denying civil rights. The graphic novel is a coming-to-awareness story of the renowned historian Howard Zinn, whose A People's History of the United States (1980) demonstrated how all incremental movements towards U.S. democratization were always grassroots initiatives that demanded solidarity and a thorough rejection of nationalist myths.
Charlie Fong, Senior News Editor
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
With Christmas right around the corner, most people nowadays are probably thinking of Christmas presents and Santa. But for the zealous Baptist preacher Nathan Price and his family, it is their life's mission to convert indigenous inhabitants of the Congo to the Christian faith. With a strong religious conviction and haughty white supremacist mindset, the mission was doomed to fail from the start. While this book is clearly a jab at Europe's failed efforts in modernizing and bringing civilization to Africa, it reflects on the imprint that living in Africa has caused on these missionaries. Rotating around different perspectives of Price's four daughters, it fleshes out how living in the continent alongside its people has changed these girls. From initial feelings of unease that later grew into guilt and helplessness, this book prompts the question of what are the effects left by colonialism and what approach we should take going forward, something that's very pertinent as we navigate this postcolonial world.
Githmi Rabel, Senior Opinion Editor
A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf
I absolutely love this book. It was assigned as a reading for a colloquium in first year, and at first I dreaded the thought of having to read an entire book during a particularly busy week. But once I started reading it, I couldn't put it down and ended up camping under the palms for a good two hours.
Following Woolf's stream of consciousness, we explore the importance and necessity of having a room of one's own — a physical space that belongs to you and you alone — and financial freedom for female artists to create. Woolf does a brilliant job of detailing the cultural and economical constraints placed on women in academia, in a patriarchal structure that values intellectual closure.
It’s a book that resonates deeply and one that's difficult to part with, as evidenced by the fact that one of my friends took it from me ages ago, and I still haven't got it back.
Sheetal Majithia, Assitant Professor of Literature
The Book of Form and Emptiness by Ruth Ozeki
How would you feel if you woke up one morning attuned to the voices of all of the objects in your midst speaking to you about their histories, dreams, and regrets? At its core, Ruth Ozeki’s The Book of Form and Emptiness is the story of Benny Oh, who attempts to silence the cacophony that appears soon after the death of his father, a jazz musician. Benny's efforts to quiet his mind propel him into unexpected encounters with the words and figures from the works of Walter Benjamin, Slavoj Zizek, and Jorge Luis Borges among others. Confronting experiences of grief, neurodivergence, racism, precarity, climate catastrophe, and plain old heartbreak, Benny not only comes to terms with the death of his father and the end of the world as he knows it, but with the help of his mother, the care of some compassionate crows, and the wisdom of a Zen nun, he begins to embody new senses of identity, collectivity, and belonging that are in keeping with the challenges thrust upon humanity by the planetary turn of the Anthropocene.
Sara Vukasonic, Deputy Features Editor
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
I felt silly trying to dig up a favorite book for this. I thought most people would offer deep, thought-provoking works. Although that’s a must for university students, my recommendation falls under young adult fantasy. If you enjoy action and good writing, this book is for you. Join a group of convicts, thieves and soldiers as the try to pull an impossible heist and resist the urge to murder each other in the process. It’s not exactly in the Christmas spirit, but it’s a piece of work sure to take you on a wild adventure and teach you a thing or two about morality. The characters are multidimensional and everyone is most certainly going to find something or someone to relate to in this book. And once they’re done reading, there’s also a sequel.
Amiteash Paul, Copy Chief and Staff Writer
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Dame Agatha Christie
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is a well-written crime fiction novel, and is fully deserving of being called one of the greatest crime fiction works in the world. The interactions between characters are marvelous, especially due to Christie's stylistic choice to have the narration be a monologue and dialogue style of narration linked to a character who is not privy to the detective’s Hercule Poirot's thoughts. Thus, we are left reaching for clues that seem important, as we slowly try to form the crime scene in our minds. The relatively short, action-filled chapters leave you hooked, wanting to find out what comes next. However, it is the conclusion that truly shines. In one fell swoop, Poirot doesn't just uncover the murderer, but also completely collapses any of the presuppositions and guesses made by the reader. This book is definitely a must-read for anyone, whether you are a crime fiction fan or not.
P.S. The narrator's sister, Catherine, deserves a special shout out as a character for being so colorful and providing us with the witty banter that forms a major part of this novel's appeal.
Adi Baurzhanuly, Staff Writer
Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! by Richard Feynman
It's probably a banal suggestion – but it is my go-to book when someone asks for a recommendation. It is funny, engaging and thought-provoking.
Luna Lopez, Deputy Multimedia Editor
A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
I recommend this book to lovers of fantasy and romance. A retelling of the classic story of Beauty and the Beast, this book is full of magic and plot twists. And if you like the first book, there are currently three more books and a novella. Personally, the second book is my favorite. This author is a master at depicting mental illnesses such as PTSD and depression. But also just as masterful in detailing recovery with the help of genuinely good people. But most importantly, the difference between toxic and healthy relationships. And all wrapped into a world of faeries and magic. You can't go wrong.
Samyam Lamichhane, Deputy Features Editor
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
The book is an introduction to a branch of philosophy called Objectivism, which states that the primary human objective is to pursue personal experience without offending other humans.
Set in the post-dystopian theme, the plot depicts the story of Dagny — vice president of Taggart Transcontinental — who takes control of operations with a plan to save her nationwide transportation company. As the story progresses, one question dominates the novel: Who is John Galt? I will not spoil the book, but just to give a sneak peek at his character, he is the mysterious person who epitomizes innovation and self interest.
Even though Objectivism — the philosophical system the book is based on — is a biased topic, the book has an interesting plot and consists of a number of compelling sections like Galt's radio speech, d'Anconia's speech about money and so forth. Ayn Rand is an terrific writer, and the book is a must-read for everyone.
Vatsa Singh is Managing Editor and Grace Shieh is Senior Features Editor." Email them at
gazelle logo