‘Twas the season of finals, and all throughout Grounds, students were stressing and drinking caffeine by the pound. In just a few short days though, that will all change. The students will return home, and there they will remain. Here are three books to get you through the cold, because warming your spirit with a book never gets old.
“Small Things Like These” by Claire Keegan
In "Small Things Like These," Claire Keegan weaves a narrative that transcends the small things promised in the book’s title. It reveals that instead, the small things in life are actually quite big. Set in a rural Irish village in 1985, the story follows a coal merchant named Bill Furlong during the weeks leading up to Christmas Day. During this busy time of year, Bill finds himself delivering coal to a local convent, where he unexpectedly makes a sinister discovery. He learns of the church’s cruel treatment of unmarried mothers and their children, which forces him to open his eyes to the evils of the institutions that control everyday life in his town.
Despite the bleak themes this story deals with, Keegan constructs a story of hope, compassion and love, encouraging readers to not only examine their own complicitness in unspoken cruelties, but also to act against cruelty.
With only 128 pages, Keegan conveys an incredible story and message with the art of brevity in this novella. Having won the Orwell Prize for Political Fiction and having been shortlisted for both the Rathbones Folio Prize and the Booker Prize all in 2022, this story has already made an impact on the world.
“Once Upon a Broken Heart” by Stephanie Garber
When her true love announces that he is going to marry her sister, Evangeline Fox has two options — to consider that this boy wasn’t her true love, or to stop that wedding. After making a deal with a mythical Fate known as the Prince of Hearts, Evangeline gets what she wishes and stops the wedding. There’s always a cost to be paid for a reckless deal with a Fate, though.
This deal sends Evangaline on a magical adventure to the Magnificent North, where fairy tales and magic are all the more real, and it turns out that Evangaline’s debt to the Prince of Hearts could either lead her to the happy ending she always wanted or a disastrous amount of trouble.
This young adult novel is a perfect way to decompress after finals. Filled with fun and magic, “Once Upon a Broken Heart” is a delightful story that simultaneously keeps you on the edge of your seat and warms your heart. Set in the snow-filled and beautiful Magnificent North, it will add some whimsy back into the dark winter days of the real-world.
Stephanie Garber is a New York Times bestselling author currently with six books published. “Once Upon a Broken Heart” is the first book in a series of the same name released in 2021. The final book of the series, “A Curse for True Love,” was released earlier this year and is an equally fun read for fantasy lovers and a satisfying conclusion to a magical series. The series takes place in the same world as Garber’s other finished trilogy — known as “Caraval” and originally published in 2016 — but knowledge of the first series is not necessary to enjoy “Once Upon a Broken Heart,” as the books can stand alone.
“The Idiot” by Elif Batuman
Selin is a freshman at Harvard struggling with all the normal 18-year old problems — unrequited love, odd roommates, her unknown future and all the ways in which 19th-century Russian literature and philosophy fit into her life. Selin is the daughter of Turkish immigrants and is acutely aware of all the ways her culture interacts with that of her peers and roommates, who all come from differing backgrounds.
She is interested in how culture and language intersect with philosophy, but beyond that she doesn’t really know what to make of her academic, professional or personal future. Though the events of Selin’s life may seem small on their own, the book addresses the overarching anxieties of the average college student struggling to figure out who they are and who they plan to be.
Though the book is set in 1995 and drenched in ‘90s references and culture, the story still resonates with the modern day college student because it addresses common fears of young adults still figuring out their paths in life.
“The Idiot” is the first book in Batuman’s duology about Selin, which concluded in 2022 with the release of her book “Either/Or.” “The Idiot” was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2018, and Batuman currently works as a staff writer for The New Yorker.