Students' picks for holiday reading

Suggested reads for the Christmas break from Halifax university students

Christmas break is the perfect time for students to settle into a good read or two. (Photo: Tristan Ferne)

With essay deadlines looming and the thick of exam preparation settling in, most university students don't exactly have a lot of time to read anything other than what is assigned. If students do read for fun, then it's likely with the creeping guilty feeling of procrastination.

Once Christmas break hits, however, students then have a few glorious weeks of free time, during which they can catch up on sleeping and eating, and read to their heart's content.

And what is on some students' Christmas reading list? Here is a round-up of what students in the Halifax area universities recommend for a good leisurely holiday read.


Minding Frankie, by Maeve Binchy, Knopf, 2011.

This book recommendation comes from Julie Franc, a student at Mount Saint Vincent University.

She is a fan of Maeve Binchy novels and suggests that Minding Frankie is the one to pick for some Christmastime reading.

"It's heartwarming," she said. "It's about strength and people emerging out of hardship to find success. It's inspiring."

This is the tale of Frankie, a newborn baby girl, and the people in her close-knit Dublin community who help to raise her. Her father is a recovering alcoholic, and the responsibility of rearing little Frankie has been left to him after Frankie's mother dies in childbirth.

Though the characters are said to be a little one-dimensional, the book is light and readable despite dealing with the heavy topics of alcoholism and single parenthood.


The Chrysalids, by John Wyndham, Penguin, 1955.

This John Wyndham novel came highly recommended from Alison Crozier, a student at Nova Scotia Collge of Art and Design.

"I like the fantasy element of this post-apocalyptic society," she said.

The Chrysalids centres around David Strorm. Living in a ruined Labrador in the future, David lives in a district of Unknown, where the inhabitants fear any "mutations," or any difference from the norm in their society. If any difference is caught, then they are cast out.

David hides his mutation. He is telepathic.

In this post-apocalyptic society, somewhat isolated in its beliefs, David's mutation serves as a metaphor for freedom of thought.


The House of Leaves, by Mark Z. Danielewski, Pantheon Books, 2000.

"It's a narrative within a narrative." Book-ception!

This debut novel by Mark Z. Danielewski is recommended by Mitchell Kehoe, a student at the University of King's College.

"It's a book that I don't think enough people read," he said. "It shows a new way of creative literature."

Reading through the book is a challenge in itself, with its ambitious typography and layout, coloured words and vertical footnotes within footnotes directly related to the narrative. The story has multiple narrators, and is disorienting, serving up horror, romance and satire.

The story is about a young family that moves into a new house. They discover that the house is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. This realization on its own is disturbing enough, but then the characters learn of the secrets within the walls and closets of their impossible home.

This novel is not a quick read, what with the wild maze of text, so, while the book is not exactly in keeping with the holiday spirit, the weeks away from schoolwork are the best time to pick up this read.


The 4-Hour Work Week, by Timothy Ferriss, Crown Publishing Group, 2007

For anyone who is less into a novel and more into the self-help type of read, this is the one for them.

Cam McGeowgh, a student at Dalhousie University says this book is about how to live sustainably.

The 4-Hour Work Week outlines the four steps needed to achieve this sustainable state of lifestyle design. The book offers quite a few lofty promises to its reader, but it will get the reader thinking. A critically thinking, intelligent reader can find a few good ideas in this book about maximizing the positives of work and play.

Author Timothy Ferriss is a popular guest lecturer at Princeton University, where he gives talks on entrepreneurship relating to lifestyle design.

The Fifth Witness: A Lincoln Lawyer novel, by Michael Connelly, Little, Brown, 2011.

Fraser McOuat, a student at Saint Mary's University, recommends this mystery-crime novel from Michael Connelly.

The Fifth Witness focuses on Mickey Haller, a defence attorney. Instead of his usual lawyer beat, he's representing people threatened by the foreclosure boom.

Connelly brings Haller up against the seedy foreclosure business, and laces the story with suspense and action, culminating in a double twist and a set up for the next Lincoln Lawyer thriller.

Connelly's Mickey Haller character appears on movie screens in The Lincoln Lawyer, and is played by Matthew McConaughey in a departure from the actor's usual rom-coms.


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