You are here

A holiday reading list from the Stanford Humanities Center

Before they head out, Humanities Center fellows offer a few book suggestions for the holiday break. Curl up with these recommendations.

Michael Bratman, Faculty Fellow, Department of Philosophy, Stanford

Hans Keilson, The Death of the Adversary (Penguin Books)
(translated by Ivo Jarosy)

"This is an extraordinary, psychologically penetrating, and deeply disturbing novel set in the context of the emergence of Nazi Germany and the Holocaust."

Vincent Debiais, Faculty Fellow, École des hautes études en sciences sociales, Paris

Mark Z. Danielewski, House of Leaves (Penguin Random House)

"I will go for a nonacademic particular favorite, recently read newly at the Center for academic purposes (or sort of…). It's a fascinating novel made of matted stories and multiple narrators, terrifying in some aspects, disturbing in others. A kind of 'Russian dolls' horror fiction; a masterpiece of non-linear narrative: a book about a book about a movie about a movie."

Ted Kelting, Geballe Dissertation Prize Fellow, Department of Classics, Stanford

Patricia Lockwood, Priestdaddy: A Memoir (Penguin Random House)

“One of the funnier and more incisive books I read this year. A loving, hilarious, thoughtful reflection on the author’s very dysfunctional family when she and her husband moved back in with her parents (including her father, a priest!). A perfect book for us all this holiday season!”

Karen Melvin, Marta Sutton Weeks Fellow, Department of History, Bates College

Jesmyn Ward, Salvage the Bones (Bloomsbury)

"Jesmyn Ward's books are one part beauty and three parts gut punches—or maybe it's the other way around. This one is an all-time favorite. It's beautifully written, and some of its scenes are as memorable as anything I've read."

Jennifer Scappettone, Faculty Fellow, Department of English, University of Chicago

Etel Adnan, The Arab Apocalypse (Post-Apollo Press)

"This magnificent poem, first composed in French as the author lived the first year of the Lebanese Civil War, and later rewritten by her in English from her home in the Bay Area, is a wonderful gift to anyone who would like to understand the pressures on the Middle East in terms antithetical to those provided by the mainstream media. Riddled with abstract signs by a poet who is also a renowned painter, it brings together history witnessed at first hand, global myth, and the spectrum of modernist thought to depict an apocalypse whose effects we are unfortunately still living—from a kaleidoscopic but deeply moving human perspective."

Matthew Smith, Donald Andrews Whittier Fellow, German Studies and Theater & Performance Studies, Stanford

Daniel Mason, The Winter Soldier (Pan Macmillan)

"The protagonist, an inexperienced young doctor, is thrown into the maelstrom of a field hospital in the Carpathian Mountains in World War I.  This novel is too smart to be called a ripping good yarn, but it is that too, complete with Cossacks on horseback, an alluringly mysterious nun, and a special guest appearance from Marie Curie."

Alexandra Stern, Geballe Dissertation Prize Fellow, Department of History, Stanford

David Grann, Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI (Penguin Random House)

"Oil money, murder, mystery, and the early days of the FBI: this book has it all. This totally true and fascinating account of the shocking murders of oil-wealthy members of the Osage nation in the 1920s is both a gripping read and an important reminder of the not-so-distant violent past that continues to haunt Indian Country today."

J'Nese Williams, Postdoctoral Mellon Fellowship Scholar, Department of History, Stanford

M. R. James, Complete Ghost Stories (Macmillan Collector's Library Book).  

"These are great Edwardian ghost stories, written by Cambridge medievalist Montague Rhodes James, who read them aloud to friends at Christmas. They are perfect for academics because the supernatural events are always connected with an artifact, manuscript fragment, or the search for hidden knowledge more generally. And now it's only 99 cents on Kindle!"

Extra Credit

Adrian Daub, Professor of German Studies and Comparative Literature, Stanford
Director, Mellon Fellowship of Scholars in the Humanities

Nicole Chung, All You Can Ever Know (Catapult)

"I’d recommend this beautiful memoir by Nicole Chung, one of the most moving books to have come out this year."

Andrea Rees Davies, Associate Director, Stanford Humanities Center

Tara Westover, Educated: A Memoir (Penguin Random House)

"A must read, and not just because it is on the New York Times Book Review's 10 Best Books of 2018 list. A hauntingly layered account of what it means to become educated, Tara Westover's memoir does so much more than simply recount her transition from homeschooling in a survivalist Mormon family in rural Idaho to earning a PhD at Cambridge."

Kelda Jamison, International and Scholarship Program Officer, Stanford Humanities Center

Kiese Laymon, Heavy: An American Memoir  (Simon & Schuster) 

"A brilliant, searing, heart-stopping essay about growing up Black, male, fat, smart, vulnerable, and brave in America. The writing is so powerful that I kept having to pause and remind myself to breathe."