Humanities Center Holiday Reading

Our Book Picks for 2023

Dec 8, 2023

Looking for reading ideas for over the winter break? Our fellows and staff offer some suggestions. From all of us at the SHC, happy holidays, happy reading, and best wishes for the new year.


Dream Work
Dream Work 

By Mary Oliver

I return to Mary Oliver's Dream Work in seasons of change and uncertainty (completing a dissertation is a great opportunity to feel the weight of the unknown). Her poems are a collection of scenes, objects, sentiments, and musings that are, in my experience, best read slowly—and perhaps with a tea in hand. 

—Caitlin Murphy Brust
SHC Dissertation Prize Fellow
Philosophy of Education, Stanford University



By Maya Binyam

My pick would be Maya Binyam’s debut novel, Hangman. It follows an African immigrant as he returns to an unnamed homeland. Comedic, tragic, and surreal, it's a gripping exploration of memory, migration, and diaspora. 


—Adom Getachew
Distinguished Junior External Fellow
Department of Political Science, University of Chicago


Hamnet: A Novel of The Plague

By Maggie O'Farrell

If you haven’t read Maggie O’Farrell’s Hamnet, oh the treasure that awaits you! O’Farrell summons Shakespeare’s domestic world in exquisite detail, but this isn’t yet another story about the Bard. She portrays the intimacies of kinship, love, and loss with perfect and tender precision.

—Kelda Jamison
Fellowship Program Manager, Stanford Humanities Center


The Art of Libromancy
The Art of Libromancy: Selling Books and Reading Books in the Twenty-First Century

By Josh Cook

My recommendation for this year is The Art of Libromancy: Selling Books and Reading Books in the Twenty-First Century by Josh Cook. Penned by a fellow Porter Square bookseller, it is a collection of essays about the work of contemporary bookselling and why bookstores can (and should) be spaces of advocacy and resistance.

—Jessica Jordan
Next Generation Scholar
Department of English, Stanford University


River Kings

River Kings: A New History of the Vikings from Scandinavia to the Silk Roads

By Cat Jarman 

Cat Jarman’s River Kings is an epic story of the Viking Age that traces the historical trail of an ancient piece of jewelry. Told as a riveting history of the Vikings and the methods we use to understand them, this is a major reassessment of the fierce, often-mythologized voyagers of the North—and of the global medieval world as we know it.

—Helen Malko
Associate Director, Stanford Humanities Center


Time without Keys

Time Without Keys

By Ida Vitale

Time Without Keys is an opportunity to read a loving bilingual selection of the poetry of Ida Vitale, one of today's most celebrated poets. 

—Jaime Marroquin
External Faculty Fellow
Department of Modern Languages, Western Oregon University


Judas Goat

Judas Goat, Poems

By Gabrielle Bates

I highly recommend Judas Goat, a poetry collection by Gabrielle Bates. You will enjoy the intimacy of her poems, the fairy tale quality of her poems, all the beasts that populate her poems, and her cutting insights about relationships. Many memorable lines in this collection, for example, "I have become the winter I wanted."


—Svetlana Turetskaya
International and Academic Programs Manager, Stanford Humanities Center


The Monk

The Monk 

By Tim Sullivan

I adore mysteries and recently read The Monk by Tim Sullivan, which I absolutely loved. It features a neurodivergent detective whose unorthodox methods help him solve the crime of the murder of a monk. This is fast-paced, accessible, and a perfect holiday read.


—Hershini Young
Marta Sutton Weeks External Fellow
Department of African and African Diaspora Studies, University of Texas at Austin