7 books to read over winter break 2022

UChicago teaching award winners share their selections for the holidays

If you’re looking for new insight for the new year or just an escape from December gloom, look no further. 

UChicago News asked the 2022 winners of the annual Glenn and Claire Swogger Award for Exemplary Classroom Teaching and the Wayne C. Booth Prize for Excellence in Teaching for the books they’d like to share. 

The Swogger Awards recognize outstanding teachers who introduce students to habits of scholarly thinking, inquiry and engagement in the Core Curriculum, and the Booth Prizes are awarded annually to UChicago graduate students for outstanding instruction of undergraduates.

Here are their recommendations.

The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D. 

Recommended by E. Anne Beal, senior lecturer in the Social Sciences Collegiate Division and Swogger Award winner

“This compassionate exploration of myriad dimensions of trauma brings together recent findings in brain science and the author’s decades of empathic, psychoanalytically attuned clinical practice. The wisdom accumulated throughout these pages is an invaluable resource in coping with trauma and particularly in understanding its meaning for the individual.”

The Diary of a Nobody by George and Weedon Grossmith

Recommended by Benjamin Callard, instructional professor in philosophy and Swogger Award winner

“This 1892 book written by two brothers is a hilarious, sad, incredibly human, mostly forgotten book. The real question is: Why do we read anything else?”

There Are No Accidents by Jessie Singer

Recommended by Karlyn Gorski, assistant instructional professor of public policy studies and Booth Prize winner 

“Singer starts with a simple question: Why do Americans die in “accidents” — like traffic crashes, house fires, overdoses, falls, and so on — at rates so much higher than in countries like Australia, Canada, Germany and the U.K.? In seeking answers, Singer pushes us to differentiate between human errors (mistakes) and dangerous conditions (environments). Speeding, for example, is a human error; a road designed to enable and even encourage speeding is a dangerous condition. America is full of dangerous conditions. Singer’s journalistic style is immensely readable, and the cases unpacked throughout the book will make readers think differently about countless aspects of the world around them.”

Quichotte by Salman Rushdie

Recommended by Trevor Hyde, L. E. Dickson Instructor in Mathematics and Swogger Award winner 

“A surreal modern homage to Cervantes’s classic Don Quixote. A deranged, lonely salesman is launched on a misguided spiritual quest across America by his television. He wills an imaginary son/sidekick into existence and together they barrel straight into an inevitable disaster. A funny yet tragic romp through an unfortunately familiar world in which truth and reality feel frayed. Can be fully enjoyed without having read Don Quixote, but it will be extra fun if you have. This was my first, and certainly not last, Rushdie novel. Original, poignant and entertaining. I highly recommend it.”

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

Recommended by John M. Kennedy, senior lecturer in the Biological Sciences Collegiate Division and Swogger Award winner 

“This is a fascinating book that explores the concept of multiple lives and how small changes in the timeline of events can alter the course of history. The novel’s protagonist is Ursula, a young woman who is “first born” in 1910. Through the chapters in the novel, we follow her multiple “re-births” over the course of the next 40 or so years as she becomes enmeshed in events leading up to World War II. Ursula experiences death over and over again, but each time she is reborn we read on with hope renewed at the small twists of fate that alter her path. Ursula attempts to make sense of all this with the help of Dr. Kellet, and she grows in her understanding of her situation. Ultimately, she must make a decision that will intertwine her fate with that of Adolf Hitler and impact lives beyond her own. It’s a surprisingly moving book and satisfies anyone with an interest in a great story with a bit of science fantasy thrown in.”

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

Recommended by Marguerite Sandholm, philosophy Ph.D. student and Booth Prize winner 

“This lovely little story is so special, and Anne is one of those rare characters who feels like a friend. She’s bold and funny, but also creative and kind. It’s the perfect, comforting book to read for relaxation over winter break that charms by impressing the excitement of imagination, the sweetness of friendship and the strength of being yourself. Perfect for any age, and if you like it, you can read the whole series and follow Anne throughout her life.”

To Each His Own (A ciascuno il suo) by Leonardo Sciascia

Recommended by Veronica Vegna, director of the Italian Language Program, Languages Across the Curriculum coordinator, senior instructional professor and Swogger Award winner 

“This engaging detective story from 1966 by a Sicilian writer combines mystery with a brilliant social analysis of corruption and omertà (the code of silence) in a mafia-dominated context. I highly recommend this and other novels by Sciascia – among them The Day of the Owl (Il giorno della civetta) from 1961. His pen relentlessly fights like a sword (to reference Sciascia’s own analogy) to uncover the truth, and his direct and fearless voice denounces the mafia today as strongly as then.”

Need more recommendations? Check out which books published by University of Chicago Press were named Best Books of the Year in 2022, or read the archives of past recommendations.