by Ari Case
With Thanksgiving break approaching, students may have a bit more time on their hands. Instead of watching hours of TikTok or racking up more playtime on Overwatch 2, consider cozying up with a book. The break from screens can do any person good, and within a good book so many things can be found—hope, love and warmth chief among them.
“There’s something special about cozying up with a good book,” librarian Mrs. Carrie Vottero said.
In this second edition of The Lions’ Den’s book column, Mrs. Vottero and the paper’s staff hope to spark interest in a book or two for the holiday season.
With the level of chaos and negativity in the world right now, sometimes books are the perfect way to remind people that it will be okay, and there is good in the world. R. J. Palacio’s Wonder is the perfect story to do this. It follows Auggie Pullman, a boy just starting public school in 5th grade, as he learns what it means to be a friend.
The core message of the book is one the world needs to hear: “When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind.”
For those who may not always feel so kind to the world, A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman could be just the right story. Soon to be a movie starring Tom Hanks—filmed in Pittsburgh—Ove is nothing short of an old curmudgeon. He hates cats and people who jog and wants nothing to do with most of the world around him. So, when loud new neighbors move in next door, Ove must suffer further—until he finds joy in life again. Backman weaves a tale of comedy, unexpected friendship, grief and love—for life, each other and the world around us.
“It’s definitely worth reading,” Vottero said.
Few books capture the feeling of found family like The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. Set in the 1960s, it follows 14-year-old Lily as she runs from home with her caretaker Rosaleen. They are taken in by the eccentric beekeeping Calendar sisters who spend their time with the Daughters of Mary. With their help, Lily learns what it means to be a woman—a daughter, a sister and a friend to people who truly care for one another.
Another book with a female narrator is Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson, though it takes a vastly different direction. Great for lovers of Agatha Christie or E. Lockhart, the mystery has readers on the edge of their seats at every turn. Stevie Bell is a true-crime lover starting her first year at the boarding school of her dreams, the site of one of the greatest unsolved cases in history. Decades ago, the wife and daughter of the founder were kidnapped in the twisting gardens and riddled pathways of the school—never to be seen again. As the mysterious “Truly, Devious” murderer resurfaces, Stevie must follow every thread she can find to solve the cases without becoming the next victim herself.
“It’s the perfect book to pull you out of the chilly weather and into the thrill of the story,” senior Emily Frazier said. “I gave it a shot and am glad I did.”
Readers who enjoyed Coraline or American Gods will appreciate Neil Gaiman’s retelling in Norse Mythology. Gaiman takes classic myths and twists them in his own special way to be even better. It is a great read for anyone who is interested in mythology, but also for those who simply enjoy fantastical tales and peculiar adventures.
“It’s written by Neil Gaiman,” Vottero said. “How much better could it get?”
Finally, a recommendation from both Vottero and several staff members, The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky is a beautiful book for young adult readers. A favorite of many who read it, copies of Perks are often found with paper flags and notes scrawled in the margins, cracked spines and worn pages—put simply, one does not just read it. Set in a Pittsburgh suburb, the book follows Charlie through his freshman year as he learns about love, loss and the hardships of not just high school, but life itself.
“It’s a book that talks about stigma that no other book can cover in the way that it does,” senior Mia Saraceni said. “It’s very relatable, especially for people who usually can’t find something that they relate to.”
As temperatures drop and the holidays approach, books can be a lovely source of warmth for anyone. In their pages can be escape or simply comfort, but whatever is found will be a joy.
“One of my favorite things about reading is curling up in a nice chair with a warm drink, [with] windows around you that are all frosted up and it’s toasty inside,” Vottero said.
One of Vottero’s favorite warm holiday tales is A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote. It is short and sweet—as memorable as the title suggests. The story follows an unlikely but strong friendship between a young boy and an old woman as they bond over holiday rituals and Christmas spirit.
“It’s not very long, but [it’s] beautiful,” Vottero said. “It was the sweetest story.”
For someone with less time or lack of interest in a long novel, short stories are a fantastic way to read. My True Love Gave to Me compiles holiday spirit and unique writing from popular YA authors like Jenny Han, David Levithan and Rainbow Rowell. Heartwarming stories that anyone can enjoy, the collection is nothing short of merry and bright.
Hopefully, any reader can find warmth in one of these stories, because there is something special about the solace a good book brings.
“There’s no experience like reading a book you feel at home in,” Saraceni said.