Many resolve to read more each New Year but this time you can really do it. The secret is to start with these ~holiday appropriate~ titles, old and new, funny and somber, dense and light. Find what suits your taste!
Annals by Tacitus
A history of the early Roman Empire told year-by-year. Tacitus hates women but writes about how terrible they are in the most salacious way possible. Come for the holiday-appropriate structure, stay for the womb-stabbing.
Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding
This novel (and subsequent movie) begins with New Year’s Resolutions, including one that memorably put the kibosh on fancy underwear. (I think you should wear whatever kind of underwear you want whenever you want.) An aggressively funny, charming book.
The Chimes by Charles Dickens
A less successful version of A Christmas Carol, except this time ghosts visit a poor guy instead of a rich one.
“Little Gidding” by T.S. Eliot
“Midwinter spring is its own season,” begins Eliot, a line that feels especially appropriate this unusually warm winter. “Last year’s word belong to last year’s language,” he writes, “And next year’s words await another voice.” A poem broadly about the Battle of Britain and the passage of time, “Little Gidding” makes up the last of Eliot’s Four Quartets. “What we call the beginning is often the end / And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.”
A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby
A novel that begins with four people about to jump off the same building on New Year’s Eve. That’s not Hornby’s only reference to December 31st. His novel About a Boy has the main character (aka Hugh Grant) meet his romantic match at a New Year’s Eve party.
Middlemarch by George Eliot
Admittedly only a small sliver of Middlemarch, arguably the greatest English novel, takes place on New Year’s Day, but it’s worth it. The Vincy family, headed by the town of Middlemarch’s mayor, hosts a party for their neighbors and peers. Full of anxiety and awkwardness: Everybody is crushing on everybody else and no one likes it.
Rules of Civility by Amor Towles
Towles’s novel, a New York Times-bestselling debut, follows a young woman in Jazz Age New York on New Year’s Eve. Social climbing ensues.
Small Moral Works by Giacomo Leopardi
A collection of tiny essays and dialogues by Italian poet and philosopher Leopardi at the beginning of the 19th century, Small Moral Works has in particular a conversation between a passerby and an almanac salesman. “Do you think this year will be happy again?” “Oh your illustriousness, yes, certainly.” “Like the last year?” “Plus much more.”
White Teeth by Zadie Smith
Smith’s breakout first novel begins with a suicide attempt on New Year’s Day and spirals out to encompass the families of two best friends (and fellow WWII vets), one English-Jamaican, the other Muslim-Bengali Hysterical and real and better for both qualities—this bestseller holds up.