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by Guinevere de la Mare

Brace yourself, here come the holidays. There’s nothing like the joy of balancing on one foot to remove a shoe while herding kids, carry-ons, strollers, and stuffies through airport security. And just when you think you’ve survived the worst travel day of the year, you emerge from baggage claim to face the smiling faces of… your in-laws.

As your children go running into the arms of Grandma and Grandpa, take a deep breath, smile, and visualize the exact location in your luggage where you have stashed your fully-loaded Kindle.

Thanksgiving weekend offers up a perfect opportunity to escape into a book, but you need a game plan. Young children are blessedly oblivious to decades-old family grudges, and having extended family around can provide them with hours of entertainment. If you’re traveling with a partner, it’s all about divide and conquer. Trade off morning duty, take turns bringing the kids along on family hikes or grocery outings, and have a tacit understanding that whoever puts the kids to bed may guiltlessly remain upstairs, alone, when the post-dinner conversation turns to current events. Shudder.

To be fair, my in-laws are warm and loving people, and I truly enjoy their company. But any family gathering, especially my own, is inherently stressful. This year comes with the added baggage of an incredibly divisive and, for many, heartbreaking election. While it may have been possible to shrug off a racist uncle in the past, everything is different now. Our children’s future is at stake, and that’s a helluva conversation to have over pumpkin pie.

So, back to your game plan: Deep breaths, breaks, and books. Here’s a list of 5 great reads to get you through the long, long weekend.

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld

It is a truth universally acknowledged that all women love Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy. Whether you’re in the Jane Austen or Bridget Jones camp, it makes no difference. Pride and Prejudice is one of literature’s greatest love stories, and this modern retelling of the classic novel—set in the age of reality TV dating shows—is a perfect breezy weekend read.

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Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin

This delicious novel imagines what it was like to be part of Truman Capote’s circle in New York City during the 1960s. The story follows Capote’s rise to fame with the publication of his masterpiece, In Cold Blood, and his subsequent fall from social grace. It’s a fascinating portrait of the Manhattan elite during the golden age of high society.

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Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Liane Moriarty is a master of women’s contemporary fiction. Too smart to fall into the category of chick lit, her books are layered, suspenseful, and just plain fun to read. Big Little Lies follows the stories of three Kindergarten moms whose paths converge in the schoolyard. It’s like Bad Moms meets Gone Girl—you won’t want to put it down.

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American Housewife by Helen Ellis

After a long day of adulting, pick up this collection of short stories. It’s hilarious and cynical and wise—like your best girlfriends. Helen Ellis is not afraid to go to dark places with her humor, and reading this book feels like a guilty pleasure. I mean, yes, of course we love our children. But sometimes we want to hide from them in a closet with a chilled glass of Sancerre and a bag of gluten-free chips. No judgement!

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Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

This incredible book should be required reading for every American. It’s the story of two half-sisters born in Ghana three hundred years ago. One is married off to an Englishman and sent to live in the Cape Coast castle. The other is sold into slavery and shipped to America. The novel traces parallel branches of the family up through the present day, and each chapter is told from the perspective of one generation. The resulting masterpiece is a powerful, visceral reminder of how slavery has shaped our nation, and how history is much closer than we’d like to believe.

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Guinevere de la Mare is a writer and #ladyboss based in San Francisco. She’s the founder of Silent Book Club, a community of book lovers that hosts introvert happy hours in more than twenty cities around the world. Her first book, I’d Rather be Reading, will be published by Chronicle Books next fall.

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