Reading has always been at the heart of the Barnard experience. As a college known for its literary excellence, Barnard has produced a long legacy of literary icons, such as Ntozake Shange ’70, Jhumpa Lahiri ’89, and Anna Quindlen ’74. Students have read these authors and many more for coursework and in their free time around New York City, as seen in this New York Times article featuring a 1961 archival photo of Barnard students reading under the campus’s magnolia tree.
Nothing is more enchanting than a good book. Even in the frenetic streets of NYC, a book can provide an escape. Check out this photo essay of New Yorkers reading around the city — you'll spot some Barnard students reading on campus 60 years ago. https://t.co/zIyzGpkw5T pic.twitter.com/56E9BKXbXt
— Barnard College (@BarnardCollege) December 1, 2021
Beyond the academic benefits and the sheer enjoyment that reading offers, books can also provide positive physical and mental health advantages. According to Healthline, reading increases brain connectivity, reduces stress, and alleviates depression. Studies also suggest that reading fiction, in particular, “can increase empathy, social skills, and interpersonal understandings.” Through the Francine A. LeFrak Foundation Center for Well-Being, which will address the many dimensions of student health and wellness — physical, mental, and financial — the College supports the healing power that books can have on all readers.
As we approach winter break, you may be wondering what book to read next. Don’t worry, we got you covered! Check out the 15 titles below, authored by Barnard alumnae and compiled from recent issues of Barnard Magazine. Whether reading for pleasure, intellectual interest, or for improved mental health, these books can provide an escape over the winter break and may even make good gifts for your loved ones during the holidays.
Middle-Grade/Young Adult Fiction
Almost Flying (2021) by Jake Maia Arlow ’19
In Almost Flying, a story of summer adventure and queer self-discovery, Dalia struggles to navigate relationships with a new stepsister, Alexa, and her girlfriend, as well as the burgeoning knowledge that she has feelings for her friend. These dynamics play out amid a summer vacation amusement park road trip.
Mooncakes (2019) by Suzanne Walker ’12
Mooncakes, an award-winning graphic novel co-created by Suzanne Walker and illustrator Wendy Xu, tells a story of self-discovery through the eyes of Nova Huang, a teen witch whose feelings for a childhood crush — Tam Lang, who happens to be a werewolf — are rekindled as they work together to fight off evil forces in their New England town.
The Comeback (2021) by Elizabeth Lee ’08
In The Comeback, Elizabeth Lee (under the name E. L. Shen) tells the story of Maxine Chen, a middle schooler struggling to maintain a perfect identity both within the high-pressure world of figure skating and in the scrutinizing environment of being a Chinese American at her New York school.
Time’s a Thief (2017) by B.G. Firmani ’90
In Time’s a Thief, a fictional coming-of-age story about a Barnard student’s transition to big-city life during the mid-1980s, Francesca “Chess” Varani reflects back on the meaningful experiences that shaped her — from the distance of several decades of learning — during the Great Recession of 2007-2009. THroughout, Chess explores and reevaluates her choices, from a turbulent and sometimes toxic friendship with an upper-crust classmate to a glamorous yet gritty first job after graduation and a dynamic love affair with the boss’s troubled son.
The Days of Afrekete (2021) by Asali Solomon ’95
Author and professor Asali Solomon’s novel The Days of Afrekete explores the profound, complex dynamics between two college friends who have long drifted apart and are now navigating middle age. Solomon brings immense life and humanity to her characters in a story that celebrates both change and the lasting effects people have on one another.
The Man on the Third Floor (2012) by Anne Bernays ’52, P’81
The Man on the Third Floor chronicles the life of Walter Samson, a successful book editor living in post-World War II New York City who seems to be “leading the good American life” alongside his “extremely attractive” wife and two children. Everything changes when Walter falls for Barry Rogers — blue collar, handsome, single, and poor — and endeavors to keep their years-long relationship secret during a time of pervasive and virulent homophobia.
Voices in the Dark: A Century of Classic Nepali Short Stories About Women (2017) translated by Ann Hunkins ’89
A poet and translator, Hunkins brings classic Nepali literature to the forefront in Voices in the Dark: A Century of Classic Nepali Short Stories About Women, a collection of short stories that center women and issues of gender. Hunkins worked directly with the Nepali authors to create the truest possible translations of their stories.
The Frontiers of Love (1956) by Diana Chang ’49
With The Frontiers of Love, which explores cultural identity through Asian and Western lenses in Japanese-occupied Shanghai during the 1940s, Diana Chang became the first American-born Chinese person to publish a novel in the United States. Frontiers tells the story of three young Eurasian socialites searching for love while trying to resolve the inner confusion brought about by their dual identities.
Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity (2012) by Katherine Boo ’88
Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity, an insightful and thoroughly researched piece of narrative from Pulitzer Prize-winning author Katherine Boo, chronicles the memorable stories of families in Annawadi, a slum near the Mumbai Airport, striving to make a better life in a city of remarkable inequalities.
Miami Cooks (2020) by Sara Liss ’02
An accomplished food writer, Sara Liss turns her passion and expertise toward the culinary world of Miami and the rich collection of stories behind some of the city’s favorite foods. Miami Cooks offers both recipes and a detailed handbook on the inventive, cultural history of the city’s cuisine.
No. 91/92: A Diary of a Year on the Bus (2021) by Lauren Elkin ’00
Lauren Elkin’s latest book, No. 91/92: A Diary of a Year on the Bus, chronicles living and traveling in Paris amid a series of newsworthy events, such as the Charlie Hebdo attacks, and personal crises. Elkin weaves together these experiences with her ruminations on Parisian history to present an insightful exploration of the everyday in a bustling city.
Spirited: Cocktails From Around the World (2020) by Adrienne Stillman Krausz ’08
Drawing from a worldwide community of bartenders and cocktail devotees, Adrienne Stillman Krausz compiled one of the most exhaustive beverage almanacs to date in Spirited: Cocktails From Around the World. Stillman Krausz, who personally tested and perfected every recipe, documents each beverage with its history, heritage, and photo, creating an indispensable mixology dictionary.
The Red Menace: How Lipstick Changed the Face of American History (2021) by Ilise S. Carter ’95
Carter’s debut book, The Red Menace: How Lipstick Changed the Face of American History, traces the history of beauty in the United States through lipstick production and trends, offering an extensive view into the development of the makeup industry while interweaving issues of race, gender, and social upheaval.
When to Talk and When to Fight: The Strategic Choice Between Dialogue & Resistance (2021) by Rebecca Subar ’81
With When to Talk and When to Fight: The Strategic Choice Between Dialogue & Resistance, Subar expertly crafted a guide to understanding the politics of negotiation that includes a complex analysis and profound storytelling to examine how community organizing, advocacy, and group mediation happens, offering insights into methods of dialogue resistance, and protest.
Liar (2021) by Jessica Cuello ’93
Winner of the Barrow Street Poetry Book Prize, Liar ranges through Cuello’s life and interrogates the past as object. Cuello’s genre-defying collection centers her unique voice and challenges traditional standards of writing and poetry.
*The list was originally reported by Solby Lim ’23.
Looking for more winter break entertainment? Check out “15 Shows by Barnard Graduates to Keep You Company This Winter.”
For more resources, visit the Francine A. LeFrak Foundation Center for Well-Being, Barnard’s new centralized hub for all wellness-related initiatives across campus. The Francine LeFrak Center supports the entire College community with a 360-degree perspective of personal well-being: physical, mental, and financial.