Bring in the Holidays with a Bildungsroman!

I love Christmas. It’s my favorite holiday for many reasons, and when I was in school, the long winter break I was given was life-giving. I have fond memories of coming home from college, exhausted and delirious from studying, to a home that had exploded with Christmas lights, decorations, and music. It was paradise for an introvert like me: home, no studying, an allotted time to recover and recharge from a semester of never-ending extraverted-ness.

However, this did not mean that I shut down my mind. As I have made abundantly clear, I was an English major in college. Perhaps it is for this reason that my favorite past time during the winter break was to make a trip to Barnes and Noble (I didn’t have the foresight or patience to order from Amazon) and grab as many books as the gift cards from my birthday would cover. I read many of what I now consider to be my favorite novels during winter break, and I’ve long resented that few people offer (optional) winter reading lists. My sophomore year, one of my favorite teachers gave me a winter reading list, and it was one of the best things that ever happened to me.

Learning opportunity! A Bildungsroman is defined as a novel dealing with one person’s formative years or spiritual education, also known as a coming of age story. For those of you about to leave home for college (in less than a year!), these stories can be formative, instructive, and inspiring. For this reason, I’ve listed a (very short) list of my favorite coming-of-age novels for you to read while you rest up and enjoy the holidays!

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

One sentence summary: the story of a second generation Irish-American girl’s evolutionary aspirations from the time of her youth to her young adulthood.

Favorite line: “People always think that happiness is a faraway thing,” thought Francie, “something complicated and hard to get. Yet, what little things can make it up; a place of shelter when it rains – a cup of strong hot coffee when you’re blue; for a man, a cigarette for contentment; a book to read when you’re alone – just to be with someone you love. Those things make happiness.”

Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

One sentence summary: Holden Caulfield roams the streets of New York while he ponders the consequence of adolescence and loss of innocence.

Favorite line: “God, I wish you could have been there.”

A Separate Peace by John Knowles

One sentence summary: Gene Forrester re-visits his high school Alma Matter, Devon, and reflects on his time spent there fifteen years earlier.

Favorite line: “Stranded in this mill town railroad yard while the whole world was converging elsewhere, we seemed to be nothing but children playing among heroic men.”

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

One sentence summary: One man’s journey to find his own identity while he struggles with the invisibility rendered by his race in 20th century America.

Favorite line: “Life is to be lived, not controlled; and humanity is won by continuing to play in face of certain defeat.”