What we are reading and listening to this holiday season

Reading fiction makes you nicer. No really. Research says so. Here is what we at the Juggle are reading and listening to this holiday season.
Alyssa snuggling up with My Brilliant Friend
Alyssa snuggling up with My Brilliant Friend

I didn’t get in trouble for much as kid. But staying up late reading under the covers with a night light…that drew consistent exasperation from my parents. I still remember the purple light that clipped onto my book and the feeling of crisp pages, breaking rules, and figuring out how Nancy Drew solved the mystery. Little did I know then that reading fiction actually makes you nice. No really. It does. Research says so.

In recent years, my binge-reading habits have extended to podcasts and audiobooks (thank you Ta-Nehesi Coates’ “Between the World and Me” for being my first audiobook ever…you got me hooked!). I also dabble in non-fiction now too. In the spirit of replenishing our minds and souls with words, here is a list of what we and our readers have read, have on our lists to read or are listening to this holiday season.


My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante

Translated from Italian, Ferrante tells the story of Elena and Lila growing up in the poor, tough streets outside Naples in a four-book series. I was lent this book by friends who scolded me into reading it and promised me the next three books as a reward if I do (thank you, Hae-in and Jungin). So it’s obviously on my list. If the New Yorker Review doesn’t excite you enough, HBO just announced it’s working on 8 more episodes about Ferrante’s second novel. ~Alyssa

Inspired: How to create tech products customers love by Marty Cagan

Because I’m a nerd and want to keep learning how to build better digital products. Also, thank you New York Public Library for being awesome and lending me this book.


Amy, getting ready for a trip to Europe, makes sure to pack The Art of Gathering.
Amy, getting ready for a trip to Europe, makes sure to pack The Art of Gathering.

The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why it Matters, by Priya Parker

My good friend and fellow yoga instructor, Erin Benton, recommended this book. Parker is an expert in creating “transformative gatherings.” I plan a lot of gatherings these days — from The Juggle check-ins and family get-togethers to yoga classes and content strategy meetings — and often leave wondering how I could have made them more efficient and meaningful. The first few pages  already have me thinking differently. For example, Parker argues that the formats we use for different gathering “categories” (e.g., book club, volunteer training, birthday party) often don’t serve our true purpose, so I’m going to start planning earlier so I don’t default to business as usual.


Loving this educational feminist podcast. It’s well-researched (the creators are journalists by training), hilarious and thought-provoking. I’ve been recommending Episode 36 (“How to free the vibrator”) to anyone who will listen.

*An add-on note from Sarah: I listened to this on Amy’s recommendation and loved when the owner of Unbound (an online sexual wellness shop for rebellious women) said that every teenage girl should be given a vibrator so she can learn what she likes and to not feel ashamed. Also, solo sex is the safest sex, kids!


Pure joy. Jen clearly gets excited about books by that smile!
Pure joy. Jen clearly gets excited about books by that smile!

I’m hoping to minimize screen time and maximize page time this holiday season. 2018 has been pretty grueling, and my curiosity and imagination need the kind of workout that only books can provide. I think it’s easy to spin ourselves in circles reflecting on real life and obsessing over where we’re trying to go or who we’re trying to be — but reading fiction helps me depart from that cycle and step outside myself to gain bigger, sometimes-more meaningful perspective.

To that end, I’m thinking about reading “War and Peace” because it keeps coming up in conversation and I’m starting to think the universe is telling me to read it (I never have). (Apparently the Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky translation is where it’s at.) Also planning to read “Anansi Boys” because my brain is calling out for some magic and I love Neil Gaiman. (I can wholeheartedly recommend “American Gods” and “Neverwhere” as personal favorites.) Speaking of magic, I’ve also been thinking a lot about rereading “The Master and Margarita” by Bulgakov lately (another one I’d recommend, a million times over).

I’m also nerding out on positivity and joy lately, so here’s what I’ve got in that regard:


Sarah is ready for her holiday reading...in case you were worried.
Sarah is ready for her holiday reading…in case you were worried.

An American Marriage, by Tayari Jones

This is my favorite book of the year. The story of a young marriage torn apart by tragic circumstances stemming from racism, the tale is told in chapters from the viewpoint of three different people. It explores love, race, class and gender dynamics in modern America and has some of the most beautiful prose I’ve read in a long time. If that’s not enough to convince you, Barack Obama called it “moving.”

“Guys We Fucked” podcast

Guys We Fucked (“the anti slut shaming podcast”) is the hugely popular podcast from comedians Krystyna Hutchinson and Corinne Fisher. Though the original concept of the show was to bring on guys they had slept with to interview them (I can’t imagine anything more terrifying or interesting), what’s even more captivating is their openness and honesty about everything from relationships to loneliness to being a young woman in the entertainment industry. A recent standout episode is “The breakup episode” — both hosts ended long-term relationships around the same time and went deep about it on this episode. I’m talking sobbing and real honesty about how upset and scared they felt. It is unbelievably refreshing to hear from women who aren’t afraid to share the not-so-great parts of life.

Juggle readers recommend

Juggle reader, Aliyah, is going to be re-reading The Outlander Series, by Diana GalbaldonNo. Not the Starz TV Series. The original book series. And we can see why. Who doesn’t love time travel, romance, sex, wizardry, and science with a strong female lead? NPR tells us more about the 8-book series. Yes. You heard right. Eight books.

A number of our Juggle readers recommend Educated by Tara Westover. Sarah writes, “The premise reminds me a lot of The Glass Castle, which I loved.  It’s fascinating to me how some people can completely overcome their circumstances to excel in the highest areas of academia or field of business while the majority remain where they are / continuing the cycle.  What is it about these people that drives them to leave everything they’ve ever known?” Another book many of our readers are into is Becoming, by Michelle Obama. Thank you Roxanne and most of the twitter / instagram universe for this rec.

To wrap, Anna, Jennifer, and Courtney suggest adding these to your list: Dreamland by Sam Quinones, Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday, Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan, All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung, and Dear America by Jose Antonio Vargas. Thank you for the tips! Until next time…


(While we are still not sponsored for anything we write and recommend, we are testing Amazon Affiliate links out. So if you end up liking one of our book recommendations and buying it through our Amazon link, you will be supporting our work here at The Juggle. Thank you!)

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5 thoughts on “What we are reading and listening to this holiday season

  1. This is very nerdy of me, but I echo the Pevear/Volokhonsky translation recommendation for anything Tolstoy. I tried and failed to read Anna Karenina multiple times until I got my hands on their version, and now it’s one of my favorite books. Every other version I tried just seemed so stilted and formal, which is rough for lengthy Russian lit. Plus, Pevear and Volokhonsky are actually a married couple, and I love that they do this work together.

    1. That’s awesome intel. I’d heard that was the case, and my friend actually worked on their War and Peace (she used to work in production at Randomhouse), but I didn’t realize just how impactful it would be. Of course it makes sense; seems logical that it would be really hard to translate not just words but their lyricism and rhythm. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    2. I’m late to the party, but I just noticed this RECOMMENDATION OF TOLSTOY TRANSLATIONS and I almost died. Our readers are the freaking best.

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