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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Sledding into the New Year with new books

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Olivia Reid
A student browses for a new book to read. Photo by Olivia Reid / Photography Editor.

The end of a difficult semester is within the campus’s collective grasp. From University Hall to the Integrated Sciences Complex, every student, faculty member, service worker and even Bobby Beacon himself is counting down the days until Dec. 22. But after the break starts, what next? What is there to do?

Admittedly, Boston is not the most outdoor activity-friendly place in the winter. Common summer pastimes are harder to do. The indoors just feels nicer. And what pairs better with the indoors than reading? A blanket, comfortable seat, hot beverage and the ambiance of a reader’s choosing; the setup could not be any more perfect! The only thing that’s missing is a book.

There are five weeks of winter break. This breaks down to 35 days, or 840 hours. In other words, ample time to begin one of the 20th century’s most iconic pieces of fantasy writing, J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings.” The tale of Frodo Baggins and his quest to destroy the most powerful weapon in Middle-earth, this epic stretches across magnificent kingdoms and treacherous mountains. All manner of creature is encountered, every imaginable form of hardship endured. A story of companionship and willpower with characters from across the land joining in.

What makes Tolkien’s writing unique is his love for detail. As an example, he dedicates a paragraph to inform the reader of the fate of a horse that runs off from the group. There’s no need for it, the horse is never mentioned again, but moments such as this breathe life into this expansive world. Couple that with an incredible imagination, and it’s no wonder his writing captured so many hearts.

It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but if even one reader picks up “The Lord of the Rings” after this, they’ll find themselves connected with the millions of people who have read it since publication in 1954. Such is the power of literature, also encapsulated in Anthony Doerr’s “Cloud Cuckoo Land,” in which characters across the centuries derive different benefits from Aethon’s tale of the man who transformed into a bird and ascended to the mythical Cloud Cuckoo Land.

Aethon’s impact is traced through five different lives that are intertwined by the mystery of his story crafted millennia ago; Anna and Omeir on opposite sides of the 15th-century fall of Constantinople, Zeno and Seymour in the same library on a fateful day in the 21st century and Konstance alone on a vast spaceship in the 22nd. Anthony Doerr masterfully stitches these experiences together to create a sprawling literary mosaic with the interwoven theme of the human relationship with art. And it is very satisfying, when all is said and done. 

If fiction recommendations aren’t catching the mind, there is always the option of furthering one’s education. Winter break doesn’t have to end learning, and learning over winter break doesn’t have to be boring! “The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs” by Steve Brusatte is a fantastic introduction into the field of paleontology for those looking to understand more about Earth’s natural history.

Brusatte offers a dinosaur book unlike many others, as it requires no previous experience in the field of dinosaur science to enjoy. It is dedicated to teaching a curious reader about the multiple scientific disciplines involved in paleontology, including biology, geology and anatomy. It is through-lined by a concise timeline of events from 300 million years ago to the present day, with plenty of insight from a seasoned paleontologist in Steve Brusatte himself! With so much to offer about some of history’s most fascinating animals, it is well worth the read.

Perhaps learning isn’t the most attractive suggestion for a well-earned break from school. After all, it is a time for unwinding and reflection from the semester. And if reflection is the aim, a reflective memoir about the pressures of parental expectations is just the place to start. “Crying in H-Mart” is Michelle Zauner’s truth. The child of an American father and South Korean mother, the crux of the narrative is centered around her relationship with the latter.

Zauner hides nothing of who she was and is: an obedient daughter turned rebel against a harsh mother, growing into a woman adjusting her life to care for the same mother at her lowest. This relationship has its joys and regrets. A cultural misfit tries to find some way to reconnect with her lost loved one. Its purity of emotion amplifies the heartache when the inevitable occurs. It is a worthy read for all interested in the art of reflection.

There are a number of in-person and online retailers that carry all of these books. Whatever the book of choice, may it provide immense joy and satisfaction and may this break be the most relaxing one yet!

About the Contributors
Adam Shah, Contributing Writer
Olivia Reid, Photo Editor