A Thanksgiving Dinner Reading Menu

Courtney Rodgers |
3 months ago
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Pass the cranberry sauce! We’re having mashed potatoes! Hold that thought — before the big Thanksgiving meal/weekend, you’ll need a proper reading list to go with such a banquet. This is not your ordinary reading list. Think of it as a menu for reading. 

If you’ve ever cooked all or some of a big holiday meal, you know that there is a decent amount of waiting time involved. A standard thanksgiving turkey takes 4-5 hours to cook, more if you forget to defrost the turkey on time. 

How to use this menu: while your main course is roasting on the oven, help yourself to some nibbles, appetizers, and drinks. Ahem, flash fiction, short stories, and refreshing nonfiction. For the main course, we’re having a selection of richly detailed 400+ page novels, with sequels to accompany. Then, for dessert, help yourself to a sweet romance or two. Later in the evening, or tomorrow, there’s an assortment of anthologies to satisfy your cravings for a bit of everything. Line up your stacks or load up your ereader and phone with your selections and turn the holiday weekend into a reading challenge. 

No matter how you’re spending the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, finding time to relax and read is always a good idea. 


Nibbles are a crucial part of any major get-together or holiday meal. The bowls of salted peanuts, the cold veggie trays, the snack mix. It’s the stuff you can eat with one hand while chatting. Similarly, flash fiction can be enjoyed on your phone while waiting on a quick spin in the microwave. 

The Disappearing Dream Engineer By Rati Mehrotra

At just 1057 words, this story about a vanishing  dream engineer is a quick dip into imagination. 

The Green House Bargain by Tanya Aydelott

This eerie story also speaks of abundance. 

What Is Yours Is Yours by K-Ming Chang

Ponder what belonging means with this maternal piece.


The holidays bring out the fancy appetizers. Save the cheese and crackers for  casual  game nights. For the big day, bring on the retro canapes and turkey-shaped cheese ball, or in the case of books, a gorgeous collection of short stories. 

Bliss Montage by Ling Ma

In these eight stories, Ma explores the bizarre and the mundane of the immigrant experience. There is the story of a woman living in a home with all of her ex-boyfriends, another of a ritual that calls for burying yourself alive to heal yourself. Dark and playful, these stories touch on themes of love, loneliness, and ambition. 

The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw

Behind a quiet exterior lies the simmering rage, sexuality, and vulnerability of church ladies. These interconnected stories explore the passions and questions of four generations of Black women and girls in The Church. This collection is particularly good for a Thanksgiving appetizer, as Philyaw has filled the pages with descriptions of delicious church potluck foods, especially that peach cobbler.

What We Fed to the Manticore by Talia Lakshmi Kolluri

Dive into an imaginative collection that touches on conservation, environmentalism, loss, and family. Each of these nine stories is told from the perspective of a different animal. Vulnerable and hopeful, this collection is a touching read.


Thanksgiving drinks have to be light and refreshing to accompany the main course. To keep things light in this category, I recommend a funny nonfiction book or graphic memoir.

The World’s Worst Assistant by Sona Movsesian

Conan O’Brien’s longtime assistant Movsesian finally writes her side of the story in this hilarious memoir. Filled with comics, horrible how-tos, bad tips, and plenty of personal stories of working for O’Brien, this book will have you laughing all afternoon.

Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley

This foodie-centric graphic memoir traces Knisley’s obsession with good food from childhood. Each charming story is accompanied by a family recipe, so maybe read this one during your menu planning phase.

Barely Functional Adult by Meichi Ng

Hilarious and reflective, this graphic memoir somehow weirdly captures what it’s like to spend Thanksgiving with family as an adult. Some of it’s a bit sad, sometimes you’re laughing so hard you can’t stop. Either way, you’re an amorphous blob and that’s ok.

Main Course

Whether its turkey, ham, or vegan loaf at your table, you know you’re going to be eating it for the next few days. It’s wise to have a doorstopper of a book to accompany your leftovers.

The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

This epic fantasy clocks in at 848 pages with a complex world, and four points of view to follow. Dragons, queendoms, and internal conflict — sounds just like my family holidays.

Babel by R.F. Kuang

It’s still autumn, ergo it’s still Dark Academia time. This richly layered novel is part fantasy, part social commentary, set in an alternate Georgian Era Oxford.

Lessons by Ian McEwan

This book is just the kind of cozy reading you want on a long holiday weekend. McEwan chronicles septuagenarian Roland Baines’ life through significant events — historical and personal.


The side dishes are the best part of Thanksgiving, in my opinion. My plate runneth over with mac & cheese, scalloped potatoes, green bean casserole (NO MUSHROOMS!), and the sequels to last year’s hit novels.

The Winners by Fredrik Backman

Catch up with the residents of Beartown in the final installment of this Swedish trilogy. Everything is changing, yet somethings stay the same.

Soul of the Deep by Natasha Bowen

What happens after you’ve traded away everything to save those you love? Demons, apparently. Simi must fight to save her world, again, without losing herself.

A Restless Truth by Freya Marske

Maud Blyth can’t let her brother Robin have all the fun. This magical historical romance-adventure is set on the high seas as Maud travels to New York, with a murder to solve.

The Perfumist of Paris by Alka Joshi

Closing out Joshi’s historical series, this novel takes Radha to 1970s Paris as a master perfumer. When Radha must travel abroad for a project, a secret could upend everything she’s worked for.


Pumpkin or pecan? None for me, thanks, I’ll have a sweet-as-candy romance instead. With a slice of pie on the side.

Where We End & Begin by Jane Igharo

Twelve years after pledging to return to each other, Dunni and Obinna unexpectedly reunite at a wedding in Nigeria. When all those fluttery high school butterfly feelings come back, Dunni and Obinna find they may be willing to make good on their promise.

The Holiday Trap by Roan Parrish

This cozy holiday romance encapsulates love and good cheer all around. Greta wants to get away from her family’s togetherness and Truman needs space after a breakup. Swapping houses is just what they need, and finding love is just what they don’t expect.

Drunk on Love by Jasmine Guillory

What’s a family dinner without a little career drama talk? When Margot’s one night stand turns out to be the winery’s latest hire, she’s determined to be professional. Except Luke is everything she’s ever wanted in a partner and their chemistry is undeniable. Can they sort out their feelings for each other or will things turn to vinegar?

Time to snuggle up on the couch and snooze for a bit, before making a giant masterpiece of a leftover sandwich, AKA read another chapter. For some “real” thanksgiving reading, visit our Thanksgiving archives for recipe ideas, storybooks, and more!