Twelve Recommendations for Winter Break Binging

hands hold time for a break card in front of festive lights

Written by Susan Helmick, Graduate Assistant for the Graduate College   

Grad students, you've conquered mountains of assignments, presentations, and exams – now it's time to hit pause, decompress, and indulge in some much-deserved downtime. To make the most of your well-deserved break, Graduate College staff compiled a curated list 12 of their favorite podcasts, shows, movies, music, games, and books (and why they love them) to help you kick back, relax, and maybe discover something new (and unlike a famous 12 of something else, no birds are necessary). So, let’s kick off the study boots and get the winter break recommendations rolling.

  • The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes: OK, the title mentions birds, but this prequel to Suzanne Collins’ highly popular "The Hunger Games" series follows the story of an 18-year-old Coriolanus Snow, who later becomes the infamous President Snow, and explores issues of power, privilege, and survival in a society on the brink of chaos.       
    • "The movie is great, but I highly recommend the book as it dives so much further into the inner monologue of the main antagonist."
  • Con Todo El Mundo: Released in 2018 by the band Khruangbin ("airplane" in Thai), this mostly instrumental album features a fusion of musical styles, incorporating Thai funk, Middle Eastern influences, surf rock, and soul.
    • "I appreciate the blend of multiple cultures and musical styles into one cohesive, funky unit."
  • A Little to the Left: In this puzzle game, players must organize and pack items efficiently within a limited space. It employs physics-based mechanics and challenges players to use their spatial reasoning skills to solve the packing puzzles.
    • "It is a cozy puzzle game where you organize different household objects. I’ve enjoyed playing it for stress relief and thinking creatively."
  • Bad Dates: A podcast hosted by actor Jameela Jamil and featuring a variety of guests who recount their memorable, often awkward or amusing dating experiences.
    • "If you listen to only one episode of this podcast, “Namaste Away From Me” had me laugh crying so hard at times I drew stares in public. Fair warning."
  • Business Proposal: A South Korean romantic comedy television series about a woman who pretends to be her friend on a blind date with a man who turns out to be her CEO. Available via streaming.
    • "The soundtrack is incredible, the moments are outrageously hilarious, and it is overall so heartwarming. I've watched it all the way through at least double-digit times. It is absolutely my comfort show!"
  • Cinema Therapy: Together, licensed therapist Jonathan Decker and filmmaking pro Alan Seawright unravel characters, themes, and plots to enrich listeners’ life and mental health. Available on YouTube.
    • "It's always a great conversation about navigating mental health and relationships through the lens of our favorite movies."
  • The Storyteller: Foo Fighters’ lead singer, and former drummer for Nirvana, Dave Grohl’s memoir of his life in the music industry, his perspectives on creativity, the evolution of his musical ventures, and his passion for storytelling through music.
    •  "I've read more than forty books this year, and Dave Grohl's memoir The Storyteller has remained my favorite read of the year. Grohl has a beautiful narrative voice, and every chapter just pulls you in with his incredible life on tour stories with funny cameos to boot."
  • Kiki's Delivery Service: This Japanese film is known for its beautiful animation, engaging storyline, and themes of self-discovery, friendship, and perseverance. Available via streaming.
    • "Watch Kiki's Delivery Service if you haven't already! It's a great movie and will resonate deeply with anyone struggling with burnout or major life transitions."
  • Criminalia: Hosted by Holly Frey and Maria Trimarchi, this podcast explores the lives of various individuals from history, shedding light on their backgrounds, motivations, and the circumstances that led them into a life of crime.
    • "It's a true crime podcast for those who dig historical crimes. Holly and Maria share compelling stories, while also examining how crimes and criminals hold up when viewed through a modern lens."
  • Before the Coffee Gets Cold: Japanese author Toshikazu Kawaguchi’s novel explores the theme of time travel, revolving around a mystical chair that allows café patrons to travel back in time but with strict limitations.
    • "This book made me reflect on what I would have done differently in my past regarding friendships and relationships."
  • Nomadland: Adapted from Jessica Bruder's non-fiction book of the same name, this movie follows the story of a woman who becomes a modern-day nomad after the economic collapse of her small town in rural Nevada.
    • "This movie is cinematically gorgeous, has phenomenal acting, and the story is amazing."
  • Soft Sounds From Another Planet: The second studio album by indie rock band Japanese Breakfast showcases a blend of pop, indie rock, and experimental music.
    • "I enjoy the wide variety of sounds and emotions that this album evokes."

Whatever you dive into this winter break, make the most of these more laid-back days while they last. Enjoy, relax, and recharge - you've earned it!