They鈥檙e getting closer: The holidays are almost here, final exams are upon us and everyone鈥檚 stressed to the max (okay, let鈥檚 call it 鈥渙verly excited鈥). We at Brit + Co鈥檚 book club understand that you might not have time for a novel right now and that you might be in need of a few tiny, perfect pick-me-ups. Why not celebrate the season with an advent calendar of short fiction and essays to keep you going until the holidays hit for real? Unlock one tale a day for a moment of mental bliss.

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1. Christmas Days: 12 Stories and 12 Feasts for 12 Days by Jeanette Winterson ($20): If you celebrate Christmas, the most obvious candidate for a short story advent calendar is the appropriately named short story collection by Jeanette Winterson, which not only features 12 timely tales of tinsel, but also a brief history of the holiday and relevant recipes (from friends such as Susie Orbach and Kathy Acker) to go along with each piece 鈥 and if you get it by Tuesday, it鈥檒l take you right into Christmas Eve. The versatile pieces include both hearth-warming and chillingly supernatural detail, calling up comparisons from O. Henry to Stephen King.

Winterson will get your Dickens in a twist with her off-kilter rendition of a Victorian tale set at 鈥滿rs. Reckitt鈥檚 Academy for Orphans, Foundlings and Minors in Need of Temporary Office.鈥 She takes on materialism in 鈥淪pirit of Christmas,鈥 as a child stuck in the enormous department store BUYBUYBABY changes a couple鈥檚 philosophical outlook. 鈥淭he Snowmama鈥 gives us a living snowman who isn鈥檛 Frosty, while 鈥淭he Silver Frog鈥 defeats the evil owner of an orphanage, and 鈥淒ark Christmas鈥 may give you a bit of a shiver in a tale worthy of Edgar Allan Poe 鈥 or should we say 鈥淓dgar Allan Ho-Ho-Ho鈥? (No, we probably shouldn鈥檛.)

In Winterson鈥檚 wintry world, dogs can fly, trees have unfathomable power and trains vanish. The magic she relates gets to the heart of both the fundamental joy and sadness of the holiday season, which shows us everything we have, and reminds us of everything we want.

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2. The Daily Assortment of Astonishing Things and Other Stories: The Caine Prize for African Writing 2016 ($17): Creativity is one of the seven founding principles of the Pan-African winter holiday Kwanzaa. You can celebrate Pan-African creativity this season by checking out this collection from The Caine Prize for African Writing, Africa鈥檚 leading literary award. The book features 17 stories, including five from the shortlist and twelve from the Caine Writers Workshop. Stories come from Kenya鈥檚 Abdul Adan, Nigeria鈥檚 Lesley Nneka Arimah and Tope Folarin, Zimbabwe鈥檚 Bongani Kona, South Africa鈥檚 Lidudumalingani (the winner) and more.

The title story is an engaging work that revolves around a credulous young boy who believes the assortment of things his transistor radio tells him, no matter how outlandish. Other stories include 鈥淎t Your Requiem,鈥 a meditation on an unsettling death and the unhappy memories it stirs: 鈥淚 rewind time to conjure you back to life.鈥 Arimah鈥檚 story, 鈥淲hen a Man Falls from the Sky,鈥 gives us a subset of mathematicians who calculate grief.

The winner, 鈥淢emories We Lost,鈥 takes on the turbulent topic of what happens when serious mental health issues are treated with traditional, rather than scientific techniques. A young woman winds up having to protect her sister from her rural community鈥檚 prescribed treatment for schizophrenia. 鈥淢y mother preferred her numb. I preferred a sister. A laughing sister, a talking sister, and a sister who looked into my eyes and cried and laughed. Imagine the reflections that suddenly appear when one stares into water and beats it. That is what happens to my sister.鈥 This is a solid collection, as varied and nuanced as the values that comprise the holiday.

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3. A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women by Siri Hustvedt ($26): Hanukkah brings with it themes of memory, empathy, light and miracles, along with the nature of perception and a fierce challenge to the status quo by a beloved underdog. Shed a little intellectual light for far more than eight days by taking a look at Siri Hustvedt鈥檚 A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women, which promises short but deep forays into introspective and wide-ranging discussions on such varied topics as art, consciousness and psychoanalysis. Hustvedt, writer of The Blazing World (winner of the 2014 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Fiction and long-listed for the Man Booker Prize), asks us to ponder the self and just what is meant by the difference between mind and brain.

She critiques an exhibition of Robert Mapplethorpe photos and the works of Louise Bourgeois, Susan Sontag and Pablo Picasso, but also looks at the potential inadequacy of the fMRI studies that have mapped the reactions of our brains to art. 鈥淲hat is knowledge and how should we think about it?鈥 believe that neurobiology can contribute to an understanding of aesthetics, but it cannot do so in a vacuum,鈥 she writes. You might consider this a non-fictional picking up where she left off with 2003鈥檚 What I Loved鈥檚 main character, art historian Leo Hertzberg, who similarly explored themes of psychology and art. This time in a non-fiction universe, her dizzying list of academic sources, from Niels Bohr to William James to Mary Douglas and Margaret Cavendish, is used to refute the notion that nature always outperforms nurture, and that men are just biologically 鈥渂etter鈥 than women at certain things, like math. (Fightin鈥 words!)

As well, Hustvedt seeks to 鈥渙pen [the] dialogue between scientists and artists, saying 鈥渨e are all also creatures of ideas.鈥 鈥淲hat artists say about their own work is compelling because it tells us something about what they believe they are doing,鈥 she writes, but 鈥渁rtists (of all kinds) are only partially aware of what they do.鈥 It鈥檚 this marriage of intent and interpretation, art and science that drives the book, which has been called everything from 鈥渆rudite鈥 to 鈥渃anonical,鈥 and is one of Kirkus Reviews鈥 Best Books of 2016. It鈥檚 worth reading a section when you want to burn that midnight oil.

What books help you celebrate? Tag us in your next holiday read @BritandCo.

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(Featured photo via Getty)