University of Wisconsin–Madison
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Ideas From Your Colleagues For Some Winter Fun

December, it’s certainly been a wild one…

Just a smattering of snow, with record high temps pushing 70 degrees (finally, vindication for the students who walk to class in shorts in mid-December!). Throw in some near hurricane-force winds, and it may not feel like “winter is coming.”

But as winter break approaches, we thought we’d send everyone off with a few fun ideas as you hopefully get to take some time off over the next few weeks to relax and unwind amid the holiday hustle and bustle.

So why not take a few downtime suggestions from your DoIT colleagues and tech partners across campus? The list below is compiled from suggestions offered at recent Virtual Office Hours gatherings—and it’s chock full of recommendations for you to binge, read or play something new and interesting in the winter months ahead. (That is, assuming it ever does get legit Wisconsin cold and snowy…)

Shows/Streaming Series

  • Ted Lasso – Consensus from the Virtual Office Hours chat: “It’s great, even if you aren’t into sports.”
  • Grantchester – Mystery/British detective drama, set in the 1950s Cambridgeshire village of the same name.
  • Money Heist – Action/thriller series; thieves take hostages and lock themselves in the Royal Mint of Spain as a criminal mastermind manipulates the police to carry out his plan.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill – A detective seeks to solve the puzzles behind crimes motivated by jealousy.
  • Manifest – When a plane mysteriously lands years after takeoff, the people onboard return to a world that has moved on without them and face strange, new realities.
  • What We Do in the Shadows – Mockumentary/comedy following four vampires who have been roommates for hundreds of years in New York.
  • Maid – Drama series; after fleeing an abusive relationship, a young mother finds a job cleaning houses as she fights to provide for her child and build them a better future.
  • M*A*S*H – A throwback classic from the 70s/80s; a fast-paced series relating the antics of a mobile army surgical hospital crew during the Korean War.
  • Bron/Broen – Danish series; a mysterious case involving a dead body found under a bridge right at the border of Denmark and Sweden brings together two cops, one from each side of the border.
  • Ratched – In 1947, Mildred Ratched begins working as a nurse at a leading psychiatric hospital. But beneath her stylish exterior lurks a growing darkness.
  • Foundation – Based on the sci-fi book series by Isaac Asimov; a complex saga of humans scattered on planets throughout the galaxy all living under the rule of the Galactic Empire.
  • Ghosts – Comedy series; a cash-strapped young couple inherit a rickety country mansion, only to find it teeming with needy ghosts. 
  • Love on the Spectrum – Reality TV series; finding love can be hard for anyone—for young adults on the autism spectrum, exploring the unpredictable world of dating is even more complicated.
  • CODA – As a CODA (child of deaf adults), Ruby is the only hearing person in her home. When she discovers a passion for singing, Ruby must choose between family obligations and her dream.
  • The Chestnut Man – From Denmark on Netflix. In Dansk with English subtitles. Excellent 6-part series about finding a serial killer, done in dark, cerebral, Scandi noir style.
  • RFDS Royal Flying Doctor Service – PBS Masterpiece (an add-on subscription service available in Prime Video). A touching series with a high-quality soap opera feel. We follow the lives of a team of doctors, pilots and nurses flying deep into Australia’s outback to save lives and treat injuries.


NOTE: Links provided below (often to Amazon) are simply for reference, to allow folks to read a description if you’re interested; buy from your preferred merchant, of course!

  • The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson – The true tale of the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago and the cunning serial killer who used the magic and majesty of the fair to lure his victims to their death.
  • American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America by Colin Woodard – A journey through the history of our fractured continent, and how conflicts have shaped our past and continue to mold our future.
  • Twinkie, Deconstructed by Steve Ettlinger – “My Journey to Discover How the Ingredients Found in Processed Foods Are Grown, Mined (Yes, Mined), and Manipulated into What America Eats.”
  • No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood – Is there life after the internet? A woman who has recently been elevated to prominence for her social media posts travels around the world to meet her adoring fans.
  • An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green – A young graphic artist inspires worldwide hysteria when she accidentally makes first contact with an alien. 
  • The Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley – Young adult thriller about a Native teen who must root out the corruption in her community; soon to be a Netflix series, too.
  • Airframe by Michael Crichton – A thriller about airline safety, business intrigue, and a deadly cover-up.
  • Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan – Also now a series; the lives of 5 young villagers change forever when a strange and powerful woman arrives, claiming one of them is the child of an ancient prophecy.
  • A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman – Meet Ove. He’s a curmudgeon—the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. People call him “the bitter neighbor from hell.”
  • All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr – A blind French girl and a German boy’s paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.
  • The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab – A dazzling adventure that will play out across centuries and continents, across history and art, as a young woman learns how far she will go to leave her mark on the world.
  • The Elephant Whisperer by Lawrence Anthony – “My Life with the Herd in the African Wild.”
  • Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu – A satirical work of literary fiction that explores the cliched portrayal of Asians in the film and TV industry.
  • The Book of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel – Inspired by a true story from World War II, a young woman with a talent for forgery helps hundreds of Jewish children flee the Nazis.
  • Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher – The story of Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden, Chicago’s first (and only) Wizard P.I.
  • The Conversation by Robert Livingston – “How Seeking and Speaking the Truth About Racism Can Radically Transform Individuals and Organizations.”
  • Merlin Trilogy by Mary Stewart – Through the eyes of Merlin the Magician, Arthur’s mentor and companion. 
  • The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins – Carolyn’s life changed forever when she was 8. That was the year her ordinary suburban subdivision was destroyed and the man she now calls Father took her and 11 other children to study in his very unusual Library.
  • The Personal Librarian by Heather Terrell and Victoria Christopher Murray – About J. P. Morgan’s personal librarian, Belle da Costa Greene, the Black American woman who was forced to hide her true identity and pass as white in order to leave a lasting legacy.
  • The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris – A tale of hope and courage based on interviews that were conducted with Holocaust survivor and Auschwitz-Birkenau tattooist Ludwig (Lale) Sokolov.
  • The Other Einstein: A Novel by Heather Terrell – The haunting story of Einstein’s brilliant first wife who was lost in his shadow.
  • Learning Python – Virtual Office Hours chat review from Greg Thornburg: “Kind of a slow burn. Not super entertaining. Poor character development, too.” 🙂


NOTE: Links provided below (often to Amazon) are simply for reference, to allow folks to read a description if you’re interested; buy from your preferred merchant, of course!

  • Codenames – A social word game with both online and board game versions.
  • Gloomhaven board game – A game of Euro-inspired tactical combat in a persistent world of shifting motive.
  • Patchwork board game – 2-player game that captures the magic of needlework and sewing fabric together into designs.
  • Guillotine card game – The French Revolution is famous in part for the use of the guillotine to put nobles to death, and this is the macabre subject of this light card game.
  • Five Crowns card game – Rummy-style card game with a rotating wild card.
  • Ticket to Ride Europe board game – Build your tracks across Europe in this fast-paced and strategic board game. 
  • Zombie Dice – A “press your luck” party dice game. Braaaaaains.
  • Jackbox Games – For in-person or remote parties. Your phone or tablet is the controller and up to 8 people can play. How to play.
  • Oregon Trail – An updated Apple Arcade take on an old-school classic. (Just try not to die from a snake bite. Or dysentery.)

Day Trips and Sight-Seeing

A couple of icy ideas shared at Virtual Office Hours to get you started…