9 Cozy Winter Reads
Books Perfectly Paired with Wintry Weather!
When temperatures plummet, pick up one of these titles where snow, ice, and the winter season play a major role.
The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon [Mystery/Thriller: 2013]
This book was highly recommended by a friend so I'm looking forward to this suspenseful novel. "West Hall, Vermont, has always been a town of strange disappearances and old legends. The most mysterious is that of Sara Harrison Shea, who, in 1908, was found dead in the field behind her house just months after the tragic death of her daughter. Now, in present day, 19-year-old Ruthie lives in Sara’s farmhouse with her mother, Alice, and her younger sister. Alice has always insisted that they live off the grid, a decision that has weighty consequences when Ruthie wakes up one morning to find that Alice has vanished. In her search for clues, she is startled to find a copy of Sara Harrison Shea's diary hidden beneath the floorboards of her mother's bedroom. As Ruthie gets sucked into the historical mystery, she discovers that she’s not the only person looking for someone that they’ve lost. But she may be the only one who can stop history from repeating itself."
The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey [Historical Fiction: 2012]
I loved this sometimes heartbreaking book with more than a touch of magical realism! "Alaska, 1920: a brutal place to homestead, and especially tough for recent arrivals Jack and Mabel. Childless, they are drifting apart -- he breaking under the weight of the work of the farm; she crumbling from loneliness and despair. In a moment of levity during the season's first snowfall, they build a child out of snow. The next morning the snow child is gone -- but they glimpse a young, blonde-haired girl running through the trees. This little girl, who calls herself Faina, seems to be a child of the woods. She hunts with a red fox at her side, skims lightly across the snow, and somehow survives alone in the Alaskan wilderness. As Jack and Mabel struggle to understand this child who could have stepped from the pages of a fairy tale, they come to love her as their own daughter. But in this beautiful, violent place things are rarely as they appear, and what they eventually learn about Faina will transform all of them."
Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah [Psychological Fiction/Domestic Fiction: 2010]
"Meredith and Nina Whitson are as different as sisters can be. One stayed at home to raise her children and manage the family apple orchard; the other followed a dream and traveled the world to become a famous photojournalist. But when their beloved father falls ill, Meredith and Nina find themselves together again, standing alongside their cold, disapproving mother, Anya, who even now, offers no comfort to her daughters. As children, the only connection between them was the Russian fairy tale Anya sometimes told the girls at night. On his deathbed, their father extracts a promise from the women in his life: the fairy tale will be told one last time—and all the way to the end. Thus begins an unexpected journey into the truth of Anya's life in war-torn Leningrad, more than five decades ago. Alternating between the past and present, Meredith and Nina will finally hear the singular, harrowing story of their mother's life, and what they learn is a secret so terrible and terrifying that it will shake the very foundation of their family and change who they believe they are."
Winter: A Novel by Ali Smith [Literary Fiction: 2017]
"Winter. Bleak. Frosty wind, earth as iron, water as stone, so the old song goes. And now Art’s mother is seeing things. Come to think of it, Art’s seeing things himself. When four people, strangers and family, converge on a fifteen-bedroom house in Cornwall for Christmas, will there be enough room for everyone? Ali Smith’s shapeshifting Winter casts a warm, wise, merry and uncompromising eye over a post-truth era in a story rooted in history and memory and with a taproot deep in the evergreens, art and love." This is the second novel in Smith's seasonal quartet.
Light on Snow by Anita Shreve [Domestic Fiction: 2004]
"What makes a family? That's what 12-year-old Nicky Dillon wonders after she and her widowed father discover a wailing abandoned baby in the snow-filled woods near their New Hampshire home. Through the days that follow, the Dillons and an unexpected visitor who soon turns up at their door- a young woman evidently haunted by her own terrible choices- face a thicket of decisions, each seeming to carry equal possibilities of heartbreak and redemption. Writing with all the emotional resonance that has drawn millions of readers around the world to her fiction, Anita Shreve unfolds in Light on Snow a tender and surprising novel about love and its consequences."
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The Snow Queen by Michael Cunningham [Literary Fiction: 2014]
"It's November 2004. Barrett Meeks, having lost love yet again, is walking through Central Park when he is inspired to look up at the sky; there he sees a pale, translucent light that seems to regard him in a distinctly godlike way. Barrett doesn't believe in visions―or in God―but he can't deny what he's seen. At the same time, in the not-quite-gentrified Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn, Tyler, Barrett's older brother, a struggling musician, is trying―and failing―to write a wedding song for Beth, his wife-to-be, who is seriously ill. Tyler is determined to write a song that will be not merely a sentimental ballad but an enduring expression of love. Barrett, haunted by the light, turns unexpectedly to religion. Tyler grows increasingly convinced that only drugs can release his creative powers. Beth tries to face mortality with as much courage as she can summon. Cunningham follows the Meeks brothers as each travels down a different path in his search for transcendence. In subtle, lucid prose, he demonstrates a profound empathy for his conflicted characters and a singular understanding of what lies at the core of the human soul."
Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson [Science Fiction/Cyberpunk: 1992]
" Weaving virtual reality, Sumerian myth, and just about everything in between with a cool, hip cybersensibility, Snow Crash brings us the gigathriller of the information age. In reality, Hiro Protagonist delivers pizza for Uncle Enzo’s CosoNostra Pizza Inc., but in the Metaverse he’s a warrior prince. Plunging headlong into the enigma of a new computer virus that’s striking down hackers everywhere, he races along the neon-lit streets on a search-and-destroy mission for the shadowy virtual villain threatening to bring about infocalypse."
Winter Hours: Prose, Prose Poems, and Poems by Mary Oliver [Poetry Collection: 1999]
I read this reflective and insightful collection of poems and essays in December 2021 and think it makes a quick but thoughtful read this time of year. "With the grace and precision that have won her legions of admirers, Oliver talks here of turtle eggs and housebuilding, of her surprise at an unexpected whistling she hears, of the "thousand unbreakable links between each of us and everything else." She talks of her own poems and of some of her favorite poets: Poe, writing of "our inescapable destiny," Frost and his ability to convey at once that "everything is all right, and everything is not all right," the "unmistakably joyful" Hopkins, and Whitman, seeking through his poetry "the replication of a miracle." And Oliver offers us a glimpse as well of her "private and natural self—something that must in the future be taken into consideration by any who would claim to know me.""
Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times by Katherine May [Memoir: 2020]
I read this book in December of 2020 (more on my thoughts about this title here). I would certainly read it again for its wealth of winter wisdom. "A moving personal narrative shot through with lessons from literature, mythology, and the natural world, May's story offers instruction on the transformative power of rest and retreat. Ultimately Wintering invites us to change how we relate to our own fallow times. May models an active acceptance of sadness and finds nourishment in deep retreat, joy in the hushed beauty of winter, and encouragement in understanding life as cyclical, not linear.
What are some of your favorite wintertime reads? Let me know in the comments. Here's to a happy, healthy and warm season, and best wishes for further reading!
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