11 Books To Read When You Need To Cool Down

Everybody loves summer. (Well, most people do. My brother hates it.) Whether it’s a reflex from our years of school or just the many awesome things summer brings — epically long days, watermelon and lemonade, outdoor concerts, and more barbeques than you can shake a stick at — general consensus has declared it the best season. Unfortunately, summer also has one major drawback: the soul-crushing, energy-sucking, skin-burning heat. Unless you’re one of those few lucky souls with air conditioning, summer means sweating through your clothes and lying awake at night praying for a breeze. No matter how much you love summer, sometimes you just want a break — that's where summer reading comes in. And yet, summer reading suggestions are almost always “beachy” or “hot” (what does that even mean, honestly?). No one wants to read about attractive people baking on a beach when she’s trying to escape from the dreaded dog days of August.

To remedy this problem, I’ve compiled a list of books that will make you feel like you’re somewhere cold, even if it’s really 105 degrees outside. From comic adventures through the coldest places on Earth to investigations into the most frozen of human hearts, each of these 11 books is chilling in its own way. Whether you’re a weird summer-hater like my brother or just suffering without air conditioning, they’ll help you cool off, no matter how hot it gets outside.

Aurorarama By Jean-Christophe Valtat

The big draw of this novel is its setting: New Venice, a bustling, utopian metropolis located in the Arctic Circle. The book's plot is completely bonkers (occasionally bordering on nonsensical), but if you're looking to escape the heat, there's nothing better than exploring the airships, night clubs, and greenhouses of New Venice.

The Left Hand Of Darkness By Ursula K. LeGuin

This book is a sci-fi classic for a reason — LeGuin's gorgeous prose conjures a world, and a way of life, totally unlike our own. Set in a world called Winter, where the inhabitants are all androgynous, it also includes a lot of scenes of people almost freezing to death. Definitely better to read this in the summer months.

Where'd You Go, Bernadette? By Maria Semple

All Bee wants is to go to Antartica with her mom, the titular Bernadette (a fitting desire for the sweltering summer months). Unfortunately, Bernadette is a bit of a mess, and this very, very funny epistolary novel chronicles how that plan goes terribly and hilariously awry.

Notes From Underground By Fyodor Dostoevsky

This slim novel may be set on the snow covered streets of St. Petersburg, but the truly chilling part of it is the glimpse it offers into its protagonist's twisted mind.

The Mandala Of Sherlock Holmes By Jamyang Norbu

A crackling adventure novel in which Sherlock Holmes teams up with Huree Chunder Mookerjee, the crafty Bengali spy from Rudyard Kipling's Kim, to prevent the assassination of the Dalai Lama, this book will have you planning your own Himalayan expedition.

Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage By Alfred Lansing

The harrowing true story of Ernest Shackleton's failed attempt to cross the Antarctic continent is not for the faint of heart (or anyone with a fear of frostbite). But unlike many similar tales, this one has a happy ending.

Burial Rites By Hannah Kent

In January 1830, Agnes Magnúsdóttir became the last woman to be executed in Iceland. Burial Rites imagines her side of the story, as Agnes awaits her death at an isolated farm — it's a very twisted version of a fireside story.

The Yiddish Policemen's Union By Michael Chabon

What if the Jewish state had been created in Alaska instead of the Middle East? This hypothetical provides the basis for Chabon's comic mystery novel, in which a washed up homicide detective must navigate a changing political landscape, Orthodox gangs, and his relationship with his ex-wife/boss in order to solve the murder of his chess-prodigy neighbor.

Rain: A Natural And Cultural History By Cynthia Barnett

Slightly less icy than some of the other options, Barnett's book explores both the science of rain and our weird cultural relationship with water that falls from the sky. (How did such a vital phenomenon come to be regarded as so gloomy?) There are even plenty of tips on how to summon the rain, if you're really struggling with the heat.

Frankenstein By Mary Shelley

The Frankenstein monster of popular culture, a shambling green monster with bolts in his head, has so overtaken the novel's tragic, eloquent version that it's easy to forget that the original is actually profoundly terrifying. Also often forgotten is the book's framing narrative, in which Frankenstein tells his tale to a captain searching for the North Pole. The final scene of the creature drifting away on an iceberg will undoubtedly make you shiver.

The Golden Compass By Phillip Pullman

If you somehow missed reading The Golden Compass as a teenager, you should remedy this oversight immediately. Pullman's novel has it all: giant talking polar bears, personified souls, and a family so twisted they give the Lannisters a run for their money.

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