14 Wintry Books To Read While It's Still Too Early For The Holidays
Though it's finally December, the suspiciously warm weather may have you wondering: when does the Christmas season begin? Department stores and TV commercials say yes; your roommate says no as she grumpily tears down your advent calendar. But is there a middle ground? Some say November is too soon to start celebrating, but is the first of December too soon, as well?
For the record, you'll find me firmly in the Christmas camp. From the moment that Halloween is done with, it's time to start decking those halls — and even though I'll say I'm listening to the new Lady Gaga album through my headphones, I'm actually bopping along to The Waitresses. But I get it, not everybody wants a taste of my Christmas cheer just yet. So I'm taking baby steps: tinsel might be overkill, but a little sprig of holly can't hurt, can it? It might be a little early to start reading A Christmas Carol in public — but I can definitely get immersed in a wintry story without too much judgement.
So if this chilly weather has got you feeling festive (but you're not quite ready to crack out the eggnog) I've got a few suggestions for cosy wintry books to get you in the mood.
1. The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon
A ghostly, snowy story is the perfect way to bridge the gap between Halloween and Christmas. The Winter People is about a century-old mystery surrounding the deaths of a mother and daughter, that's brought back to the surface in the present day when teenager Ruthie wakes up to find her mother has vanished without a trace.
2. The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Nobody could accuse Laura Ingalls Wilder of buying into the over-commercialized aspect of Christmas. In Little House on the Prairie, Laura and her sister are overjoyed simply to receive "a whole penny" of their very own, and a little tin cup to drink their water from. So I think you can get away with reading the gorgeously snowy The Long Winter — even though, strictly speaking, there is a Christmas scene — because this version of Christmas is miles away from anything you can buy in a department store.
3. Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater
There's something gorgeously wintry about fairy tales without being explicitly Christmassy — and Maggie Stiefvater's werewolf romance Shiver reads like the perfect spooky modern fairy tale.
4. The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
Settle down with a blanket and some hot cocoa for this mysterious story about a childless couple in 1920s Alaska who build a child out of snow — only for her to come alive.
5. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
The events of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan span 80 years, so it's not just confined to winter — but this slow and sad novel certainly isn't a beach read. No, this beautiful story of female friendship is one to read tucked up under the covers — with a hot water bottle, and a box of tissues by your side.
6. Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow by Peter Hoeg
Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow is an ode to wintry weather: the protagonist, Smilla, grew up the daughter of an Inuit in Greenland and so developed an intuitive understanding of all different types of snow. This skill comes to the foreground when her neighbor's child is tragically killed falling off a roof; the police think it was an accident, but Smilla thinks the tracks in the snow suggest something more sinister.
7. Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata
A doomed romance is the perfect literary companion for a bleak, wintry evening. Snow Country, set in an isolated town in western Japan — and this haunting novel was listed as one of the reasons Kawabata won a Nobel Prize in 1968.
8. Butterflies in November by Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir
Road trip across Iceland with the unlikely pairing of a recently-dumped (twice) young woman and her best friend's deaf-mute four-year-old son in this offbeat winter adventure.
9. Blankets by Craig Thompson
Craig Thompson's stunning seasonal illustrations will hold you captivated from the very first page of this graphic novel about religion, love, siblings, and coming of age.
10. Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
In Iceland in 1829, a young servant named Agnes is accused of the brutal murder of her former master, and sent to await execution on a cold and isolated farm. As the date of her death approaches, the farmer's wife and her daughters grow closer to Agnes, and learn there is more to her than meets the eye — but will Agnes ever get the chance to tell her own story?
11. The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
This YA fantasy has snow, polar bears, and the northern lights; it's about as wintry as you can get before Santa shows up.
12. Nigerians in Space by Deji Bryce Olukotun
From the title, you might guess Nigerians in Space is pure science fiction — but you'd be wrong. None of the action in this novel actually takes place in outer space; instead, snuggle down to read a thrilling story of secret societies, snow globes, and a mission to steal a piece of the moon.
13. The Vanishing Season by Jodi Lynn Anderson
Jodi Lynn Anderson's genre-crossing YA romance is set against the spooky, wintry backdrop of frozen lakes, snow, the mystery of the girls who have been going missing from one small town, and the ghost narrating the whole thing.
14. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
This is the ultimate winter-but-not-Christmas book — considering it's about a cursed world in which it's always winter and never Christmas. Read this one throughout November, and then you'll be extra excited when the festive season finally does arrive.