11 Books That Are Perfect to Read Over the Winter

by Amy Sachs

It’s only November, and we've already seen the Polar Vortex rear its ugly head. We have another endless, bleak winter ahead of us, there aren't enough blankets to hide under. However, there might be a bright side. While you’re trying to decide if it’s really worth it to go out into the tundra tonight night, only to spend tons of money on drinks in an outfit less than conducive to warmth, think of your bed. Think of being warm and wrapped up in blankets and maybe just this once send that “I think I'll stay in tonight” text.

Sure, there are shows to be binge watched on Netflix, but there are also so many books that we would never have the time to read during the rest of the year. Summer, spring, and fall all offer endless possibilities of beaches, festivals, and events. Take the excuse the winter is giving you to stay inside and catch up on all of those titles you swear you've been meaning to get to, but never had a chance to. Winter is for staying in and waiting for spring. Like a bear who has to be awake.

Here are some amazing books that are perfect to hunker down with this winter:


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Winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize, Tartt’s 700+-page novel follows Theo, who traumatically loses his mother at the start of the book. The Goldfinch is the story of art theft, of secrets kept and revisited. There's friendship, love, loss and eventually, maybe, redemption. The novel is beautifully written, and bursting with gorgeous quotes. It's a serious coming of age story, so you meet so many people along the way — you end up wishing you knew them yourself.

Perfect for winter because: Part of the book takes place in frigid New York City during the winter months, but part of it takes place in blazing hot Las Vegas, so you can keep warm vicariously through the book.


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The 834-page winner of the 2013 Man Booker Prize is a novel that begins the way any good book should: on a dark and stormy night. Walter Moody is a young man who has come to New Zealand in 1866 to make a fortune at work in the goldfields. Upon his arrival, he meets 12 men discussing the series of strange events that have been unfolding. At once a work of historical fiction and a mysterious thriller, The Luminaries has something for everyone, and will keep your turning the pages on more than one cold night.

Perfect for winter because: The opener sets the perfect mood for winter: light some candles and bundle up, reveling in the fact that you’re safe and warm, and not outside in freezing mid-19th century New Zealand.


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At 624 pages, The Bone Clocks is short in comparison to the first two books on the list, but no less engrossing. Holly Sykes is 15 years old when she storms out of her house after a fight with her mother, never guessing what life had in store for her. Out on her own, Holly is contacted by voices she knew as a child as “the radio people.” Holly turns out to be receptive to psychic activity, and has caught the attention of a group of dangerous mystics. Travelling through time as Holly’s family tries to cope with and understand her disappearance, The Bone Clocks is an unputdownable novel, and one of the best books released in 2014.

Perfect for winter because: Spanning decades of Holly's life and those of the people she meets, The Bone Clocks is the perfect book to get completely lost in for a few hours while the snow falls outside your window.


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Published in 1997, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is one of Murakami’s best-loved books. A newly unemployed man, Toru Okada, is on a quest to find his wife’s missing cat. She tells him the cat is symbolic of their relationship. Determined to find the cat and stop yet another rift from forming between them, Toru stumbles on secrets and characters he never knew existed in his quiet Tokyo suburb. A psychic prostitute, a morbid 16-year-old girl, and a war veteran are just a few of the many characters that make up this 607-page work.

Perfect for winter because: What better time to get lost in a long, twisty mystery like this one than a cold winter day, when you have nothing more to do than unravel it?


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A 531-page work of historical fiction, All the Light We Cannot See is a fantastic read. Doerr tells the story of Marie Laure, a young girl living in Paris with her father, who goes blind at the age of six. When German troops come to occupy Paris, Marie Laure and her father find safety in the small town of Saint Malo, where she comes to meet Werner. Werner is an orphan, a master at fixing and understanding radios, and member of the Hitler youth. Set against the brutality of World War II, All the Light We Cannot See is about finding the light and beauty where there seems to only be darkness.

Perfect for winter because: The love these characters have for each other, and the positive outlook they manage to maintain in the darkest of situations, will thaw even the coldest of people.


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A family from Manhattan takes a two week vacation to warm, sunny Mallorca, Spain. Jim and Franny are celebrating their 35th anniversary, and Sylvia has just graduated high school and wants to accomplish a few select things before going away to college and escaping her family once and for all. Bobby brings along his much older girlfriend and has a huge favor to ask. However, like any family vacation, not everything goes as planned. Secrets are revealed, old wounds resurface, and new heartaches are deeply felt.

Perfect for winter because: The Vacationers will keep you warm with its depictions of tropical Mallorca, and with the spark of hope this family will ignite as you read — you can’t help but root for them.


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I know what you’re thinking. Another book by Donna Tartt? But you’ll see that it’s necessary once you read The Goldfinch, because you will immediately want more, and I’m here to help. A group of college students at Hampden College in Vermont are studying the classics when their devotion to the subject takes a turn for the dangerous. As the once tight bond between friends Richard, Charles, Camilla, Francis, and the mysterious Henry becomes fraught with tension, readers sit by breathlessly waiting for the Vermont snow — and their hearts — to thaw.

Perfect for winter because: “The snow in the mountains was melting and Bunny had been dead for several weeks before we came to understand the gravity of our situation.” With an opening line like this, the winter is the only time for this book.


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Young Nella Oortman married Johannes Brandt at the urging of her mother, after her father’s death left Nella and her family in financial straits. She marries a wealthy merchant and sets off for Amsterdam to start her new life with her husband, but to Nella’s dismay, she finds herself left to the care of Johannes' austere sister, Marin. As the freezing Amsterdam winter sets in, Nella is lonely and increasingly hopeless that her husband will ever care for her. Everything begins to change when a mysterious miniaturist begins leaving haunting gifts for Nella, gifts that could expose Johannes and his entire family.

Perfect for winter because: Burton creates a story that relies on the setting as much as the characters for her novel, so much so that you will feel the Amsterdam wind against your cheeks as if you’re in it yourself.


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Taking place in snowy Philadelphia on Christmas Eve, 2 A.M. at the Cat’s Pajamas is told in quick vignettes over the course of the day from several perspectives. At the heart of the book is Madeleine Altimari, a 9-year-old who is mourning her mother, and who wants nothing more than to be a jazz singer. Madeleine is determined to take the stage and make her public singing debut at The Cat’s Pajamas, a floundering jazz club owned by a man named Lorca. Full of magical realism, Cat’s Pajamas holds the type of magic and hope that only Christmas Eve can.

Perfect for winter because: The sparkle of snow outside a jazz club, the promise of Christmas morning and what it will bring, and the touches of magical realism make this the perfect book to read as the Christmas season approaches.


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A magical, mysterious black and white circus appears out of nowhere in the middle of the night. Le Cirque des Reves, as it is called, is only open at night, and is filled with breathtaking magic and performances. However, at the heart of the circus is a magical competition between Celia and Marco, made by their instructors at the time of their births. Against all odds, and all instruction, the two fall madly in love, and the fate of Celia, Marco, and the entire circus is at stake.

Perfect for winter because: The black and white motif, the magical love story, and the rich details draw you in, perfect to settle in with as the days get shorter and darkness sets in increasingly early.


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Margaret Atwood turned 75 this month, but she's not letting that slow her down. The iconic author released a new collection of short stories in September, and many of them have a particular theme in common: the cold. Nine wintery tales to read while you're inside and anything but cold, Stone Mattress has something for everyone. "Alphinland" is the story of one woman being guided through a stormy winter night by the voice of her husband. "The Freeze-Dried Bridegroom" is about a man who buys a storage space at auction and finds a surprise inside. The title story "Stone Mattress" takes place in the Arctic.

Perfect for winter because: These winter themed tales are perfect to read in the comfort of your own home, safely tucked away from the apocalypse often happening inside the book.

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