11 Books Set In Winter To Read With A Cup Of Hot Cocoa By The Fire
As a born-and-bred Windy City girl whose once-temporary move to the southeastern United States is looking more and more permanent by the day, I can honestly say that I do not miss winter. But there is one thing I definitely do miss about living in a landscape where nearly six months out of the year the weather outside is frightful, and that’s curling up by the fire (or, if you’re a Chicago gal like me, one of those old-school radiators) with a stack of books all about winter. There’s just something extra cozy about reading stories of snow and sleet and the silence of icy terrain when it’s snowing outside in the real world as well — am I right?
The energy of great wintertime novels and memoirs is different than that of other stories too. If they’re not filled with holiday cheer — though plenty of the best winter stories are — books set in snowy settings are a bit quieter; slower to unfold; there’s always something a little haunting about them, like the world outside has been put on pause while the story takes place. (Maybe it’s all the snow… who knows?)
Whether it’s snowing outside your own window or not, if you’re ready to curl up with a hot cocoa and a great winter read, check out these 11 books that will give you all kinds of wintery vibes.
'Mr. Dickens and His Carol' by Samantha Silva
Published this October — just in time to make your snowy-weather TBR pile — Samantha Silva’s imaginative novel, Mr. Dickens and His Carol, is written like something of a love letter to the writer Charles Dickens and one of the most-recognized Christmas stories in history: A Christmas Carol. Introducing readers to a Dickens suffering from a particularly bad bout of writer’s block, Silva takes him though a journey not unlike the one his infamous character, Ebenezer Scrooge, will soon go through, in the pages of his story.
'The Snow Child' by Eowyn Ivey
The phrase “the snow child” might inspire images of childhood snowball fights and cups of hot chocolate warming your hands — but that is definitely not what Eowyn Ivey’s The Snow Child is all about. In this haunting and whimsical novel, a childless couple named Jack and Mabel are struggling to make a home for themselves 1920s Alaska. But their isolation in the remote landscape, paired with their infertility struggles, are taking a toll. When the couple playfully constructs a “snow baby” in the woods near their homestead, they unknowingly awaken supernatural forces that will change their lives forever — and they have not created the baby they were hoping for.
'Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube: Chasing Fear and Finding Home in the Great White North' by Blair Braverman
This memoir will take you to a landscape where it’s practically always winter — first, to arctic Norway and then to an Alaskan glacier. In Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube: Chasing Fear and Finding Home in the Great White North, writer Blair Braverman tells the story of her work as a dog sledding tour guide — isolated in a landscape dominated by snow, cold, and men, where all of her physical and mental limits were tried and tested, and ultimately transcended. A powerful memoir of female strength and young ambition, Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube also reads like a love letter to a landscape few people ever get to experience for themselves.
'Winter Garden' by Kristin Hannah
Transporting readers to Russia (where, as far as I can tell, it is always snowing) Kristin Hannah’s Winter Garden tells a touching family story about two sisters and their complicated relationship with their mother Anya — a woman who mimics the terrain that surrounds her: cold, distant, isolated. But Anya wasn’t always that way. When the sisters reconnect at their childhood home over the illness of their father, they discover a lifetime of secrets about their mother’s war-informed past and how she became the ice-cold women they’ve always known.
'Snow Falling on Cedars' by David Guterson
Though not exclusively set in winter, David Guterson’s remote, ocean-chilled San Piedro Island setting will have you reaching for your mittens no matter what time of year it is. Vividly rendered, suspenseful, raw, and heart-wrenching, Snow Falling on Cedars weaves together a story of war and exile, romance and loss, all set against the backdrop of a post-World War II murder trial — one in which a Japanese American man becomes a scapegoat, put on trial not just for the murder, but for the complex and violent relationships that the people of San Piedro Island had with their Japanese American residents following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, as well.
'Boundless: Tracing Land and Dream in a New Northwest Passage' by Kathleen Winter
I don’t know about you, but the plight of the polar bear is something that regularly keeps me up at night. Taking readers to a terrain where climate change and international politics merge, Kathleen Winter’s Boundless: Tracing Land and Dream in a New Northwest Passage chronicles her travels in the Northwest Passage — a waterway that runs through the Arctic Ocean, along the northern coast of North America, and crosses the Canadian Arctic Archipelago (aka: practically the coldest place on earth) — as she shadows a group of scientific experts on everything from marine biology to anthropology. Winter experiences firsthand the devastating effects of climate change, contrasted with the complicated and heartbreaking beauty of this headline-making landscape.
'Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone' by J. K. Rowling
Though J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series tends towards the Halloween spirit (wizards, witches, magic — you know) and takes places in seasons of all temperatures, there’s just something about Christmas at Hogwarts that begs to be read in the heart of winter. And while each of the seven novels have classic Christmas scenes, there’s just something about that very first holiday celebration in Hogwarts castle that makes it extra special.
'The Shining' by Stephen King
Who says thrillers are only good for Halloween? After all, the snowy, isolated, frigid setting of Stephen King's Overlook Hotel is one of the most wintery places I’ve ever read about. The Shining tells the terrifying story of Jack Torrance and his family, who become unlikely off-season caretakers for the Overlook Hotel — inspired by a real hotel in Colorado — and get a whole lot more than undisturbed snowscapes and private sledding slopes for Christmas. One supernatural horror after another befalls this snowbound fam—and since Jack's son, Danny, is already a bit haunted himself, he inspires the hotel to extreme paranormal activity.
'The Winter People' by Jennifer McMahon
One more thriller for your wintertime reading list (because, why not?) The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon is a ghost story that will take you to small town Vermont, where the women of West Hall have been plagued by violence and disappearances for decades. A generations-old diary might hold the key to the mystery — and the nature of the Winter People — but first 19-year-old West Hall resident Ruthie has to figure out how to save herself from her family’s violent fate.
'A Game of Thrones' by George R. R. Martin
I don’t know for a fact that it is literally always almost-winter in George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series (though all of those castles have got to be freezing), but the catchphrase of the entire story is “winter is coming”, so… I think that says it all.
'Anna Karenina' by Leo Tolstoy
Another novel that will transport you to the perpetually freezing terrain of literally anywhere-Russia, Leo Tolstoy’s classic of social politics, longing, lusting, and heartbreak, Anna Karenina, is as wintery a a novel they come, not just for the Russian cold, but for the coldest of cold shoulders that Anna is forced to endure. Telling the story of the unhappily married Anna, the social conventions she struggles (and refuses) to submit to, her attempts to build a life with her lover, and her final decision to make a devastating choice, this one is decidedly not heartwarming — so be sure to heap those logs on your fireplace before you settle down with it.