15 Chilly Books To Help You Beat The Heat This Summer

by Charlotte Ahlin

As you have probably already realized, many Americans are in the midst of hot and muggy summer. Temperatures are soaring and pit stains run rampant. Some people will tell you that this is the perfect weather for lying on a beach somewhere with a fun, summery paperback, all about people having thrilling adventures or falling in love on Martha's Vineyard. But I'm going to level with you: the beach is not fun (at least, not when the humidity goes higher than 70%). Summer reads are all well and good for days when you want to lay out in the sun in a cute sundress, but sometimes what you really want is to be indoors, in your old soccer shorts from eight grade, blasting the air conditioning and dreaming of cold, icy climes. These are the chilly summer reads to pick up when you need to beat the heat.

Of course, the anti-summer read is not so easy to define. These books come from all over the map: firsthand accounts of traversing arctic and antarctic regions, snowbound mysteries, sci-fi stories about frigid other worlds and, of course, tales of ordinary people living life in northern cities where it isn't 90 degrees Fahrenheit in the shade. So crank up the A/C, heat up the hot cocoa, and take a break from summer for a while:

'Blankets' by Craig Thompson

Blankets takes the bleak expanse of Wisconsin in mid-winter and makes it into something lovely. Our protagonist discovers the awkward, bittersweet wonder of first love against a beautifully illustrated backdrop of snowy mountains and evergreen forests. It's a sweet, quiet romance, perfect for icy daydreams.

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'Generation Loss' by Elizabeth Hand

Cass Neary was a successful photographer and big into the punk scene back in the 1970s. These days, though, she's a little more adrift. That is, until she's asked to interview a famous recluse on a remote Maine island, and she's roped into a mystery that might just be her last shot at redemption.

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'The Winter People' by Jennifer McMahon

Nineteen-year-old Ruthie lives in Vermont, in an old farmhouse, with her mother and sister. At her mother's insistence, their family is entirely off the grid. But when Ruthie's mother disappears, Ruthie is left behind to solve a chilling mystery... and that strange diary she finds under the floorboard just might be a clue.

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'Pym' by Mat Johnson

Who says that wintry fiction can't be funny, too? Mat Johnson's ingenious, satirical novel Pym follows a crew of African-American adventurers in search of Edgar Allan Poe's "fictional" island of Tsalal, somewhere near the South Pole. Disgruntled professor Chris Jaynes imagines it to be the final, untouched bastion of the African Diaspora. But as he leads his crew into the frozen wilderness, they find themselves up against weather, monsters, and the greatest, unsolved mysteries of American literature.

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'Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube: Chasing Fear and Finding Home in the Great White North' by Blair Braverman

By the age of eighteen, Blair Braverman had learned to drive sled dogs in Northern Norway and gotten a job as a glacier tour guide in Alaska. This is her memoir of life on the tundra. Follow along as she learns to love the cold and overcomes her own personal fears of not being good enough and/or being eaten by a polar bear.

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'The Snow Child' by Eowyn Ivey

Jack and Mabel have moved to Alaska in the year 1920, and life is not so easy. They are childless and drifting apart. But then the snow child comes into their world, and it seems as though they've stumbled into a fairy tale: she's a strange little girl with a red fox, capable of surviving alone in the wilderness. As in fairy tales, though, this child is not all she appears to be...

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'The Blizzard' by Vladimir Sorokin

You can't read snowbound fiction without at least one modern send-up of the classic Russian winter novel. In Blizzard, Vladimir Sorokin satirizes Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky, while creating a bizarre fantasy world all his own. District doctor Garin is desperately trying to bring a vaccine to the village of Dolgoye, to stop people from turning into zombies, but an all-consuming snow storm stands in his way at every turn.

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'Winter Garden' by Kristin Hannah

Meredith and Nina Whitson are sisters, but the last few years they've grown apart. One stayed at home to manage the family orchard, the other traveled widely as a famous photographer. Now that their father is on his deathbed, though, they'll both have to put aside their differences and reconnect with their mother, on a journey into the war-torn past of her childhood in Russia.

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'Ice' by Anna Kavan

Our narrator is traveling through a frozen wasteland, searching for a white-haired girl. Also searching for this girl is a powerful man called the warden. Both of them traverse a post-apocalyptic country, governed by a secret organization, with great walls of ice overrunning the world in this frozen science fiction classic.

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'The White Darkness' by Geraldine McCaughrean

Sym is obsessed with Antarctica. She's deeply in love with Captain Oates, the dashing, long-dead captain from a doomed expedition to the South Pole. So she's thrilled when her uncle takes her on a dream trip to the bottom of the Earth... until her exciting vacation swiftly becomes a harsh battle for survival in the wild.

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'The Bear and the Nightingale' by Katherine Arden

Vasilisa was raised on stories of the Frost, the wintry demon who comes at night to claim unwary souls. But now she lives in Moscow, with a devout new stepmother who forbids such silly talk of demons in the wilderness. Only Vasilisa realizes just how much hinges on her family's old folk tales, especially as crops begin to fail and strange creatures come creeping from the forest...

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'All of Us in Our Own Lives' by Manjushree Thapa

Canadian lawyer Ava Berriden is leaving her loveless marriage and her corporate job and moving to Nepal. She hopes to connect with the country of her birth, where she was adopted from as a baby. Her search will bring her to an expert on gender in Kathmandu, and to a small village where young Sapana Karki dreams of political progress. It's a beautiful novel of interconnected lives, set amid the worlds' tallest snow-capped peaks.

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'The Snow Queen' by Joan D. Vinge

Seasons on the planet Tiamat are a bit different than here on Earth. The 150 year reign of the Winter colonists, led the ancient Snow Queen, is coming to an end. Soon the Summer tribe is going to get their chance to rule... unless the Snow Queen decides to try and defeat the people of Summer once and for all, and usher in an age of eternal cold.

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'Thin Air' by Michelle Paver

A horror story set on a frigid mountainside, where the air is thin and everyone is in constant danger of tumbling to their deaths? Yes, please. Thin Air follows an elite team of five as they attempt to scale Kangchenjunga, the world's third highest mountain. The higher they go, though, the more grisly mementos they find from the failed expedition that went before...

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'The Right To Be Cold: One Woman's Story of Protecting Her Culture, the Arctic and the Whole Planet' by Sheila Watt-Cloutier

Environmentalist hero Sheila Watt-Cloutier has spent her life fighting to preserve the Arctic, both in terms of nature and culture. She recounts her childhood in the far north of Canadian, and how her Inuit culture was stripped away from her by Canada's residential school system. Since then, she has reclaimed her heritage and become a fierce activist against colonization and climate change (she just barely lost the Pulitzer Prize to Al Gore). Her writing is a must read for all North Americans.

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