11 books to curl up with this winter

11 books to curl up with this winter

Winter reading deserves more love than it gets.

This is a hard season for many of us daylight-craving souls, but one of my favorite coping strategies is to brew a cup of tea, find a cozy chair, and get lost in a good book.

Fittingly, I’m posting this the morning of our first snow of the season, when all I want to do is drink tea, grab a blanket, and read a gazillion pages.

These 11 novels are just the ticket for dreary winter days: they’re beautiful, compelling, and just a wee bit dark, perfectly fitting for the season.

Series: Winter Reading
Greenglass House

Greenglass House

Author:
It's holiday vacation at the smuggler's inn Greenglass House, and Milo finds himself with a mystery to unravel. While I couldn't help but wonder if the author was tipping her hat to The Phantom Tollbooth, the story reminded me of The Mysterious Benedict Society. An engaging read for kids and adults alike, and a perfect choice for cozy winter evenings. More info →
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Red Rising

Red Rising

Author:
This is on my nightstand, because a wide variety of readers keep telling me it's un-put-down-able, and my friend insists it's the perfect winter read—at least, if you like the idea of curling up by the fire and escaping into another world. Kirkus says this futuristic novel is reminiscent of The Hunger Games and Game of Thrones. More info →
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Peace Like a River

Peace Like a River

Author:
I loved this book, set in deep North Dakota winter, even though the description didn’t sound particularly interesting to me. File under fathers and sons, tight-knit communities, and outlaws. Book club highlight: the miracles that happen in the novel, and that happen (or not) in our everyday lives. More info →
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The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

This novel told in letters is sweet and sunny, even though it's set during a dark period of history. The action unfolds on the British island of Guernsey (and you'll want to book your trip immediately). A testament to the power of literature, but a love story at heart. (Hot tip: the audiobook is fantastic.) More info →
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Station Eleven

Station Eleven

A global pandemic, a traveling Shakespeare troupe, a comic book—and a best pick for so many readers. I was afraid this post-apocalyptic novel would be depressing (or terrifying) but it's neither. It IS a crowd-pleaser, and a pageturner: I read it in two days. More info →
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The Dry

The Dry

Author:
If you're a mystery lover currently blanketed in snow, this might be the perfect escapist pick. This almost-new (pub date: January 10 2017) release about a murder in the Australian outback that drags long-buried secrets back to the surface. The setting is the drought-ravaged Australian Outback, and the brittleness and heat are almost palpable. A terrific debut. More info →
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Lincoln in the Bardo

Lincoln in the Bardo

Author:
This soon-to-be-released novel (pub date February 14 2017) is a story about Lincoln, America's 16th president—kind of. The "bardo" of the title is a Tibetan concept: it's a spiritual landscape—a kind of in-between place—where we are sent between physical lives. When Lincoln's son Willie was 11, he died of typhoid, plunging Lincoln into deep grief. Saunders uses this real event as a jumping-off point to explore the near-unbearable grief of an individual, linking it to the disarray of the country he leads, at the height of its Civil War, and imagines how Lincoln's despair changed the outcome of the war. I just finished this book, and whoa, was it strange. Interesting and experimental, but definitely strange. Pro tip: if you want to read it, do so on paper, not on Kindle. More info →
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The Thirteenth Tale

The Thirteenth Tale

This book is just the right amount of dark and creepy for a cold winter's day. Set firmly in the tradition of Gothic greats like Jane Eyre, it kept me guessing from start to finish. When one of Britain's most celebrated novelists reaches out to the young and relative novice Margaret Lea, Margaret has one question: Why? While she decides whether to take on the assignment, she begins reading one of the author's works: Thirteen Tales of Change and Desperation. She is captivated by the stories, and puzzled by them because the book only contains twelve stories. Where is the thirteenth tale? A moody literary mystery. More info →
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The Snow Child: A Novel

The Snow Child: A Novel

Author:
This sounds like a terrific winter read. (I haven't read it yet but it's high on my TBR.) It's Alaska, 1920, the night of the first snowfall. A couple builds a child out of snow, just for fun. In the morning, the snow child is gone, but the couple spies a young girl they've never seen before running through the trees. NPR calls this "mesmerizing." More info →
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The Martian: A Novel

The Martian: A Novel

Author:
Think Cast Away, in outer space. Funny, thrilling, and surprisingly plausible. When a deadly dust storm cuts their mission short, astronaut Mark Watney’s crew makes an agonizing decision to return to earth without him. They saw his biosigns go flat: they believe they're leaving his body behind. But Watney is very much alive, and now he must find a way to survive on Mars, in a damaged station, with limited food and no communication. Next step: to cobble together a rescue plan. It's a book you can't put down, and the audio narration is pitch perfect. More info →
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All the Light We Cannot See

All the Light We Cannot See

Author:
A captivating story, well-told. The characters in this war novel are fascinating and altogether unexpected, and the book’s setting couldn’t be lovelier: much of the action takes place in Saint-Malo, France, a unique walled port city on the English Channel. It doesn't feel overlong: its 500+ pages give Doerr plenty of room to build a believable world, and give his characters depth and feeling. An intelligent, detailed, literary novel that will stay with you long after you turn the last page. More info →
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11 novels to curl up with this winter

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82 comments

  1. Jennifer says:

    Anne, please read The Snow Child. It is a great winter read. I read it recently and immediately put her new book To the Bright Edge of the World on my Christmas list and started reading it yesterday. I love that The Snow Child is based on a children’s picture book based on a Russian fairy tale that she found while working at a bookstore. It is also on my TBR list.

  2. Erin says:

    Wonderful list! Greenglass House is perfect- the setting and all that hot chocolate! I was lucky enough to meet the author last year and now I just love her books all the more.

  3. Melisa says:

    I’ve red 5 out of the 11 here. All good picks. And yes, the audio version of the Guernsey Potato Peel Pie society is fantastic! I’m going add Greenglass house and Snow Child to my TBR.

  4. Jill says:

    So happy to see Red Rising on your nightstand! Give it a little grace at first with all the jargon and class systems though. I love this trilogy and just got my non-reader husband on board. He can’t stop talking about it and I started a re-read to keep up with him 🙂

  5. Janet says:

    I love that you put “Peace Like a River” on your list. My library book club read it many years ago, and it has always stuck with me. I love the writing as well as the story. Great choices for all 11, I have 6 new titles to consider, so thank you! It doesn’t snow in Orange County (not yet!) but we are having rainy days, perfect for winter reading.

  6. Sarah says:

    It took me awhile to get into “Peace Like a River.” But – the climax of the story and the way the writing leads you to that miracle – the imagery, the symbolism – has stayed with me ever since. Even now when I think about it, I catch my breath. Remarkable, joyous!

  7. Adding more titles to my to-read list! 🙂 I LOVED The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society. While it didn’t make it to my blog post of top favorites of the year, I really probably should have added it on there. It’s so hard to pick favorites when you enjoy so many books! It was one I checked out at the library. I enjoyed it so much that it’s on my list of books I would totally re-read. And I plan to buy the book so I have my own copy. 🙂

    Greenglass House sounds good. I loved The Phantom Tollbooth and so did my daughter. It was one I listed on my favorites of 2016.

    I also had a friend recommend Peace Like a River. 🙂

  8. Anne says:

    Thanks for the recommendations! I am beginning 12 weeks of maternity leave so I am totally in the mood for curling up to read a gazillion pages in a cozy chair with a warm blanket – plus I get the added bonus of nursing a snuggly newborn baby girl! I have only read 3 of these so I will be adding the others to the giant stack next to the rocking chair. Now if only I can get the toddlers to stop squabbling…

  9. Sarah A says:

    I’m reading Greenglass House right now and, yes, it’s perfect for a wintertime read! It has been cold, grey, and rainy for the past 5 days here in Northern California and we’ve been mostly shut up in the house just like the characters of Greenglass. I’m loving it.

    I also really enjoyed The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society. I remember being vaguely disappointed by The Thirteenth Tale; the concept was so interesting but the payoff didn’t quite live up to my expectations. I think I need to read The Snow Child, if only because the author’s name is Robyn (huge Tolkien lover here). And All The Light is definitely on my TBR list. Thanks for all the recommendations Anne. You are probably the single biggest factor that has gotten my reading life back to a rip-roaring pace-which has changed my whole life for the better. I am so thankful to God for you and your work.

  10. Libby says:

    We just got “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” in at the used book store that I work at. I’ve heard you mention it several times on WSIRN and considering today is a snowy day, I think it’s the perfect time to buy myself a new book! Thanks for the push!

  11. Jane Weichert says:

    I’ve read 6 of these and they are on my favorites list so am eager to read the others. Thanks for the recommendations.

  12. Jennifer says:

    I put off reading Station Eleven b/c I did not want to read another dystopian novel. My cousin told me to give it a try b/c it was “more than that”. I am reading it now and loving it! Had I known how the book jumps around from past to current I would have read it earlier. I also have put off the The Snow Child and downloaded the e-book recently when it was on sale. Based on this list (I’ve read and enjoyed many of the titles) I may have to read The Snow Child next!

  13. Felicity says:

    Such great ideas! I too can thank Anne for a resurgence in my reading in the past year. A great atmospheric wintertime book that I read years ago was “Smilla’s Sense of Snow” by Peter Hoag. It’s a mystery/thriller that takes place in Denmark and Greenland. The central character is fascinating and the locales are interesting.

  14. Karri says:

    Thank you for mentioning “Greenglass House”. I read it earlier last year and loved it, but it seems to have flown under the radar of many readers. “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society” is one of my favorite favorites, and I thoroughly enjoyed the other three on your list that I have read. I was also put off by the synopsis of “Station Eleven”, but considering how much I loved these others I think I’ll give it a try now.

  15. Christina says:

    I loved “The Thirteenth Tale” as well. I wanted everyone to read it after I finished! I am finally reading “All the Light We Cannot See”, as they are calling for snow/ice so it will be perfect curling up with a book.

  16. Julie R says:

    I’ve read nine of these and I must agree, they’re all great picks! I’ve recently been curling up with Susan Meissner’s books – I love the way she does historical fiction and connects big events, past and present. So far, I’ve read Secrets of a Charmed Life and A Fall of Marigolds, and can’t wait till March when her latest comes out.

    • Susan says:

      I’ve read a bunch of Susan Meissner’s books too, and I love them! My favorite so far is Fall of Marigolds. If you love her, you would also love Cathy Gohlke’s “Saving Amelie” and Elizabeth Musser’s “The Swan House”. I’ve read a lot of these authors’ other books, but these are the ones that always stand out in my mind!! 🙂

  17. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is a firm favourite of mine. If you like that, I’d recommend Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand and The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry.
    All The Light We Cannot See was also a good read. I’ll have to check out the others.

  18. Evelina says:

    Ahh… most of these books are so nostalgic to me. The thirteenth tale, Snow child, Station eleven. These books stuck with me, although I read them last winter.
    Red rising is also waiting for me. By the way, why do you say we should read Lincoln in the Bardo on paper instead of the Kindle? Anything in particular?

    • Anne says:

      Some books have formats that don’t translate well to a digital medium (at least not yet! Maybe that will be different in 2020.) This is one of them. (This happens most frequently with books that employ things like emails, or legal docs, or zines, etc in their text, which isn’t the case here.)

      • Evelina says:

        Ah! That is what you mean. Yeah, that makes sense. Although, you know, I read Illuminae on the Kindle – it’s the same format, illustrations even – and yet it was fine. Possibly less enjoyable, but it still read just fine 🙂

  19. Dorothy Mantonya says:

    I have read Peace Like a River and the Guernsey Literary Potato Pie Society and they were wonderful. I am reading All the Light We Cannot See now and it is very good so far.

  20. Denise says:

    I live in Phoenix, so I’m not qualified to judge a book as a good “winter read” or not. However, I have read a few books on your list and I can second them as great reads, winter or not. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society was such a lovely novel, and All the Light We Cannot See was magnificent! I recommend both of these books regularly. Station Eleven I enjoyed also.
    Greenglass House and The Thirteenth Tale have just been requested from the library. Thanks for the suggestions.

  21. Melanie says:

    I’d take warm weather a million times over cold weather, but when it’s cold and snowy outside I actually want to read books in winter settings. Some of my favorites (in addition to Peace Like a River and The Snow Child) are Out Stealing Horses, Wuthering Heights, and No Great Mischief.

  22. Dana says:

    Peace like a River is my 2nd all-time favorite book second only to To Kill a Mockingbird. It is so well written with beautiful language and a compelling storyline. The Thirteenth Tale is in my top 10. I loved the Greenglass House when I read it last year on your recommendation. I also really liked Station Eleven and The Martian. Both were quick reads because I could not put them down. Guernsey Literary Society was a very satisfying story. I have All The Light… and The Snow Child in my TBR pile. The Dry and The Lincoln Bardo sound intriguing. I will check into both of those. Right now I am reading The Summer Before the War and really enjoying it. It was a Christmas present.

    • Shayne Johnson says:

      Dana – we have similar tastes. I have read and loved most of those you mentioned. Read Snow Child – I read it a couple years ago and loved it and am now half way through her newest “To the Bright Edge of the World.” It is different but beautifully written. You would like it as well. Happy Reading!

    • Hannah Beth Reid says:

      “The Snow Child” is such a beautiful, magical book! I’m usually a realist, so it is saying something if I liked it!

  23. ellen says:

    The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society… is by far one of my favorite all time books; enhanced by at trip to Guernsey, one of the Channel Islands in the UK.
    Guernsey is famous for its “Golden Guernsey” cows and my husband, sister and brother-in-law
    were no disappointed! A dozen “Guernsey girls” greeted us as our van pulled up near a farm pasture. They came toward us and were mugging for our camera!
    Guernsey was ravaged by World War II, but the people are very resilient as described continually throughout the book.
    Read the book, then book a trip to visit Guernsey. Can’t get any better than that!!!

    • Pamela Tate says:

      Hi! Maybe my favorite book also! I read it one snowy winter afternoon sitting on a train riding north along the Hudson River!

  24. Jennifer says:

    I am so much a daylight-saving soul that I spend a significant amount of time on timeandday.com studying how little daylight there is, comparing dates a month apart, blaming the Do-Nothing Congress for not doing something about the light situation. I am not rational or nice about this situation. The only cure is the slow travel of Mother Earth. In the meantime, reading is a good analgesic. Thanks for the many recommendations.

  25. Shayne Johnson says:

    “Anne – I wanted to give a shout out to a Kindle Deal today: Donna Leon’s Death at La Fenice.” I love Leon’s mystery series set in Venice and this was one of my favorites. I read this ages ago but when we visited Venice a few years ago, I had to take a tour of the Opera House because I enjoyed the book so much. A good mystery is always a great option for cold winter days.

  26. Great picks! I LOVED The Guernsey Literary and Potatoe Peel Pie Society and The Thirteenth Tale. I’ve had Red Rising on my TBR forever and even checked it out of the library once upon a time. I didn’t get it read (or even started) before I had to take it back. I’ve heard Station 11 is fantastic!

  27. I cannot stop gushing about Greenglass House. I have recommended to my adult friends and have my copy ready to put into the hands of my of my 4th grade students as soon as he finishes his current book. I would have NEVER picked it up-the description is weird and off-putting- if I had not just ordered it on a whim because it was one of the kindle deals (I like to buy all my kid lit books in paperback to share with students though so I snagged that instead). Thanks!

  28. Nancy Lanpher says:

    I just finished All the Light We Cannot See. It is a very compelling book and one that I could not put down. War is such an evil, evil act and the ones who are doing the fighting are not the ones who want war.

  29. Andrea says:

    The Snow Child is currently on my list of all time favorites! I read it in October and already want to read it again. It is beautiful and whimsical and strangely peaceful. I love the glimpse into marriage one gets reading about Mabel and Jack. They really made me think about what pulls spouses apart and what can bring them back together and I felt such a deep connection to them. The feeling of wonder in this book reminded me of All The Light We Cannot See, another of my all time favorites. The Snow Child was a deeply comforting book for me, and while reading it, I kept wanting to grab my husband’s hand and pull him outside to look at the stars.

  30. Jamie says:

    I tried oh-so-hard to get into Peace Like a River (was recommended by a friend as her all time favorite book) and I don’t think I made it past a few chapters. I couldn’t connect with the story line or the characters. However, I did really enjoy The Thirteenth Tale which is in a genre that I hardly ever read. I must say when the mystery finally is outed, I had to re-read the page about three times to figure out WHAT IN THE WORLD IS HAPPENING!!??? 🙂

  31. Naomi says:

    All the Lights We Cannot See is the book I chose for the Pulitzer Prize or National Book Award book category in the reading challenge. I am thinking about switching a book from the un-put-down-able cartegory if I like what I hear about Red Rising.

  32. Mary Kate says:

    I JUST finished Station Eleven, and it’s immediately gone onto my shelf of Favorites of All Time. Such a beautiful, haunting book. But a word of warning: reading about the apocalypse in today’s current political climate is slightly panic-inducing. I had some scary dreams this past week!

  33. Maryalene says:

    I’m pretty sure I make a similar comment every time the book comes up, but Peace Like a River is hands-down the very best unexpectedly awesome book I’ve read! The description is so dull and yet the book is so good!

  34. Hannah Beth Reid says:

    “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” has been recommended to me by several sources recently, so I’ll have to add it to my TBR list for this winter!

    “Greenglass House” and “The Snow Child” are both completely magical winter reading! I loved them! So much snow! Though ladies in the book club I attend said they felt cold the whole time they were reading “The Snow Child”…haha!

    Many of these that I’ve read are perfect for times when you don’t have anything else you want to do or anywhere you want to go because they’re so engrossing!

    Thank you for the great recommendations!

  35. I thought of The Snow Child as soon as I read the title of this post. I think you’ll really like it.
    I’ve read half of these and enjoyed them, so I’m compelled to check out the others. As always, thanks for the recommendations!

  36. Amy says:

    The Snow Child was so enchanting and lovely, and it was one of my top 3 favorite books from 2016. I read it in an accidental flight of books that were whimsical and transported me to other worlds: Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore, Ready Player One, Night Circus, and Sarah Addison Allen’s First Frost and Peach Keeper. I know these aren’t winter stories, but I adored these books together over the course of a month. 🙂

  37. Hena Tayeb says:

    I loved the Martian and All The Light We Cannot See.. a little on the fence about The Potato Society.. it started out interesting but felt it dragged on for far too long. Elevation Station is on my list.. hopefully i’ll be able to get to it soon

  38. Hannah says:

    I just stumbled on your website and have to say, these are some lovely picks. The Snow Child is wonderful, and I read it all in one sitting when I desperately needed to be writing my thesis instead, but I was captivated. All the Light We Cannot See is just beautiful as well and is right up there with The Night Circus as one of my favorite pieces of contemporary fiction.

  39. Kristina says:

    I read this post on Friday as I was coming down with a cold. I immediately downloaded Green Glass House from the library and settled in for a weekend with lots of tea, Ricola and this book. It was a wonderful escape! Thanks for the recommendation!

  40. Courtney says:

    Anne,
    Have you ever picked up The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons? It would fit in well on this list, as the harsh Russian winter plays an important part in the story. It’s a love story that takes place during the German blockade of Leningrad. Think All the Light We Cannot See but more character-driven or The Nightingale with more romance. I have loved it for a while, but I’ve never heard you mention it so I figured somehow you may have missed that one. It’s definitely worth checking it out!

  41. Gayle says:

    I also would put To Kill a Mocking Bird as my all time favorite. Peace Like a River is in my top ten as well as Erikson’s So Brave, Young, and Handsome. I seriously wish he would write more novels. I’ve also read The Thirthteen Tale, All the Light We Cannot See and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. All great reads. I will need to check out the others just because of this bunch of books they are included with that I know are great. I love to love a good book.

  42. Elizabeth says:

    Thanks for keeping my reading list growing! Was searching your site and not having quick success finding what your favorite Anne of Green Gables set is? I know I read that you purchased a set you really liked but for some reason I am not finding it now,,,, when I want to get it! Thanks in advance!

  43. Sarah says:

    I am pleasantly surprised to see Red Rising on your list. It’s a fantastic trilogy and I feel like it gets better as it goes along with the last book being by far the best. Pierce Brown does an amazing job at throwing his readers for a loop, has great character development and explores themes like friendship and trust in a very unique way, which I think is unusual in some fantasy books. I would love to hear your take on it. It seems outside your usual style, but I think you’d dig it.

  44. Renee P. says:

    I’m so surprised that I’ve read almost half of these books just in the past year! I read Snow Child last summer and it was actually a great summer read – it kept my mind off the heat! Same thing for Peace Like a River!

  45. EJ says:

    I LOVE the Thirteenth Tale. I read it several years ago and still recommend it to people to read.
    The Guernsey society was a well written and heartwarming story that opened my eyes to parts of WW2 history. The characters are hard to forget.
    All the Light … is one of my new favorites that I read about 6 months ago and have been recommending ever since (I started recommending it before I even finished the book!)
    I’ll have to look into these others to see if another one takes me away from the winter wonderland and into another world.
    Thanks for the suggestions.

  46. Ashley says:

    Oh friends, if you are able, push yourself to make it through Lincoln in the Bardo! The structure is unique, but the message seems so deeply important and relevant. Saunders is a master in radical empathy in both his short stories and now, this novel. I would describe this novel as “strange” and “weird” but also, humanizing, heart-wrenching, life-affirming, and imaginative to the max. Those of you are are “reading for growth,” just do it! There’s so much to be learned and felt in this novel!

  47. Marlizette says:

    Time for me to start gathering some of these books on your list, as winter is starting to creep closer in South Africa. Looking forward to snuggling under warm blankets with some hot coffee and one of these!

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