16 books to cozy up with this winter

16 books to cozy 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.

It doesn’t snow that much where I live, but fittingly, there’s fresh snow on the ground right now, and all I want to do is drink tea, grab a blanket, and read a gazillion pages.

These 16 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: 16 Books to Cozy Up with This Winter
Winter Solstice

Winter Solstice

In this quiet novel (sometimes categorized as a romance, but don't let that scare you off), five individuals, each dealing with their own painful personal tragedy, are unexpectedly brought together during the Christmas season in the Scottish countryside—though they've decided not to celebrate the holiday; it's too painful this year. But redemption is found in surprising places, and in the midst of so much loss, love and redemption emerge.This book was a delightful surprise; I enjoyed it so much. More info →
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The Little House Collection

The Little House Collection

Winter is the perfect time to get lost in this great series, in which the scrappy Ingalls family struggles to build a life on the American frontier. These 9 books tell the story of Laura Ingalls’ childhood and coming of age on the American frontier. Follow the Ingalls family as they move from the Big Woods of Wisconsin to the Kansas prairie, from a creekside dugout in Minnesota to the shores of Silver Lake, South Dakota. They battle the elements, kill the occasional bear, and establish a cozy domestic haven wherever "home" happens to be that year. Sometimes they struggle for their very survival. You'll wish you could pull up a chair by the fire while Pa plays his fiddle. Welcoming and homey. (The audio cds by Cherry Jones are completely wonderful.) More info →
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In the Midst of Winter

In the Midst of Winter

Author:
In Allende's new release, a traffic accident caused by a horrible Brooklyn snowstorm gets the ball rolling, bringing three very different people together to carry out a common mission. As they travel together through the frozen landscape, each character's story is revealed, as Allende takes us from present day New York City to recent events in Guatemala to forty years ago in Chile and Brazil. Not my favorite Allende, but she sure makes you want to know what happens next. More info →
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The Snow Child: A Novel

The Snow Child: A Novel

Author:
It's Alaska, 1920, the night of the first snowfall, which inspires s typically serious couple to indulge in a bit of silliness: they build a child out of snow, just for fun. In the morning, the snow child is gone, but, in a way eerily mirrors a much-loved fairy tale, the couple spies a young girl they've never seen before running through the trees. I loved this magic-infused story about love, loss, and the wildness of nature. More info →
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The Dry

The Dry

Author:
"You lied. Luke lied. Be at the funeral." Federal Agent Aaron Falk is summoned home with these words after his best friend Luke dies in a heartbreaking murder-suicide, turning the gun on himself after killing his wife and 6-year-old son. Falk obeys—but he can't believe his best friend could have done such a thing, and so he starts digging, dragging long-buried secrets back to the surface. The setting is the drought-ravaged Australian Outback, and the brittleness and heat are almost palpable. If you're a mystery lover currently blanketed in snow, this might be the perfect escapist pick—plus the small town setting feels as claustrophobic as you might if you were snowed in. More info →
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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. The guest bell rings. And again. And again. Until Milo's home is bursting with strange guests, each one with a story connected to the old house. 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. (Psst—listen to me describe this book on Episode 106 of What Should I Read Next.) More info →
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Peace Like a River

Peace Like a River

Author:
A tragedy, a romance, a coming of age story, set in the deep North Dakota winter. I had to be talked into reading this novel because the description didn't grab me, but now it's one of my favorites. 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. A beautiful, mesmerizing book for fans of Wendell Berry, Marilynne Robinson, and Amor Towles. More info →
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The Bear and the Nightingale: A Novel

The Bear and the Nightingale: A Novel

Author:
In this reimagined fairy tale, set in medieval Russa amongst snowy landscapes and magical forests, a young girl with a special gift attempts to save her family from the evil lurking in the woods. This fantasy is well-suited for fans of books I love—Naomi Novik's Uprooted, Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus, and anything Neil Gaiman. I just found out this is the first book in a trilogy: The Girl in the Tower came out on December 5, and The Winter of the Witch is slated for an August 14 release. More info →
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Persuasion

Persuasion

Author:
Pride and Prejudice should be read in the spring; Emma in the summer. But Persuasion is for colder months. Don't bother starting at the beginning with Austen's earlier, brighter works. Go straight to her sixth and final published novel. This the last novel Austen completed before her death, and it’s darker and more serious in tone than her earlier works. With its themes of love, regret, and fidelity, this is my favorite Austen novel—at least some of the time. 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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Winter Garden

Winter Garden

Author:
Many of you call this your favorite Hannah novel—and that's saying something, considering this is from the author of The Nightingale. This is the story of two estranged sisters and their mysterious mother, whose personality and past the daughters have never understood. As the story flips back and forth in time between present-day Washington State and Stalin's Leningrad, the daughters begin to understand their mother's past, and why she carefully concealed it from her daughters. Slow to start, but worth sticking it out. More info →
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Snow Falling on Cedars

Snow Falling on Cedars

Author:
This lyrical and heartbreaking first novel is set in an isolated, snow-covered Washington State island town in the 1950s, where a Japanese man stands trial for murdering a white fisherman. The trial brings the town's painful history and many citizen's long-submerged sense of guilt and shame sharply to the surface; Guterson skillfully unfolds both the history of the town and that of two star-crossed lovers layer by layer. More info →
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Wuthering Heights

Wuthering Heights

Author:
This groundbreaking classic was downright scandalous in its day—and it hasn’t lost much of its shock value in the intervening 160+ years. Heathcliff is every bit as much the abominable scoundrel now as he was then, and the English moors are every bit as creepy. Read it once, and decide whether you love it or hate it. (And if you do both, you’re in good company.) The gloomy landscape and gothic feel make this a perfect read for the gloomy season. More info →
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Winter’s Tale

Winter’s Tale

Author:
I first encountered this novel, set in a frozen, slightly unreal NYC, when a dear friend got married and chose a passage for for a reading in the ceremony. ("Nothing is random, nor will anything ever be ...") OF COURSE I had to read it. This is a polarizing book: readers love it or hate it, and when readers say (as they often do) that it's unlike anything they've ever read, they're not messing around. It's packed with symbolism, depth, and beautiful writing: only you can know if that means you should snatch it up quick or run away. More info →
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Murder on the Orient Express

Murder on the Orient Express

Author:
It was supposed to be the perfect crime. But an avalanche stops the Orient Express in its tracks just before a passenger is found murdered in his berth, foiling the perpetrator's getaway, and trapping 13 potential suspects—each with an airtight alibi—in the train car with Inspector Hercule Poirot. If you've seen the movie, take note: Branagh changes Christie's ending. Hot tip: Dan Stevens's audio narration is fantastic. 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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What are your favorite cozy reads? Tell us all about them in comments!

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51 comments

  1. I love this list, and I just order 5 or 6 from my library. Currently I am reading Beowulf, which seems like a fitting winter read. Good with tea and a blanket. And surprisingly readable. It is one on my kids’ book list for the school year-which I am reading also. I just reread The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out a Window and Disappeared. It was a light read, with plenty of laughter. Which is nice for the dark winter months.

  2. Brandyn says:

    One of my new strategies for the year is a “priority tbr”. It’s basically a list of books I update weekly but throughout the week I only choose from those books. Basically I was having a lot of decision fatigue trying to choose my next book. Limiting my choices has helped.
    Anyway doing that exercise has made me notice that different books sound better right now. If I don’t get Rebecca or The Bear and the Nightingale read by March they’ll probably leave the priority list until at least October.

  3. Janean says:

    Winter books must be my favorite ‘genre’ because I love so many of these books! I’m from MN and winter is my favorite season, which is not altogether common. Give me the coldest, nastiest blizzard, coffee, a fireplace, a blanket, fuzzy socks, a candle, my puppy and a book and I’m the happiest I can be! Ok, maybe I’m a little high maintenance, because, let’s face it, I also need a snack, my MMD book darts, my favorite pen, a bookmark, etc. I digress. I LOVE the Little House series, but I’d especially nominate The Long Winter for this theme. It’s my favorite. I’m trying to read Persuasion, but I can’t get into it. What’s wrong with me, Anne? I love Jane, but for some reason we’re not connecting on this one. I’m not too far in. What am I missing? And how is it a winter read?

  4. Melanie says:

    In my opinion The Snow Child is the perfect winter read! I’d also add Out Stealing Horses (set in Sweden, so of course it’s a winter read), Tinkers (a contemplative book), and No Great Mischief (the harsh landscapes of Nova Scotia and Ontario mines feel winterish to me). On the nonfiction side, I love Shauna Niequist’s Bread and Wine for winter. Neiquist can be over the top with her emotions, but I love that this book is all about the coziness of gathering people together with food, no matter how simple the meal or what state of disaster your house may be in.

    • Siv says:

      I second “Out stealing horses” ; I haven’t read it in years but it really moved me. Per Petterson writes so beautifully. You night also enjoy “Snow will fall on fallen snow” by Levi Henriksen. Feels gloomy at first but tur ned out not to be!

  5. Emma says:

    I loved most in your list. Last year I enjoyed Rachel Joyce’s A Snow Garden and Kate Mosse’s A Winter Ghost. I quite like a Ghost story this time of year and have 2 lovely hardback copies of Susan Hill’s stories (The Susan Hill collection). Currently dipping into The Traveling Bag and The Woman in Black alongside Eowyn Ivey’s Bright Edge of the World and A Poem For Every Night of the Year.

  6. Britta says:

    What a great list! I absolutely loved “The Bear and the Nightingale” and can’t wait to read “The Girl in the Tower”.

    Another read I’d have to add is “The Little Princess”. I just read it for the first time, and although it’s a children’s book I found it be completely captivating, and sweet, and the perfect thing to cozy up to before bed.

  7. Karen says:

    This blog post has just made my TBR list grow. 🙂 Also, you’ve picked some that I would also include for winter reads…The Snow Child, All the Light We Cannot See. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is one of my all-time favorites from the last two years. I’ve read it twice now and if I re-read a book then it must be good. 😉 And you know, I hadn’t thought about Persuasion as a winter read but I totally see that.

  8. Janean says:

    I thought I’d add a few children’s books to the list. I homeschool and I love reading wintry books to my kids when we get our first snow. These are our favorites:

    Snow – Roy McKie (Dr. Seuss)
    Owl at Home – Arnold Lobel
    The Big Snow – Berta Hader
    White Snow, Bright Snow – Alvin Treaselt
    Katy and the Big Snow – Virginia Lee Burton
    The Snowy Day – Ezra Jack Keats

    I also thought of two more for the adults:
    Little Women – Louisa May Alcott
    Beartown – Fredrik Backman

  9. Adrienne Hudson says:

    What a fabulous list! I’ve added Snow Child and Winter Garden to my list. Another book I recommend is ‘Dancing at the Rascal Fair’ by Ivan Doig, which tells the story of two families from Scotland who settle in Montana in the 1890’s. Montana, and in particular the long Montana winters, are a huge part of the story, and make it a compelling read.

  10. Regina K says:

    I think “Miss Smilla’s Sense of Snow” by Peter Høeg is the perfect winter read. It’s a dark thriller with a protagonist to remember, involving questions of identity and loneliness as well as a gripping mystery. Plus, you will learn everything there is to learn about snow from this half Inuit, half Danish woman with the beautiful name.
    I read it some twenty years ago, but I listened to a BBC Book Club interview with the author some days ago and thought that it was definitely time for a re-read now!

  11. Allison Wolfe says:

    Here’s another perfect winter read — The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penny. Set in 1867, it’s a combination of historical fiction, suspense, and so much atmosphere, one must snuggle into a blanket to read it! I LOVED this book. Published in 2006, it should be available on used book sites.

  12. Emma says:

    Making Winter by Emma Mitchell is proving to be very popular over here. Has some lovely writing and pictures in amongst the craft ideas.

  13. Gretchen S says:

    There is no more perfect winter read than “A Gentleman in Moscow.” If the Count living a beautiful life and finding love, family and meaningful work while trapped in one hotel for decades, then surely the reader can get through one winter! Extra bonus points for making the Latvian stew described in the book, which not only is a “sweet and smoky medley that simultaneously suggests the comfort of a snowed-in tavern and the jangle of a Gypsy tambourine” but is also a brightly colored ray of sunshine on the table.

  14. Bobbi says:

    I’m reading A Gentleman in Moscow right now and it feels perfect for winter. The comforts he takes refuge in are the same ones I seek out during the months I’m stuck inside.

    I also immediately thought of Louise Penny — any of her Three Pines novels feel like “winter reads” to me because of their Quebec setting.

  15. K says:

    Love Persuasion and Wuthering Heights. I’ve heard critics rave about All the Light We Cannot See, but I never bothered to pick it up because I feel like authors have exhausted the historical backdrop of WWII long enough.

  16. Donna says:

    All the Light We Cannot See is one of my favourite winter reads!😊 Oooo Winter Solstice and Snow Falling on Cedars have been on my TBR list for way too long! Will definitely be picking them up this winter. Thanks for the reminder!

    A few favourites I would recommend curling up with:
    2 A.M. at The Cat’s Pajamas by Marie-Helene Bertino (I read this on a snowy afternoon.)
    Descent by Tim Johnston
    Last Night at the Lobster by Stewart O’Nan (I read this in a day for the 2016 reading challenge. Sooo good!)
    Benediction by Kent Haruf
    Faithful by Alice Hoffman
    The Alice Network by Kate Quinn
    The Ninth Hour by Alice McDermott (currently reading)

  17. Judy says:

    My favorite winter read is Little Women! I enjoyed this list you put together. Looking forward to trying them out especially for the reading challenge!

  18. Kimberly says:

    So fun!
    I usually read Persuasion in Autumn. Something about the descriptive passages whilst they are on the long walk. Love that.
    Of course, I probably have read Persuasion in every season and having just finished P&P last night, will probably start P tonight…

  19. Sarah says:

    I LOVE winter reading! I read The Snow Child and Peace Like a River last winter and adored them. I just finished Greenglass House and Guernsey a couple of weeks ago and loved both of those. I currently have the new Allende sitting on my nightstand, and I just put The Bear and the Nightingale on hold at my library…can’t wait to dig into both of those!

  20. Andrea Wells says:

    I love many of these! I too was both surprised and contented with Winter Solstice when I read it as my first Rosamund Pilcher book last year. I’m still working through Anna Karenina on Audible and I just recently finished Kristin Lavransdatter The Wreath. Set in Russia and Norway, respectively, the settings are apt for this season. Kristin Lavransdatter is very atmospheric, set in a rural village in medieval times with time spent a convent and visits to a great cathedral. Both are deep, sweeping reads, perfect for winter when I love to really dig in to a long, rich book!

  21. Amy says:

    Greenglass House is perfect for winter, especially December. I’m currently reading the second book, Ghosts of Greenglass House and it’s equally enjoyable!

  22. Vikas says:

    I love this and most of your lists. I am currently reading ‘All the Light we cannot see’ and almost halfway through and it’s as lovely as you have described.

  23. Lynette says:

    Another children’s series I would recommend is The Birchbark House series by Louise Erdrich, which follows the life of an Indigenous girl and her family. It has a similar flavour to the Little House series, with lots of details about everyday life and relationships. I struggle with the attitudes toward First Nations Peoples in the Little House series. This is a great series to counter those and see a much wider picture of the lives of families at that time.

  24. Birgitta Qvarnström Frykner says:

    I have read a couple of those books, and some are worth reading again. Winter is snuggle up time. Other seasons like fall can also be reading seasons at least here in Sweden when fall is rainy and chilly. Tolstoys book War and peace is a typical exampel for easy reading. I also recommend Rosamund Pilchers the Shell seekers. For you that has not read RF Delderfields God is an Englishman i recommend this book as well

  25. Jennifer N. says:

    I loved The Snow Child and Guernsey – both are favorite books of all time. In fact, Guernsey might require a re-read this year. I’m currently reading Murder on the Orient Express. This is my first Agatha Christie novel and I am enjoying it. So many of your other recommendations are already on my list – I might have to bump them up in priority before the weather gets too warm.

  26. AnneL says:

    I love to read Trollope in the winter time- for some reason, even the more summery of his books feel like they should be read while wrapped in a blanket. Even better would be to start Dorothy Dunnet’s House of Niccolo series with a class of hot mulled wine by your side and read Niccolo Rising with its journey through the Alps and descriptions of the winter carnival festivities in Bruges.

  27. Awesome list! I love to read The Long Winter when I’m suffering from seasonal depression and realize it could be much, much worse. There are quite a few books on this list I’ve been wanting to read, most notably Al The Light We Cannot See. Thanks for the recommendations. Stay warm!

  28. Amy says:

    Has anyone mentioned Plainsong? I haven’t seen it listed. It’s amazing. Kent Haruf single-handedly reignited my passion for modern fiction after a long period of thinking all I could muster was Hemingway and perhaps the Russians. I recently finished Our Souls at Night and passed it along to a friend who called me up to say thank you.

  29. my curl-ups this winter that I want to push in everyone’s shopping carts (since I don’t want to lend them to anyone;) are- 1. The Dirty Life by Kristin Kimball, about the author’s bold and sudden move from NYC life to a farm with the man she would marry. I live the opposite of farm life, but with after reading the book I’d realized that I chose the “dirty life” as well, lol, and it comforted me greatly. 2. Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. Same genre of city-to-farm-life, very different than Kimball, and makes you hit refresh on a lot of your values concerning food and lifestyle. 3. Some Writer by Milessa Sweet. Autobiography of E B White for kids, but I bought it for myself becauase of the amazing illustrations and collages, and I stayed for the good writing.

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