Winter is historically not my favorite season, but there’s plenty to love about winter reading: the cold, grey days are the perfect excuse to stay inside and read. The Danish concept of hygge is still having its moment, and for good reason: it encourages us to indulge in the seasonal aspects of life by being intentionally cozy in the wintertime.
So grab yourself a cup of tea and a warm blanket, and light the candles. Then pick up one of these twenty titles set in the wintertime to bring the feeling full circle. Whether or not you expect to see snow outside your own window this year, you can experience that snowy winter weather on the page.
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 →
Twelve-year-old Milo is looking forward to the Christmas season, mostly because his family’s inn is sure to be relatively quiet. Milo’s plans for relaxation are interrupted when several odd guests arrive to stay at Greenglass House. Each of the eccentric guests has a story to share, and each story has a mysterious connection to the inn’s history. Milo and his friend Meddy invent a role-playing game, casting themselves as daring investigators. When some of the guests have items go missing, Milo and Meddy work together to solve the mystery of the old house. With sweet characters and an engaging plot, this is a great pick to cozy up with on a wintry night. When you’re finished, pick up the sequel, Ghosts of Greenglass House, also set over the winter holidays. More info →
This classic series begins with four siblings who are sent to the countryside for safekeeping during the war. In a game of hide-and-seek, the youngest discovers a fantastical world hidden in the back of an old wardrobe. There, the White Queen has cast a curse over the land of Narnia, ensuring that it is always winter and never Christmas. The children embark on an adventure full of magic, whimsy, and a fair amount of danger, aligning themselves with (and battling against) unforgettable characters all the way. More info →
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 →
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 →
In the idyllic small town of Three Pines, Quebec, where people don’t even lock their doors, a beloved local woman is found in the woods with an arrow shot through her heart. The locals believe it must be a hunting accident, but the police inspector senses something is off. The story is constructed as a classic whodunit but it feels like anything but, with its deliberate pacing, dry wit, and lyrical writing. A stunningly good first novel. Still Life is the first in a series that keeps getting better. Great on audio.
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 →
Carrie McClelland is an author looking for her next story when she ventures to Scotland. She settles near the ruins of Slains Castle to write, drawing inspiration from her own family history and the events of the Jacobite uprising. With parallel storylines in the 1700’s and present day, a romantic subplot, and paranormal elements, it’s no surprise that readers recommend Kearsley as an author worth binge reading. If you love The Winter Sea and want more, pick up the sequel, The Firebird. More info →
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 →
It's Alaska, 1920, the night of the first snowfall, which inspires a 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 →
An unseasonably warm day in January 1888 ends in tragedy when an unexpected and violent snow storm rips through the American midwest. By the next morning, some five hundred people lay dead on the prairie. With the arrival of the meteorological catastrophe comes the end of the settlers’ belief that their new home was a perfect haven. Meticulously researched and told through the lens of five families who were greatly impacted by the storm, this will appeal to narrative nonfiction fans who enjoy reading about little-known events in American history. More info →
Beartown transports readers to a tiny community nestled deep in the forests of Sweden, where town spirit is born out of the local hockey league. It’s the community’s main source of pride and light in the face of hard times. The people of Beartown revere the game and the players, but it’s all threatened when the reputation of the star player is called into question just when the team has a big win in sight. Beartown is not just a story about sports: it’s about life, trauma, secrets, and loyalty. (Don't miss the sequel!) More info →
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. Two more books complete the Winternight trilogy: The Girl in the Tower and The Winter of the Witch, due out in January 2019. More info →
In Allende's latest novel, 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 →
This contemporary romance is perfect for fans of holiday tales like Love Actually. Laurie thinks that love at first sight exists only in movies, until the day she looks out a bus window and locks eyes with a man who she knows instantly is the one. As the bus pulls away, Laurie feels strongly that their paths will cross again. She never expects that when they’re finally introduced, the man is dating Laurie’s best friend. Like other breakout novels in this evolving genre, this novel provides a heartwarming story with surprising depth. If you're on the hunt for a Christmas time read that isn't a Christmas story, this is it. More info →
It’s 1974, and Leni Allbright’s father Ernt, a former Vietnam POW, suffers from terrifying PTSD. The family moves to Alaska in search of a fresh start, but they're utterly unprepared for the harsh reality that greets them. As Large Marge says, “Alaska herself can be Sleeping Beauty one minute and a bitch with a sawed-off shotgun the next…. Up here you can make one mistake. The second one will kill you.” But she doesn’t yet know Leni fears the violence in her home more than the landscape. As winter draws near and darkness closes in, Ernt’s mental health deteriorates, with disastrous consequences for the family and community. Yet Leni will survive—and maybe even thrive. A riveting coming of age story featuring a fabulous setting, amazing female leads, and ultimate redemption. More info →
Imagine yourself a crew member on the 1845 Franklin Expedition, searching for the legendary Northwest Passage. Now, imagine that your ship is fully surrounded by thick, unyielding ice. The men on board the HMS Terror feel trepidation at the thought of a second summer with their ship stuck in the Arctic Circle, hoping for a thaw that will allow them to continue on or go home. As time passes, their supplies dwindle, tensions rise, and the men realize that there’s something out there, a predator that they are unequipped to handle. Desperate, the men take to walking across the ice as a last attempt at survival. At 700+ pages, this novel is full of suspense and icy chills. More info →
For fans of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, this epistolary novel tells the story of a great romance. When the Great War begins, Evie believes (as do many others), that it will all be over by Christmas. As her brother Will and his friend Thomas leave for the front, they make plans to meet for a holiday in Paris when the war is resolved. As time passes, Evie feels helpless and struggles to find a way to help the cause, while Will and Thomas experience the trials and terrors of war. The letters between Evie and Thomas are candid and heartfelt. Though the title is Christmas-y, this book is actually wonderful for any time of year, so add it to your reading list at any time. More info →
It’s just a few days before Christmas when the five Vanderbeeker children find out their landlord will not renew the lease on their Harlem brownstone apartment. The thought of leaving the home (and neighborhood) that they love puts a damper on their Christmas spirit, but the siblings come together with a plan: convince their Scrooge-like landlord to let the family stay. This perfectly heartwarming middle grade novel with diverse characters and a charming setting will bring home the spirit of the season into your home. Don't miss the sequel, The Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden. More info →
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 →
What are your favorite cozy reads? Tell us all about them in comments!