9 novels to curl up with this winter.

9 novels 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.

These 9 novels are perfect for dreary winter days: they’re beautiful, compelling, and just a wee bit dark. It’s fitting for the season.

9 Novels to Curl Up With
The Thirteenth Tale

The Thirteenth Tale

This 2006 mystery, set firmly in the tradition of Gothic greats like Jane Eyre, kept me guessing from start to finish. The premise is intriguing (and you may find yourself a little bit envious of the narrator's bookish existence). A little dark and deliciously creepy, perfect for curling up with on a cold winter's day. Take note: a few unsettling scenes if you're a sensitive sort. (I am.)

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The Girl on the Train

The Girl on the Train


If you've been waiting for the next Gone Girl, get yourself this brand new release immediately and dive in before you hear anything else about it. This tightly-drawn tale of another girl gone is told by three unreliable narrators. It reminded me of Rear Window: it's easy to imagine this on the big screen. Disclaimer: I didn't care for this one, but anyone who loved Gone Girl will disagree with me.

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Peace Like a River

Peace Like a River


An MMD 2017 Winter Book Club selection. This was one of my favorite books of 2014, although it was published back in 2001. A gorgeous novel that takes you on a journey across the frozen Badlands of the Dakotas in the heart of the frozen winter. Read it for yourself and see why so many readers call this their favorite book ever written. A tragedy, a romance, a coming of age story.

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This 1930s Gothic classic is an un-put-down-able, curl-up-by-the-fire mystery. Don't be put off by its age: this thrilling novel feels surprisingly current. Suspenseful but not scary, and it holds its tension on a re-reading: a sure sign of a well-crafted thriller.

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The much-anticipated prequel to Robinson's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Gilead. You'll hang on to every word of this gorgeous novel—and you'll want to read everything else Robinson ever wrote when you're finished. Stunning. (Note: you can read these in any order.)

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Station Eleven

Station Eleven

A global pandemic, a traveling Shakespeare troupe, a comic book—and a best-of-2014 pick for so many readers. I was afraid this post-apocalyptic novel would be depressing (or terrifying) but it's neither. It IS a pageturner: I read it in two days.

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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.)

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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. 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. More info →
All the Light We Cannot See

All the Light We Cannot See


Doerr's characters in this World War II novel are fascinating and altogether unexpected. 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. Haunting story, beautiful prose, and entirely deserving of its place on 2014's best-of-the-year lists.

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When winter starts to get you down, grab yourself a great book, and remember what Charles Ingalls said in The Long Winter about this season: “It’s got to quit sometime and we don’t. It can’t lick us.”

What’s on YOUR winter reading list?

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  1. Kelly S says:

    I love your blog. It’s my favorite, and I can’t wait to check in every day to see what you are reading. I get sucked into a time warp when you do a link up of what books everyone is reading. I spend so much time clicking around and making lists of good books.
    I’m currently reading Still Alice…very good!!!! Up next: The Martian.

  2. Lisa says:

    I just finished Lila lasts night. I find her prose so relaxing and peaceful. She’s the perfect accompiment to a roaring fire and glass of red wine.

  3. Michael Ann says:

    Guernsey is one of my all-time favorite books! And, yes, the audio book is brilliant! I’m looking forward to checking out some of the others on this list.

  4. I’m reading “Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage” right now. If you’re looking for perfect nonfiction reading for winter, this is it. Reading about fending off huge ice flows, in the dark, while being soaking wet and then frozen with no water to drink is making me think my winter actually isn’t all that bad. 🙂 Highly recommend.

  5. Ana says:

    I’m reading Pioneer Girl and find it fascinating–I want to reread all the Little House books when I finish. I adored The Thirteenth Tale, but was sorely disappointed by the author’s next book.

  6. Michelle says:

    Just finished All the Light We Cannot See (which was beautiful) and have added a few of the others listed above to my list. But Rebecca — one of THE BEST books ever. I don’t usually re-read books, but that one I might have to read again this winter. 🙂

  7. Elizabeth says:

    All great choices, and I have a few on my bedside table ready to read! I’m lost in “Hello From the Gillespies” right now and I am loving it. The request list for All the Light we Cannot See is SO long, and I’m anxious to read it. It’s been years since I read Peace Like a River, but I remember being captivated by it. Need to re-read!

  8. Melanie says:

    You are so right about winter reading, though I have an “ok” relationship with winter (although I do live in Georgia, so they’re pretty mild). I have always read more in winter months than any other time. It just makes sense..and truly, I’m amazed if not baffled by anyone who can read at the beach. You’ve inspired me to finally read the Thirteenth Tale, which has been sitting on my shelf for a couple of years, and to re-read The Long Winter, as the Little House series was a childhood favorite.

  9. Morgan says:

    I’ve read three of these:
    The Thirteenth Tale (adored the delicious creepiness; gothic lit is my fave!)
    TGLPPPS (also listened to the audio which delighted me down to my cockles)
    Little House Series (am re-reading aloud to my girls right now, we are on By the Shores of Silver Lake)

    I have Station Eleven and All the Light on hold at the library. I think I am #56 and #89 respectively, but that’s ok because there’s so much to read in the meantime 😉

    I just finished Jane Eyre for the first time (obsessed, cannot stop thinking about it, wish there was a decent movie rendition- the 1990’s version was disappointing and the most recent one left me wishing for a better ending, but really how can that book be condensed into a movie that would satisfy?)

    Currently reading The Book Thief, The Count of Monte Cristo and The Great Gatsby (again).

    Thanks for the Peace Like a River, Rebecca and Lila recs. I am looking forward to my first Robinson experience. Also thanks for the opinion on Girl on the Train; I disliked Gone Girl so I will skip that one.

    Lastly- 3 more fireside recommendations (as if this list wasn’t juicy enough) 😉

    Mrs. Mike by Freedman- sweet historical fiction adventure romance set in the Great White North. Definitely winter appropriate.

    These is My Words by Turner- sweeping historical novel told in journal entry style, not quite cradle to grave but jam crammed with adventures. In my top ten. Set in the late 1800’s in the Southwest; the scenery alone will warm you up! (A few disturbing scenes for sensitive readers.)

    Millbank by Holmes- I looked this up after reading about it in On the Banks of Plum Creek. It’s one of only two (I think) novels mentioned by name in the Little House series. Laura tries to prove to Ma that she can read (and therefore avoid going to school) by grabbing this book and “reading aloud” (reciting from memory, having heard Ma read it aloud to Pa so often.) Millbank is thoroughly delightful on it’s own merit; an engrossing story of love and family drama centered around the Millbank estate and the accompanying massive fortune. I can’t wait to read more of Holmes.

    • Dawn says:

      I’m gonna look into Mrs. Mike. Thanks for the recommendation!

      I adore the latest adaptation of Jane Eyre, because Michael Fassbender makes such a sexy brooding Rochester!

      • Morgan says:

        Oh he is for sure! Way prettier than I had drawn him in my head. I really liked the casting actually; I think my problem was that I was still on the high from finishing the book and watched the movie later that night. I thought it was missing much of the great dialogue (but how would you condense those long conversations!), as well as most of what (I thought) was the best part of the ending. If I had watched it a month later, I probably would have thought it was just perfect 🙂

    • Anne says:

      My mom adores These Is My Words; I’ve been meaning to read it. (Maybe this year for the challenge?)

      Your whole reading list sounds fantastic.

      • Morgan says:

        Thanks! Did y’all know that there are two more books in the “Sarah” series by Turner? I am planning to read them soonish, just had to take a break because These Is My Words wore me out emotionally 🙂 (I love that the story is based on the author’s grandmother’s life!)

  10. Emilee Land says:

    I recently found the first 5 Little House on the Prairie books at my local goodwill for a quarter a piece! Talk about a good find! Can’t wait to curl up with some tea and relive my childhood.

    • Anne says:

      I still haven’t read Little Women! It’s my “book with a beautiful cover” for the reading challenge. I have the Puffin in Bloom edition. 🙂

      • Sarah M says:

        Oh my goodness, this baffles me that you haven’t read it! I hope you love it. It’s one of my all-time favs. In the top ten, for sure.
        Now I know how my friends feel when I admit I haven’t seen The Princess Bride. 🙂

        (just watched it this weekend, yes!)
        Sarah M

  11. Dana says:

    I have read Peace Like A River ( it is in my top 5 of best books ever). The narrator reminds of Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird. I also read Thirteenth Tale. ..it is wonderful in so many ways..it is in my top 10. I read Rebecca years ago as a teenager and would like to re-read it, Lila is one I got for Christmas ( as yet unread) and I have All The Light We Cannot See on my Kindle waiting for me to get to it! I looked at Station Eleven at the bookstore last week. Not sure about that one yet.

    I am looking forward to reading High Divide which is by Lin Enger ,the brother of Leif Enger who wrote Peace Like a River. It was highly recommended by my favorite bookseller at our local indie bookstore.

    Also looking forward to Angel of Losses which I heard about on NPR.

  12. Meredith says:

    The Thirteenth Tale sounds fun! It’s not a book I would probably choose right off, but just sounds perfect for January, or whenever I get it from the library, LOL! Thanks for your winter suggestions, I will try some of these. Have a great Monday 🙂 Oh and could you possibly add me to your reading challenge, I follow you on pinterest but didn’t ever receive an invite 🙂 Thanks so much, it’s been fun to see what everyone else is choosing for each category!

  13. Katie Pritchard says:

    Now I want to add all of these to be to-be-read list, which is already so long! I’m still reading through The Outlander series, which I’m enjoying, but is going to take me awhile still. Maybe I’ll read something in between each book I’ve got left. Jane Eyre is my favorite book ever, so I have to read The Thirteenth Tale. Rebecca is one of my favorite books of all time- I really should read more Daphne du Maurier. Thanks for all the new reading ideas!

    • Anne says:

      MMD readers have assured me that du Maurier’s other work is well worth it, though I haven’t gotten there yet myself. 🙂 (And yes to The Thirteenth Tale!)

  14. Christine says:

    I loved the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society. Loved it. I would say I want to re-read, but no. No.

    All the light we cannot see keeps popping up on my radar and I keep intended to make room for it.

    First, I need to tackle some of the G.K. Chesterton I’ve been hoarding. And Lewis. I’ve got a few of his lesser known essay collections and every time I see them languishing on the bottom of the pile, I sigh. I need to stop sighing and pick. up. the. books!

  15. Amber says:

    Oh Anne, I just love your posts. They are a highlight of my day, and I’ve been reading so much more since I started following you! Right now I’m reading Me Before You, and I just finished We Were Liars. Good stuff.

  16. Erin says:

    I just finished “Code Name Verity” and have begun reading “Home” by Marilynne Robinson. “The Long Winter” is one of my favorite cold-weather books to read. No matter what kind of winter we’re experiencing (including last year’s polar vortex-filled season), I feel much better about it after reading about the Ingalls family’s experience.

  17. Beth says:

    Just read “Gilead” by Marilynne Robinson and loved it….looking forward to “Lila”! I love Agatha Christie in the winter….or I guess anytime. Reading “Gray Mountain” by John Grisham…..such quick reads….guilty pleasures.

  18. I am just about done with Astonish Me. Really enjoyed it, although the “mystery” seemed fairly obvious. I’m trying to read The Woman in White by Wilkie Coolins, and that seems like a good winter book. Mystery, England, long. I would say The Book Thief for this list, definitely! Maybe Shanghai Girls and Dreams of Joy by Lisa See. Engrossing, a dark time, nice long reads.

    • Anne says:

      “Mystery, England, long.” Love your winter reading criteria!

      I can see how The Book Thief would belong on a list like this, but I couldn’t include it—I haven’t read it yet! It’s on my TBR stack though, finally. 🙂

  19. Lauren says:

    Long ago I read a book called Ordinary Wolves by Seth Kantner that was set in Alaska if you’re looking for something to make you feel better about your own winter! It was an incredibly compelling book, I highly recommend it. I’ve read a lot on the list but not Rebecca, so that will go on my list of TBR…has anyone read anything else by Markus Zusak, the author of The Book Thief? I loved that book and wonder, are there others of his that stand out?

  20. Anne says:

    I won’t let winter lick me! 😉 Thanks, Anne and Pa! I finished the first section of Outlander yesterday. I was considering abandonment a few chapters in, but I gave it another go and have been enjoying it. Peace Like a River was on my Quick Lit post this month. I really liked it.

  21. Ashley says:

    I don’t know if the fact that I’m currently living in North Dakota makes me want to read or avoid Peace Like a River… I’m putting it on my list along with Rebecca. Thanks!!

    Also, I always want to read the Narnia books in the winter. 🙂

  22. Alyssa says:

    Mrs. Mike was one of my mom’s favorites and I have read it many times. I loved it because it was set in Northern Alberta where we lived. It’s so romantic and sad and based on a true story.

  23. Elise says:

    Love your blog and your book lists. Most of what you recommend ends up on my library wish list to read later! Thanks for keeping me inspired to read, and for giving such great suggestions! I’m currently reading “The Tragedies of the Medici” and “Wild”.

  24. Leigh Kramer says:

    I’ve been on the fence about Station Eleven but since you didn’t find it terrifying, I think I’ll have to give it a go!

  25. Sarah says:

    Rebecca is one of my all time favorite books! Such a good winter read–kind of creepy. I pretty much love all of those books. I just need to read Home, so I can read Lila!

  26. Amy Patton says:

    Anne, I am so excited to see Rebecca on your list. It is my all time favorite book. I never pictured to word gothic with it but you are so right. Have you read Jamacian Inn by du Maurier? It is my second favorite of hers. It’s been years and I can’t recall if there are sensitive scenes but I remember it gave me similar feelings as Wuthering Heights. It was haunting.

  27. Trisha : ) says:

    Have been re-reading all the Gene Stratton Porter books: Freckles, Girls of the Limberlost, Laddie…….. such a lovely snapshot of another time and place and attitude toward folks.

  28. Patty says:

    I read “The Long Winter” with my daughter during last year’s long winter (at least here in Virginia). We both enjoyed it and she still talks about it!

    Thanks for all the great book suggestions!

  29. Lisa T says:

    I love The Long Winter so much! It is the only one of Laura Ingalls Wiilder’s books that has managed to survive the trips from my childhood home to where I live now (I’m 46, so the book has seen a lot of travel).

  30. Julie says:

    I’d never heard of Peace Like a River but read it on your recommendation and am now one of those people who think it just may be one of my favorite books of all time. Such a gem!

  31. Chelsa says:

    The G Lit and Potato Peel Pie Soc. is SUCH a great book!
    And I’m getting ready to start the 5 Little House books…I got one of the Barnes and Noble hardbound copies that were out at Christmas. It’s so beautiful and will make it all the more enjoyable to read 🙂

  32. Erin says:

    All the Light We Cannot See is our next book club pick, so I’ll definitely be reading that. I’m going to pass on Girl on a Train, though, as I HATED Gone Girl. I also started my year off by reading A Path Appears; I thought it would be a good way to find some inspiration for ways to do good in 2015. I might start reading Everything I Never Told You before spring rolls around, if I have the time.

  33. Nichole says:

    Hi Anne,
    Thanks for the winter list! I’m currently reading this season Mr.Popper’s Penguins to the kids. And they’re enjoying it.

  34. Ellen Cole says:

    Great list! I read Rebecca years ago in college. The Thirteenth Tale and The Guernsey Literary and Potato PeEl Pie Society are two of my all time favorite audiobooks. I remember being stunned by some of the prose in The Thirteenth Tale.

    So many books…so little time. When do you find time to read so much and have a life? Like most things, I’m sure it’s a matter of prioritizing time. My goal is to allocate more time for reading.

  35. Andrea says:

    I loved Station Eleven, but I did find it depressing in some ways. It most certainly may have been the fact that I read it over the course of some bleak winter days and that I’m cooped up in the house with a four-month-old baby (and maybe some PMS mixed in there, too!), but I was quite down after reading it, even though I also really enjoyed it and didn’t want to put it down!

    • Anne says:

      It’s definitely depressing in some ways! I came to it expecting a real downer, and was surprised by the thread of hopefulness that ran through it. Expectations matter so much.

  36. Marlena says:

    #s 1, 3, 4, & 5 are some of my favorite reads, period. Broke my right arm last week, so lots of reading time, and your recommendations are keeping my kindle well-stocked . . . thank you!

  37. Erin says:

    I’m 75 pages into Peace Like a River, and I’m not exactly hooked yet. Do I just need to press on or is it time to abandon it? I don’t dislike it but I’m not dying to pick it up either. (Not sure what this says about me since so many loooove it!)

    • Anne says:

      If you don’t dislike it I would keep going (it’s not long—you’re a significant percentage into it!)

      I recently read The Brothers K, which I thought was fantastic, but I never wanted to pick it up. I was always glad I read it, but I wasn’t very enthusiastic about it in between sessions. I still can’t figure out what that’s about. 🙂

  38. Ann waddle says:

    Annie Barrows who was co-writer of Guernsey Literary…has a new book out: The Truth According to Us. It is written primarily in letters and I couldn’t put it down.

  39. Margaret Bailey says:

    I just found your website on Pinterest and I see a kindred spirit here. I was searching pictures of Guernsey Island, because I’m reading the “The Guernsey Literary and PPP Society” and looking at this list saw two of my own favorite books listed: “Lila” and “Station Eleven”. and “Guernsey” will join them. I hadn’t heard of “Peace Like a River” but will check it out, and the Doerr book is on my TBR list already. Looking forward to browsing all your lists.

  40. Yes, yes, yes to Guernsey, Peace Like a River (finally, a masterpiece set in North Dakota! I stalked Leif Enger one year at FFW!), Rebecca (sigh), and All the Light We Cannot See. I also disliked “Girl on a Train,” but not as much as I disliked “Gone Girl.” Will definitely take you up on Station Eleven and The thirteenth Tale. For something light and luscious, how about Mrs. Queen Takes the Train? A bon bon, truly.

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