After weeks of enjoying festive holiday traditions, I find myself dreading the dreary days of winter ahead. To combat the winter blues every year, I pull out a few tried-and-true strategies, like enjoying fresh air and exercise everyday. Getting outside for my daily walk lifts my mood, and it provides the perfect audiobook-listening time.
To make winter more enjoyable, I’m also leaning into seasonal reading experiences. A book doesn’t necessarily have to be set in Alaska to feel like winter to me. A cold and snowy setting puts me in a hygge frame of mind, but so do atmospheric and moody books, introspective literary fiction, and epic fantasy and fairytales.
Today, I’m sharing a list of audiobooks that capture a variety of winter reading moods. I’ve included nearly every genre on this list, from narrative nonfiction to fantasy.
No matter the season, I’m always looking for a compelling story with an excellent narrator for the best possible listening experience. You’ll see that reflected on this list. I hope you find a few titles that capture your reading mood this winter.
If you're in the mood for a winter survival story, this book is incredible. (The Baby-Sitters Club Club guys raved about it on What Should I Read Next Episode 51.) Sir Ernest Shackleton and his crew were stranded on the Antarctic ice for 20 months beginning in January 1915. The story (which is named for Shackleton's ship) is compiled largely from the journals of Shackleton's 27-man crew. Harrowing, inspiring, and unputdownable. Spellbinding narration by Simon Prebble. (Major bonus points for his wonderful British accent). More info →
I can't think of a more "wintry" classic than this Russian tome. I found the themes to be shockingly modern, and thanks to a great translation, so was the language. Numerous translations exist; if I had to choose one I'd go with Constance Garnett's, if only because it's narrated by Maggie Gyllenhaal, who calls this her favorite novel and said performing it was one of the greatest accomplishments of her work life. Plus, if you want to get the most out of your audiobook credits, this one is a whopping 35 hours. More info →
The first installment in one of my favorite atmospheric mystery series introduces Chief Inspector Armand Gamache as he investigates a murder in the small town of Three Pines, Quebec—the kind of place where people don’t even lock their doors. But serene small town life is disrupted when 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 feels like something different, with its deliberate pacing, dry wit, and lyrical writing. I love this series in any format, but the audiobooks (narrated by Ralph Cosham) are especially entertaining. More info →
Time travel, the Scottish highlands, romance, drama. This is an audiobook that easily sweeps me away (which is exactly what I'm looking for this winter). As she tells it, Gabaldon intended to write a realistic historical novel, but a modern woman kept inserting herself into the story! She decided to leave her for the time being—it's hard enough to write a novel, she'd edit her out later—but would YOU edit out Claire? I didn't think so. You could happily lose yourself in this series, totaling 300+ hours on audio, which delivers serious bang for the audiobook buck. Davina Porter narrates, and she is freaking fantastic. Heads up for racy content and graphic torture scenes: I made liberal use of my fast-forward button. More info →
In this quiet novel, 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 (and have now read it several times). Narrated by Jilly Bond. More info →
I loved this magic-infused story about love, loss, and the wildness of nature, based on a wintery fairytale. (Hear more about the book's origins in One Great Book Volume IV Book 6). 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 that eerily mirrors a much-loved fairy tale, the couple spies a young girl they've never seen before running through the trees. From there, a magical and tender story unfolds. I'm due for a reread, and I think I'll go with the audiobook this time, narrated by Therese Plummer. More info →
N.K. Jemisin creates amazing worlds, infused with allegory. Winter is a great time to get lost in her deep and articulately crafted Broken Earth Trilogy. In the first installment, everyone is trying to survive the Stillness’s unforgiving, unstable environment as the next Fifth Season approaches. With stellar world-building, we follow three girls trying to make their way as the catastrophic threat looms ever closer. Exploring systematic oppression and the gift of found families, it’s easy to see why this lengthy book has garnered so much praise. With Robin Miles's narration, the pages quickly go by. More info →
A trip to Moscow left such an impression on Katherine Arden that when she sat down to write her book, "Russia came pouring back out." In this reimagined fairy tale, set in medieval Russia 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 spin on the Baba Yaga stories reminded me of Naomi Novik's Uprooted, Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus, and anything Neil Gaiman. Listen to the audiobook for all the Russian pronunciations, performed by Kathleen Gati. More info →
In this dark fairytale that takes place in modern day Manhattan, Alice and her mom have spent 17 years on the run, trying to dodge the persistent bad luck mysteriously connected to an unnerving book of stories penned by Alice's estranged grandmother. When Alice's grandmother dies, her mother thinks they're free—until the day Alice comes home from school to discover Ella has been kidnapped, leaving behind a page torn from her grandmother's book and a note: Stay away from the Hazel Wood. But Alice has to save her mom, so she enters what she slowly begins to see is her grandmother's book of stories-come-to-life—and they suddenly look a lot more like horror than fantasy. Narrated by Rebecca Soler and James Fouhey. More info →
Described as "Outlander meets Camelot," this fantasy novel works really well on audio. I appreciated hearing the pronunciation of the Ancient Scottish names and places, as read by Toni Frutin. The "lost queen" is Languoreth, a real sixth century Scottish queen whose twin brother inspired the legend of Merlin. The setting and tone made for a moody and escapist reading experience. Ancient magic, complex politics, and clashing religions all conspire to create an intriguing story. Reminiscent of the Arthurian legends, this book is perfect for fans of Phillippa Gregory. More info →
May defines "wintering" as "a fallow period in life when you’re cut off from the world, feeling rejected, side-lined, blocked from progress, or cast into the role of an outsider." She takes this single subject and turns it, chapter by chapter, considering different events, aspects, incarnations, and inciting events of a winter season, guiding the reader through scenes of her life and inviting them to join her on adventures to explore what it means to winter—heading to Stonehenge, to Iceland, to ice-bathe, to sauna. I appreciated the multidisciplinary approach; May builds the narrative around events of her life, but draws from health, psychology, spirituality, religion, science, nature and more to tell her story. This was lovely on audio, as narrated by Rebecca Lee. More info →
Emily St. John Mandel's latest novel is completely different from Station Eleven in terms of plot and tone, but her signature storytelling style that connects characters across seemingly unrelated events remains the same. I wasn't sure what to expect when I found out that one of my favorite authors was writing about a Ponzi scheme, but I certainly enjoyed it. Part classic noir, part ghost story, and part mystery—this atmospheric novel does feel like winter. The absorbing audiobook version is narrated by Dylan Moore. More info →
Homegoing author Gyasi delivers another powerful family story about grief, faith, and the power of human connection. This one is quiet, introspective, and perfectly suits my winter reading mood. Gifty studies neuroscience at Stanford School of Medicine, with a focus on depression and addiction. It’s no coincidence that she’s chosen to study illnesses that impact those she loves most. Her brother, a gifted student and athlete, died of a heroin overdose after a devastating knee injury. Her mother stays in bed, battling depression and grief. As Gifty leans on her work to help her understand her family, she longs for understanding, and faith. Piercingly sad, but ultimately hopeful. Narrated by one of my favorites: Bahni Turpin. More info →
Although it takes place in the summertime, this charming Japanese novel in translation makes for a charming, cozy winter listening experience. At a small Tokyo café, patrons sip coffee and travel through time. Yes, this is a time travel book—but not your typical action-packed science fiction. Heartwarming and quirky, the story follows four customers who enter the café in search of time travel. The most important rule they learn: your trip through time only lasts as long as your coffee stays warm. A quick listen, under 7 hours with delightful narration by Arina Ii. More info →
Which audiobooks are on your winter TBR list? Are you listening to anything great right now? Tell us in the comments.