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Book Club Blog

Best Reads for Hunkering Down in the Cold of Winter

I can’t think of anything nicer in the cold winter months than curling up under a warm blanket, burning a nice candle (like my favorites from the Chesapeake Bay Candle Company), and totally immersing yourself in a really lovely story.

Here are some of my absolute favorite books to read (or re-read!) while weathering the next polar vortex:

1. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

In Cold Blood is just a creepy, perfect classic. Particularly creepy, given it’s non-fiction nature; it details the 1959 murders of the Herbert Clutter family in a rural town in Kansas. Capote made the trip out to Kansas to document the murders and the hunt for the killers. There’s something about Capote’s style that makes him a perfect winter writer – I think it’s the sparseness. It’s chilling, and will go perfectly with the weather outside.

2. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Swinging in a completely different direction, Erin Morgenstern’s work is pure fantasy. The Night Circus is a place for the author’s imagination to run wild; taking in the characters of the fantastical circus and the spectacle enjoyed by the dedicated circus fans. Bonus fun fact – Morgenstern wrote The Night Circus as part of #NaNoWriMo!

3. Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

There is something wintery about the pace of Olive Kitteridge. It’s a little sleepy, and a little slow, and the perfect match for the less active months of deepest winter.

4. The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

Absolutely nothing like the dead of winter to get really wrapped up in historical fiction – right? Or maybe that’s all of the year? I don’t know. Written with the backdrop of confusion and uncertainty following the death of King Henry I of England, the Pillars of the Earth takes a nuanced look at shifting political loyalties and conspiracy in historical events. For people who aren’t fans of historical fiction, this might sound a tish boring, but I guarantee that Pillars of the Earth will draw you in.

5. A Song of Fire and Ice by George R.R. Martin

Oh, you haven’t read Game of Thrones? Nothing like winter to make “Winter is Coming” feel all the more real. Plus, you won’t feel as guilty binge watching the HBO series if you’ve just finished the series!

6. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

It’s really hard to write about Life After Life without giving too much away. If you want zero spoilers, just stop reading now, and go pick this up. It’ll be worth it. Still reading? Okay, then you’ll love diving into this looping, dizzying story of Ursula Todd. Atkinson’s main character circles over and over, living her life on repeat until she gradually realizes she can learn something from a feeling of intense deja vu. Get lost in the familiar as the story echoes back on itself again and again.

7. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Won’t lie, did not enjoy this book. But…. if there is ever a season for reading the magical realism of One Hundred Years of Solitude, it’s winter. Seriously, just lose yourself in it. And then come out the other side and argue with me about the relative merits of this book. I’d welcome a convincing take.

8. Bleak House by Charles Dickens

Does this need an explanation? Yes? Okay. Winter is the perfect season for Dickens of all variety, but I think Bleak House fits in a rather special way. There’s nothing like the political nuances of the British legal system to keep you company during those chilly nights. It may sound like I’m being facetious, but I’m really not. Try it. You’ll like it.

9. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

I debated for a long time whether Jane Eyre was really a fit for winter. I’ve read it so many times, in so many seasons, and at so many different places in my life, it seems universal in so many ways. But that said, if you haven’t read this classic, or haven’t picked it up in years, I think that Bronte is a great author to spend some winter months with. And the cold weather makes the moors just a bit more realistic in the imagination.

10. Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

I spent the winter of 2014 slowly working my way through every little last bit of Mantel’s novels. Wolf Hall is an excellent starting point for some binge reading (and binge watching, now that there’s a film adaptation). The era of Henry VIII and Cromwell is engrossing in so many ways, and Mantel’s take, which focuses on the perspectives of female characters, is unique and nuanced. As a bonus, it won the Man Booker Prize in 2009 – and reading your way through that list is always a fun experiment.

Finally, I want to note one winter read I haven’t read yet – I’ve had countless recommendations that The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt is an excellent cozy winter read. What do you think? Is it time to add this to by queue?