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  • Writer's pictureNora Curry

Wintering: A Reading List

Monday is the winter solstice, bringing the shortest day of the year (as beautifully rendered in word and ink in Susan Cooper's The Shortest Day) but also beckoning increasingly longer days of light. We have many months of winter ahead of us, and it can seem daunting, but there are ways to welcome the season with its particularities and its opportunities for rest and renewal. I'm currently anticipating my hold on Katherine May's new book Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times, wherein May finds a way to embrace winter and examines the idea of renewal even in the darkest times. Expect a review on the blog in the new year! Similarly, I am relishing, piece by piece, Winter: A Spiritual Biography of the Season (edited by Gary Schmidt and Susan M. Felch), a treasure trove of winter poems, stories, and reflections from a wide variety of authors that again posits the possibility of winter as a time for finding warmth even as we may retreat. Winter traditions, winter as metaphor... the landscape is ripe for literary exploration.

However you might celebrate the solstice or think about winter, as library users, many of you are probably preparing to spend a lot of winter days or nights curled up reading! On that note, I bring you a reading list of novels that take place in winter or are perfect for a long winter's read, so that we can all cozily indulge in the coming months. A mix of enchanting, comforting, and dark... just like the season. Click the links the request these books in our catalog. Let us winter in warmth, amongst good reads.

A Literary Approach to Winter

In The Midst of Winter, Isabel Allende

Thrown together by a Brooklyn blizzard, two NYU professors and a Guatemalan nanny find themselves with a body to dispose of... This winter's tale has something to melt each frozen heart. - From Kirkus Reviews

(the first of the Winternight trilogy)

Arden’s debut is an earthy, beautifully written love letter to Russian folklore, with an irresistible heroine who wants only to be free of the bonds placed on her gender and claim her own fate in 14th-century Russia. The stunning prose... forms a fully immersive, unusual, and xciting fairy tale that will enchant readers from the first page. - From Publishers Weekly

A recently widowed fantasy writer is guided through a stormy winter evening by the voice of her late husband. An elderly lady with Charles Bonnet syndrome comes to terms with the little people she keeps seeing, while a newly formed populist group gathers to burn down her retirement residence. A woman born with a genetic abnormality is mistaken for a vampire, and a crime committed long ago is revenged in the Arctic via a 1.9 billion-year-old stromatalite. - From the publisher

Beartown, Fredrik Backman

People say Beartown is finished. A tiny community nestled deep in the forest, it is slowly losing ground to the ever-encroaching trees. But down by the lake stands an old ice rink, built generations ago by the working men who founded this town. And in that ice rink is the reason people in Beartown believe tomorrow will be better than today... - From the publisher

Snow, John Banville

Investigating the murder of a 1957 County Wexford priest, Detective Inspector St. John Strafford navigates harsh winter weather and the community's culture of silence to expose an aristocratic family's dangerous secrets. - From NoveList

A Week in Winter, Maeve Binchy

Follows the efforts of a woman who turns a coastal Ireland mansion into a holiday resort and receives an assortment of first guests who throughout the course of a week share laughter and the heartache of respective challenges. - From NoveList

The Miniaturist, Jessie Burton

This debut novel from Oxford-educated actress Burton transports the reader to Amsterdam in the winter of 1686, where the Dutch merchant class is obsessed with money and influenced by a repressive church... - From Library Journal

On a three-day journey through the snowbound Balkan hills, Hercule Poirot must weed through an array of international suspects to find the passenger who murdered a gangster on the Orient Express. - From NoveList

The Child Finder, Rene Denfield

Three years ago, Madison Culver disappeared when her family was choosing a Christmas tree in Oregon’s Skookum National Forest. She would be eight-years-old now—if she has survived. Desperate to find their beloved daughter, the Culvers turn to Naomi, a private investigator with an uncanny talent for locating the lost and missing. Known to police and a select group of parents as “the Child Finder,” Naomi is their last hope. Naomi’s methodical search takes her deep into the icy, mysterious forest in the Pacific Northwest, and into her own fragmented past... - From the publisher

Peace Like a River, Leif Enger

Dead for 10 minutes before his father orders him to breathe in the name of the living God, Reuben Land is living proof that the world is full of miracles.... This is a stunning debut novel, one that sneaks up on you like a whisper and warms you like a quilt in a North Dakota winter, a novel about faith, miracles and family that is, ultimately, miraculous. - From Publishers Weekly

Winter Garden, Kristin Hannah

Reunited when their beloved father falls ill, sisters Meredith and Nina find themselves under the shadow of their disapproving mother, whose painful history is hidden behind her rendition of a Russian fairy tale told to the sisters in childhood. - From NoveList

Winter's Tale, Mark Helprin

When master mechanic Peter Lake attempts to rob a mansion on the Upper West Side, he is caught by young Beverly Penn, the terminally ill daughter of the house, and their subsequent love sends Peter on a desperate personal journey. - From NoveList

The Snow Child, Eowyn Ivey

Here's a modern retelling of the Russian fairy tale about a girl, made from snow by a childless couple, who comes to life. Or perhaps not modern—the setting is 1920s Alaska—but that only proves the timelessness of the tale and of this lovely book. Unable to start a family, middle-aged Jack and Mabel have come to the wilderness to start over, leaving behind an easier life back east. Anxious that they won't outlast one wretched winter, they distract themselves by building a snow girl and wrap her in a scarf. The snow girl and the scarf are gone the next morning, but Jack spies a real child in the woods... - From Library Journal

The Winter People, Jennifer McMahon

Coming of age in an old farmhouse, nineteen-year-old Ruthie begins a search for her agoraphobic mother and discovers the century-old diary of the farmhouse's long-ago resident, a grieving mother who died under mysterious circumstances. - From NoveList

Gingerbread, Helen Oyeyemi

Draws on the classic fairy-tale element of gingerbread in the story of a British family whose surprising legacy and secret past are tied to a favorite recipe. - From NoveList

Melmoth, Sarah Perry

Haunted by past misdeeds, a self-exiled English translator encounters the uncanny in snow-covered Prague... A chilling novel about confronting our complicity in past atrocities—and retaining the strength and moral courage to strive for the future. - From Kirkus Reviews

Winter Solstice, Rosamunde Pilcher

Winter solstice--the shortest day of the year--represents darkness and also hope, renewal, and rebirth. Five very different people come together in this setting, ranging in age from teenagers to mid-sixties, each of whom must confront very different challenges or losses. - From NoveList

Once Upon a River, Diane Setterfield

A wonderfully dark and mysterious read. Something happens one stormy winter solstice evening that triggers a chain of events that changes the lives of all the main characters. Moody and mystical. - From LibraryReads

Light on Snow, Anita Shreve

After retreating from a family tragedy to a house tucked away in the New Hampshire woods, 12-year-old Nicky and her father are thrust back into the world when one wintry afternoon they discover an abandoned newborn outdoors. How they deal with the reality of the baby's mother, who shows up at their house, and the detective who is hellbent on putting the pieces together is narrated by a now-adult Nicky looking back at her past. - From Library Journal

Silva's fiction offers a take on how Charles Dickens came to write his famous holiday story, A Christmas Carol.... an intriguing and atmospheric backstory to the quintessential holiday tale and its most revered author. - From Library Journal

A Week in Winter, Marcia Willett

When Maudie Todhunter, the elderly owner of a charming farmhouse in Cornwall, decides to sell the family homestead, a family drama unfolds, with old secrets bubbling to the surface. - From NoveList

Whether you brave the frost to read some lines outside or stay curled up with a book in front of the fire, happy winter reading!

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