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January 09, 2018

Wintry Reads for Snowy Nights

Wintry Reads for Snowy Nights

By: Julia Welzen

Winter is upon us in full force, and the combination of extreme weather and beauty lends itself well to books steeped in myth and survival. So curl up with a blanket, fix yourself a warm drink, and lose yourself in a book that complements the season.


For nonfiction readers
, there’s Sara Wheeler’s The Magnetic North, which details her journey to explore the Arctic Circle and its history, cultures, and wildlife, while her excellent Terra Incognita – literally its polar opposite – focuses on her time spent Antarctica as a writer-in-residence at a research station. In the Kingdom of Ice by Hampton Sides chronicles an incredible true survival story of the crew of the U.S.S. Jeannette, who attempted to explore the Arctic in 1879, but met only extreme conditions.

Prefer fiction
? Eowyn Ivey, an Alaskan, writes with a deep love of her home state, and both her books, the fairy tale-like The Snow Child and the bittersweet adventure The Bright Edge of the World, take place on the wild frontier.  The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden is a lush fantasy based in medieval Russian folklore with a strong female lead. Read the young-adult crossover Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett if you prefer fantasy full of cheeky pathos, but since it’s the fourth installment in its particular series, you may want to start with the first, The Wee Free Men.  For a creepier take on winter, try the icy horror of Winter People by Jennifer McMahon; Stephen King’s shivery classic The Shining; or The Mountains of Madness by H. P. Lovecraft.

While not all of Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache mysteries take place in winter, the first two – Still Life and A Fatal Grace – do, and the boreal isolation of the Quebec village of Three Pines coupled with warmth of the people lend a sense coziness tucked into the unforgiving snow-covered forest. The Jimmy Perez mysteries written by Ann Cleeves originally were conceived as a quartet to follow the Shetland Islands throughout the seasons, and the first book, Raven Black, takes place in winter. These books are the basis of the BBC drama Shetland.

If you prefer darker mysteries
, try Scandinavian authors: the bleak and wintry landscapes, brutal crimes, and moral complexity make for chilly reading. Try The Ice Princess by Camilla Läckberg, The Princess of Burundi by Kjell Eriksson, Blind Goddess by Anne Holt, The Bat by Jo Nesbo, or Mind’s Eye by Hakan Nesser. One of the best known Scandinavian crime fiction authors is Henning Mankell, whose Wallander books were made into a film series and two television series. The first Wallander book is Faceless Killers.