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Top Ten Books to Read In Winter
I’m at it again! I got lucky with this week’s topic. I thought I’d feature one of my themed Goodreads shelves. I barely used shelves in my first couple years on Goodreads, but as my read and TBR lists grew, I started making themed shelves to help me find books I’ve already read (“What was that book about GMOs?”) or feel in the mood for reading (“I want a weird creepy book”). My winter-reading shelf includes both read and TBR. For a book to make it onto this shelf, the winter setting has to play a significant role in the story. It has to be a story I would enjoy reading more while surrounded by snow.
- Wolf Winter by Cecilia Ekback – An atmospheric tale of settlers set in the early 18th century Sweden with a hint of magic. The title says it all, really.
- “Swedish Lapland, 1717. Maija, her husband Paavo and her daughters Frederika and Dorotea arrive from their native Finland, hoping to forget the traumas of their past and put down new roots in this harsh but beautiful land. Above them looms Blackåsen, a mountain whose foreboding presence looms over the valley and whose dark history seems to haunt the lives of those who live in its shadow.
While herding the family’s goats on the mountain, Frederika happens upon the mutilated body of one of their neighbors, Eriksson. The death is dismissed as a wolf attack, but Maija feels certain that the wounds could only have been inflicted by another man. Compelled to investigate despite her neighbors’ strange disinterest in the death and the fate of Eriksson’s widow, Maija is drawn into the dark history of tragedies and betrayals that have taken place on Blackåsen. Young Frederika finds herself pulled towards the mountain as well, feeling something none of the adults around her seem to notice.
As the seasons change, and the “wolf winter,” the harshest winter in memory, descends upon the settlers, Paavo travels to find work, and Maija finds herself struggling for her family’s survival in this land of winter-long darkness. As the snow gathers, the settlers’ secrets are increasingly laid bare. Scarce resources and the never-ending darkness force them to come together, but Maija, not knowing who to trust and who may betray her, is determined to find the answers for herself. Soon, Maija discovers the true cost of survival under the mountain, and what it will take to make it to spring.”
- The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey- Another settler tale, this time set in 1920s Alaska. I wrote a paper on this book for my Fairy Tales and Culture course (though I read it for fun first! Then worked it into my paper :P). As I learnt, the novel is a retelling of “The Snow Maiden” (ATU 703), not “The Snow Child” (ATU 1362).
- “Alaska, 1920: a brutal place to homestead and especially tough for recent arrivals Jack and Mabel. Childless, they are drifting apart–he breaking under the weight of the work of the farm, she crumbling from loneliness and despair. In a moment of levity during the season’s first snowfall, they build a child out of snow. The next morning, the snow child is gone–but they glimpse a young, blonde-haired girl running through the trees. This little girl, who calls herself Faina, seems to be a child of the woods. She hunts with a red fox at her side, skims lightly across the snow, and somehow survives alone in the Alaskan wilderness. As Jack and Mabel struggle to understand this child who could have stepped from the pages of a fairy tale, they come to love her as their own daughter. But in this beautiful, violent place things are rarely as they appear, and what they eventually learn about Faina will transform all of them.”
- Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin – TBR. I’m trying to give fair attention to chunksters, but I haven’t tackled this one yet.
- “New York City is subsumed in arctic winds, dark nights, and white lights, its life unfolds, for it is an extraordinary hive of the imagination, the greatest house ever built, and nothing exists that can check its vitality. One night in winter, Peter Lake, orphan and master-mechanic, attempts to rob a fortress-like mansion on the Upper West Side.Though he thinks the house is empty, the daughter of the house is home. Thus begins the love between Peter Lake, a middle-aged Irish burglar, and Beverly Penn, a young girl, who is dying.
Peter Lake, a simple, uneducated man, because of a love that, at first he does not fully understand, is driven to stop time and bring back the dead. His great struggle, in a city ever alight with its own energy and besieged by unprecedented winters, is one of the most beautiful and extraordinary stories of American literature.”
- The Magician’s Elephant by Kate DiCamillo – Finished this one just a couple weeks ago. A lighter read than the others on this list!
- “When a fortuneteller’s tent appears in the market square of the city of Baltese, orphan Peter Augustus Duchene knows the questions that he needs to ask: Does his sister still live? And if so, how can he find her? The fortuneteller’s mysterious answer (an elephant! An elephant will lead him there!) sets off a chain of events so remarkable, so impossible, that you will hardly dare to believe it’s true. With atmospheric illustrations by fine artist Yoko Tanaka, here is a dreamlike and captivating tale that could only be narrated by Newbery Medalist Kate DiCamillo. In this timeless fable, she evokes the largest of themes — hope and belonging, desire and compassion — with the lightness of a magician’s touch.“
- The Winter Ghosts by Kate Mosse – A different sort of story than The Magician’s Elephant but also good for cozying up on a cold night.
- “In the winter of 1928, still seeking some kind of resolution to the horrors of World War I, Freddie is traveling through the beautiful but forbidding French Pyrenees. During a snowstorm, his car spins off the mountain road. Dazed, he stumbles through the woods, emerging in a tiny village, where he finds an inn to wait out the blizzard. There he meets Fabrissa, a lovely young woman also mourning a lost generation.
Over the course of one night, Fabrissa and Freddie share their stories. By the time dawn breaks, Freddie will have unearthed a tragic, centuries-old mystery, and discovered his own role in the life of this remote town.”
- Falling for Snow by Jamie Bastedo – Non-fiction. I read this some years ago and liked the different perspectives on snow included.
- “In this spirited mix of humor, science and adventure, naturalist Jamie Bastedo takes you on an uncommon romp through snow. Share in the quest of early snow scientists to unravel snow’s many riddles: Meet a madcap balloonist who risked it all to inspect snowstorms five miles up.Join snow ecologists as they gauge the importance of snow in shaping the lives of plants and animals. Pull your hair out with urban leaders, road crews, and train engineers as they do battle with paralyzing piles of snow.Discover the imprint of snow on native languages and some of our best art and literature.Explore the outer limits of snow-based recreation.And follow in Bastedo’s foot, ski and snowshoe tracks as he guides you across creaking glaciers, through hushed evergreen forests and over frozen arctic seas in a playful exploration of the many facets and meanings of snow.As inspirational as it is informative, this light-hearted book will appeal to anyone with even the slightest curiosity about that white stuff you will never again call “plain old snow.””
- Winterfrost by Michelle Houst – TBR. Should have read this at Christmas! I think the cover looks very inviting.
- “Christmas has come, and with it a sparkling white winterfrost over the countryside. But twelve-year-old Bettina’s parents have been called away unexpectedly, leaving her in charge of the house, the farm, and baby Pia. In all the confusion, Bettina’s family neglects to set out the traditional bowl of Christmas rice pudding for the tiny nisse who are rumored to look after the family and their livestock. No one besides her grandfather ever believed the nisse were real, so what harm could there be in forgetting this silly custom? But when baby Pia disappears during a nap, the magic of the nisse makes itself known. To find her sister and set things right, Bettina must venture into the miniature world of these usually helpful, but sometimes mischievous folk. A delightful winter adventure for lovers of the legendary and miraculous.”
- Cloud and Ashes: Three Winter’s Tales by Greer Gilman – TBR.
- “Gilman’s second novel, Cloud & Ashes, is a slow whirlwind of language, a button box of words, a mythic Joycean fable that will invite immersion, study, revisitation, and delight. To step into her world is to witness the bright flashes, witty turns, and shadowy corners of the human imagination, limned with all the detail and humor of a master stylist. In Gilman’s intricate prose, myth and fable live, breathe, and dance as they do nowhere else. Cloud & Ashes collects three Winter’s Tales (“Jack Daw’s Pack,” “A Crowd of Bone,” and the longest, “Unleaving”) centering on folk traditions, harvest rites, the seasons, gods, and trickster figures. Inventive, playful, and erudite, Gilman is an archeolexicologist rewriting language itself in these long-awaited tales.”
- Revolver by Marcus Sedgwick – TBR. I recently learnt about this one. I haven’t read any of his books before.
- “Razor-sharp, psychological thriller set in a snowy Arctic wilderness.
“They say that dead men tell no tales, but they’re wrong. Even the dead tell stories.”
It’s 1910. In a cabin north of the Arctic Circle, in a place murderously cold and desolate, Sig Andersson is alone. Except for the corpse of his father, frozen to death that morning when he fell through the ice on the lake.
The cabin is silent, so silent, and then there’s a knock at the door. It’s a stranger, and as his extraordinary story of gold dust and gold lust unwinds, Sig’s thoughts turn more and more to his father’s prized possession, a Colt revolver, hidden in the storeroom.
A revolver just waiting to be used…but should Sig use it, or not?”
- The White Dawn: An Eskimo Saga by James Archibald Houston – I was kind of skeptical about this one…a fictional book about the Inuit written by a white guy in 1971? But the reviews are positive and address the concerns I might have had with this one, so I want to check it out.
- “In 1896, three survivors from a whaling misadventure are nursed back to health by Eskimo villagers who share their food, women, and way of life with the strangers. In return, the foreigners introduce to the villagers the spirit of competitiveness that rules the white man’s world. Map and drawings by the Author.”