I read the most in the winter months, so winter books hold a special place in my heart (and my bookshelves). Because the weather is freezing and there isn’t much to do outside, I don’t socialize and read all day and night. Although it is cold where I live, it doesn’t snow, so I don’t even get to make a snowman or harass my neighbours with snowballs. And I miss the snow a lot! That’s why I choose winter books with snow in mind.
Choosing winter books was a bit tricky. First, I thought I’d select cosy, feel-good winter books with beautiful settings and lovely characters. Then I thought, that does not feel like winter at all. Winter is harsh, cold, lonelier and a tad gloomy. But we all know how magical it can be—watching the snowfall, the crunching of snow while you walk, that wonderful smell of snow and Christmas lights all create a wonderful atmosphere. So I choose winter books with wintery, cold themes but I can assure you they are all perfect!
Winter is the perfect time to read winter books with cold and snowy themes because when else would you read these books? Definitely not in summer or spring when we all want to chill on a beach or hang out with bees and flowers in a park. And there are cosier books for autumn, and we still don’t want it to snow yet. So in winter, we read winter books with colder settings and lots of snow.
This winter books list includes various genres from literary fiction to thrillers and science fiction to romances so that you can choose for your every mood. I hope you’ll find lots of winters books to read this season. Enjoy!
I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape — the loneliness of it; the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn’t show.Andrew Wyeth
20 Atmospheric Winter Books
Snow Falling on Cedars – David Guterson
In 1954 a fisherman is found dead in the nets of his boat, and a local Japanese-American man is charged with his murder. In the course of his trial, it becomes clear that what is at stake is more than one man’s guilt.
For on San Piedro, memories grow as thickly as cedar trees and the fields of ripe strawberries – memories of a charmed love affair between a white boy and a Japanese girl; memories of land desired, paid for, and lost. Above all, San Piedro is haunted by the memory of what happened to its Japanese residents during World War II, when an entire community was sent into exile while its neighbours watched. An award winning historical fiction among winter books.
The Left Hand of Darkness – Ursula K. Le Guin
Genly Ai is an ethnologist observing the people of the planet Gethen, a world perpetually in winter. The people there are androgynous, normally neuter, but they can become male ot female at the peak of their sexual cycle. They seem to Genly Ai alien, unsophisticated and confusing. But he is drawn into the complex politics of the planet and, during a long, tortuous journey across the ice with a politician who has fallen from favour and has been outcast, he loses his professional detachment and reaches a painful understanding of the true nature of Gethenians and, in a moving and memorable sequence, even finds love…
A Girl in Winter – Philip Larkin
Philip Larkin’s second novel was first published in 1947. This story of Katherine Lind and Robin Fennel, of winter and summer, of war and peace, of exile and holidays, is memorable for its compassionate precision and for the uncommon and unmistakable distinction of its writing. A poem like prose among winter books.
An old man lies dying. Propped up in his living room and surrounded by his children and grandchildren, George Washington Crosby drifts in and out of consciousness, back to the wonder and pain of his impoverished childhood in Maine. As the clock repairer’s time winds down, his memories intertwine with those of his father, an epileptic, itinerant peddler and his grandfather, a Methodist preacher beset by madness.
At once heartbreaking and life-affirming, Tinkers is an elegiac meditation on love, loss, illness, faith, and the fierce beauty of nature. A Pulitzer winner among winter books.
The Snow Was Dirty – Georges Simenon
Nineteen-year-old Frank – thug, thief, son of a brothel owner – gets by surprisingly well despite living in a city under military occupation, but a warm house and a full stomach are not enough to make him feel truly alive in such a climate of deceit and betrayal. During a bleak, unending winter, he embarks on a string of violent and sordid crimes that set him on a path from which he can never return. Georges Simenon’s matchless novel is a brutal, compelling portrayal of a world without pity; a devastating journey through a psychological no-man’s land among winter books.
Snow – Orhan Pamuk
The year is 1992. Ka, a poet and political exile, returns to Turkey as a journalist, assigned to investigate troubling reports of suicide in the small and mysterious city of Kars on the Turkish border.
The snow is falling fast as he arrives, and soon all roads are closed. There’s a ‘suicide epidemic’ amongst young religious women forbidden to wear their headscarves. Islamists are poised to win the local elections and Ka is falling in love with the beautiful and radiant Ipek, now recently divorced.
Amid blanketing snowfall and universal suspicion, he finds himself pursued by terrorism in a city wasting away under the shadow of Europe. In the midst of growing religious and political violence, the stage is set for a terrible and desperate act . . .
Touching, slyly comic, and humming with cerebral suspense, Snow evokes the spiritual fragility of the non-Western world, its ambivalence about the godless West, and its fury. A Nobel Prize winner among winter books.
The Snow Child – Eowyn Ivey
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. A historical fiction among winter books.
If On A Winter’s Night A Traveller – Italo Calvino
You go into a bookshop and buy If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller by Italo Calvino. You like it. But alas there is a printer’s error in your copy. You take it back to the shop and get a replacement. But the replacement seems to be a totally different story. You try to track down the original book you were reading but end up with a different narrative again. This remarkable novel leads you through many different books including a detective adventure, a romance, a satire, an erotic story, a diary and a quest. But the real hero is you, the reader. My favourite among winter books.
Shimamura is tired of the bustling city. He takes the train through the snow to the mountains of the west coast of Japan, to meet with a geisha he believes he loves. Beautiful and innocent, Komako is tightly bound by the rules of a rural geisha, and lives a life of servitude and seclusion that is alien to Shimamura, and their love offers no freedom to either of them. Snow Country is both delicate and subtle, reflecting in Kawabata’s exact, lyrical writing the unspoken love and the understated passion of the young Japanese couple. The one that’ll take you to Japan among winter books.
Smilla’s Sense of Snow – Peter Hoeg
First published in 1992, Peter Høeg’s Smilla’s Sense of Snow instantly became an international sensation. When caustic Smilla Jaspersen discovers that her neighbor–a neglected six-year-old boy, and possibly her only friend–has died in a tragic accident, a peculiar intuition tells her it was murder. Unpredictable to the last page, Smilla’s Sense of Snow is one of the most beautifully written and original crime stories of our time, a new classic among winter books.
A New York Winter’s Tale – Mark Helprin
One night in New York, a city under siege by snow, Peter Lake attempts to rob a fortress-like mansion on the Upper West Side. Though he thinks it is empty, the daughter of the house is home . . .
Thus begins the affair between this Irish burglar and Beverly Penn, a young girl dying of consumption. It is a love so powerful that Peter will be driven to stop time and bring back the dead; A New York Winter’s Tale is the story of that extraordinary journey. A beautiful fantasy among winter books.
In the Midst of Winter – Isabel Allende
Amid the biggest Brooklyn snowstorm in living memory, an unexpected friendship blossoms between three people thrown together by circumstance. Richard Bowmaster, a lonely university professor in his sixties, hits the car driven by Evelyn Ortega, a young, undocumented migrant from Guatemala. But what at first seems an inconvenience takes an unforeseen and darker turn when Evelyn comes to him and his neighbour Lucia Maraz, desperately seeking help. Sweeping from present-day Brooklyn to Guatemala to turbulent 1970s Chile and Brazil, and woven with Isabel Allende’s trademark humanity, passion and storytelling verve, In the Midst of Winter is a mesmerizing and unforgettable tale among winter books.
In this dizzyingly rich novel of ideas, Mann uses a sanatorium in the Swiss Alps, a community devoted exclusively to sickness, as a microcosm for Europe, which in the years before 1914 was already exhibiting the first symptoms of its own terminal irrationality. The Magic Mountain is a monumental work of erudition and irony, sexual tension and intellectual ferment, a book that pulses with life in the midst of death. A classic among winter books.
Norwegian Wood – Haruki Murakami
When he hears her favourite Beatles song, Toru Watanabe recalls his first love Naoko, the girlfriend of his best friend Kizuki. Immediately he is transported back almost twenty years to his student days in Tokyo, adrift in a world of uneasy friendships, casual sex, passion, loss and desire – to a time when an impetuous young woman called Midori marches into his life and he has to choose between the future and the past. A contemporary romance among winter books.
Moon of the Crusted Snow – Waubgeshig Rice
With winter looming, a small northern Anishinaabe community goes dark. Cut off, people become passive and confused. Panic builds as the food supply dwindles. While the band council and a pocket of community members struggle to maintain order, an unexpected visitor arrives, escaping the crumbling society to the south. Soon after, others follow. The community leadership loses its grip on power as the visitors manipulate the tired and hungry to take control of the reserve.
Tensions rise and, as the months pass, so does the death toll due to sickness and despair. Frustrated by the building chaos, a group of young friends and their families turn to the land and Anishinaabe tradition in hopes of helping their community thrive again. Guided through the chaos by an unlikely leader named Evan Whitesky, they endeavor to restore order while grappling with a grave decision. A thriller among winter books.
Cold Earth – Sarah Moss
Six young people meet on an archaeological dig in a remote corner of Greenland. Excavating the unsettling remains of a Norse society under attack, they also come to uncover some of their own demons, as it becomes apparent that a plague pandemic is sweeping across the planet and communication with the outside world is breaking down.
Increasingly unsure whether their missives will ever reach their destination, each of the characters writes a letter to someone close to them, trying to make sense of their situation and expressing their fears and dwindling hope of ever getting back home… For the ones cannot get enough of dystopias among winter books.
The Snow Collectors – Tina May Hall
Haunted by the loss of her parents and twin sister at sea, Henna cloisters herself in a Northeastern village where the snow never stops. When she discovers the body of a young woman at the edge of the forest, she’s plunged into the mystery of a centuries-old letter regarding one of the most famous stories of Arctic exploration―the Franklin expedition, which disappeared into the ice in 1845.
At the center of the mystery is Franklin’s wife, the indomitable Lady Jane. Henna’s investigation draws her into a gothic landscape of locked towers, dream-like nights of snow and ice, and a crumbling mansion rife with hidden passageways and carrion birds. But it soon becomes clear that someone is watching her―someone who is determined to prevent the truth from coming out. a gothic mystery among winter books.
Twelve Nights – Urs Faes
Manfred walks alone through a snowy valley, surrounded by his memories, on a pilgrimage of sorts to his childhood home. He’s been estranged from his brother Sebastian for decades, ever since their bitter feud over the love of a woman and the inheritance of the family farm.
Twelve Nights transports us to the wintry depths of Europe’s Black Forest, through the stillness of the snow-covered hills, the dense woods, the cold and mist, in those dark, wild days between Christmas and Epiphany. These nights are a time of tradition and superstition, of tales told around the local innkeeper’s table of marauding spirits, as tangible as the ghosts of Manfred’s past. But the twelfth night, Epiphany, promises new beginnings, and a hope of reconciliation at last. A novella among winter books.
The Snow Ball – Brigid Brophy
London, New Year’s Eve. Snow falls on a Georgian mansion, vibrating with the festivities of a masquerade ball within. Middle-aged divorcee Anna stands alone – until the clock chimes midnight and a mysterious figure kisses her on the mouth. Thus begins a dance of seduction charged by clandestine romances swirling around them, whipping the ball into an frenzy of operatic proportions – until the night climaxes, revealing unease beneath the glitter … A scandalous sensation in 1964, Brigid Brophy’s The Snow Ball is ripe to seduce a new generation of readers among winter books.
It s winter in Sokcho, a tourist town on the border between South and North Korea. The cold slows everything down. Bodies are red and raw, the fish turn venomous, beyond the beach guns point out from the North s watchtowers. A young French Korean woman works as a receptionist in a tired guesthouse. One evening, an unexpected guest arrives: a French cartoonist determined to find inspiration in this desolate landscape.
The two form an uneasy relationship. When she agrees to accompany him on trips to discover an authentic Korea, they visit snowy mountaintops and dramatic waterfalls, and cross into North Korea. But he takes no interest in the Sokcho she knows the gaudy neon lights, the scars of war, the fish market where her mother works. As she is pulled into his vision and taken in by his drawings, she strikes upon a way to finally be seen. An interesting book among winter books.
I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says, ‘Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.’Lewis Carroll
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Are there any snowy winter books you’d like to add to this list? Would you please share in the comments section below?