Winter Reading: 9 Books to Keep Warm With in the Coming Months

What makes good winter reading? For me it’s all to do with what goes with hot drinks, warm covers and a comfy sofa. Uplifting fiction is good, but I don’t choose the same feel-good books I’d go for in summer. I look for real characters who face difficulties, yet show a true love for life instead of disillusionment. I want something well-written and beautifully crafted, and I don’t mind if it takes me slightly longer to read.

In an article for The Guardian back in 2011, Alison Flood wrote about the booksellers Waterstones asking authors, “What’s your favourite fireside read, the book you go back to every winter?” Ali Smith chose Tove Jansson’s The Summer Book (“a piece of light: what better to keep you warm through the darker months?”), Jonathan Coe selected Sherlock Holmes – one of my own choices in this article – while Jacqueline Wilson chose Jane Eyre as a winter classic.

Here are my choices. What do you look for in winter reading material?

Is it too early for this? Let’s say we’re planning ahead.

9 Fireside Reads for Winter, Best Enjoyed with Hot Chocolate

1. We Are All Completely Besides Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

I’ve just started reading this novel, and the allure of its similarities to my own life and character have stopped me from putting it down and prioritising my academic reading (as I should). The novel’s first lines place it “in the winter of 1996”, so I thought it deserved a place in this article. Let’s see if I change my mind. Have you read this Booker nominee yet?

2. The Secret History by Donna Tartt

The snow in the mountains was melting and Bunny had been dead for several weeks before we came to understand the gravity of our situation.

Reading these opening lines are enough to make me firmly consider a reread. Is that allowed considering I only read it in June? The Goldfinch is also a perfectly grandiose monument of a novel for wintertime.

3. Lists of Note by Shaun Usher

This beauty of a book will be the first item on any Christmas list of mine. A sequel of sorts to Letters of Note, this is a superb book that celebrates the humble list. Flick through it and you’ll find a shopping list written by two 9th-century Tibetan monks, Galileo’s list of parts needed to build his telescope, and 29-year-old Marilyn Monroe’s inspirational set of New Year’s resolutions. The perfect Christmas gift (although can I wait that long?)

4. Dubliners by James Joyce

The final words of “The Dead”, the last short story in Dubliners, is enough to make my winter reading worthwhile. Simply magical stuff, and I’m so glad my current studies of Joyce has revitalised my love for his writing. I don’t want to give away the quotation, I’ll just say – as I have before – that it’s worth getting to.

5. The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials, #1) by Philip Pullman

My reading of His Dark Materials as a child was very much like my Harry Potter reading experience: magical, warming, and otherworldly. I always seem to come across writing on the philosophy and wider meaning of the series, and I’d love to see how I react to Pullman’s writing as an adult. With its polar bears and snow leopards, I think I’d choose winter for this.

6. The House of Silk: A Sherlock Holmes Novel by Anthony Horowitz

I’m so excited to read more of Sir Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories this winter. I think Holmes and Watson are the perfect companions for a warm reading day inside from the cold, and the books provide just the right amout of mental stimulation. I’m also looking forward to reading the Anthony Horowitz sequels, with Moriarty – the book following House of Silk – also released earlier this week.

7. A Game of Thrones by George R.R.Martin

Going beyond the wall isn’t really suited for summer, and I’m looking forward to continuing with the series after a break of several months. I tend to read novels fixed in the present and ordinary, so an occasional escape from this is often welcome. And after all, “winter is coming” (I couldn’t resist). I’m also quite keen to give the graphic novel a try.

8. The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe

One of the most heartwarming books I’ve read, this memoir is sure to leave an imprint and top-up your to-read list. If you haven’t yet read it, I’d say that this winter – when most of us have a bit more time to immerse ourselves in a book – is a wonderful time to do so.

9. The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith

When I think back to The Silkworm, sequel to The Cuckoo’s Calling, I remember protagonist Cormoran Strike struggling to travel around London with one amputated leg, a crutch, and very icy pavements. I seem to associate snow with The Cuckoo’s Calling too – if you haven’t read the series, why not give it a go as temperatures fall this year? I’m looking forward to a few detective novels in the next few months.

What books are you adding to your to-read list this winter?

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