12 Books for Coping With a COVID-19 Winter

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Nikki DeMarco


The inimitable Nikki DeMarco is as well-traveled as she is well-read. Being an enneagram 3, Aries, high school librarian, makes her love for efficiency is unmatched. She lives in Richmond, Virginia, and is passionate about helping teens connect to books. Nikki has an MFA in creative writing, is a TBR bibliologist, and writes for Harlequin, Audible, Kobo, and MacMillan. Since that leaves her so much time, she’s currently working on writing a romance novel, too. Find her on all socials @iamnikkidemarco (Instagram, Twitter, Threads)

This season, we’re entering our first COVID-19 winter. With cases on the rise and at an all-time high in some places, it’s prudent to make a plan around how to cope with social distancing and limited outdoor activities. I’m lucky enough to live in Virginia where we’ve had a mild fall, but know that colder temperatures are on the way. Loneliness and disconnection are a danger in this time that we can guard against. We can plan to protect ourselves from these, just as we are planning to limit our social circles and protect our families. Reading, of course, is a great way to both be entertained indoors and to feel more connected to the human race.

First, I’m going to need multiple lists. I have my regular running TBR (to be read) list, but grouping these lists by theme depending on my mood. As y’all know, moods during the time of COVID vary like the weather on a fall day in Virginia. All four seasons in a 24 hour period. I’m dividing my TBR lists into four groups: comfort, hope, other-worldly and emergency. 


Comfort reads are books I go back to again and again. I know the emotional journey I’m going on. Plot twists that never get resolved (I’m looking at your murder hornets) aren’t something I have to worry about.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell cover

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

This is my favorite fall book, and I reread it every year. There’s something so encouraging reading about a girl with anxiety being adored by an extroverted cowboy. I come back to this book time and again because I love Rowell’s turn of phrase and can’t get enough of the abrasive Adele look-alike roommate.

Jane Jamison Series by Molly Harper

A romance series set in small town Kentucky. Also they are vampires. Molly Harper’s books always make me laugh out loud. The audiobook narrator Amanda Ronconi is amazing, if that’s your thing.

The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso

I read this book earlier this year for book club. It made me think and was complex. Hortensia James and Marion Agostino are neighbors in South Africa, and they hate each other. So, of course, circumstances bring them together. Examining their relationships over time and how to move forward in the last chapters of their lives. It’s comforting because it examines the complexity of humans trying to make their way in the world together.


Hope, for me, means mostly nonfiction books. I want to find hope in truth, not fiction. There are boundaries on my news consumption since April because I spent half of March doom scrolling. The news reported isn’t the whole story, though. Humans are nuanced and by reading about their good parts, I find great hope.

The War for Kindness: Building Kindness in a Fractured World by Jamil Zaki

2020 needs more kindness, and it’s something we can learn more about and practice from our homes. Jamil Zaki explains empathy and how we can learn to build more in our lives and our communities.

Outer Order, Inner Calm by Gretchen Rubin

There’s not much we can do safely outside our homes at the moment, and we need as many calming factors as possible. Now is the perfect time to get our living spaces set up so that we can have as much inner calm as possible.

I Think You’re Wrong (But I’m Listening): A Guide to Grace-Filled Political Conversations by Sarah Stewart Holland and Beth Silvers

This has been on my list for a while, but, with all the build up to the election, I couldn’t focus much on polite political discourse. Now, when I’m anticipating a lot of hard conversations in my future, is an excellent time to learn more about how to approach these nuanced topics gently.


Otherworldly is for when I want to get completely out of the current universe I’m living in and escape to another world. I want magic and impossible technologies, and anything to be possible.

Wicked Deeds on a Winter’s Night by Kresley Cole

The amazing race meets a magical universe where one of the most powerful witches competes against a brokenhearted werewolf for a magical artifact. Who’s the president during this time? No idea! Is there a global pandemic? Doesn’t matter to immortals! Excellent escape.

Chilling Effect by Valerie Valdes

The smart-mouthed captain’s sister has been kidnapped in space. Psychic cats. Fish-faced emperor. Feelings for her engineer. No worries about paying rent or how to talk to family members about staying put for the holidays.

Renegades by Marissa Meyer

Teenagers with superpowers are the legacy of opposing sides. Renegades verses anarchists. Enemies to lovers. Family or principles. This is the first in a series, so make sure that you have time for this alternate universe.

Emergency Situations

Break in case of emergency reads, a term taken from Fated Mates, are books that you know are going to be amazing, but you’re saving them for when you’re stuck or for an unanticipated global pandemic. For me, these are all romances because emergencies should absolutely have a happily ever after. 

Suddenly You by Lisa Kleypas

None of Kleypas’s books has ever let me down. This is one of the most beloved among her fans. A spinster writer decides she’s not going to enter her 30s as a virgin. Enter Jack Devlin, handsome businessman mistaken for an escort. He’s not going to pass up on an opportunity like this.

The Kingmaker Book Cover. Social justice romance.

The Kingmaker by Kennedy Ryan

Kennedy Ryan is masterful in this epic romance. She is determined to build an empire, but one family stays in her way and they’re all rotten except for Lennix Hunter. Is there any way they can overcome their families’ differences to explore the spark that’s between them?

American Christmas by Adriana Herrara

Tis’ the season for love. Yin is trying to surprise his boyfriend Ari with an over the top gift, even though they agreed to keep it simple. Of course, Ari has a plan to surprise Yin as well. And neither of them checked each other’s schedules. This Christmas novella is great for a one sitting read.

Second, I’m going to let myself be okay with impulse Kindle buys. For one thing, my budget can certainly handle it. I’m not eating out, not shopping for clothes (it’s a mostly legging wardrobe for me at the moment), spending about half what I usually do on gas for my car. When a Bookstagrammer posts something that looks amazing or I hear on twitter or a podcast that there’s a sale from a favorite author I’ve been holding off on, I’m buying it. Some of my favorite Bookstagrammers are kingchalla83, Pie Lady Books, and Melanated Reader. In the same way, I’m tossing out my book count. Like many of you, I went through a reading slump this year when I couldn’t find any longform writing to hold my interests. So I read what I read and find happiness wherever I can. 

Finally, the last thing I’m doing to get through this winter is letting myself fangirl hard for books yet to be released. I want to check countdowns, sign up for preordering packages, pop Prosecco on release days. Find reasons to celebrate. Look out for hope. Right now, I’m anticipating  Kate Clayborn’s Love at First, Act Your Age, Eve Brown by Talia Hibbert, The Heart Principle by Helen Hoang, and Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo.