With the holidays over, it’s time to brace the rest of winter. The harsh, cold, unforgiving winter. The snow is no longer fun and patches of ice threaten to leave you sprawled out on the pavement, shouting to your friends to carry on without you. You’ll just stay there and become one with the earth…
Or perhaps you’re one of the few lucky individuals who will never tire of the magical feeling of winter, when the snow falls softly outside, gently landing in your hair. Like you’ve been kissed by heavens. But whatever your attitudes are regarding the next few months, we’ve got some literary winter settings to capture any mood.
For those who have resigned themselves to the soul-crushing chill of the season:
First off, good. Let the hate flow through you. Some people cannot stand winter and that’s okay. As a native Floridian, the New England winters cause me quite a bit of grief. Fresh powdery snow isn’t so bad, but when you hit the dregs of January and February, I’d go so far as to wish for a volcanic disaster to be warm again. For those readers who want their literary worlds to match the bleakness of the weather:
The Shining by Stephen King: The Overlook Hotel in Colorado is great if you want to get some work done while the snow rages outside. While being snowed in seems just fine given the cozy furnishings, don’t bank of escaping with your wits intact. With the winter paired with the grisly hauntings, you might as well welcome your downward spiral into insanity.
The Millennium Trilogy by Steig Larsson: Now I’ve never been to Sweden, but I’m sure it’s a lovely place. Larsson’s Sweden, however, seems miserable. The sharp winds and waning hours of daylight only accentuate the truly horrible people that reside there. When the weather is awful, I’m prone to being a gigantic jerk, but that’s an understatement compared to what Mikael and Lisbeth uncover.
A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin: The one thing about winter is it never seems to end. Depending on how cruel the weather gods want to be, the frigid temperatures, ice, and snow could last well into March and even April. Winter is coming and it’s never, ever going to end. And don’t count on any friends in Westeros to lighten the mood by throwing parties, or heaven forbid, weddings.
For those looking to distract themselves & crank up their SAD lamps:
Seasonal depression is a thing. I have it. Friends have it. Maybe one day we’ll have a big potluck where everyone brings their lamps and eats delicious food. But with everyone gone for the holidays, it’s tricky to manage schedules when you factor in traveling and visiting family. Luckily, books exist to tide me over until I can have actual human contact again.
Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater: A wintry romance without the standard holiday-themed fare? Check. Mysterious frozen woods with werewolves? Check. Need a healthy dose of angst while waiting for Outlander to start back up in April? Check. Mercy Falls is Stiefvater’s paranormal YA locale for those who want their romance like they want their winter: ultimately sweet with a little bite.
The Discworld series by Terry Pratchett: By the time you finish this longstanding, much-loved series, winter will probably be over. With forty books so far, not to mention companion books and novellas, the Discworld setting has plenty of cold-weather characters in a fantasy setting. Oh, and don’t forget to leave out some sherry and pork pies for the gracious Hogfather.
The Magicians Trilogy by Lev Grossman: While Brakebills South isn’t the primary setting of the books, having a race in the Arctic is an intense feat for any literary character. Having several chapters set in a barren tundra of ice may seem daunting and a little boring, but that’s where the magic comes into play. Yep, magic. Flip on that lamp and start turning some pages.
For those still awestruck by the beauty and whimsy of winter:
We all know those people. Some of us might even be related to them. They’re the ones who can’t get enough holiday cheer, with their Christmas lights showing up on the roof that day after Thanksgiving. They seek out the holiday stations on the radio and adorn themselves in winter-themed jewelry – snowflake earrings, snowman brooches, all manner of trinkets that jingle and jangle. For readers who want to infuse their reading with whimsical settings that perfectly capture the magic (literally or figuratively) of the season, this one’s for you.
The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling: I would be doing winter lovers a grave disservice if Hogsmeade wasn’t on this list. Seriously, is there anything more soothing than the thought of warm Butterbeer? The answer is (s)no(w). I’m sorry for that. With snow-capped shops and cozy, Hogwarts house-themed winter accessories in the windows, it’s impossible not to get the warm & fuzzies.
The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis: Though I may be slightly bitter about winter and feel good books, I will never forget the first glimpse of Narnia. The snow falling. A lit streetlamp amongst the trees. And cute little Tumnus with his scarf and twee goat legs. While ultimately some serious stuff goes down in Narnia, the introduction into the world is sure to having you looking wistfully out your window as the snow comes down. One warning though: don’t accept any candy from strangers.
Horton Hears a Who! by Dr. Seuss: Though most famously the location of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Whoville first entered the reading scene in the earlier Horton book. With their tiny statures and large voices, Whoville is for those who love singing. I mean really love singing, especially during the holidays. And if you don’t mind having your material goods go missing for the sake of teaching a moral lesson, I bet you can get some prime real estate for cheap. There are some size constraints however, seeing as how the town is about the size of a speck of dust.
Have a book that belongs on the list? Did I miss any other stages of the season? Tell me your reading suggestions or your feelings on reading books in the winter!