Wintery books to keep your mind off the cold

Courtesy of Pexels

Let’s face it, January is a sucky month for most of us. We’ve lost faith in our resolutions by now, the weather is cold, the festivities of Christmas and the New Year are behind us and we have to settle into the cold, hard reality of another year. Or, you can just read books and ignore the wind and rain and lack of holiday cheer. Here are some winter-esque books you can check out from your local library or favorite indie bookstore this season to keep you warm.

“The Left Hand of Darkness” by Ursula K. Le Guin

I’m currently reading this with one of the clubs I’m in and I already love it. This pinnacle of science-fiction is set on a planet known as Winter that is, as its name suggests, cold. This book follows Genly Ai, an envoy from planet Earth visiting the people of this planet who can change their gender and exist as genderless. Genly is also a raging misogynist — it’s hilarious as he tries to grapple with this alien species and get them into a space alliance while also being a total bigot. Set against fantastic worldbuilding that is as useful to the plot as it is beautiful, if your sci-fi heart longs for a good alien story to sink your teeth into, this is definitely one I’d recommend first and foremost.

“Reindeer Moon” by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas

Now I’ll be honest, this wasn’t a book I completely enjoyed. It follows a fictional tribe of Siberian hunter-gatherers 20,000 years ago. Featuring spirit magic, a lot of discussion about sex to an almost uncomfortable extent and plenty of freezing cold winters. For all of the things I didn’t like about it, though, there were the details about the harsh reality of survival as a primitive human that were so stunning. Thomas’s afterword discusses how much research she put into this book and where she chose to take a few small creative liberties. The writing is stunning in places and you can almost feel the Siberian cold searing into your bones. This definitely won’t be for everyone, but I think that those who like stories set in the very distant past may love this book immensely.

“Tiny Beautiful Things” by Cheryl Strayed

Another recent read of mine (I swear I’m not just choosing these as winter books because I’ve read them in the last few weeks of winter), this book is a compilation of letters and answers from the “Dear Sugar” advice column that Strayed used to run anonymously on The Rumpus’s website. But unlike Ann Landers, Strayed’s advice column features people absolutely laying their hearts bare with the most difficult emotions and questions they have to offer, and Strayed writes back with such tenderness and understanding, relaying stories about her own life to boost those who have reached out to her. This is by no means an easy read — I’ve cried after reading nearly every other letter — but it has restored my faith in humanity. This book is the human condition laid out on paper, with every response real and touching and eloquent in Strayed’s signature style. Definitely make sure to check the trigger warnings on this one, as a lot of heavy material lies within these pages — but if it’s a book that’s right for you, I promise that it will make you feel very warm this cold, dark winter. 

“Taaqtumi: An Anthology of Arctic Horror Stories”

Lastly, and possibly my favorite on this list, I offer you “Taaqtumi”. The title is Inukitut for “in the dark”, and all of these stories are by indigenous authors from the Arctic area of the globe. This collection features a variety of horrors, all set in the freezing but beautiful landscapes of near-permanent winter. “Utituq” by Gayle Kabloona and “The Wildest Game” by Jay Bulckaert were my two favorites — if you want some chilling (pun intended) horror this winter, this might just be the book for you.