10 Books to Battle the Winter Blues
This is a tough time of year. The joy of the holidays is behind us, everyone has stopped wishing each other a Happy New Year, and spring is still faaaaar in the distance.
In the past, I’ve talked about my total immersion tendencies when it comes to reading: I end up wanting to eat what the characters are eating, listen to the music they like, that sort of stuff. I gave a list of books with wintery settings to help you fully embrace winter, and I hoped it worked!
But that approach isn’t for everyone.
I don’t always know where a book is set, or exactly what it’s about, before I dig in. That means I’m occasionally reading a summery book in winter or vice versa. I don’t particularly care about knowing the setting ahead of time, but I don’t think I’d intentionally seek out a beach book during winter. I’m more inclined to want to read a book set during winter while it’s snowy outside. Perfect example, I’m currently reading The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld, which is based around snowy forests and it has been neat to emerge from the book and look outside to see snow.
So if you’re enjoying winter, you may want to bookmark this list to come back to later in the year. But if you’re reading for a warmer setting, here are some suggestions that might help keep those Winter Blues at bay.
10 Books to Battle the Winter Blues
Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson
This is an extraordinary tale of love and loyalty, identity and belonging. The reader needs to fully suspend disbelief in order to get lost in the story, and Wilson’s sharp, witty writing makes that easy. Bessie and Roland are ten-year twins who have a tendency to burst into flames. Their mother recently died so they’re being shuffled between family members, coming to land with the father and his new wife, Madison. In desperate need of help, Madison calls upon her longtime friend Lillian to care for the children and keep them out of the way of their father’s rising political career. Lillian finds these outcast children as kindred spirits and determines to do everything in her power to not only care for them, but make them understand they are loved. This novel made me laugh out loud, broke my heart, then soothed it. There’s so much going on, and the characters are all wonderful in their own way. I wish it was longer because I wanted MORE of all of it! I highly recommend it for fans of contemporary fiction who want something just a little bit different. It reminds me of the works of Aimee Bender and Tom Perrotta.
Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen
This lovely story has a lot of sensory descriptions, sights, smells, tastes, that are described well, to create a vivid setting. In this small southern town, your family name means everything. Each family has its own legacy, and the young people sometimes feel burdened by what they were born into and what’s expected of them. Here we have two sisters, Claire who has embraced her legacy, that of being from a family of magical women. And Sydney who is returning home after many years away, finally realizing there is more at home for her and her daughter than she ever considered. While there are some heavy moments, this is such a fun novel. The story is moving and sweet. it’s about family and place, embracing who you are. It’s also about love and opening yourself up to the possibility even when it’s scary. I was eager read the follow up to this, and return to the town of Bacom, but mostly to learn what else is going on in the Waverly’s garden!
State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
This novel is a compelling adventure story. Dr. Marina Singh embarks upon a questionable journey into the dangerous Amazon, tasked with finding her former mentor who disappeared while researching a supposed new miracle drug. The writing is atmospheric and beautiful. Patchett is so skilled at writing complicated characters the reader can relate to.
The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren
Contemporary romantic comedy
When the bride and groom are too sick to go, Olive and Ethan get to go on the honeymoon, despite the fact that they despise each other. This is fun, cute read. Sure, it’s predictable but in a good way. I enjoyed watching/feeling the characters grow individually and find each other. It had laugh out loud moments and eye-rolling cheesy moments. The writing isn’t anything complex, but it’s witty and the storyline is sweet with just the right amount of steam and great beach atmosphere.
The Last Cruise by Kate Christensen
I was surprised by how compelling this story is. The interpersonal drama combined with the confined setting of a cruise ship is a brilliant concept. While the story takes place over a relatively short period of time, Christensen’s writing builds suspense beautifully and gives it epic feel, as if we’ve known these characters for a long time. Those who are giving this novel poor reviews don’t seem to have an understanding of literary fiction. This isn’t a thriller/mystery or a disaster novel. It’s a story about people. Those who say “nothing happens” in the first half obviously don’t appreciate character driven novels. The tension here and the beauty in the story come from the individuals on this cruise, their intentions, inner workings, and interactions with others. It’s a fantastic story told with gorgeous, vivid prose.
Seven Days in June by Tia Williams
Second chance romance is one of my favorite tropes and it was done so beautifully here. Eva and Shane had a brief, intense relationship when they were 17 but haven’t communicated in fifteen years. Now they are both famous authors and their paths cross unexpectedly and it rocks both their worlds. The writing is emotional and flows well. There’s some haunting imagery about serious topics such as child abuse, drug use, chronic pain, self harm, and gang violence. It’s important and necessary to the story so it never feel gratuitous. There is also some fantastic humor throughout the book, which I don’t think is always easy to do along side such heavy content. The characters are all well developed and I just wanted to root for all of them to find happiness!
On Location by Sarah Smith
This is a perfect example of a great romance, it’s funny, charming, and sexy. I loved the setting of National Parks, especially Utah because it was unique and picturesque. I could easily image the landmarks the author described as well as the heat and grit of the hiking trails. I always enjoy a second chance romance too, so that made this story even better. The main characters had great chemistry and some hilarious moments as they fumble through coming together. All the side characters were well developed too and added to the enjoyment of the story. This novel makes a statement about sexual harassment that was refreshing in a romance novel. It was a little awkward at times but I appreciate the author writing strong male characters who stood up for what was right, even if it took them a while to get there.
That Summer by Jennifer Weiner
I’ve seen this labeled as a romance in some places and want to be clear this is NOT one. This a timely work of contemporary fiction focused on the #MeToo movement. It’s a compelling, intricately woven story. I’m impressed with Weiner’s ability to structure the story as she did. We follow two different women with the same name, through separate timelines as their lives begin to intertwine, because of something that happened in the past. This is a novel about trauma and recovery. It explores different paths for healing and closure, and the long term consequences of rape as both the victim and the perpetrator.
Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times by Katherine May
Instead of focusing on something other than winter, this book encourages us to slow down and live in the season we’re currently in, whether that’s literal or metaphorical. This is an especially timely read during COVID. The first half and the last chapter were excellent. The middle meandered a bit and didn’t have a strong connection to the rest. I was expecting a more straight forward memoir, but this was almost better. I love how May returns to the concept of life being not linear but cyclical. This helps me remember that everything is temporary. She gives examples of ways our lives mimic nature and how we can draw comfort and inspiration from that. Her writing is honest and personal, with vivid natural imageray and examples.
The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well by Meik Wiking
Instead of fighting winter, the author invites us to hunker down and make ourselves comfortable as a way to be happier. What I found most important in the book is addressed in the last chapter, which is the link between hygge and happiness. The author briefly mentions near the beginning that along with being the happiest country, the Danes also pay some of the highest taxes. He doesn’t directly connect these dots until the last chapter and then only loosely. Sure, the Danes are the happiest and embrace hygge. They also have free health care and education, as well as generous unemployment benefits. More people in other parts of the world may be more focused on social relationships and quality of life if they weren’t working themselves to the bone to survive. I enjoyed learning what hygge is and how the Danes prioritize it.