Things to Do

The Winter Reading List for Bookworms and Other People

Did you know that there’s an Icelandic tradition where people give each other books on Christmas Eve, and then each person retreats into their private abode to spend the night quietly reading? (It’s so deeply part of the culture that bookstores brace themselves every year for the “Jolabokaflod” or “Christmas Book Flood.”)

Doesn’t that sound lovely? If you’re a bookworm, it’s hard to think of a better way to spend an evening (or several). We can only hope that the tradition will eventually spread to American shores – but until it does, you may just have to buy your own books to read on those long winter nights.

If you’re not sure what books to put on your list, here are a few with a decidedly wintery theme:

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – by C.S. Lewis

This is a classic novel that is beloved by children and adults alike. It tells the story of four young British siblings who are evacuated from London during the Blitz into the countryside for their own safety. They end up stumbling into a magical land filled with talking animals, enchantments that keep the ground covered in snow and many of the residents frozen, a White Witch who would rule them all and their own special destinies.

The Sugar Queen – by Sarah Addison Allen

Set in a North Carolina ski town, this book follows Josey Cirrini, a 27-year-old woman who dwells deeply in her elegant mother’s shadows while secretly binging on forbidden sweets and romance novels just so she can endure. One day, she finds a woman she barely knows hiding in her closet and thus begins an adventure full of magical realism that will lead her to her first real friendship – and romance.

The Snow Child – by Eowyn Ivey

This debut novel was a 2013 finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, and it explores the enduring mystery of an ancient Russian folktale about a girl made out of snow. Jack and Mabel are a lonely and childless couple trying to forge their own way in the Alaskan wilderness in the 1920s. One day, they build a child out of snow during a moment of whimsy. By morning, the snow child is gone but a strange young girl has come to take her place. Leaving in the spring and returning each year with the first snow, this magical child brings questions that don’t have easy answers.

The Shining – by Stephen King

Maybe you’ve seen the movie, maybe not – but the book that inspired the Kubrick film is a flat-out experience like no other. Jack, a frustrated writer, takes a job as the caretaker of the Overlook Hotel for the winter, bringing along his wife, Wendy, and his young son, Danny, for what seems like the perfect isolated retreat. But Danny is no ordinary boy, and the Overlook is no ordinary hotel. When the winter snows fall, the ghostly horror begins. 

The Bear and the Nightingale – by Katherine Arden

What if the stories about monsters, fairies, and evil spirits told to children to frighten them into good behavior were all true? What happens when you stop doing the small household rituals that keep evil at bay? Right on the edge of the Russian wilderness, a young woman named Vasilisa fears for her family and her community when her father brings home a city-bred wife who forbids the old rituals that keep Frost, the winter demon, from their doorsteps.

Winter Garden – by Kristin Hannah

This historical fiction novel asks a timeless question: How often do daughters really know their mothers? After their father’s death, sisters Meredith and Whitson Cooper find themselves on a strange journey with their aging and somewhat distant mother. They learn that what seemed like a fairy tale told at bedtime was their mother’s way of communicating her history to them – and the story isn’t quite finished.

A Curse So Dark and Lonely – by Brigid Kemmerer

A dark and lonely curse has fallen on Prince Rhen of Emberfall after his encounter with a seductive enchantress. Now, he’s stuck in a perpetual cycle that causes him to transform into a hideous, uncontrollable beast that has destroyed his family, his friends, and his people. The only thing that will break the curse is the love of a young woman – and, so far, 300 attempts to find the girl of his dreams have failed. Just the same, he’s not at all prepared for his latest abductee: cynical, snarky Harper, snatched from modern-day Washington D.C. Could she really be his curse breaker?

Rock Paper Scissors – by Alice Feeney

If you liked “Gone Girl,” you may love this book. Set in an eerie converted church in the heart of the Scottish highlands with snow falling deeply all around, this story follows the troubled – and increasingly dangerous relationship between Adam and Amelia Wright. Adam suffers from face-blindness so severe that he can’t even recognize his own wife, and secrets, lies, and ten years’ worth of resentments are about to come crashing together. This is the book that asks you, “Do you really know who you married?”

One Day in December – by Josie Silver

Do you believe in love at first sight? Laurie doesn’t – or didn’t, anyhow, until she locked eyes with a stranger just before her bus carried her away. She’s convinced that they’ll meet again, but she never dreams that Jack, the man of her dreams, would be on her best friend’s arm when they do. If you like Christmas love stories that aren’t exactly about Christmas, this book is perfect for you.

While there are always some amazing things to do and places to visit in Indianapolis, a stack of books by your favorite chair or bed gives you a perfect excuse just to stay home, hibernate and read until the weather is better!