Here on Fidalgo Island in the Pacific Northwest, winter evenings can get dark very, very early. We’re far enough north from the equator to lose precious moments of daylight at both dusk and dawn, and a marine layer often dulls what little light we have by pushing in grim-gray clouds or thick fog.
So I’ve been looking through my bookshelves for old friends. Bright stories that comfort on a black night. Familiar favorites worth curling up with by a warm fire. Characters I want with me when a gust of wind roars off the Pacific and knocks out power across the island.
Ask a reader what her favorite book is, and you might see her gaze drift away to a place only she knows. How on earth are we supposed to choose just one or two from an abundance of beloved friends?
So while it is far from being comprehensive, this list includes books that can answer “yes” to these four questions:
- Do the main characters act in unexpectedly kind ways?
- Is there an element of fall or winter weather in at least one key scene?
- Can I read this book as a stand-alone novel, even if it’s part of a longer series?
- When I finish the story, do I feel like I’ve just been visited by dear friends?
I hope you’ll poke through the books here and recognize a few familiar titles—and find a few new-to-you titles, too. And I hope you’ll send me an email and tell me all about the books you love to reach for in winter.
Stories Set in Deep Winter
“Fits” (short story) by Alice Munro. A murder-suicide in a small, remote Canadian town in the dead of winter forces residents to deal with the tragedy in their own ways. Link to my complete book review here.
A Fatal Grace (also published as Dead Cold) by Louise Penny. Chief Inspector Armande Gamache must determine who murdered a Three Pines resident during a Boxing Day curling match.
Sitka by Louis L’Amour. Young Jean LaBarge comes of age on the Alaska Frontier in the late 19th Century. An engaging book by one of my all-time favorite storytellers.
Tisha: The Story of a Young Teacher in the Alaskan Wilderness by Robert Specht. This little-known gem about a 19-year-old schoolteacher in the 1920s feels like the unofficial “winter counterpart” to another of my favorites, Christy by Catherine Marshall.
Light and Fun by the Fireplace
Books Worth Committing To
Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher. In this well-spun tale by one of my favorite authors, tragedy brings five strangers together in a Scottish fishing village.
Stories With Christmas Themes
The Perfect Love Song by Patti Callahan Henry. A lilting Irish narrator tells this charming story of two brothers, Jimmy and Jack, who learn to stand for their own beliefs while touring with their band. Link to my complete book review here.
(Photo courtesy of Unsplash.)