Now that the cold weather is here (though it's not quite winter in Texas) it's always best to have a good book in hand as you curl up under a blanket or by the fire. The editors of Lodestone have compiled a list of books that make us think of winter time. They're not all new releases, and some haven't been published in this century, but we felt that they made great winter reading. Hopefully you'll find something here to enjoy!
“You mustn’t wish for another life. You mustn’t want to be somebody else. What you must do is this: 'Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks.'
"I am not all the way capable of so much, but those are the right instructions.”
Set in Wendell Berry's beloved Port William, Kentucky, this novel centers on Hannah Coulter, now in her eighties, as she looks back on her life through the Great Depression, World War II, and the many social and economic changes taking place around her. And central to her story is the community of Port William itself, which changes and adapts but remains strong around her. It is a novel that chronicles a life of joy and grief, of steadfastness and hope.
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
-from "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening"
Winter always calls for nature poetry, in my opinion. Even having grown up in a snow-less climate, I've always found this poem, "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening," to embody the essence of winter. Other excellent selections are "The Road Not Taken," "Acquainted with the Night," "Looking for a Sunset Bird in Winter," and "A Winter Eden." The edition linked to the image above contains all of these and many more.
“No, I don't mean love, when I say patriotism. I mean fear. The fear of the other. And its expressions are political, not poetical: hate, rivalry, aggression.”
I have always known Le Guin for her Earthsea novels, so I did not know that The Left Hand of Darkness was one of her most popular novels for years after it was published. It won the Nebula Award and the Hugo Award in 1970, and established her reputation as an important science fiction author. It tells the story of Genly Ai, a human representative who travels to the alien planet of Winter in order to invite the inhabitants to join a coalition of humanoid planets. The challenge he does not anticipate, however, is that of adapting to and understanding a culture vastly different from his own.
“When you and I met, the meeting was over very shortly, it was nothing. Now it is growing something as we remember it, what will it be when I remember it as I lie down to die, what it makes in me all my days till then - that is the real meeting. The other is only the beginning of it. You say you have poets in your world. Do they not teach you this?”
-Out of the Silent Planet
These three novels by C. S. Lewis follow Elwin Ransom, a professor of philology. In Out of the Silent Planet, Ransom is forcibly taken to the planet Mars, where he learns that his captors have a malicious plan toward the planet and its inhabitants. In Perelandra, Ransom is summoned to the planet Venus (known as Perelandra) to prevent an attack from his previous captor, Doctor Weston. In That Hideous Strength, the dark forces in the previous two novels have converged on planet Earth in an all-out assault.
“There is such a thing as looking through a person's eyes into the heart, and learning more of the height, and breadth, and depth of another's soul in one hour than it might take you a lifetime to discover, if he or she were not disposed to reveal it, or if you had not the sense to understand it.”
For some reason I associate the Bronte sisters with the winter season, and I've included this one because I've been intending to read it for a while. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is only one of two novels by Anne Bronte, the lesser-known and youngest of the three sisters, but it is considered one of the first feminist novels, and it was certainly ground-breaking for its time. Helen Graham is a mysterious widow who moves into the long-vacant Wildfell Hall, where she lives in seclusion with her young son. Local gossip soon begins to slander her, but young farmer Gilbert Markham believes in her good character and sets out to discover the truth about her past.
"The smell of that buttered toast simply spoke to Toad, and with no uncertain voice; talked of warm kitchens, of breakfasts on bright frosty mornings, of cozy parlour firesides on winter evenings, when one's ramble was over and slippered feet were propped on the fender; of the purring of contented cats, and the twitter of sleepy canaries."
Yes, this is a children's book, but who doesn't need to revisit Mole, Rat, Toad, and Badger? On a lovely spring day, Mole gets fed up with spring cleaning and goes outside to enjoy the day, where he meets Rat (actually a water vole). The two of them visit Toad, who has become obsessed with motor cars and has been wreaking havoc with his new hobby. Mole and Rat seek out the wise, formidable Badger to help talk sense into Toad before he does further harm to himself and others. Though only small portions of the book take place in winter time, it is a cozy read and celebrates the joys of friendship.
“You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone's soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows that they might do because of it, because of your words. That is your role, your gift.”
This is another one that's been on my reading list for a while. I encountered it in this book review on one of my favorite websites, and I've wanted to read it ever since. The traveling night circus opens from sundown to sunrise. Celia and Marco, two young illusionists, have been trained as rivals, and their competitions of magic every night captivate audiences. As Celia and Marco realize their love for one another, the sinister aspects of the circus begin to reveal themselves.
“The South is a strange place, one that can't be fit inside a movie, a place that dares you to simplify it, like a prime number, like a Bible story, like my father.”
This is a wonderful read, one that I (this is Will) could read in long sessions, which is what I think of when I look for a "cozy" read. It is Key's memoir with a focus on his relationship with his father (the titular "largest man"), and is one of the few books that have had me laughing on one page and suddenly, shockingly, in tears on the next. Any writer can learn from Key by watching how he tells a story and how he lets dramatic moments land without an attempt to make them seem even larger. He's a master of subtlety and humor.