Not too hot, not too cold, with denim jackets and cotton blankets, winter in Bangladesh feels like a fairy tale of nostalgia and hot tea. Add an excellent cosy book to that misty and nostalgic atmosphere, and you’ve got yourself the perfect definition of a winter wonderland (the bookworm’s version).
A cosy winter read doesn’t have to be set in a snow-covered remote village, though it’s always a plus if it is. Anything that checks the box of making you feel warm, nostalgic, and safe from within is, by definition, a cosy read.
On that note, you can re-read your favourite childhood book series or maybe add some new favourites from this list we have to offer.
The Winternight Trilogy
When I think of a winter read, the first book series that comes to mind is this incredibly atmospheric and unique series. This trilogy follows the story of the protagonist, Vasya, a young girl living in a remote village, wrapped in the chills of myths and legends, in medieval Russia.
In the first book, “The Bear and the Nightingale,” we are introduced to the characters, we are told the stories of demons and angels sitting by a warm fire on a cold winter night, and we encounter a young woman’s struggles with identity and belief in a society of superstitions.
As the story progresses with each book, every character gets a massive development, the plot becomes more immersive and whimsical, and Katherine Arden takes you on a journey of magical tales and bone-chilling legends.
This series is inspired by Russian folklore, which gives it the feel of reading a long-forgotten fairy tale you once heard your grandma read to you as a child. The story’s setting, especially in the first book, is a rural landscape of Russia, with snow-covered forests and the winter god galloping around.
Despite all of it, what makes this series a must-read is our protagonist, Vasya’s fight against social stigmas and blind hypocrisy with the help of mythical creatures and gods, making it not only a magical but also a thought-provoking read.
The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender
Winter is a time of the year when our inner child craves a bit of storytelling to reminisce about a part of our life when things were less complicated. This book does exactly that. “The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender,” tells the story of a magical child, Ava, who was born with a pair of wings and has been hidden since she can remember for being different.
In the background, the readers are also provided with the tale of Ava’s ancestors and their relationship to the ethereal world and the real world. When Ava ventures out to take on the world on her own, it’s quickly evident how unique beauty is, more often than not, hunted in such a brutal way.
This is probably the most lyrical and magical book on this list. It starts slow, but the escalation of the prose and plot is done so elegantly that it makes the whole story feel like a delicate work of art.
Even though the main element is magical realism, the exploration of human history and the evolution of human emotion depicted here are what make this book an extraordinary read.
New and Selected Poems (Vol. 1 & 2)
This book is a collection of poems meant to be read by people searching for spring in an eternal winter, both literally and metaphorically. To those new to her writing, Oliver writes poetry about the little things in life and connects you to the greater spiritual contentment that comes from those little things.
Even if you are not a poetry reader, Mary Oliver’s poems are simple and short, with an easy-going melody of words and allusions that makes them accessible and intriguing to all. Most of the poems here are a kind of love letter to different elements of nature and their connection to human emotions, making the readers think about such ordinary things in extraordinary ways.
This is the book for you if you want a mesmerizing, short, and poetic read for a cold winter night that will transport you to faraway magical woods.
Never Let Me Go
This is a story about a school located in a misty and windy part of the English countryside, where Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy, along with some other eccentric children, learn about science, art, and culture in the shadow of a mysterious atmosphere veiled with some big secrets.
We follow the three main characters, from the point of view of Kathy, as they grow up within the walls of the school and slowly unveil the mysterious purpose of their existence. When the time comes for them to be a part of the larger world, the fragility of their lives and emotions are tested in the worst possible way.
Apart from the cold and cloudy setting of the story, the way the story is told by a narrator who herself is a victim of fragmented memories of coming-of-age makes this book perfect for a day-in under the blanket.
The element of surprise in an otherwise predictably emotional background is another aspect of this book that makes it different from everything you’ll ever read. If you want to read something that’ll warm up your insides as well as rip you apart, this one checks all the boxes.
Kiran Millwood Hargrave
This is an underrated and powerful book written in a remote coastal village in Norway in the 1600s. It follows two young women with completely different backgrounds who are in the middle of a brutally conservative society at an unexpected time.
After a deadly storm kills almost all the male population of their fishing village, including his father and brother, Maren and her fellow village women come together to create some form of normalcy in a bitter and cruel winter.
After successfully fending off themselves for a few years, the leadership of the women of this place is questioned by an autocratic figure of another town, Absalom Cornet, marking these independent women as pawns of evil. When Absalom arrives in this town to purify these people by hunting down’ witches”, he is accompanied by his young wife, Ursa.
Shy and quiet, Ursa, on the other hand, finds a place of independence and belonging for the first time in her life. When Maren and her family are targeted by the eerie hunt of witchcraft and patriarchy, the story takes a crucial and haunting turn.
This book feels like a tale of an ancient story set on the brink of civilization. Inspired by true events of the 1620 witch trials in Norway, the writing style is so engaging and atmospheric that it transports you to that cold and lonely village of Norway, back in those dark days of witch-hunts and open portrayal of oppression.
What makes this book perfect for winter is the setting of reality in an arctic village and the unfiltered struggles of being a minority in a closed society, checking the list off of a cold weather-centric as well as a thought-provoking read.
The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches
To finish this list on a happy note, this one is the epitome of nostalgia, cosiness, and warmth in book form. We follow our very quirky and very much hidden witch Mika Moon, exploring a shelter of outcast little witches, the Nowhere House, when she is hired to teach these young witches on controlling their magic.
In a world where witches are not only frowned upon but also hunted for fun, the caretakers of the Nowhere House are adamant about keeping their secrets hidden at all costs, hence their approach to Mika for help.
As Mika comes to know the three little adorable and wild witches residing in the Nowhere House and Jamie, a very sceptical, grumpy but fiercely protective of the children librarian of the Nowhere House, she finds herself a part of a loving and chaotic family, she never even knew she needed.
Everything about this book screams cosy and lovely to me. The easy-going and low-stakes plot and adorable yet interesting characters make this one feel like a retelling of one of your favourite childhood reads. And what makes a book more wintery than a reminder of the simpler, easier days long gone, right?
Follow The Interlude for more.