Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: Books Set During Winter

 

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Welcome to Top Ten Tuesday! This week’s topic is books with winter vibes. All of these books either take place during winter, or are set in a location that’s often cold and dreary. If you’re looking for an atmospheric book to read while drinking hot cocoa and sitting by a roaring fire, please check out these recommendations!

 

 

 

🌨  Books Set During Winter  ⛇

 

 

 

 

The Shining by Stephen King

 

Adult Horror



Jack Torrance's new job at the Overlook Hotel is the perfect chance for a fresh start. As the off-season caretaker at the atmospheric old hotel, he'll have plenty of time to spend reconnecting with his family and working on his writing. But as the harsh winter weather sets in, the idyllic location feels ever more remote . . . and more sinister. And the only one to notice the strange and terrible forces gathering around the Overlook is Danny Torrance, a uniquely gifted five-year-old.

 

Why I recommend it: When I think about winter books, this is the first one that pops into my head. This horror novel has always unnerved me, probably because I live near the hotel that inspired it, so the setting is extra real for me. The story centers on a young family who is spending the winter alone in a remote hotel. Between the hotel’s ghosts and the endless snowstorms, the family members go murderously mad. This book is a classic for a reason! It perfectly captures the claustrophobia of long, dark winters.

 

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Beartown by Fredrik Backman

 

Adult Literary Fiction



People say Beartown is finished. A tiny community nestled deep in the forest, it is slowly losing ground to the ever encroaching trees. But down by the lake stands an old ice rink, built generations ago by the working men who founded this town. And in that ice rink is the reason people in Beartown believe tomorrow will be better than today. Their junior ice hockey team is about to compete in the national semi-finals, and they actually have a shot at winning. All the hopes and dreams of this place now rest on the shoulders of a handful of teenage boys.

Being responsible for the hopes of an entire town is a heavy burden, and the semi-final match is the catalyst for a violent act that will leave a young girl traumatized and a town in turmoil. Accusations are made and, like ripples on a pond, they travel through all of Beartown, leaving no resident unaffected.

 

Why I recommend it: It’s set during hockey season in Sweden. You can’t get more “winter” than that. I’ve loved all of Fredrik Backman’s books. He has quickly become one of my all-time-favorite authors because he’s great at creating realistic characters with memorable, quirky personalities. Beartown is about the fallout in a small town after a star hockey player rapes a teenage girl. It’s heartbreakingly realistic, but it has enough humor, hope, and hockey to keep it from getting too bleak.

 

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The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

 

Adult Historical Fiction



Ernt Allbright, a former POW, comes home from the Vietnam War a changed and volatile man. When he loses yet another job, he makes an impulsive decision: he will move his family north, to Alaska, where they will live off the grid in America’s last true frontier.

Thirteen-year-old Leni, a girl coming of age in a tumultuous time, caught in the riptide of her parents’ passionate, stormy relationship, dares to hope that a new land will lead to a better future for her family. She is desperate for a place to belong. Her mother, Cora, will do anything and go anywhere for the man she loves, even if it means following him into the unknown

At first, Alaska seems to be the answer to their prayers. In a wild, remote corner of the state, they find a fiercely independent community of strong men and even stronger women. The long, sunlit days and the generosity of the locals make up for the Allbrights’ lack of preparation and dwindling resources.

But as winter approaches and darkness descends on Alaska, Ernt’s fragile mental state deteriorates and the family begins to fracture. Soon the perils outside pale in comparison to threats from within. In their small cabin, covered in snow, blanketed in eighteen hours of night, Leni and her mother learn the terrible truth: they are on their own. In the wild, there is no one to save them but themselves.

 

Why I recommend it: It’s set in Alaska. A family moves to a rural cabin and is completely unprepared for the hardship and chaos that winter brings. My favorite aspect of the novel is the slow buildup of tension. As the days creep toward winter, the father becomes increasingly paranoid. Instead of working with his neighbors to keep everyone alive through the winter, he builds a wall around his property and considers burying bombs. It’s like watching a slow-motion train wreck. You know it’s going to end badly for somebody. I couldn’t put this book down because I needed to find out who would survive.

 

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A Darker Shade Of Magic by V.E. Schwab

 

Adult Fantasy



Kell is one of the last Antari—magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel Londons; Red, Grey, White, and, once upon a time, Black.

Kell was raised in Arnes—Red London—and officially serves the Maresh Empire as an ambassador, traveling between the frequent bloody regime changes in White London and the court of George III in the dullest of Londons, the one without any magic left to see.

Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they'll never see. It's a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand.

After an exchange goes awry, Kell escapes to Grey London and runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She first robs him, then saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.

Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they'll first need to stay alive.

 

Why I recommend it: On the surface, this doesn’t seem like a winter book, but when you read it, you’ll discover White London. And you’ll never forget White London. It’s a desolate parallel universe, covered in snow and ash and ruled by cold, evil siblings. The characters have a ton of personality. The dialogue is sharp, smart, and funny, which is perfect because a few of the parallel Londons are depressing places! They’re vivid, though. They each have their own unique culture, language, history, and architecture. It’s fascinating to read about. If you like fantasy or science fiction books, you need to read this one.

 

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Salt To The Sea by Ruta Sepetys

 

Young Adult Historical Fiction



While the Titanic and Lusitania are both well-documented disasters, the single greatest tragedy in maritime history is the little-known January 30, 1945 sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff, a German cruise liner that was supposed to ferry wartime personnel and refugees to safety from the advancing Red Army. The ship was overcrowded with more than 10,500 passengers—the intended capacity was approximately 1,800—and more than 9,000 people, including 5,000 children, lost their lives.

Sepetys crafts four fictionalized but historically accurate voices to convey the real-life tragedy. Joana, a Lithuanian with nursing experience; Florian, a Prussian soldier fleeing the Nazis with stolen treasure; and Emilia, a Polish girl close to the end of her pregnancy, converge on their escape journeys as Russian troops advance; each will eventually meet Albert, a Nazi peon with delusions of grandeur, assigned to the Gustloff decks.

 

Why I recommend it: Reading this book made me feel physically cold. Like, shivery. The characters are on a ship in the Baltic Sea that’s supposed to take them to safety, but it sinks, plunging them into a freezing ocean that’s just as deadly as the war they’re fleeing. The fast-paced plot follows four young people who have been swept up in the tide of refugees trying to get out of Europe during WWII. I understand why so many readers adore this book. It has something in it for everybody. It’s well-researched historical fiction, so the facts appeal to history lovers like me. Adventure enthusiasts would enjoy the survival elements. There’s romance, danger, secrets, and characters who can’t be trusted. I highly recommend this book!

 

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The Smell Of Other People’s Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock

 

Young Adult Historical Fiction



Alaska, 1970. Being a teenager here isn’t like being a teenager anywhere else. Ruth has a secret that she can’t hide forever. Dora wonders if she can ever truly escape where she comes from, even when good luck strikes. Alyce is trying to reconcile her desire to dance with the life she’s always known on her family’s fishing boat. Hank and his brothers decide it’s safer to run away than to stay home—until one of them ends up in terrible danger.
 
Four very different lives are about to become entangled.

 

Why I recommend it: Look at that wintery cover! It's another book set in Alaska. And another book about 4 teens whose lives collide in unexpected ways. It’s a story about connections and how small gestures can mean a lot. The characters and setting are well-developed. If you’re a wannabe writer who wants to learn how to make a setting come alive, you need to read this book! There’s a quote on the back cover from Eowyn Ivey that says “This book is Alaska,” and I fully believe that. There are beautiful descriptions of the landscape, but the setting goes deeper than that. The author shows the values and lifestyles of small-town people. She also shows the cultural differences between the white characters and the native characters. It all feels very authentic.

 

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Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing

 

Biography Nonfiction



In August 1914, polar explorer Ernest Shackleton boarded the Endurance and became locked in an island of ice. Thus began the legendary ordeal of Shackleton and his crew of twenty-seven men. When their ship was finally crushed between two ice floes, they attempted a near-impossible journey over 850 miles of the South Atlantic's heaviest seas to the closest outpost of civilization.

In Endurance, the definitive account of Ernest Shackleton's fateful trip, Alfred Lansing brilliantly narrates the harrowing and miraculous voyage that has defined heroism for the modern age.

 

Why I recommend it: If you enjoy real-life snow survival stories, you need to read this one. It’s a classic, and it’s stunning. Shackleton and his crew were complete badasses. Everything went wrong on their mission, and they mostly just shrugged and rolled with it. I would have panicked and died. This book was first published in 1959. The author conducted extensive interviews with the surviving members of Shackleton's crew. He also had access to the journals kept by the explorers. It’s interesting to read a detailed firsthand account of events that happened so long ago. Even though I knew Shackleton’s story before I started the book, I was on the edge of my seat. There’s so much tension! I may have stayed awake all night to read because I couldn’t put it down . . . .

 

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Snow Falling On Cedars by David Guterson

 

Adult Historical Fiction



San Piedro Island, north of Puget Sound, is a place so isolated that no one who lives there can afford to make enemies. But in 1954 a local fisherman is found suspiciously drowned, and a Japanese American named Kabuo Miyamoto is charged with his murder. In the course of the ensuing trial, it becomes clear that what is at stake is more than a man's guilt. For on San Pedro, memories of a charmed love affair between a white boy and the Japanese girl who grew up to become Kabuo's wife; memories of land desired, paid for, and lost. Above all, San Piedro is haunted by the memory of what happened to its Japanese residents during World War II, when an entire community was sent into exile while its neighbors watched.

 

Why I recommend it: Well, it has “snow” in the title, so of course it has to go on my winter list. This is another book that has something for every reader. It’s part love story, part historical fiction, part family saga, part murder mystery, and part courtroom drama. Basically, there’s a lot going on. I wish all writers would describe settings like David Guterson does. The setting is an integral part of the story. I’ve never been to San Piedro Island, but I feel like I can picture every bit of it. The characters are so attached to this place that they may have committed murder to claim a piece of it.

 

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Cold City by Cathy McSporran

 

Adult Literary Fiction



Two weeks after his death, Susan McPherson sees her father on the street in Glasgow. Not long after, she takes an overdose and is committed to a psychiatric institution. There, she is given a cocktail of drugs and soon finds herself moving between the reality of hospital and an alternate city, permanently covered in snow and ice. In her new world, her gay brother, Jamie, is now married to Claire. The country is dominated by militant pagan groups and Christian fundamentalism is on the rise, led by the charismatic preacher, McLean. Susan is befriended by Raj, a mysterious man who creates paintings of wolves and Norse legends. As Susan is drawn into the struggles and relationships of this new parallel world, her grip on the "first world" loosens further. Can she resolve the crises in the ice-bound city in order to return to reality?

 

Why I recommend it: Warning: This is a bizarre book. You need a high tolerance for weirdness to appreciate it. Since the main character is insane, there aren’t always explanations for why events happen. The reader has to hold on for a wild ride. It’s set in a wintery (and wolf-infested) alternate-reality Scotland. The story is slow paced, beautifully written, and atmospheric. Even though the alternate Scotland is terrifying, I wanted to be there. It’s terrifyingly gorgeous. The author’s descriptions of the place are so vivid that I don’t think I’ll ever forget them. Weird plot, though. Very weird.

 

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Fatty Legs: A True Story by Christy Jordan-Fenton & Margaret Pokiak-Fenton

 

Middlegrade Memoir



Eight-year-old Margaret Pokiak has set her sights on learning to read, even though it means leaving her village in the high Arctic. Faced with unceasing pressure, her father finally agrees to let her make the five-day journey to attend school, but he warns Margaret of the terrors of residential schools.

At school Margaret soon encounters the Raven, a black-cloaked nun with a hooked nose and bony fingers that resemble claws. She immediately dislikes the strong-willed young Margaret. Intending to humiliate her, the heartless Raven gives gray stockings to all the girls—all except Margaret, who gets red ones. In an instant Margaret is the laughingstock of the entire school.

In the face of such cruelty, Margaret refuses to be intimidated and bravely gets rid of the stockings. Although a sympathetic nun stands up for Margaret, in the end it is this brave young girl who gives the Raven a lesson in the power of human dignity.

Complemented by archival photos from Margaret Pokiak-Fenton's collection and striking artwork from Liz Amini-Holmes, this inspiring first-person account of a plucky girl's determination to confront her tormentor will linger with young readers.

 

Why I recommend it: I thought we needed a family friendly book on the list. This memoir is illustrated, and it’s short enough that it can be read aloud to younger kids. That would be a cozy (and educational) way to spend a winter day. The author is Inuit. As a child in northern Canada, she used her wits and courage to survive a tough residential school. I wish this book had been around when I was a kid. I would have loved the remote setting and the author’s refusal to put up with bullies.

 

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Do you need more winter recommendations?

I have another post about books with winter vibes.

 

What’s your favorite book set during winter?






32 comments:

  1. I have read "Endurance" and "Snow Falling on Cedar." They are both great stories. Shackleton's adventure is amazing! Guterson is a great storyteller, but I wish he would cut the adjectives.
    Have you read his book, "East of the Mountains"?

    https://fromarockyhillside.com

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  2. I've heard so many good things about Bear Town.

    My post.

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  3. A Darker Shade of a Magic is a great choice that I wouldn't have thought of! I very much agree with Endurance, and it looks like I have a lot of other books to add to my TBR for this winter... Great list!

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  4. It's been so many years since I read The Shining but it really left an impression on me. Such a feeling of foreboding through the whole thing. I still haven't got to The Great Alone and I keep meaning to!

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  5. Ah A Darker Shade of Magic is one of my favourite books! I definitely agree Salt To The Sea definitely gives off cold vibes and the Wilhelm Gustloff sank in January 1945, so it's set during winter anyway!
    My TTT: https://jjbookblog.wordpress.com/2020/12/08/top-ten-tuesday-293/

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  6. Bear Town was a favorite, I really need to read book 2. I always enjoying watching The Shining in the Winter. I'm looking forward to starting A Great Alone, I actually purchased it yesterday. Wonderful list AJ.

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  7. Endurance was an incredible read - it's really astonishing how they all survived! And I totally agree that Salt to the Sea was a very atmospheric book.

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  8. I love a spooky tale set in winter so much!

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  9. Great list! I've heard so many good things about Beartown.

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  10. Salt to the Sea, The Great Alone, and Beartown are all great wintry reads.

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  11. You are one of the only people I know, who talks about The Smell of Other People's houses. That book was phenomenal. I can't wait until Hitchcock's new book next year.

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  12. I never thought about The Shining while making my list this week, but it's really the perfect winter read ... well, if you don't mind a few ghosts.

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  13. Great picks! I kept hearing things about The Great Alone.

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  14. Great point about White London! :)

    Lauren @ Always Me

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  15. I really want to read The Smell of Other People's Houses now, I hadn't heard of it before this post (that I remember). I need to pick up Fatty Legs, too. I've read the picture book based on it (When I Was Eight) but not the original memoir.

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  16. This is such a great list! I didn't even think of The Shining :)

    Natalie @ The Biblioholic

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  17. It's been a few years since I first read The Shining and I always thought it was an autumn sort of read until recently when I remembered they spent the winter at the hotel and now I want to read it again during this season.

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  18. The Cover for The Smell Of other People's Houses gives me such shivers -- with the snow and the desolation!! What a great pick for this list!

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  19. Great list!! I never thought about The Shining but it is perfect! I still need to read A Darker Shade of Magic... I am hoping to read it this month! :)

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  20. Salt to the Sea is the only book by Ruta Sepetys that I haven't read. Have you read her book Between Shades of Gray? It's another wintry tale, set in Siberia. Brrr! Great list!

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  21. So many great books! I love that you included The Smell of Other People's Houses. It's a favorite of mine, but I don't know many people who've read it. (I love The Shining and The Great Alone and Beartown too!)

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  22. Love this list! You've got several of my favorites on there with Beartown, The Great Alone, Salt to the Sea, and A Darker Shade of Magic. They are all perfect reads for winter, so atmospheric.

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  23. Great list! Also... brrr. Just looking at these covers makes me feel chilly, so you found perfect wintry reads!

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  24. I'd never heard of Fatty Legs. It sounds awesome, and the perfect message for courage. Thanks for sharing this!

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  25. THE SHINING is such a creepy book and movie! I also loved THE GREAT ALONE and SALT TO THE SEA. FATTY LEGS sounds like a good read. I'll have to check that one out.

    Happy TTT (on a Friday)!

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  26. You have some absolutely fabulous picks on here! Many of these were great reads for me!

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  27. This looks like a wonderful list. I don't often find lists from other readers where I would love to read them all. This is one of the exceptions. Thanks for the recommendations.

    And thanks for visiting my TTT earlier.

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  28. Wow, great choices and thanks for your descriptions!

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  29. I didn't expect to like the Shining so much, but it was great! The Smell of Other People's Houses sounds really interesting, will have to stick that on the tbr

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  30. So many great books here! Beartown, The Shining, Endurance. I still need to read Salt to the Sea! I love a good non-fiction winter book, as well. I went through an obsession with mountain climbing books after I read In Thin Air by Jon Krakauer. I've read it several times, and It's one that makes me feel physically cold, too. Great post!

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