Winter is such a generous reading season – it lends itself so well to staying in bed, cozying up on the couch, grabbing a favorite wintery warm beverage and getting lost in a book. While many of us reach for familiar titles and genres (I happily re-read Rosamund Pilcher’s Winter Solstice every winter!) this season, consider trying something out of your normal reading zone. I’ve been participating (loosely, I admit) in Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenges for 2 years now and they’ve gotten me into titles I’d never have picked up on my own. Here are a few that may move you into some exciting and unfamiliar territory:
- Kaveh Akbar’s Calling a Wolf a Wolf. I know, I know, it’s poetry, but stay with me. I know that’s very, very scary. But this is one of the best books of poetry I’ve read in recent years (I’m a poet and I read a lot of it!) and it’s highly accessible. The entire book is about Akbar’s journey with alcoholism. It’s deft, thought-provoking, mysterious and beautiful. This is NOT your high school English class poetry! If you dig that book, try Ada Limon’s The Carrying (available on Hoopla).
- Some of us read all fiction and some of us read all nonfiction! I place myself in both camps, but if you’re a real fiction lover and want to dip your toe into the world of nonfiction, try World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks and Other Astonishments. It’s a short book of very beautiful, poetic essays by Aimee Nezhukumatathil (available on Hoopla). Or really lean in and try a graphic novel memoir! You can do this! The Best We Could Do is a perfect entry into the world of comic-strip -form books. It’s a memoir about Vietnam immigrants after the fall of South Vietnam in the 1970s by Thi Bui. She’s also illustrated a gorgeous picture book, The Pond that I’d highly recommend for both the kiddos and their grownups! And finally, try The Rise of Wolf 8: Witnessing the Triumph of Yellowstone’s Underdog by Rick McIntyre, also available on Hoopla. Fascinating story of the abundant return of the once-rare wild wolves to Yellowstone National Park.
- If you fall solidly in that other camp (geeks unite!), try Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit. If you loved The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak (and who didn’t!) you’ll love Savit’s beautiful and heartbreaking Holocaust novel. The audio (which won ALA’s prestigious Odyssey Award for best audiobook for children in 2017) and the e-book are both currently available. In the too-scared-to-go-to-sleep fiction sub-genre, Zoje Stage got some fame for her unnerving book, Baby Teeth (great book!) and her newest does not disappoint. Wonderland is a true wintery tale that will chill you to the bone. Finally, give Ann Patchett a spin. All of her books are heart-eyes! Her newest book, in audio-form, The Dutch House read by Tom Hanks is perfection.
- 2020 has been quite a year and there are plenty of suggestions out there on how to soothe and calm yourself during this very trying time. I find listening to and reading children’s books to be one of the most soothing. Remember bedtime stories? Or storytime at the library? I actually never was read to OR taken to storytime (and my father was an English teacher and a librarian, for shame!) but I can imagine how nice it would have been and so I happily create that sensation for myself now as an adult. I recently listened to Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia Maclachlan, a classic children’s book (and a beautiful film starring Glenn Close as Sarah). Close is also the narrator of the whole collection (3 books total) available on Hoopla. The Anne of Green Gables series is another sure-to-soothe set. Various audio versions available here on Libby and on Hoopla aren’t my favorite (truly, the Audible version read by Rachel McAdams is the very best and it’s currently free!) but the others will do in a pinch. Right now I’m listening to Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary read by Stockard Channing (brilliant and available on Hoopla!) I’d also highly recommend Pax by Sara Pennypacker, a sweet little book about a boy and his fox also on Hoopla. Set the handy timer on the Hoopla app and drift off into a dreamy sleep.
Hope these titles help you create some warmth, delight and joy this winter!