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Winter Book Recommendations to Warm up Your Bookshelf

illustration of a stack of books

Winter has its drawbacks. Snow, for one. Cold, too. The wind isn’t a whole lot of fun, either. Come to think of it, the only things I really like about winter are 1) Christmas, 2) the availability of blood oranges and 3) curling up on the couch with a good book and a cat on my lap. In that vein, I’ve put together a hodge-podge winter book list perfect for these fright days. So enjoy, stay warm, and happy reading!

Appetites: A Cookbook,” by Anthony Bourdain with Laurie Woolever. Ecco.

Sigh. I miss Anthony Bourdain. This messy, imperfect book – think pictures of boars’ heads on plates, pans layered with burnt food remnants and broken eggshells littering sinks –  is gorgeous and the prose caustic, witty and laugh-out-loud funny. It’s a perfect way to remember the bad-boy chef.

Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders,” by Joshua Foer, Dylan Thuras and Ella Morton. Workman Publishing Company.

Any notions of wanderlust you have will be sated – or renewed – with this volume, which explores 700 exotic places around the world, from the Chocolate Hills of the Philippines to a skeleton museum in Oklahoma.

A Game of Thrones: The Illustrated Edition: A Song of Ice and Fire: Book One,” by George R.R. Martin. Bantam.

For those of you waiting (and waiting) for George R.R. Martin’s latest book in the “Game of Thrones” series, this gorgeous tome will provide a brief respite. It’s filled with lavish illustrations from the first fantasy book, from an impish Arya trying to hide her sword Needle from her father to a young Daenerys blossoming into the Mother of Dragons.

The Winter People” by Jennifer McMahon. Anchor.

Ha ha! See what I did there? In the if-you-can’t-beat-them-join-them department, Jennifer McMahon’s ghostly thriller is set in chilly, rural Vermont. There, 19-year-old Ruthie lives off the grid with her mother and younger sister in a house once occupied by Sara Harrison Shea, who died in the backyard in 1908, just a few months after her daughter. When Ruthie’s mother disappears, Ruthie finds Sara’s diary buried in the house. The narrative toggles back and forth between the present day and 1908, with lots of witchcraft, lore and atmospheric New England forests sprinkled throughout.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams. Del Rey.

Everyone needs a little levity during these shorter days, and the late Douglas Adams delivers just that in his classic tale of outer space hijinks. Everyman Arthur Dent is saved mere seconds before aliens blow up Earth to make way for an intergalactic bypass, and travels through space with his newfound human and alien friends. Along the way, he comes across a sardonic robot, dastardly Vogons – who adore bureaucracy and bad poetry – and a flamboyant, two-headed former president of the galaxy who enjoys ski-boxing. You’ll never view a towel – or the number 42 – the same way again.

Astonish Yourself: 101 Experiments in the Philosophy of Everyday Life” by Roger-Pol Droit. Penguin Books.

This looks just right for shaking off the mid-winter mental cobwebs. With simple yet complex directives, Droit challenges readers to think and act in completely novel ways: See the stars under you. Enter the space of a painting. Play with a child. Wait while doing nothing. Run in a graveyard. This is a welcome book in our hyper-connected age, when our eyes are always glued to one screen or another. This book allows readers to disengage and be alone with their thoughts. When’s the last time you did that?

The Snowman” by Jo Nesbo. Vintage Crime/Black Lizard.

I first discovered this Norwegian author while pining away for more Scandinavian thrillers after finishing the “Dragon Tattoo” series. Featuring Inspector Harry Hole, a flawed but endearing detective on the trail of a serial killer, this story takes off when a little boy wakes up to find his mother missing – and a snowman in the yard wearing her scarf. Several shady characters have you guessing right until the very end as the action careens across Oslo’s snowy landscape. It’s a true page-turner; I finished this one in a weekend. It’s being made into a film set to be released in the fall.

Tokyo on Foot” by Florent Chavouet. Tuttle Publishing.

When Florent Chavouet’s girlfriend landed an internship in Japan, the French author tagged along with his sketchpads and colored pencils at the ready. While she worked, Chavouet explored the city’s neighborhoods. His drawings provide a vivid peek into the daily lives of Tokyo residents and their environs: an older gentleman singing in a park after having a bit too much sake, bowls of steaming ramen, a map of the home Chavouet lived in, stickers peeled off fruit. One day, my daughter and I will visit the Land of the Rising Sun. Until then, this book will serve as our pastel-hued guide.

Do you have any titles you’d like to add to the list? Add your favorite winter book in the comments below!

(Top photo: tycoon751 / iStock / Thinkstock)


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