Karen Thompson Walker
Karen Thompson Walker followed up her acclaimed novel The Age of Miracles with another tale of the uncanny intersecting the quotidian lives of her characters. Here, the plot centers around a plague of sleep, which causes those afflicted to perpetually dream in vivid, mysterious ways—a puzzle that those left behind in the waking world seek to understand.
Over the course of several novels and collections of nonfiction, Zadie Smith has established herself as one of the most incisive observers of the modern world. Her latest book, Feel Free, collects a host of her essays in which she explores art, fiction, race, and identity—offering readers plenty to ponder and debate.
Confessions of the Fox
Jordy Rosenberg’s debut novel is a bold reimagining of the life of a legendary English outlaw, but it’s also much more than that: a Calvino-esque foray into metafiction, an academic satire, and a bold exploration of gender and identity. Rosenberg juggles a number of seemingly-disparate elements while telling a thrilling adventure story that succeeds on multiple levels.
For readers who like their fiction speculative and psychologically resonant, Dexter Palmer’s Version Control resoundingly delivers. In it, cutting-edge research into the timestream dovetails with the lives of one grieving family. The resulting novel is a mind-bending narrative with a warm humanistic core—smart science fiction that never loses sight of the emotions of its characters.
A gripping memoir can often make for one of the most satisfying reading experiences out there. In Dani Shapiro’s Inheritance, she delves into the story of how she learned an unexpected family secret, and what the repercussions to her life and how her dynamic with the people she was closest to shifted as a result.
1491 (Second Edition)
Charles C. Mann
A cold night of reading by the fire might be the ideal time to brush up on some history you might not have been familiar with. Charles C. Mann’s 1491 gives a comprehensive history of life in the Americas before the arrival of Christopher Columbus, illuminating ways of life that may not have been covered in other histories.
Perhaps your ideal read for a cold day is something that brings you to another world—literally. Robin Hobb’s Assassin’s Apprentice is the first in a series of linked trilogies set in a fantasy world and abounding with court intrigue, mysterious missions, and conflicting agendas. It’s an eminently readable fantasy world with recognizable emotions and conflicts at its core, making it all the more gripping.
That which lies in the shadows, partially hidden from sight, can make for a particularly compelling narrative. At the heart of Victor LaValle’s novel Big Machine is a secret society dedicated to investigating the bizarre and paranormal—and one of the joys of this novel is how its skeptical protagonist becomes fully immersed in their world.
A good mystery can be the perfect thing for a cold day’s reading—perhaps even moreso when the setting happens to be Sweden. Lars Kepler’s Stalker revisits detective protagonist Joona Linna, who’s appeared in several of Kepler’s novels. Here, Kepler teams with a hypnotist to track a killer whose actions uncannily echo a series of crimes that occurred years before.
Ryan H. Walsh
What’s more rewarding than discovering the secret history of a seemingly ubiquitous element of culture? In the case of Ryan H. Walsh’s Astral Weeks, that would be Van Morrison’s classic album Astral Weeks. Walsh documents the circumstances under which it was written and recorded, but folds in a host of other activities happening in its orbit, bringing in elements of esoteric history and true crime along the way.
Whether you’re doing so at home or in a communal space, few things are as satisfying as sitting beside a fire while reading a compelling book, preferably with a warm mug of coffee, tea, or cocoa beside you. The right book can draw you in, making you forget the bitter cold conditions outside and transporting you to an altogether different setting, whether real or fictional.
Here’s a look at ten books tailor-made for hunkering down with on a cold day. Some offer glimpses of previously-unfamiliar history; others bring you to immersive fictional settings. What they share is a transportive quality, and a wealth of details that can transport you far from the harsh weather nearby and into an entirely different place.
Featured image: @ventureonmom via Twenty20