11 Must-Read Books for Winter Hibernation

  • Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living by Pema Chodron 

    Picked by: Leandra Medine

    Genre: Self help, meditation

    Synopsis that doesn't give away the plot: It's about how to learn to make friends with yourself. For me, 2016 was the year of self-improvement. The book of the year was How to Win Friends and Influence People, which is a great learning tool for how to better deal with other people, make friends with them, experience genuine compassion, etc. What I didn't realize is that before I could be genuinely compassionate towards other people, I needed to know how to make friends with myself and influence me (get the word play, eh? Eh?). To stop should-ing all over myself and just be. (I think Carrie Bradshaw said that one time.) Know what I mean?

    Who should read it: Anxious people, self-aware overachievers who are trying to chill the F out, women with high cortisol levels who are trying to conceive, anyone looking for a simple answer to the question: How do I learn to love myself?

    Why it's a cozy winter read: Well, if you consider wanting to hug yourself an act of coziness, this book is straight up the definition of a hygge winter read. Hygge!

    What kind of socks one might wear while reading this book: I guess these ones, because beads and flowers!

    What hot beverage one might pair with this book: Hot cocoa spiked with a teaspoon of ashwaganda.
  • Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler

    Picked by: Haley Nahman

    Genre: Fiction

    Synopsis that doesn't give away the plot: Sweetbitter follows Tess as she moves to New York and becomes a server at a famous New York restaurant. It takes place over her first year. The story is super compelling and the writing is poetic without being annoying. The extra-fun part is Stephanie, the author, actually did move to New York and become a server at a famous restaurant. So it's widely considered to be at least partly auto- biographical. JUICY.

    Who should read it: It's really fun to read this if you live in New York because of all the references to real places.

    Why it's a cozy winter read: Half the book takes place during cold New York weather (relatable) plus there are tons of amazing descriptions of decadent food. The protagonist's life is also kind of wild, so you can live vicariously.

    What kind of socks one might wear while reading this book: Screw socks, put on down slippers and don't leave the house all day. You could prob finish this baby in one go.

    What hot beverage one might pair with this book: Mulled wine. There is a lot of drinking in this book so you might need to get on their level.
  • The Secret History by Donna Tartt

    Picked by: Amelia Diamond

    Genre: Murder mystery, kinda.

    Synopsis that doesn't give away the plot: You find out at the beginning of the story who did the murder. The rest of the book more or less aims to answer the "why."

    Who should read it: EVERYONE! Especially if you've been in a funny slump and haven't been able to "get into a book" lately.

    Why it's a cozy winter read: The book is set in Vermont so I think that makes it inherently cozy.

    What kind of socks one might wear while reading this book: Navy/hunter green argyle cashmere ones.

    What hot beverage one might pair with this book: Single malt whiskey on the rocks.
  • The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

    Picked by: Harling Ross

    Genre: Contemporary Literature

    Synopsis that doesn't give away the plot: Like many good books with complex, twisty plots that dabble in magical realism, this one is a bit hard to describe. It chronicles the life of Oscar, a nerdy Dominican boy growing up in New Jersey who is obsessed with Tolkien fantasy and falling in love, as well as the curse that has plagued his family for generations. Through this lens, Diaz meditates on storytelling, masculinity and oppression within the context of Dominican American history.

    Who should read it: Anyone who wants to read something equal parts entertaining and meaty. This book is a page-turner that also demands to be unpacked.

    Why it's a cozy winter read: The mental unpacking necessitates physical couch-sitting, preferably while clothed in a terrycloth robe.

    What kind of socks one might wear while reading this book: Fuzzy ones that come with treads so you won't slip when you stand up to retrieve your Seamless order.

    What hot beverage one might pair with this book: Hot buttered rum.
  • Swing Time by Zadie Smith

    Picked by: Krista Anna Lewis

    Genre: Literary fiction

    Synopsis that doesn't give away the plot: One black British woman's life told through cinematic flashbacks.

    Who should read it: Everyone who's grown apart from a childhood best friend.

    Why it's a cozy winter read: Zadie is one of the best writers of her generation. This book flows so smoothly and will keep you captivated for days.

    What kind of socks one might wear while reading this book: Bright red mid-calf socks.

    What hot beverage one might pair with this book: Classic PG Tips tea.
  • Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches by Audre Lorde

    Picked by: Maria Jia Ling Pitt

    Genre: Poetry

    Synopsis that doesn't give away the plot: A collection of essays and speeches that provide a feminist framework for understanding the intersections of identity and oppression. Self-described "black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet," Audre Lorde is a life force. Powerful, personal and highly intellectual, it provided me with a great sense of solace.

    Who should read it: Everyone! It is essential reading for all people, but will offer different things for different folks. For women of color and people of other, it may help you feel less alone, to feel seen and heard. It provides a diversity of experiences that can help one better understand living with multiple identities.

    Why it's a cozy winter read: Words are our liberation and nothing says "cozy winter read" more to me than unapologetic women surviving and thriving. This book has soul, it will make you think, feel and hopefully move you to act.

    What kind of socks one might wear while reading this book: Funky socks, preferably a pair featuring other strong women such as these Frida Kahlo socks.

    What hot beverage one might pair with this book: I'd choose a nice cup of oolong tea.
  • American Housewife by Hellen Ellis

    Picked by: Perla Valentin

    Genre: Black Comedy, Literary Fiction

    Synopsis that doesn't give away the plot: A collection of 12 short stories that take you through the nail-biting life of American housewives.

    Who should read it: Anyone who needs a little humor in their life.

    Why it's a cozy winter read: Well, the book itself isn’t “cozy” but you will want to be once you find yourself unable to put it down!

    What kind of socks one might wear while reading this book: The warmest socks you can get your hands on 'cause this book will give you chills!

    What hot beverage one might pair with this book: An Irish coffee just because.
  • Love's Executioner: & Other Tales of Psychotherapy by Irvin D. Yalom

    Picked by: Matt Little

    Genre: Non-Fiction / Psychoanalysis

    Synopsis that doesn't give away the plot: Part anecdote, part psychotherapy theory, Love's Executioner recounts 10 patients' tales as told from the perspective of their therapist, Dr. Yalom. Funny, somber, thought provoking and moving, Love's Executioner challenges readers to examine the relationship between patient and therapist and to face some of life's toughest questions.

    Who should read it: Your friend who refers to their therapist by name in causal conversation.

    Why it's a cozy winter read: Why not tackle seasonal affective disorder head on?

    What kind of socks one might wear while reading this book: The kind that feel like a foot hug.

    What hot beverage one might pair with this book: Tequila? It's warming and stiff -- you'll need it, because this shit is deep.
  • Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

    Picked by: Yvonne Dunlevie

    Genre: Novel of manners

    Synopsis that doesn't give away the plot: A young woman in New York City falls in love with a rich, debonair socialite just before World War II.

    Who should read it: It’s brilliantly written, so anyone who likes a great novel, and anyone interested in pre-war New York society.

    Why it's a cozy winter read: It's set in a snowy New York City.

    What kind of socks one might while reading this book: Warm ones, or silk stockings like the ones Eve Ross might have nicked from Bendel’s.

    What hot beverage one might pair with this book: Dewar’s Hot Toddy. Dewar’s whisky had this recipe on the back of their bottle in the 1930s and referred to the medicinal properties of Scotch Wisky to ward off the cold.

  • How's Your Soul?: Why Everything that Matters Starts with the Inside You by Judah Smith

    Picked by: Sofia Maame Thompson

    Genre: Wellness and humor

    Synopsis that doesn't give away the plot: A book that examines your insides in a self-reflective, funny way.

    Who should read it: Anyone looking to become more in tune to their inner self.

    Why it's a cozy winter read: It requires self-reflection which is even better under a cozy blanket.

    What kind of socks one might wear while reading this book: Cotton socks with fine lines, preferably white or pastel.

    What hot beverage one might pair with this book: Hot chocolate and marshmallows (just for fun).
  • March (Trilogy) by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin, art by Nate Powell

    Picked by: Patty Carnevale 

    Genre: Graphic memoir

    Synopsis that doesn't give away the plot: John Lewis is an American hero.

    Who should read it: Those interested in seeing the Civil Rights Movement through the eyes of one of its iconic leaders.

    Why it's a cozy winter read: In December 1957, a comic book was released called Martin Luther King and The Montgomery Story. Though ignored by the comic book industry, it was a catalyst in inspiring nonviolent protest movements in the south and across the globe, and was inspiration for the March trilogy. "Cozy" to me means warm and safe. It's the kind of environment to reflect and absorb, to give gratitude. And sort of pull close the things necessary to prepare for what's to come.

    What kind of socks one might wear while reading this book: Fuzzy ones, you're not going anywhere. You'll likely read straight through these...in about four to five hours.

    What hot beverage one might pair with this book: Something caffeine-free. The series is stirring enough, trust me.
The Writers | January 25, 2017

Let’s find ourselves in stories this winter.

Now is a good time to lose ourselves in books. And I don’t mean just because our radiators draws us in like magnets when the temperature drops. I mean because reading, as Amelia pointed out last week, is a way to cope. With stress, sadness, boredom, hopelessness, societal unrest. All the stuff that makes us want to crawl under our covers and, I don’t know, live out the rest of our lives there. I guess the irony of books as coping mechanisms is they, too, might keep us under the covers for a while, but a voluntary duvet fort is far preferable than one inhabited out of dread.

Above, the team has shared some of our favorite winter reads for this round of MR Book Club. And as a special dead-of-winter treat, each one comes complete with sock and beverage recommendations, just in case your feet and stomach need some TLC, too. Click through and then share yours!

Photos by Krista Anna Lewis.

  • nevvvvave

    I was actually really disappointed after reading Sweetbitter 🙁 it was hyped up so much but I felt like the plot and character development was nonexistent and the characters seemed really fake. Beautiful descriptions of the food/wine though lol

    • Mary

      Same! I found it to impressionistic and lacking in depth. The “jumpiness” of her writing style was compelling to a point but then just distracting

    • libs

      I was really not a fan either 🙁 glad I’m not the only one who thought it was just so lacking in all the stuff that makes good Fiction, even if it was good food writing

    • Laura Quinn

      I agree! It was one of the worst books I’ve ever read. The author must have a killer publicist though, I’ve seen this book pushed EVERYWHERE!

    • Lindsey

      Yeah, I kind of agree. It was super hyped, and there were parts of it I liked, but ultimately I didn’t get the craze around it. I know a lot of people loved it for how “accurate” it was about that lifestyle, and as someone who worked in the service industry for many years, it was accurate, but maybe I just ultimately didn’t like the main character. I think that was probably it for me. Not a bad book, but was disappointed to not love it as much as I hoped to.

  • *Buys Sweet Bitter*

    • Jasmin Aujla

      SAME

  • PlaidandPrejudice

    I recommend Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale,” for an absolutely chilling look at what can happen when reproductive rights are chipped away and religion is allowed to take hold of a society. She wrote it in the ’80s, and it could absolutely have been written as a piece of modern-day political critique. I have to wonder if she had a time machine to 2017 or something.

  • Bee

    The Secret History is the ultimate cozy winter/fall book. I reread it every single year sometime between October and the end of February. So good!

    Briana
    http://www.youngsophisticate.com

    • Mary

      Absolutely love this book

    • Amelia Diamond

      It was one of those books that everyone was always like “OH MY GOD AMELIA I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU’VE NEVER READ…” so finally, I did!

      • Bee

        A common discussion between my friends and I is always about our dream cast if this were ever to be a movie. I really need a movie!

    • Kara

      I swear, I read this book and then immediately wanted to write my thesis on it… I was never able to name “my favorite book” until I read The Secret History.

      • kes

        It’s my favorite too! Among my favorites, anyway. Donna Tartt is so wonderful.

  • Adding a bunch of these to my Amazon wish list.

    One of my favorite winter reads is The Camerons by Robert Crichton. It’s not cozy so much as it is sad, but the compelling story of a coal mining family in Scotland and the struggles they face makes it impossible to put down.

    https://www.amazon.com/Camerons-Robert-Crichton/dp/0394465822

  • Sonia

    YES to Rules of Civility! Was not nearly as impressed by Gentleman of Moscow, but love me some Amor Towles none-da-less.

  • Abby

    I have Sweet Bitter checked out of the library right now, though I haven’t started it yet. I need to finish Fates and Furies by Laura Groff first.

    • Jolie

      Fates and Furies is next on my reading list…reading Sweetbitter now! haha

    • Lindsey

      Fates & Furies was one of my favorites books that year- I still recommend it to people!! So good.

  • The Secret History…I couldn’t even…

  • Caroline

    Currently reading The Secret History and yes, it’s fantastic! I’ve highlighted more passages in Donna Tartt books than all my old textbooks combined.

  • Sloane

    The Girls by Emma Cline is amazing.

    • kes

      Really liked it too!

    • Chloe

      It had me hooked, I read it in a day!

  • Aydan

    Yes yes yes!! Added a few of these to my booklist!!

  • MMR

    this is so great!! i cant wait to pick one and start… i’ve been looking for a good book suggestion for a few weeks now, I’m not much of a reader so I want to find the book that makes me fall in love with reading!!! hopefully it’s one of these 🙂

  • libs

    I’ve reread The Secret History at least once a year since the first time I read it. A good pick! The Goldfinch, also by Donna Tartt, is another solid choice.

    I’m excited to pick up the new Zadie Smith book – will probably start reading after I finish The Muse, which I’m only a few pages into but so far, so good.

  • kea

    Any and all of Elena Ferrante, first of all. Also Helen DeWitt. And any of the following still-alive first-rate writers (read every published word they’ve written. Immediately.): Phillip Roth, Cormac McCarthy, Don DeLillo, George Saunders, Margaret Atwood, Cynthia Ozick, J.M. Coetzee, Denis Johnson, Thomas Pynchon, Toni Morrison, Julian Barnes, Marilynne Robinson, Huraki Murakami

  • Mercedes Ayala

    !!The!!Secret!!History!!

  • Ada

    A Little Life is soooo good! Ultimate winter read!

    • fleetwoodwhack

      Just read this and literally could not put it down. Was rude to family and friends bc I read it at dinner tables and movie nights etc. Sobbed throughout. Returning to the library I was like “goodbye, my sweet friend”

    • doublecurl

      yo this book is literally the worst thing to ever be paired with seasonal depression

  • Nicole Gannaway

    The Shades of Magic trilogy by V.E. Schwab. Thoroughly entertaining in the makes-you-forget-where-you-are kind of way! AND the last book comes out in less than a month so you can devour all of the books one right after another.

  • yo! tam

    Pema Chodron’s “Start Where You Are” saved my life a couple years ago. I was going through a severe depression and this book helped me as a first step in a positive direction. Leandra, thanks so much for putting it on your list!

  • I really want to read Sweetbitter! I’m currently reading Solar Bones and abosolutely loving it though

    – Natalie
    http://www.workovereasy.com

  • Jolie

    I’m reading Sweetbitter right now, and I’ve been surprised by how much I love it. I worked as a server in NYC restaurants for a few years and this is the only book I’ve ever read that describes the strange little world of NYC restaurants in an accurate, poetic way. I’ve highlighted nearly every page.

    • Haley Nahman

      I was also surprised! But more just because it was super hyped and I’m picky with books and just wanted to be a contrarian. But ultimately I couldn’t help but love it. BAH HUMBUG.

  • Added a few more from here onto my Good Reads wishlist. I do have Zadie’s Swing Time on my bookshelf.

    Highly recommend Ali Smith’s ‘How to be both”. I’ve only just started it but loving it so far, quite different to anything else I have read.

  • E-M

    The Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante are amazing.

  • Kara

    I saw a mention of Sweetbitter earlier this week for the series of interviews with New York servers and was super intrigued! This list along with all these comments is everything I’ve been looking for lately, so, I thank you all from the bottom of my heart.

  • Anastasia

    I’m feeling like The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao isn’t getting nearly enough (/any) hype in this comment thread, so I created a Disqus account just to pick up Harling’s metaphoric baton and add that this book is seriously some next level Pulitzer-Prize-material, literary gold medal status shit, capital L, capital G. It’s just that good, and even if diaspora/the political history of the DR isn’t your bag, the characters will GET AT YOU. When the narrators switch, you’re briefly annoyed to be torn from what you’re convinced is the best part of the novel, only to read further and decide this next narrator is actually the best part (this happens every time, how does Diaz do that?). Immediately after reading TBWLOOW I told all my friends to follow suit and all two of them agree that it is a DELIGHT!!

  • Lindsey

    Just coming back here to say that I grabbed a few of these the other day because of this article. Wasn’t a huge fan of one of them, but the one I’m in the middle of right now and LOVING is The Secret Life. Donna Tartt really is such a fantastic writer. So thank you Amelia!