Are you looking for books with Winter settings to read while watching the snow fall and curling up in front of a blazing fireplace? This post shares the best winter-themed books with which you can cozy up in the cold.
It’s a great follow-up to your holiday reads.
When writing this post on books with Winter settings, I realized that many of the books below are favorites of mine. Winter really does make a poignant book setting in which so much drama can occur. I find these books about Winter to have some of the most marvelous settings as well. All of the best winter-themed books are below.
If you’re wondering, “What books should I read this Winter?” or thinking about cozy novels for Winter break, below are the best books set in Winter for you to read on a cold and snowy day.
Top 3 Winter-Themed Books You Can’t Miss
Best Winter-Themed Books for Adults
The Bear and The Nightingale by Katherine Arden
Best for fans of fantasy
The Bear and The Nightingale is the first in the Winternight trilogy series, beloved by fantasy book lovers. It’s a YA coming-of-age Russian fairy tale in which young Vasilia and her family brave the Medieval Russian wilderness each Winter. Together with the Frost King, she must face the brutality of the Winter King to save the village.
I always struggle with fantasy (I’m a realist), so this one was a bit of a struggle for me as I anticipated, but one great tip I can share is there’s actually a Russian glossary at the end of it! I wish I knew this in the beginning, so I could better keep track of the unfamiliar language being used.
And despite it being difficult for me, I enjoyed the unique read and know it’s a SUPER beloved book by fantasy fans.
Beartown by Fredrik Backman
Best for fans of Friday Night Lights
Named a Best Book of the Year by LibraryReads, BookBrowse and Goodreads
Late one evening, toward the end of March, a teenager picked up a double-barreled shotgun, walked into the forest, put the gun to someone else’s forehead, and pulled the trigger.
This is the story of how we got there.Fredrick Backman
That stunning begins the popular cold Winter book Beartown and, if it hasn’t fully drawn you in, I don’t know what will. Beartown is a small, struggling Swedish town obsessed with outdoor ice hockey, and major drama ensues amongst the many community members, whose lives intersect with each other in very consequential ways.
Beartown‘s ice hockey team is competing in the national semi-finals, and they are set to win. The town’s fate rests in the hands of a team of teenage boys.
The big game becomes the catalyst for an act of violence that leaves a teenage girl traumatized. The result is a town in turmoil.
Beartown presents both the communal hope inspired by a winter sporting event and what can tear them apart. You will be completely immersed in the world of Beartown and its many community members. This is truly a modern “must-read” book about Winter, as well as one of the best books for men to read.
Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
Best for fans of the classics
In a small New England town, the narrator is snowed in with Ethan Frome, who had an accident twenty years earlier, where he learns the haunting, gothic story of a love triangle with an ironic Winter-themed ending.
It’s a short read on the Gilmore Girls book list that I recall loving as a high school student.
The Half Moon by Mary Beth Keane
Best for fans of slow burns and character-driven novels
The Half Moon is an atmospheric literary drama about a marriage in crisis, Malcolm is a bartender who finally buys the bar where he works but realizes he made a bad deal. Meanwhile, his wife is a successful attorney who realizes she may never become a mother. (Infertility is a big theme in this one.)
During Malcolm’s first week of ownership, a blizzard hits the town and knocks the power out, he discovers shocking news about his wife, and he becomes embroiled in the search for a missing patron.
The stormy Winter week was the perfect setting for this story, the pieces of which slowly built like the snow on the ground. I could see it in my mind’s eye and physically feel it as I read along. Then, like the blizzard gathering steam, the last 100 pages fell fast and left me glued to the couch late at night.
The major plotlines unraveled unlike any literary fiction or mystery I’ve ever read, leaving a lot between the lines to infer for those who love thoroughly woven narratives.
If this type of novel is your thing, it would be great for a few snowbound days by the fire.
The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
Best for fans of emotional historical fiction
#1 New York Times instant bestseller
The Great Alone, and particularly its desolate and cold Alaska setting utterly mesmerized me. On numerous occasions, I found myself googling “Alaska 1970s” to get an even clearer picture of the beautiful state which was itself a main character in this cold Winter book.
The Great Alone is one of the best Winter books of survival set in a harsh climate. The Allbright family is dealing with the PTSD of the father, Ernt, who was a POW in Vietnam.
Thirteen-year-old Leni is caught in the crossfire of her father’s mental illness and her parents’ tumultuous relationship, but her friendship with a local boy keeps her sane.
As the long and brutal winter approaches, trauma ensues and Leni and her mother are left to survive on their own.
The Great Alone has stayed with me since I first read it, and I still often think about this book about Winter. It is, without question, one of the best winter-themed books. It’s such a beautiful story about the human spirit fighting for survival figuratively and literally in a wilderness that can be both beautiful and devastating.
Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
Best for fans of travel and mysteries
The most widely read mystery of all time
The Orient Express — the actual train itself— is on my bucket list. It is the ultimate vintage luxury setting amongst a moody winter European backdrop. But, I digress.
In the cold Winter book Murder on the Orient Express, after the stroke of midnight, a snowdrift halts the Orient Express to a stop. By morning, an American tycoon lies dead in his compartment, having been stabbed a dozen times, with his door locked from the inside.
Isolated by the snow and with a killer on board, detective Hercule Poirot must uncover the murderer from a cast of memorable characters full of secrets.
Or, learn more about where you can get free Agatha Christie books.
One by One by Ruth Ware
Best for fans of Agatha Christie and “Clue” type mysteries
Instant New York Times bestseller
After eight coworkers from a trendy London tech start-up get snowed in at a luxurious ski resort in the French Alps, an avalanche cuts the group off from the outside world.
It may seem cozy, but as the hours pass without any sign of a possible rescue, the group begins to dwindle, as four characters die “one by one” in this “locked room” mystery book about Winter, in which ulterior motives and dark secrets are slowly revealed as tensions mound.
This atmospheric book kept me totally engaged and guessing “whodunnit” as I read along in the “dead” of Winter.
Related post: One by One by Ruth Ware Summary and Character Guide
Peace Like a River by Leif Enger
Best for fans of literature and character-driven novels
- National bestseller
- One of Time Magazine’s top five books of the year
“Once in a great while, a book comes along that has such wonderful characters and marvelous prose, that you read it as much for the pure joy it offers on every page as to find out how it ends.”-Denver Post
Peace Like A River is a remarkable debut Winter book with each sentence as thoughtfully crafted as an Ann Patchett novel. Not unlike Scout Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird, eleven-year-old Reuben Land, narrates the tale of tracking his outlaw brother’s murder trial and escape across the Midwest in the 1960s. Reuben and his sister and father traverse snowy terrain in search of their relative, believing in miracles all along the way.
It’s a unique book with Winter settings and themes of family, love, and faith in the face of the harshest elements.
A Quiet Life by Ethan Joella
Best for fans of authors Ann Patchett and Elizabeth Strout
A Quiet Life is the type of book I like to call “a slice of life” because it offers a mostly character-driven narrative over the course of somewhat ordinary days in which the reader peers into the minds of the characters.
This one takes place in a cold Northeastern Pennsylvanian Winter, something I’ve lived my own entire life, and it follows three separate people in search of light and hope on the darkest of days.
Chuck’s an aging man whose wife has just died and is struggling to make his annual trip to Hilton Head without her. Kirsten aspired to be a veterinarian, but she has become lost after the sudden, tragic death of her father. And Ella works two jobs to stay afloat while her young daughter is missing.
As dreary as this sounds, I assure you, it’s not. It’s a beautiful, real portrait of human life.
Rock Paper Scissors by Alice Feeney
Instant New York Times bestseller
Rock Paper Scissors is one book that exquisitely delivers unique plot points and twists that are almost guaranteed to surprise you.
Work-obsessed screenwriter Adam and his wife Amelia retreat to the snowy Scottish highlands for a weekend retreat that they intend to either save or end their marriage. Adding strains on the marriage are Adam’s inability to recognize faces and his grief over the tragic death of his mother.
Intermixed with the present storyline are ten wedding anniversary letters to Adam slowly revealing the past and threatening not just their marriage, but their lives, in the present.
The twists (yes, that’s plural) are, indeed, twisted, and I truly don’t think anyone would be able to see them coming. Feeney is an absolute master at crafting twists that are so precise and unfamiliar, and it shows in this particular novel really well. The pacing in the middle felt slow to me, and it lacked some believability, but I did also love the haunting feeling of the ending.
Overall, I thought it was a really satisfying cozy mystery that felt totally unexpected, leaving the reader to ponder what a person really knows about his or her spouse.
Run by Ann Patchett
Best for fans of character-driven novels
Run is yet another tremendous novel by the great Ann Patchett, this time about the 24 hours after a snowy Boston car accident that forever binds and changes the futures of two families…and exposes their shared pasts.
Set in such a small about of time, it’s a character-driven novel about family, economics, politics, and duty, and it’s one of my favorites of hers, teasing out all of the details about one unique group of people you come to love, and how they react to each other over the course of the most momentous day of their lives.
The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse
Best for fans of mysteries and thrillers
An instant New York Times bestseller
Elin has taken time off from her job as a detective and is still processing the death of her brother many years ago when she visits with her estranged brother and his new fiance to celebrate their engagement.
In the midst of a storm, something even more sinister is brewing as her soon-to-be sister-in-law goes missing. As the storm closes off access to the hotel, panic ensues and a wild ride of twists, turns, more missing persons, and even deaths unfold, thrusting Elin back into detective mode to uncover the truth about this hotel.
It’s a captivating and creepy, Wintery thriller that constantly moves in different directions and tackles numerous mysteries at once in the most perfectly eerie setting for the season.
The Secret of Snow by Viola Shipman
Best for fans of stories about second chances and middle-aged protagonists
The Secret of Snow is a beautifully written story about coping with grief that you won’t be able to put down (I certainly wasn’t!). Sonny Dunes is a single, middle-aged California meteorologist whose job is replaced by a virtual meteorologist. When this causes her to have a breakdown, the only station that’s willing to hire her is in the Michigan hometown she’s been avoiding.
She’s preferred her “sunny” lifestyle for one glaring reason that’s haunted her — snowy Michigan reminds her of her younger sister, who loved the snow…and died because of it.
As her genuinely charming mother welcomes her back and helps her navigate her new life, Sonny is also forced to face her grief and her fear and disdain for the snow head-on.
Covering the small town’s Winter events, she starts to form newer, better memories of the snow, and has a second chance at life and love. Filled with snow-related metaphors, this is one Wintery book fans of thoughtful modern women’s fiction will not want to miss.
The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
Best for fans of Where the Crawdads Sing and The Giver of Stars
Pulitzer Prize Finalist
The Snow Child is one of the best Alaska romance books, set in 1920. The landscape has been tough on Jack and Mabel. They are childless and drifting apart. Jack is crumbling under the weight of running the farm, and Mabel is isolated and lonely.
During the season’s first snowfall, they build a child from the snow. The snow child is gone by the next morning, but a young blond girl of the wilderness, Faina, is running through the trees.
Jack and Mabel cannot fathom how Faina seems to have appeared from the pages of a fairy tale, yet they begin to love her as a daughter. However, Alaska can be a violent and mysterious place, but Faina transforms them all.
If you are a super fan of Where the Crawdads Sing, you should definitely try this Winter book, as it has a very similar character arc. It also shares the historical backdrop of women in The Giver of Stars.
Still Life by Louise Penny
Best for fans of cozy mysteries
Winner of the New Blood Dagger, Arthur Ellis, Barry, Anthony, and Dilys awards
Still Life begins the bestselling “Inspector Gamache” series, in which murders are investigated in a small Canadian town called Three Pines.
This one begins during Thanksgiving week, and ends in the Winter as snow is falling. Centered on the suspicious death of a retired teacher and painter, which may have been a hunting accident or a murder, what’s unique about this mystery book (and the entire series) is how it delves into the human psyche and what lies beneath the surface of a seemingly quaint, quiet town.
Indeed, “Still Life” is the perfect title to begin the series of familiar townspeople and their thoughtful investigator. (Read the books in order if you don’t want spoilers.)
Winter by Ali Smith
Best for fans of family drama fiction
Winter is the second in Man Booker Prize Finalist Ali Smith’s beloved seasonal quartet of books. It’s set not just in Winter, but around Christmas (however, it really does not read as a “Christmas” book and definitely has more Winter themes and tones to it).
Darkness is immediately introduced in Winter as Sophia, a 60-something living alone in Cornwall, deals with a speck in her cornea that has grown into a ” disembodied human head.”
However, the novel centers around the 2017 Christmas in which Sophia’s son, Art (who loves to blog at “Art in Nature”), comes home to visit with his new girlfriend Lux. Sophia also struggles to cope with her relationship with her sister, Iris.
Through flashbacks and flash-forwards, the family dynamics, as well as political and social themes of Brexit and more are explored, with an emphasis on working together, both in personal relationships and the community.
Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah
Best for fans of emotional historical fiction like that of Chantel Cleeton
In Winter Garden, one of Kristin Hannah’s best books, Meredith and Nina Whitson are two very different sisters. While one is a stay-at-home mother managing the family apple orchard, the other is a famed, world-traveled photojournalist.
When their father becomes sick, the sisters come together again, next to their cold and disapproving mother. The only connection between the sisters and their mother was the Russian fairy tale their mother often told them.
Their father’s last wish is that the fairy tale is told one last time—and all the way to the end thereof. This begins a journey into the truth behind their mother’s life in war-torn Leningrad decades ago, and the sisters learn a secret so terrible that it shakes them to the core and changes their beliefs about themselves.
Winter Hours by Mary Oliver
Best for fans of poetry and nature
Fans of Mary Oliver can dive deep into Winter Hours this season for her most personal essays and poetry, including “A Man Named Frost.” It’s an especially poignant time of year to ruminate on her work.
The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon
Best for fans of spooky, supernatural ghost stories
The Winter People was such a great read for me! For fans of Stephen King and Stranger Things, it’s great for those who want the spooky reading season to last beyond the Fall. The suspense kept me engaged, and there were also twists that surprised me.
In present-day Vermont, the town of West Hall has a history of mysterious disappearances and deaths, all the way back to Sara Harrison Shea, who was found dead in 1908 shortly after the tragic death of her daughter, Gertie, in a snowstorm. Now, in the same house, nineteen-year-old Ruthie’s mom has disappeared without a trace.
A partial copy of Sara Harrison Shea’s diary begins to offer clues about The Winter People, as Ruthie learns she’s not the only one looking for someone that they’ve lost. The race for the truth reveals both the supernatural dangers that lurk in shadows and the power of familial love.
Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times by Katherine May
Best for fans of non-fiction
New York Times bestseller
Wintering is a quick non-fiction book about Winter with all kinds of thoughtful musings on the season. The author reflects on this season after her husband became ill, her son stopped attending school and her own medical issues led her to leave her job.
The author looks to literature, mythology, and nature for insight into the transformative power of rest and retreat. There are solstice celebrations and dormice hibernation, C.S. Lewis and Sylvia Plath, swimming in icy waters, and sailing the arctic seas.
At the end of the day, it’s an interesting read about how we relate to the season of Winter, accepting its presence and finding nourishment and joy within.
Winter in Paradise by Elin Hilderbrand
Best for those looking for an escape
Winter in Paradise is the first of three books in the Paradise series by Elin Hilderbrand, and it whisks you away to St. John, just after the New Year. As Irene rings in a cold and snowy Midwestern New Year, one shocking phone call forever changes her life. Her beloved husband, who was away on “business,” was killed in a helicopter crash on the Caribbean island of St. John.
After Irene and her sons arrive in St. John, they discover that Irene’s husband had a secret life involving some of the locals. This one is pure Winter escapism!
Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher
Best for those looking for a light, heartwarming story
Winter Solstice is a bit tough to characterize because it contains both elements of Winter and Christmas. However, it is a book with Winter in the title, and it refers to the new beginnings the solstice offers, so I am placing it on this list of Winter books versus my Christmas book list.
I read it after Christmas, and it didn’t feel too festive to me. I think it can be read and enjoyed anytime in December or January.
Anyway, it’s the story of a group of five people who end up spending the holidays together in a large, Scottish estate house: a former London stage actress, a grieving widow, a young woman recovering from an ill-fated love affair with a married man, her angsty teenage niece, and a young divorcee without a real “home.”
And it’s filled with snow, charm, and second chances.
More Winter-Themed Books
Below are a few more winter-themed books that are on my list, but I haven’t finished them yet. I will update this post when I do.
- Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
- The Children’s Blizzard by Melanie Benjamin
- In the Midst of Winter by Isabel Allende
- Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy
- The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
- The Shining by Stephen King
- Trapped by Michael Northrup
- A Week in Winter by Maeve Binchy
- A Wild Winter Swan by Gregory Maguire
- Winterland by Rae Meadows
- Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones
- Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin
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Those are the best winter-themed books with which you can cozy up next to a fireplace when it’s cold and snowing outside.