It certainly feels like November on campus: there’s a chill in the air and the first snow in the mountains is already behind us. These four books hail from a variety of genres but have a wintery feel, making them perfect for rainy afternoons or snowy nights. I’ve found that winter books often have a darker tone than books associated with other seasons, making them great wintertime companions. These four favorites of mine are powerful and more than worth your time.
“Into Thin Air” by Jon Krakauer
I will never stop recommending this read. It is both devastating and impossible to put down. Over 386 pages, Krakauer narrates his 1996 Everest summit, including the ruthless storm that claimed five of his companions’ lives. He writes with admirable clarity about what occurred at approximately 29,000 feet above sea level despite his body breaking down and the inability to think clearly.
Mount Everest receives endless media coverage and film recognition; however, nothing has given me a visceral reaction to it quite like “Into Thin Air.” Krakauer brings the reader through every moment of pain and confusion, as well as every personal triumph and incidence of courage. I learned about the different dynamics on Earth’s tallest mountain, from the incredible sherpas who bring indispensable knowledge and physical strength all the way to the socialites who are ill-prepared for such a feat. If you have any inclination toward adventure reads (or are curious about what it would be like to climb Everest), this book is for you.
“The Child Finder” by Rene Denfeld
While looking for a Christmas tree in the woods of Oregon with her family, a five-year-old named Madison Culver disappears without a trace. The search for this young girl turns desperate, and her parents bring in a private investigator named Naomi to find her. However, when Naomi suspects abuse in Madison’s case, it begins to feel all too personal. She has blocked out much of her own childhood trauma. Can finding Madison help Naomi discover what happened to her when she was a child?
This book has the perfect mix of suspenseful, heartfelt and informative tones. I learned about missing person’s cases and the laws surrounding child abuse and was still captivated by the snowy Oregon setting that Denfeld masterfully crafts for her readers. “The Child Finder” is a fiction novel that reads with the authenticity of nonfiction.
“Beartown” by Fredrick Backman
Content Warning: Mentions of Sexual Assault
“Beartown” is one of the best escapist reads I’ve picked up. It takes place in a small town in chilly Sweden that is obsessed with their youth ice hockey team. Adults and kids alike rally together in support of this team. However, with this enthusiasm comes pressure. These teenage boys, who do not have a healthy outlet for the expectations of their town, create a pressure cooker bound to explode.
About halfway through the novel, “Beartown” takes a dark turn with a devastating rape scene. Backman goes on to demonstrate how sexually-motivated violence has a permanent impact on the survivor, as well as on their entire community.
At times this book is hard to read, but Backman writes with incredible humanity and thoughtfulness.
“All the Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr
“All the Light We Cannot See” is one of my favorite books of all time and arguably one of the best historical fiction novels of the past 10 years. It has two alternating storylines: one about a young, blind girl living in Paris with her grandfather and another about a boy in a small mining town in Germany who gets recruited to be a Nazi. The novel eventually takes us closer to the end of the war in the walled city of Saint-Malo where the paths of our two protagonists overlap in some of the most intense chapters I’ve ever read.
Doerr’s writing is absolutely beautiful, and I love the interlocking storylines. While it’s on the longer side (531 pages), it becomes impossible to put down and truly does not feel like it is dragging at any moment. Every word of Doerr’s is intentional and important.