12 Good Books to Read in Winter

What should you read over winter break? Curl up with one of these winter reading suggestions.

When colder days arrive, it's time to stock up on tea, break out the quilts, and deck the halls. It's also the perfect time of year to cancel plans and grab the best books to read in winter—those with chilly settings and preferably with tons of snow. Some are funny. Others are tragic or mysterious.

No matter the genre, books set during winter are often full of mystery. Maybe that's because the days are getting shorter, and darkness seems to reign. Or perhaps it's because of the eerie quiet that snow brings.

With books like these, you won't have to don your snow gear to get a taste of winter. Pick up one of these twelve chilly reads and experience the season from the warm comfort of your reading nook.

01 of 12

What Happens in Paradise by Elin Hilderbrand

What Happens in Paradise by Elin Hilderbrand Book Cover
Courtesy of Hachette

Still reeling from the death of her husband and the realization he'd been living a double life, Irene Steele is back on the island of St. John to learn the truth about the man she thought she knew for so many years. While this sounds a little dark, the novel, which is a follow-up to Winter in Paradise, takes place in the Caribbean during the sunny and festive winter months. Expect romance, drama, and some holiday touches—just don't hold your breath for any snow in this island escape of a novel.

02 of 12

Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips

Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips Book Cover
Courtesy of Penguin Random House

If you're looking for a thrilling, dark novel with the literal chills of the tundra, look no further than Julia Phillips's Disappearing Earth. A finalist for the National Book Award, Disappearing Earth begins as two girls go missing on the shoreline of the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia. What follows is a gripping, tightly woven story of mystery and grief as friends, neighbors, and law enforcement grapple with the loss of these children.

03 of 12

Gingerbread by Helen Oyeyemi

Gingerbread by Helen Oyeyemi Book Cover
Courtesy of Penguin Random House

Gingerbread has a special place as a holiday treat in many cultures. Helen Oyeyemi's novel by the same name explores the treat's role in folklore, where it sits at the intersection of sweet and unsettling. This mysterious and magical story follows Perdita Lee, a seemingly ordinary British schoolgirl, and her mother, Harriet Lee, as they make peculiar gingerbread and navigate the politics of jealousy, wealth, and ambition in modern-day London.

04 of 12

The Last Train to London by Meg Waite Clayton

The Last Train to London by Meg Waite Clayton Book Cover
Courtesy of HarperCollins

It is 1936, and the Nazis are on the rise in Europe. Truus Wijsmuller, a member of the Dutch resistance, has already begun smuggling Jewish children out of Nazi Germany. As her mission becomes more dangerous, she finds help along the way. A timely and historical novel, The Last Train to London is lyrical and full of feelings. Readers who enjoyed All the Light We Cannot See will fall in love with this book.

05 of 12

We Met in December by Rosie Curtis

We Met in December by Rosie Curtis Book Cover
Courtesy of HarperCollins

Jess has moved to London after years of dreaming of life in the city. In her new Notting Hill house-share, Jess and her new roommates come together over a Christmas dinner. She's drawn to Alex, the man who shares her floor, and as the winter holiday progresses, they grow closer, even while the most inconvenient love triangle stands in their way. For a light, wintery read, pick up a copy of Rosie Curtis's We Met in December.

06 of 12

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

The Snow Child, by Eowyn Ivey Book Cover

Welcome to Alaska. The year is 1920. Jack and Mabel have recently arrived as homesteaders on the unforgiving land. In this harsh place, the line between fantasy and reality bends. Jack and Mabel build a child out of snow, and they wake the next day to find that she has come to life. But nothing is as it seems. If you're a fan of literary magical realism, grab a copy of this book and a blanket to protect you from the cold.

07 of 12

Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson

Book Cover of Snow Falling on Cedars, by David Guterson

Set in the Pacific Northwest in the 1950s, this atmospheric novel tells the story of a man wrongfully accused of a crime. Not only is the subject of this novel important—it examines the racial tension between Japanese Americans and their white neighbors after World War II—its lush description gives the story a vivid sense of place.

08 of 12

Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris

Book Cover of Holidays on Ice, by David Sedaris

Have you ever had a terrible job? Like, hilariously terrible? If you have, then you'll relate to Sedaris's stint as an elf at Macy's in New York City in "Santaland Diaries," the hysterical essay that launched Sedaris' career. Make this essay and the rest of Holidays on Ice a winter tradition.

09 of 12

The Child Finder, by Rene Denfeld

Book Cover of The Child Finder, by Rene Denfeld

Naomi, a private investigator, has a knack for finding missing persons—particularly young ones. Called on by the Culver family, whose daughter Madison disappeared in Skookum National Forest three years before, Naomi searches the wintry landscape, searching for clues to Madison's disappearance, all the while remembering the pieces of her own dark past.

10 of 12

The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold

Book Cover of The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold

This book was a big bestseller, but if you haven't read it yet, it's not too late. In the aftermath of her murder, Susie Salmon watches her family and town cope with her disappearance. The setting is wintry and cold, and the climax is downright icy. Although this book is incredibly popular, the hype is well-deserved.

11 of 12

The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfield

Book Cover of The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfield

The Thirteenth Tale is a novel for book lovers, but it's anything but cozy. Biographer Margaret Lea is tasked with telling the life story of the enigmatic author Vida Winter, whose lauded collection of stories is missing the eponymous 13th tale. As Winter unravels her life's story for Lea, her mysterious past of Victorian-gothic proportions unfolds.

12 of 12

The Winter Garden, by Kristin Hannah

Book Cover of The Winter Garden, by Kristin Hannah

Kristin Hannah is the queen of tugging at heartstrings, as you know if you've read her much-beloved novel The Nightingale. If you're expecting heartache, The Winter Garden won't disappoint. In this novel that alternates between past and present, you'll learn about the lives of two sisters, Nina and Meredith, and their mother's life in war-torn Leningrad.

More Winter Book Suggestions

Can't get enough winter book recommendations? Add these additional titles to your collection, with selections from a variety of genres.


If you're a mystery reader, you're no stranger to books with snowy backdrops. Scandinavian crime novels, like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and the rest of the Millennium series by Stieg Larsson, pair cold settings with icy-hearted villains. Jo Nesbø, another author of Scandinavian noir novels, writes dark crime novels in a similar vein.

Literary Fiction

For fans of classics and literary fiction, there is a wealth of wintry tales. Much of Russian literature, from War and Peace to Doctor Zhivago, features ever-present snow falling in the background. American literary fiction leans on snowy settings, too. Winter's Bone, by Daniel Woodrell, paints a frigid picture of the crime-riddle Ozarks, and Housekeeping, by Marilynne Robinson, is a luminous coming-of-age story set near a glacial lake called Fingerbone.


If historical books are more your speed, there are plenty to choose from. Cold Mountain, by Charles Frazier, gives a chilly portrait of the South during the Civil War, and Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel, drops readers into King Henry VIII's court.

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