With lazier days and more time indoors to escape the cold, winter comes with the distinct advantage of having more time to spend with cozy books.
What are the best books to read in winter? In an article for The Guardian back in 2011, the booksellers Waterstones asked authors, “What’s your favourite fireside read, the book you go back to every winter?”
Ali Smith chose Tove Jansson’s The Summer Book (“a piece of light: what better to keep you warm through the darker months?”), Jonathan Coe selected Sherlock Holmes – one of my own choices in this post – while Jacqueline Wilson chose Jane Eyre as a winter classic.
For me, it’s all to do with what goes with hot drinks, warm blankets, and a comfy sofa. Whatever your mood and literary appetite – and including cozy reads, books set in winter, and some relaxing non-fiction – here are some of the best winter books to enjoy as the weather turns colder.
The best books to read in winter with hot chocolate
Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata
To escape to a wintry dreamland at a remote mountain hot spring, read Snow Country, one of the best books about winter. Considered to be the masterpiece of Nobel Prize winner Yasunari Kawabata, this Japanese literature classic is ultimately about doomed romance, but you’ll also uncover desolate beauty and a story for the ages under the thick falling snow.
The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
The Snow Child, the bestselling debut by Eowyn Ivey, oozes winter vibes. Set on a 1920s homestead in remote Alaska, a couple’s lives are changed forever by the arrival of a wild and secretive young girl on their snowy doorstep.
This girl, who calls herself Faina, seems to be a child of the woods; she hunts with a red fox at her side, skims lightly across the snow, and somehow survives alone in the Alaskan wilderness.
In this beautiful and violent place, however, things are rarely as they appear. The Snow Child is one of my favourite cozy novels set in winter.
Winter Tales by Dawn Casey and Zanna Goldhawk
How beautiful is this book cover? Zanna Goldhawk is one of my favourite illustrators, known for her gorgeously magical and imaginative folk-inspired art. Her work is the perfect fit for Winter Tales, Dawn Casey’s collection of winter stories and folktales.
Treat yourself or a loved one to this stunning children’s book for winter and escape into its pages for magical reading on cozy winter nights. I think it’s one of the most hygge books to read in winter.
The Secret History by Donna Tartt
“The snow in the mountains was melting and Bunny had been dead for several weeks before we came to understand the gravity of our situation”… reading these opening lines is enough to make me firmly consider a reread of The Secret History.
The Secret History is an excellent novel to spark a hunger for classics and mystery-solving over the winter months. That said, Donna Tartt’s 2015 book, The Goldfinch, is also a fantastically immersive novel to read in winter.
The Art of Coorie: How to Live Happy the Scottish Way by Gabriella Bennett
It’s a perfect coffee table book to snuggle up with in winter and immerse yourself in the joys and simple pleasures of Scottish winters, from sipping a good whisky to sitting by a crackling log fire after a hike in the hills.
Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher
This year, snuggle up with one of the most cozy winter books to read in December, especially in the lead-up to Christmas. I love this book so very much.
In Winter Solstice, the rippling effects of a tragedy bring five characters together in a large, neglected estate house near the Scottish fishing town of Creagan for the shortest day of the year.
It’s a charming book about love, loyalty, and rebirth, without much drama or being overwhelmingly sickly sweet. I know I’ll be rereading it in years to come; it makes for such a cozy winter reading tradition. I’ve also shared some of the best books like Winter Solstice.
Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
Arguably the most popular Poirot story, there are plenty of good reasons why the locked-room mystery Murder on the Orient Express is such a classic. It’s also one of the best classic winter books of all time.
When a snowstorm forces the famous Orient Express to grind to a halt, our Belgian detective finds himself with more to do than sit and look out the window.
As the secrets of the crime are slowly unraveled, everyone is asking the same questions: how did a passenger perish in his own locked compartment, and who on the train is responsible?
Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times by Katherine May
At some stages in life, we’re full of energy, ideas, and motivation. Other times, what we need most is rest, patience, and self-love; this is what Katherine May describes as “wintering”.
Part memoir and part guide to the power of rest and retreat, Wintering is one of the best non-fiction books to read in winter if you’re struggling with low energy, low mood, or feeling lost. Read this to reset and inspire your own inner retreat this winter.
The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
Folk tales, snow-capped forests, and magic in the depths of winter at the edge of the Russian wilderness… The Bear and the Nightingale is one of the best novels to read in winter, especially in the restful days around Christmas with a glass of mulled wine.
As her beloved village’s defenses weaken and evil creeps nearer, young Vasilisa must call upon dangerous gifts she has long concealed to protect her family and community from the threats she thought only existed in her nurse’s most frightening tales.
The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Are there any better classic winter books than the Sherlock Holmes stories? As the weather gets chilly, dedicate a few hours to getting as comfortable as possible, putting your feet up, and solving some peculiar crimes. I think Holmes and Watson are the perfect companions for warm winter reading inside from the cold.
This Barnes and Noble hardcover is my favourite edition of The Complete Sherlock Holmes, as well as the perfect easy-read classic book to read in winter, with most of the stories short enough for one reading session.
Northern Lights by Philip Pullman
My experience reading the His Dark Materials series as a child was very much like that of Harry Potter and Chronicles of Narnia: magical, warming, and otherworldly.
In my rereads as an adult I’ve picked up on a lot I missed as a child – and it’s definitely not a lighthearted, superficial read. That said, with its polar bears, aurora, and snow leopards, it’s one of the best winter books of all time. I’d also absolutely recommend watching the HBO adaptation of His Dark Materials after reading the books, it’s brimming with winter vibes.
A Winter Book: Selected Stories by Tove Jansson
Following the success and blissful prose of The Summer Book, A Winter Book features thirteen winter short stories from Tove Jansson’s first book for adults, The Sculptor’s Daughter, plus seven of the beloved Finnish writer’s most cherished later stories.
Philip Pullman describes Tove Jansson’s writing here as: “as smooth and odd and beautiful as sea-worn driftwood…” With relaxing winter-themed gentleness, it’s the perfect collection of short stories to read in winter.
North Child by Edith Pattou
To embrace the magic of winter, read North Child. Based on the traditional Norwegian fairytale “East of the Sun, West of the Moon”, this is the spellbinding story of Rose, a North Child who sets off on a wintry quest to follow her destiny, accompanied by an enormous white bear.
Although North Child is technically a children’s book for readers 12+, it’ll inspire readers of all ages with its lyrical writing, bewitching setting, and epic story. It’s full of magic, wonder, and fairy tale vibes for quiet winter evenings.
Beartown by Fredrik Backman
Written by the bestselling author of Anxious People, Beartown is about a small forest town in northern Sweden with a big dream. By the lake, there’s an old ice rink where the town’s junior hockey team is about to compete in the national semi-finals.
Unexpectedly, the match is the catalyst for an event that will change a young girl’s life and leave the town in turmoil. Now adapted to an HBO series, this is one of the most engrossing books set in winter about community, loyalty, and the responsibilities of friendship.
Dubliners by James Joyce
The final words of “The Dead”, the last story in Dubliners, James Joyce’s short story collection, encapsulate winter reading for me. They’re simply magical.
If I were to start my journey into Joyce’s fiction once more, it would be cold outside, I’d have a lot of time to spare, and I’d have an open mind. And perhaps a measure of whisky on hand.
What books will you read this winter? For more recommendations of the best winter books for adults, head over to my collection of the best cozy books to read on a quiet night in, or my list of the best Christmas books to get you in the festive spirit. I’ve also shared these favourite hygge books inspired by my life in Copenhagen.
For the best classic winter books, you might also like: 12 of the best classic books set in winter for atmospheric reading