Columns > Published on November 15th, 2012

Cozy Up With Cool Weather Reads

Temperatures are dropping, and for me that always marks a change in my reading habits. In the summer months I want to dive into something slick and scandalous, something that can keep my attention as the sun pummels down and broils the very air. Namely, murder mysteries. Bring me your Hercule Poirots, your Flavia de Luces, your Philip Marlowes, your Sherlock Holmeses. Michael Connelly spins a good summer month yarn. Christopher Fowler, Sue Grafton, Stephen King, Charlaine Harris, Georges Simenon, Dorothy Sayers, Wilkie Collins – these are the authors of sun and surf!

As the air grows cooler and the days shorter, my bedside table is more apt to display something a little quieter, meatier, more measured and deliberate. I want a book that is poetic, thoughtful, a cozy quilt of ideas and images. Proust is a winter writer, however many of his tableaux take place in the sun. Dostoevsky, Boyle, Achebe, McCarthy – they write the words I want to read under a blanket with a mug of tea.

One of my best winter reading experiences was Susannah Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, a lovely, substantial novel about two magicians living in 19th century England. That book, with its snowy banks and waistcoats and regrets, is made for cold weather reading.

I believe publishers are sensible of this tendency. It seems as if the right books are released at the right time. In the past two months some books prime for under-blanket marathons have been published. For instance:

Telegraph Avenue, Michael Chabon, September 11

Michael Chabon, the elegant writer who has delivered such colorful portraits of America as The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay and Wonder Boys, returns with Telegraph Avenue, taking place Berkeley, California in 2004, as two record store owners and their midwife…well, wives…struggle to protect their fleeting and blissful employment. When it comes to rich character sketches and settings the reader can touch, smell, see and feel, Chabon outclasses them all.

[amazon 0061493341 inline]

 

The Casual Vacancy, J.K. Rowling, September 27

Rowling’s first novel for adults is remarkably distinct from her beloved Harry Potter series, a thought-provoking little character study that is relentlessly pragmatic in the wake of the wizards and unicorns of her last book. 40-year-old Barry Fairbrother of Pagford dies of an aneurysm, leaving the town in shock during a heated competition for his council seat. The book is darkly funny, shrewd and compelling, and displays a profound understanding of humankind.

[amazon 0316228532 inline]

 

The Twelve, Justin Cronin, October 16

I know this hardly sounds like the stuff of winter reads – a post-apocalyptic book about the worldwide epidemic of manmade vampires – and yet in the deft hands of Cronin, the story becomes epic, poetic, significant. The Twelve is the sequel to Cronin’s The Passage, a magnificent and moving tale that spans centuries and continents and yet remains brutally personal.

[amazon 0345504984 inline]

 

Back to Blood, Tom Wolfe, October 23

The incisive satirist is back with a big, bombastic portrait of modern day Miami, featuring this fast-paced and dynamic gallery of characters: “The Cuban mayor, the black police chief, a wanna-go-muckraking young journalist and his Yale-marinated editor; an Anglo sex-addiction psychiatrist and his Latina nurse by day, loin lock by night-until lately, the love of Nestor's life; a refined, and oh-so-light-skinned young woman from Haiti and her Creole-spouting, black-gang-banger-stylin' little brother; a billionaire porn addict, crack dealers in the 'hoods, ‘de-skilled’ conceptual artists at the Miami Art Basel Fair, ‘spectators’ at the annual Biscayne Bay regatta looking only for that night's orgy, yenta-heavy ex-New Yorkers at an ‘Active Adult’ condo, and a nest of shady Russians.” A feverish, sexy mystery taking place in America’s hottest city may not sing of warm cider and afghans to you, but Tom Wolfe does nothing casually. A Tom Wolfe book is a commitment, and this is the weather that makes me ready to commit.

[amazon 0316036315 inline]

 

Flight Behavior, Barbara Kingsolver, November 6

On my immediate to-read list, Flight Behavior follows Dellarobia Turnbow, a farm wife in rural Appalachia, looking outward and elsewhere through a flirtation with a much younger man. She sees a “valley of fire” filled with an innumerable legion of monarch butterflies and her life and home are changed forever. Kingsolver is a writer with prose that is dazzling, heartbreaking, profoundly affecting. She is a thoughtful writer, elegiac and moving and absolutely masterful. She is a winter writer.

[amazon 0062124269 inline]

 

What are your favorite warm weather authors? What books are you reading now that the sky is turning grey and the wind bites? Speak up in the comments and let me know if you share my inclination. 

Photo via I'm Booking It

About the author

Meredith is a writer, editor and brewpub owner living in Houston, Texas. Her four most commonly used words are, "The book was better."

Similar Columns

Explore other columns from across the blog.

Book Brawl: Geek Love vs. Water for Elephants

In Book Brawl, two books that are somehow related will get in the ring and fight it out for the coveted honor of being declared literary champion. Two books enter. One book leaves. This month,...

The 10 Best Sci-Fi Books That Should Be Box Office Blockbusters

It seems as if Hollywood is entirely bereft of fresh material. Next year, three different live-action Snow White films will be released in the States. Disney is still terrorizing audiences with t...

Books Without Borders: Life after Liquidation

Though many true book enthusiasts, particularly in the Northwest where locally owned retailers are more common than paperback novels with Fabio on the cover, would never have set foot in a mega-c...

From Silk Purses to Sows’ Ears

Photo via Freeimages.com Moviegoers whose taste in cinema consists entirely of keeping up with the Joneses, or if they’re confident in their ignorance, being the Joneses - the middlebrow, the ...

Cliche, the Literary Default

Original Photo by Gerhard Lipold As writers, we’re constantly told to avoid the cliché. MFA programs in particular indoctrinate an almost Pavlovian shock response against it; workshops in...

A Recap Of... The Wicked Universe

Out of Oz marks Gregory Maguire’s fourth and final book in the series beginning with his brilliant, beloved Wicked. Maguire’s Wicked universe is richly complex, politically contentious, and fille...

Reedsy | Editors with Marker (Marketplace Editors)| 2024-05

Submitting your manuscript?

Professional editors help your manuscript stand out for the right reasons.

Reedsy Marketplace UI

1 million authors trust the professionals on Reedsy. Come meet them.

Enter your email or get started with a social account: