Ever since I wrote my Fall reading list many years ago I have had at least an email or two per year asking me about a winter reading list and I always have great intentions to write it but November and December always get busy and it gets pushed off my to do list.
So I decided to get ahead this year and get my perfect wintry reading list out now before seasons start to change. Gives us all a chance to get ahead on these winter books!
This list of winter reads is definitely subjective to what I find myself drawn to reading in winter and it’s interesting how, when I’ve asked people what their idea of a perfect “winter” read, was so varied and not always akin to what I would think when I think Winter reading.
I think a lot of my winter books that make this list fall under either: cozy vibes, wintry atmosphere or just what feels perfect to curl up with during long nights of winter. There are just book that FEEL like winter to me — some for more obvious reasons than others.
I love cozy winter books (of all genres), books that are winter themed or set in winter (so like wintry thrillers or wintry romances or snowy fantasy settings) and I love diving into long tomes of all genres but especially historical fiction or fantasy.
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links which means that if you click on a link and purchase something I’ve talked about or recommended, I’ll receive a very small percentage of the sale. Please see my disclosure policy for more info
Best Winter Books For A Wintry Reading List
My Top Books From This Winter Reading List
Once Upon A River by Diane Setterfield
Pick it up for: a super atmospheric Winter read, gorgeous writing, a compelling mystery, amazing characters, a dreamy and magical read
One of my favorite books along with The Thirteenth Tale but this one just feels like Winter (though that one would be a good winter read too) to me plus it’s set in Winter so that helps the vibes along with the atmosphere. Just really a perfect Winter book that demands to be savored on a cold Winter’s night!
It starts on the night of the winter solstice, in 1887, when a man comes into The Swan (an inn) with the body of a lifeless child that he found floating in the river. Confirmed to have no pulse and presumed dead, everyone is shocked when hours later the little girl regains consciousness.
But nobody knows who she is or where she came from and, the child, seems unable to speak to tell them. The patrons of the inn all try to help solve the puzzle before them.
It’s got a dreamy & magical feel with a steady mystery at its heart but the best thing for me is how the atmosphere just really transports you in to make you feel like you are swapping and weaving stories on a cold and dreary Winter night with the other characters in the Inn.
Emily Wilde’s Encyclopedia of Faeries by Heather Fawcett
Pick it up for: cozy fantasy vibes, a snowy & wintry rural setting, faerie, academia & folklore, slow burn romance
This is one of my favorite cozy fantasy book and I wished I had waited until winter to read all about these two academic colleagues (who have an enemies/rivals sort of vibe) studying & researching faerie folklore in a small town in the snowy far north and get swept into some dark fae magic that is affecting the small town they are staying in.
The setting really pulls you in and, while the beginning takes a little bit to get going, it makes for the perfect book to be reading by the fire with a cup of hot cocoa in your hands. Some good banter and it’s great book for when you want something not dark but also really love fantasy.
The Bear and The Nightingale by Katherine Arden
Pick it up for: magical realism/fantasy set in a medieval Russia, fairytale vibes, Russian folklore, a series to immerse yourself in all winter, a winter-set snowy setting
The cold snowy setting and the magical fairytale vibes make this just a book that really feel like the perfect Winter read to me! I mean, there’s a winter demon and a Frost King!
You’ll get sucked into the atmosphere as you watch Vasya, who can see spirits/creatures that others can’t, go from young girl to young woman and realize more about who she is and gets drawn into a conflict between those who want to turn from the old ways/the spirits and the spirits who keep her village safe.
Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy
Pick it up for: a thoughtful and haunting Winter book, a chilly Arctic setting, climate/environment fiction, literary writing, a book with atmosphere that matches a melancholy winter day
The setting of this in the Arctic might be why you think I’m recommending this book as a Winter read and the setting surely does help make it feel like a Winter book as you dive into this perilous Arctic journey with Franny as she tracks the last flock of Arctic terns during migration — in a near future world where most of the wildlife on Earth has died out because of climate change.
But also the connection to the natural world, rather than the setting itself, that makes this feel like a really Winter book as I find myself, in the slow quiet days of winter, finding a more meditative and connected awareness of the natural world from the still snow days when the cold air kisses my face to the gloomy darkness that can seem to haunt to watching the fluttering of winter birds.
Curl up on a melancholy gloomy day with this perfectly Winter book.
Wintry Fantasy Books
Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik
Pick it up for: a loose Rumpelstiltskin retelling, cold & wintry fantasy setting, a standalone fantasy
A fantasy set in the midst of a relentlessly wintry world is atmospherically winter on its own but this loose Rumpelstiltskin retelling is so atmospheric and magical that it feels like winter to me. It’s slower paced, without being boring, as it spins quite the tale best enjoyed by a fire.
It’s about three different women but a lot of it centers around a Jewish moneylender’s daughter whose family is on the edge of poverty and she takes matters into her own hands to claim what debts are owed to them. She gets quite a reputation for her ability to turn silver into gold and it draws the attention of a dangerous Staryk King of a winter kingdom.
That’s where her story intersects the other two women’s path and oh I just love watching how they come together and become allies to protect their kingdom.
Down Comes The Night by Allison Saft
Pick it up for: fantasy + gothic mystery vibes, an atmospheric crumbling mansion surrounded by snow, a standalone fantasy
This YA standalone fantasy has such a good wintry atmosphere and vibe with the gothic crumbling mansion surrounded with snow! You will be transported to Colwick Hall and feel the chill all around you.
Wren Southerland, a powerful healer, has been suspended from the Queen’s Guard after another reckless use of magic.
Hoping to redeem herself, she jumps at the chance respond to a letter from a reclusive lord to come to his estate and cure his servant from a mysterious illness.
When she arrives to the chilly crumbling mansion, she finds out that her patient is not in fact a servant but Hal Cavendish — the sworn enemy to her kingdom — and absolutely nothing is as it seems. Oh and she’s trapped there now.
Secrets abound and the two must work together, not only to find the truth and cure behind the mysterious illness, but also to survive the monsters within the mansion and deal with a sinister plot that could destroy both of their kingdoms.
Winterwood by Shea Ernshaw
Pick it up for: a wintry setting that will just envelope you in cold and snow, magical forests, witchy things
I could feel this wintry YA book setting in my BONES — tucked by a lake and a magical woods where it snows so much it cuts them off a lot from the rest of the world and particularly, the biggest plot point, happens amidst a huge snowstorm.
It’s about a young girl who is rumored to be a witch — though she thinks the magic has skipped a generation with her — and who has such a deep and special connection to the deep woods that surround her.
During one of the worst snowstorms in many years, she finds a boy – who has been missing — in the middle of the woods who should not have been able to survive out there in the storm.
He doesn’t remember what happened and his presence has given off an uneasy vibe in the woods and, as she tries to unearth the truth about him, she realize he has secrets and his presence will unravel something much bigger.
Cozy Feeling Books For Winter
Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt
Pick it up for: something super heart-warming and cozy feeling
This book felt like hot cocoa on a cold day — just a balm for any darkness winter could bring. Charming characters and just a beautiful story about family and friendship and loss that had me equally cheesing and crying by the end. Little cheesy and convenient at times but just tender, sweet and poignant in all the right places.
Don’t side eye me about an octopus being a main character/narrator — just read the book and get swept up in the story about the lives of Tova, Cameron and Marcellus the Octopus get entwined.
The audiobook is INCREDIBLE by the way. Can’t recommend it enough.
Books That Just Feel Like Winter To Me
Beartown by Fredrick Backman
Pick it up for: a book set in winter and in a cold-weather climate, a small town centered around a hockey team, a heart-wrenching and engrossing reading
This one would make a great winter book club pick if you want wintry vibes but don’t want like more of a light Christmas romance/holiday read.
THIS IS NOT A LIGHT READ so if you are looking for cozy winter books this is not the one. However, it just felt like a good winter book between the bleakness of the setting — not just the cold, wintry setting but the bleakness of the town — and it just really immersing you into the story of this small town. The cold and darkness envelopes you in every way and you feel the desperation.
It’s set in a small forest town that is obsessed with hockey and particularly a youth team who has a chance at really putting their town on the map and give a bright future to some of the players if they win the championship. These teens are basically celebrities and there’s a lot of weight put on their success especially because the town is starting to lose hope as this town dwindles in numbers thanks to lack of opportunities.
On the precipice of success after a big semi-final win, everything changes when a terrible event takes place and the story takes you into the aftermath of how the community deals with what happened and the ripple effects on the town and characters we meet.
Secrets, toxic groupthink, the negative effects of putting winning above all else, rape culture — lots to explore. Even if you aren’t a sports person (I particularly don’t even care for hockey), this book is about so much more. Very emotional and heart-wrenching! Truly an impactful book!
The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
Pick it up for: a snowy Alaskan setting, a historical fiction books with fairytale/magical realism vibes
This has been a while since I read this one but one thing I remember vividly is how the sense of place was strong. I did NOT read this on a snowy day but the descriptions of snow and the chilly air was palpable and transported me to 1920’s Alaskan wilderness.
It follows a couple who have moved to Alaska to homestead and start a new. Their relationship is on shaky ground and they are struggling to have the child they desperately want. The first snow falls in this new adventure and they have a little fun making a snowman (really a child out of snow) together and then, to their surprise, the little snow child is gone and they see a real little girl come from the woods who they adopt as their own.
Once There Were Wolves by Charlotte McConaghy
Pick it up for: remote wintry Scottish Highlands setting, a literary thriller/murder mystery, nature/conservation, sister story
I couldn’t decide whether to go with Migrations or Once There Were Wolves so I decided to not make myself pick and put both of them on this list of Winter books since they deserve a spot.
The atmosphere of the Scottish Highlands is such a highlight of this Winter read as the main character and her twin sister embark on a project to reintroduce a wolf habitat in Scotland — an idea which not everyone is excited about.
As the project gets underway, a farmer’s body is found and blame goes to the wolves except Inti doesn’t believe that to be true. So who did it?
It’s also a book about sisters and trauma and we get the flashbacks for their past and why their bond is so unbreakable.
The wintry and harsh Highlands will transport you and the mystery and sister story will make you even more immersed.
Wintry Thrillers & Mysteries
The Overnight Guest by Heather Gudenkauf
Pick it up for: secluded snowstorm vibes, locked room & claustrophobic setting
This snowed-in wintry thriller makes you feel claustrophobic and you really feel the atmosphere being in this secluded cabin during a wintry storm.
It’s about a true crime writer who goes to a secluded farmhouse to finish writing her book. She finds out that the very house she is in a murder house and the site of a young girl’s disappearance. As a winter storm comes through, the electricity goes out and she hears and finds a young child out in the snow and brings him inside — a decision that sets off the rest of this creepy thriller in the future as we also find out what happened in the past in this farmhouse.
No Exit by Taylor Adams
Pick it up for: a book that will strand you in the middle of a blizzard with strangers you can’t trust
A twisty twisty thriller set in winter that was so suspenseful from start to finish for me and will REALLY make you feel the dire situation of the predicament the main character finds herself in in the middle of a blizzard.
A young college student, on her way home to see her dying mom, gets stranded at a Colorado rest stop with four other strangers to wait the storm out. When she discovers a little girl being held captive in the back of the van, she tries to put together a plan to save the girl and figure out which one of the strangers is her captor and who can be trusted while the blizzard rages on and they wait for the roads to clear.
The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon
Pick it up for: a chilling supernatural psychological thriller, spooky winter vibes, a remote wintry setting
This one could totally be on my fall vibes reading list but I think it hits that nice sweet transition for in between Fall and Winter.
The story centers around the small isolated town of West Hall, Vermont — a town full of mysterious and strange disappearances and legends — and two different women from different time periods.
It follows the story of a woman named Sara who died under mysterious circumstances in 1908 and a nineteen year old named Ruthie whose mom goes missing and she know starts to unravel Sara’s story (through her diary that was left in the farmhouse where Ruthie lives now) to find her own mother.
This chilling mystery unfolds during snowstorms and around this isolated farmhouse and it’s just a perfect books to read in Winter.
Winter & Holiday Romances
If a steady dose of Christmas romance books are your idea of perfect Winter reads, check out a couple great ones that I recommend and head to my full list of best and new Christmas romance books to read for even more recommendations.
Kiss Her Once For Me by Alison Cochrun
Pick it up for: a heart-warming romcom, fake dating trope, a queer romcom
This one is about a woman who fakes an engagement of convenience with her landlord to help him secure his inheritance (with a nice monetary gift for helping) only to find out that the meet cute she had with a woman last Christmas Eve is the guy’s sister.
The Christmas Wish by Lindsey Kelk
Pick it up for: Groundhog Day-esque vibes, romcoms in the vein of OGs like Bridget Jones or Sophie Kinsella’s work, a second chance romance, holiday-time family drama
Family shenanigans & meddling + a Christmas wish made by a family member has the newly single main character waking up to relive Christmas Day over and over again.
As she tries to figure out what she needs to do to get out of this cycle, she sees a way to use this time to make her family member’s wishes come true. Not to mention she enjoys spending time the guy next door who could be her second chance at love.
Personally I enjoyed this one more than In A Holidaze which had a similar plot and I recommend this more!
A Winter in New York by Josie Silver
Pick it up for: winter in New York vibes, a slow-burn romance
I will always recommend One Day in December by Josie Silver for a good Winter book but this one is newer and it’s a perfect Winter read too! A good one too if you are don’t want a too Christmas-centric romance.
I mean — winter in New York is always a vibe and this cozy romance is a perfect one to pick up this winter! It truly captures New York in winter — can’t recommend it enough!
Iris, a chef, comes to New York looking for a fresh start from her abusive ex and the death of her late mother who had a special connection to New York.
She stumbles upon a family-owned gelato shop that her mom visited decades ago and has seen in photographs and finds out, from the handsome owner, that it’s in danger of closing as his uncle forgot the secret family recipe after he had a stroke.
After tasting the gelato she realizes she just might have the key as it tastes EXACTLY like the gelato she makes — a recipe she knows his uncle must have given her mother but she doesn’t know why.
She decides to help him by offering her chef talents to recreate the recipe but without letting on to the fact she knows the secret recipe in order to not dredge up family drama and old secrets with this man who just could be something more in her life.
Big Tomes To Curl Up With In Winter
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
Pick it up for: historical fantasy goodness, alternate history setting, a slower paced read with fantastic prose
Clocking in at over 1000 pages, this book is a great one to curl up with and tackle slowly over the winter on dark winter nights. But also the vibes of this book just feel perfect for Winter.
The world and the magic system is so fascinating and it’s easy to settle into England in the early 1800’s and into the story of two rivaling magicians, a war between England and France and how their magic changes the course of history for England and their lives.
It feels very Jane Austen and Dickensian and it really is a perfect Winter book for both being a long tome to tackle all winter and just in the content itself without being an overtly “winter book” in setting or Winter themed. It’s all in the VIBES!