My, oh my. It’s hard to believe that the holidays are over, that the festivities are ending, and that January is tomorrow! If you’re anything like me, after surviving several Rochester winters (yes, I’m pulling the quintessential “Rochester weather card” typical of many Rochester natives), what got you through the first several weeks (or couple of months) of the season was the prospect of the holidays. The frigid late October winds, followed by the (dare I say) whimsical breezes of a nearly forgotten August, the early November snow falls juxtaposed by the even earlier December thaws (wasn’t it 45 a couple days ago?). No matter, the holidays were before us – we were distracted, we could bear it, none of it mattered…or at least it didn’t matter that much, am I right?
Well, now that the menorahs are extinguished, the wrapping paper is discarded, and we are finally noticing how much those Christmas tree needles sting when they prick us in the soles of our feet, we are presented with the reality of our situation – we have to survive the next several weeks (or couple months …or several months, God help us) without that wanted/unwanted/anticipated/dreaded/needed/ignored/longed for/rejected/but-really-I-don’t-care-about-the-stress-anymore-I-just-am-ready-for-____(insert applicable holiday here). (Take a minute to read that sentence over again…I needed to as well.)
In short? We all have a long winter ahead of us, especially without any major holiday to distract/transfix/irritate/enthrall us (insert applicable emotion and/or reaction here). As sad as it is to say, many of us go back to (gasp) work after the New Year. Those five day weeks are about to re-institute themselves. My college friends? I may have graduated this past semester, but I am not ignorant to the fact that the semester starts shortly. We are all in for the long haul, no matter what that “long haul” may be.
So? What will get us all through? Well, my friends, what gets us all through anything? Reading, of course. All of us at Writers & Books know what it means to survive those long, wintery/springy/wintery-springy/make-up-your-mind-Rochester-seasons weather. So, here’s a short and unofficial guide to help you do the same.
1.Grab a mug!! Yes, we realize that we included this in our guide to blissful autumnal reading, but mugs are applicable to more than one season, perhaps even more so during the winter. What is your winter beverage? Coffee? Chai? Tea? Cider? No matter what it is, what may or may not be more important is the mug – is it big? Can you wrap your hands around it? Cuddle with it? Can it keep you warm? We sure hope so, because if not, then the only other hope you have is probably a …
2.Magnificent blanket. An afghan crocheted by a long lost relative? A quilt you inherited from a cheek-pinching great-aunt? A featherbed comforter? Or, just a fuzzy throw you bought last week at Target? It doesn’t matter. Wrap it around yourself with or without your beverage and mug suggested in step one and curl up on a couch or chair or rug with an…
3.Empathetic companion…your cousin? Grandma? A sister who you haven’t connected with in “that way” for years until just now? Or…a fictional friend who is so perfectly spectacular that he/she simply can’t be “real”? No matter who, what, where, why, or how – find a someone, a something to share your experience with. It will make the (hypothetically) cold, dark, and lonesome, months we consider to be winter a little less cold, dark, and lonesome. (Still stuck? Find some new literary connections at any one of WAB’s reading series!) And, if none of this works out for you then, well, just rely on…
4.A good winter read. We all need it, want it, crave it even, weather we know it or not. If you, prior to reading this post, hadn’t found yourself yearning to throw yourself into the winter romance of reading, then hopefully these past few suggestions have you just craving to heat up a bev, warm yourself up, call a friend, and most importantly lose yourself amidst the pages of a new book. We hope that you have a particular book in mind – a read that will get you through, keep you company, leave you satisfied while simultaneously wanting more (that same yearning that keeps us all reading.) However, if you don’t have that perfect read in mind, if you simply can’t think of anything beautiful and powerful enough to engage you more than the frost on the windows and icicles on the weather panes, then scroll down. Luckily, some of us at WAB have a few suggestions that just may be the perfect fit for your otherwise lonely, listless wintery mornings, evenings, afternoons, and everything in between. (And also a few more tips to make sure the winter reading experience is positively snow-stopping.)
From the lovely Kristen Zory King:
I’m a big fan of seasonal reading and winter is no exception. January through March I like to read something hardy – something thick that will make my head hurt and my vocabulary expand. To me, winter is a time to read books that broaden one’s outlook on life, books that really challenge the reader. Don’t give me books for the beach – my mind doesn’t need a warm vacation despite how much my body might miss the feel of the sun. In the coldest months of the year I want to read something as deep and consuming as the snow on the streets.
While I will read anywhere (and I mean anywhere – a cafe, a bus stop, upside-down on the couch, the floor) my favorite place to read in the winter is my bed. My bed is used for so much more than sleeping in the winter, it is my activity center – I will do everything I can in it (eating, crafts, reading, aimlessly stumbling around the internet). I have an amazing mattress pad, six pillows (what? I like pillows!), and these delicious soft flannel sheets that feel like I’m lying in a cloud. Additionally, in the winter my apartment is freezing and for some reason one of the only places heat gathers is the bedroom, so there is really nothing better than coming home, changing into yoga pants, and setting up camp in my winter hideout. My favorite way to end a cold winter day is by snuggling up in bed and beginning a new story.
And from the marvelous Alexa Scott-Flaherty:
Winter reading for me this year is filled with books I HAVE to read for my job. How cool is that? I highly recommend The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey which is our If All of Rochester Read the Same Book… pick for 2014. It is a haunting book and I read it in three long chunks. Be prepared to read well into the night if you start reading before bed. I couldn’t put it down. It’s snowy, magical, dark, mysterious… It took me by complete surprise. Like most great books I can’t explain why I couldn’t put it down. What’s it about? A Russian fairy tale, a couple of homesteaders in Alaska… clearly it is not the plot that grabs you, but so much more. It is a book with soul. Next I read The Circle by Dave Eggers for our Turning Pages Readers Circle membership level. The Circle, Eggers 10th work of fiction is a novel of ideas. What sort of ideas? Ideas about privacy, about social media, and the effects corporate ownership of privacy may have on the nature of Western democracy. As Margaret Atwood says of The Circle, “As we move deeper into The Circle we may recall the Snow Queen’s palace in the Hans Andersen tale, where hearts are frozen, the cold queen rules from her throne on the Mirror of Reason, and the puzzle of “eternity” cannot be solved without love. We may also be reminded of the “stately pleasure dome” from Coleridge’s poem “Kubla Khan,” “a sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice.” The poet dreams of recreating this fabled edifice through art, but others find something demonic about his enterprise. “Weave a circle round him thrice,” they chant. The woven circle is to protect others from him, because he’s entranced; in modern parlance he’s been drinking the Kool-Aid and is, like, totally out of his mind.” Another good read. Thanks Writers & Books.
And my book recommendation?
Well I’m with Alexa on The Snow Child. It is a truly enchanting read with a sense of mystery you just can’t put your finger on (even if you use your finger to keep your place on the page). But if that doesn’t strike your fancy, or if you happen to have already devoured this year’s If All of Rochester Read the Same Book…, then here is one more suggestion. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. This one pulls at my heart strings in a personal way. Many nights of my childhood were spent by the wood-burning stove in my parent’s living room, surrounded by my fellow pajama clad sisters, listening to my father read to us from the Chronicles of Narnia. Needless to say, this installment seems the most fitting for winter, seeing as Narnia is seemingly doomed for an eternal winter. Another magical, captivating story, I find that every time I’ve read it since, I appreciate it more and in different ways. While it may technically be a children’s book, I feel as though we all have something to learn from this truly timeless read. I hope you’ll feel the same.
Best of luck and happy reading!
Keep loving, keep living, but most importantly, keep reading.
May you ring in the New Year as loudly and/or as subtlety as you wish.
Rylie, Kristen, Alexa, and the rest of the Writers & Books staff.