In the High Peaks

Saturday, January 16, 2016

My List of Very Snowy, Wintry Books

A Slightly Boring Introduction to My List:
As I browsed the lists of books I've read, my bookshelves, and my book stacks, I discovered that the large majority of the books I've read have not been set in wintry places or were only partially set during winter. In other words, the winter setting was not a major component of the plot.

Then there are the books where the weather or climate of an area is so crucial, so central to the plot, that it assumes the importance of a character.

I'd like to encourage every reader to add their favorite wintry books in the comments, or to write a blog post of their own featuring their favorites. I'll help alert others to your post.

Winter Blizzard/Storm Novels

Chill Factor by Sandra Brown (A suspense thriller set in the western mountains of North Carolina.) The blizzard is a character. This is the only Sandra Brown novel I've ever read, and I picked up this book because of the blizzard. I was not disappointed.

The Winter People by Phyllis Whitney  (Very wintry and a chilling plot. A Whitney special title, I'd say.)

Snowfire by Phyllis Whitney. (Wonderfully wintry and good.)

Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas by Stephanie Barron. 2014.  (Christmas party-goers are snowbound on an estate for all 12 days—it just keeps snowing and snowing and no one can go home and get away from the murderer. A few slow spots in the middle and three-quarters through, but overall worth it if you thrill to being completely cut off to the world by snow.)

Winter Study by Nevada Barr  (Anna Pidgeon studies wolves in winter on an island on Lake Superior in US/Canada. Thriller. Deep winter atmosphere. Brrrr... Terror.

A Cold Day for Murder by Dana Stabenow. Winter and murder in Alaska. The first in Stabenow's series. This one won an Edgar. I definitely recommend it!
*****Cold River by William Judson.  What starts out as an Adirondack Wilderness winter adventure for a seasoned woodsman and his son and daughter turns into a battle for survival, a test of wits, and a tale of terror-filled suspense. How Judson managed to combine all these elements I'll never know. First published in 1976, it's still in print and available on Amazon and other retailers as a mass-market paperback. ($6.99). The best title on the list. Set in the 1920s. Unforgettable. (Don't ask me why a canoe!! is on the cover. In this frozen story, there were no canoes.

“Burning  Daylight,” a short story by Jack London, which features a blizzard. [This is the only list item I haven't read.]

“To Build a Fire” by Jack London.  No snow, but harrowing, killing cold. I reread this once a year! 

 The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper  (YA fantasy), set in Britain. Cooper is an American author who lived in Britain for years during mid-life.

Russian Winter by Diane Kalotay. 2010. A young ballerina in Leningrad during the years just before the Revolution and just after. 

The Siege Winter by Arianna Franklin and Norman (2015)  A thrilling historical novel set in England during the 11th-12th centuries.

The Endless Steppe by Esther Hautzig. This book became a YA/middle-school novel in the U.S., but Hautzig wrote about her childhood for adults. Early in 1939, she was a young girl living in eastern Poland, in Vilna, with her extended family. The Russians came, rounded up many families of Jews, and deported them to Siberia to work in the mines. This is the story of her and her family's triumphant survival. And it is not a sad book. The setting is exquisitely depicted. They arrive not in winter, but in the heat-scorching of mid-summer. The Winter follows.

Katia by E.M. Almedingen. This is an exuberant tale of 19th-century provincial Russian gentry's lives based on the stories told to the author in her childhood. I so adore this book. The child Katia is so cherished by all her aunts, uncles, and extended family. Imagine being on a year-long vacation. That's what life was like for this family. Full of fascinating details and lots and lots of wintry adventures. In Britain, this is available as a used book but with a different title. Maybe someone remembers from several years ago when I last wrote about this wondrous book?

In the Bleak Midwinter by Julia Spencer-Fleming   I echo Cath's (of Read Warbler) endorsement of this one. Not only wintry, but a book with extraordinary characters and an excellent plot. Some of you may recall that this is the first book in my favorite mystery series of all time.

Sleigh Bells in the Snow by Sarah Morgan  (Christmas romance fare but very, very snowy and good.)

I will stop for now, but I know I'm forgetting some. Like...When Jays Fly to Barbmo... about a half-Sami, half Norwegian girl above the Arctic Circle. Her life during winter darkness. Coming of age. Top-notch! Probably hard to find, though possible as a used book here. I think this book was also sold in the UK.


  1. Wonderful list, Judith! I'm in Cornwall at the moment but as soon as I get home on Saturday I'll do some proper investigating of some of the books on your list. I especially think I need to revisit a few Jack London books. I read a couple *years* ago, which I loved, but the ones you list are unknown to me. And I do love your header photo!

    1. I'm so sorry it's taken me three days to respond. I was away doing research at the New York State Library this week.
      I hope you find something on the list that suits you. The novel Katia by Almedingen was entitled Little Katia or Little Katya when it was published in the UK. Also, I should have said that Cold River is narrated by the young teenaged daughter, so it's not "just a man's" book by any means.
      Thanks for mentioning my header photo. I had trouble locating the one I really wanted, so I'm recycling this one for a bit.
      Happy reading!