This post may contain affiliate links, which means I’ll receive a commission if you purchase through my links—at no extra cost to you. Please read full disclosure for more information.
I don’t know about you, but reading classic winter books or cozy winter books in the wet, cold winter months is one of my favorite things. Even winter books for kids!
Curling up with a good book by the fire with a glass of wine?! I’ll take it any day. But usually, by the end of the year, my winter reading list is a little all over the place. You see, I’m ready for all of the holiday books . . .
The Christmas rom-coms.
The non-Christmas winter books that are simply books set in winter.
The cozy winter mystery books.
I want them all! But weirdly, I tend to put a lot of pressure on the books I’m wrapping up at the end of the year. Choosing a winter novel feels weighty. Is it just me!?
Well, if you are like me, I wanted to share the BEST cozy winter books I’ve come across. I hope some of these novels fit the bill for your winter reading list.
Winter Books to Read Next in 2023 and 2024
The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
The Great Alone, in my opinion, is a stay-up-all-night-to-read kind of book. This makes it perfect for those long, wintry days at home! I gushed about this book when I first read it, but I still gush about it now.
Emotionally compelling, raw, and atmospheric, The Great Alone takes place in remote 1970s Alaska.
And let me tell you . . . her descriptions of the winters there are terrifying and real.
If you want to go on a real adventure and fall in love with the grandeur of Kristin Hannah’s prose, The Great Alone is absolutely a book you need to read. And if you’re looking for books set in winter, this one takes the cake.
And don’t forget to check out my author interview with the Kristin Hannah. I loved picking her brain about historical fiction!
Here’s the synopsis:
Unpredictable. Unforgiving. Untamed.
For a family in crisis, the ultimate test of survival.
Ernt Allbright, a former POW, comes home from the Vietnam war a changed and volatile man. When he loses yet another job, he makes an impulsive decision: he will move his family north, to Alaska, where they will live off the grid in America’s last true frontier.
Thirteen-year-old Leni, a girl coming of age in a tumultuous time, caught in the riptide of her parents’ passionate, stormy relationship, dares to hope that a new land will lead to a better future for her family. She is desperate for a place to belong.
Her mother, Cora, will do anything and go anywhere for the man she loves, even if it means following him into the unknown.
At first, Alaska seems to be the answer to their prayers. In a wild, remote corner of the state, they find a fiercely independent community of strong men and even stronger women.
The long, sunlit days and the generosity of the locals make up for the Allbrights’ lack of preparation and dwindling resources.
But as winter approaches and darkness descends on Alaska, Ernt’s fragile mental state deteriorates and the family begins to fracture.
Soon the perils outside pale in comparison to threats from within. In their small cabin, covered in snow, blanketed in eighteen hours of night, Leni and her mother learn the terrible truth: they are on their own. In the wild, there is no one to save them but themselves.
In this unforgettable portrait of human frailty and resilience, Kristin Hannah reveals the indomitable character of the modern American pioneer and the spirit of a vanishing Alaska―a place of incomparable beauty and danger.
The Great Alone is a daring, beautiful, stay-up-all-night story about love and loss, the fight for survival, and the wildness that lives in both man and nature.
The Great Alone was published on February 6, 2018, from St. Martin’s Press.
The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
The Bear and the Nightingale is a strange, lovely book to read in the winter months. It’s a spellbinding fairy tale retelling set in a fantasy version of medieval Russia.
This is book 1 in the Winternight trilogy, and if you’re looking for atmospheric books set in winter, this is a great one to dive into.
It’s slow, but I find that winter is the perfect time to dip into a book that takes a little more time to unravel. The payoff is worth it!
This is an enchanting book that takes place in the frigid, long Russian winters, but oh, it will leave you feeling warm!
Here’s the synopsis:
At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind—she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales.
Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.
After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.
And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.
As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed—this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales.
The Bear and the Nightingale is a magical debut novel from a gifted and gorgeous voice. It spins an irresistible spell as it announces the arrival of a singular talent.
The Bear and the Nightingale was published on January 10, 2017, by Del Rey.
The Wonder by Emma Donoghue
This book begins on a dreary, rainy Ireland day in the latter half of the nineteenth century, which just screams winter vibes.
The Wonder is a heartwarming historical fiction novel that’s perfect for those long winter months! It’s quiet and pastoral but also a gothic Irish tale.
You will get completely sucked in to the mystery unfolding in this quiet, rural Irish village.
The book is fascinating and will leave you feeling uneasy at times. There’s hushed voices, superstitions, family secrets, and something that’s just . . . not right.
If this sounds compelling to you, consider adding it to your winter reading list. You won’t regret it.
The Irish Midlands, 1859. An English nurse, Lib Wright, is summoned to a tiny village to observe what some are claiming as a medical anomaly or a miracle—a girl said to have survived without food for months.
Tourists have flocked to the cabin of eleven-year-old Anna O’Donnell, and a journalist has come down to cover the sensation.
The Wonder is a tale of two strangers who transform each other’s lives, a psychological thriller, and a story of love pitted against evil.
The Wonder was published on September 20, 2016, from Little, Brown and Company.
Oona Out of Order by Margarita Montimore
Thanks to Libro.fm, Macmillan Audio, and Flatiron books for the complimentary book!
Oona Out of Order is a time-travel novel that takes place on New Year’s Eve in 1982, so it’s perfect for winter—especially if you’re interested in reading something in between Christmas and New Year.
If you don’t mind a bit of a meandering plot, Oona Out of Order is a fun ride. It’s also pretty thought provoking and poignant.
I really enjoyed this, and I think it would be an amazing book club pick, too, if you’re book club is looking for back-list titles!
I loved the concept of Oona Out of Order. And I thought the late eighties, early nineties party scene was a fascinating element!
Here’s the synopsis:
A remarkably inventive novel that explores what it means to live a life fully in the moment, even if those moments are out of order.
It’s New Year’s Eve 1982, and Oona Lockhart has her whole life before her. At the stroke of midnight she will turn nineteen, and the year ahead promises to be one of consequence.
Should she go to London to study economics, or remain at home in Brooklyn to pursue her passion for music and be with her boyfriend?
As the countdown to the New Year begins, Oona faints and awakens thirty-two years in the future in her fifty-one-year-old body.
Greeted by a friendly stranger in a beautiful house she’s told is her own, Oona learns that with each passing year she will leap to another age at random. And so begins Oona Out of Order…
Hopping through decades, pop culture fads, and much-needed stock tips, Oona is still a young woman on the inside but ever changing on the outside.
Who will she be next year? Philanthropist? Club Kid? World traveler? Wife to a man she’s never met?
Surprising, magical, and heart-wrenching, Margarita Montimore has crafted an unforgettable story about the burdens of time, the endurance of love, and the power of family.
Oona Out of Order was published on February 25, 2020, from Flatiron Books.
Unlikely Animals by Annie Hartnett
If you followed my reading journey in 2023, you know Unlikely Animals is an all-time favorite. I think it would be perfect for a fall or winter reading list. It’s heartwarming, bittersweet, and quite unforgettable.
The quirky characters are flawed and lovable, and the winter days in small town New Hampshire are so atmospheric.
This book is narrated by the dead in the local Maple Street Cemetery, which just adds another “chilling,” eccentric quality.
This is a literary fiction, but it’s also a mystery, and I thought it was the perfect mix of sweet, endearing, heartbreaking, and lovely.
Make sure to check out my Unlikely Animals review if you plan to pick this one up in winter. I have book club discussion questions and favorite book quotes, too!
Here’s the synopsis:
A lost young woman returns to small-town New Hampshire under the strangest of circumstances in this one-of-a-kind novel of life, death, and whatever comes after from the acclaimed author of Rabbit Cake.
It was a source of entertainment at Maple Street Cemetery. Both funny and sad, the kind of story we like best.
Natural-born healer Emma Starling once had big plans for her life, but she’s lost her way. A med school dropout, she’s come back to small-town Everton, New Hampshire to care for her father, dying from a mysterious brain disease.
Clive Starling has been hallucinating small animals, as well as visions of the ghost of a long-dead naturalist, Ernest Harold Baynes, once known for letting wild animals live in his house. This ghost has been giving Clive some ideas on how to spend his final days.
Emma arrives home knowing she must face her dad’s illness, her mom’s judgement, and her younger brother’s recent stint in rehab, but she’s unprepared to find that her former best friend from high school is missing, with no one bothering to look for her.
The police say they don’t spend much time looking for drug addicts. Emma’s dad is the only one convinced the young woman might still be alive, and Emma is hopeful he could be right. Someone should look for her, at least.
Emma isn’t really trying to be a hero—but somehow she and her father set in motion just the kind of miracle the town needs.
Set against the backdrop of a small town in the throes of a very real opioid crisis, Unlikely Animals is a tragicomic novel about familial expectations, imperfect friendships, and the possibility of resurrecting that which had been thought irrevocably lost.
Unlikely Animals was published on April 12, 2022, from Ballantine Books.
Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane
The plot isn’t super discernible, and it’s definitely more character driven. But I find I’m much more likely to read a slower book with beautifully written prose in the winter.
Ask Again, Yes is about romance, loss, family, forgiveness . . . it’s such a moving story that deserves your full attention. So why not read it during the sleepy months of December to February?
Here’s the synopsis:
How much can a family forgive?
Francis Gleeson and Brian Stanhope, rookie NYPD cops, are neighbors in the suburbs. What happens behind closed doors in both houses—the loneliness of Francis’s wife, Lena, and the instability of Brian’s wife, Anne, sets the stage for the explosive events to come.
In Mary Beth Keane’s extraordinary novel, a lifelong friendship and love blossoms between Kate Gleeson and Peter Stanhope, born six months apart.
One shocking night their loyalties are divided, and their bond will be tested again and again over the next thirty years.
Heartbreaking and redemptive, Ask Again, Yes is a gorgeous and generous portrait of the daily intimacies of marriage and the power of forgiveness.
Ask Again, Yes was published on May 28, 2019, from Scribner.
Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance by Ruth Emmie Lang
I absolutely adored this book. When it first came out, Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance wasn’t really on my radar. But it’s one I think about often.
On a stormy Christmas day in Oklahoma, Weylyn Grey stops a tornado as it is barreling straight ahead, and he realizes to his horror that he’s more different from other people than he thought.
Oh, did I mention Weylyn was orphaned and raised by wolves? Yeah. I know.
This is a gorgeous fantasy/magical realism book that will keep you warm and toasty on your coldest winter days.
This book is charming and full of wonder. It’s strange in a wonderful sort of way. Add it to your winter reading list if you’re looking for cozy winter books with a bit of magic.
Here’s the synopsis:
Orphaned, raised by wolves, and the proud owner of a horned pig named Merlin, Weylyn Grey knew he wasn’t like other people. But when he single-handedly stopped that tornado on a stormy Christmas day in Oklahoma, he realized just how different he actually was.
That tornado was the first of many strange events that seem to follow Weylyn from town to town, although he doesn’t like to take credit. As amazing as these powers may appear, they tend to manifest themselves at inopportune times and places.
From freak storms to trees that appear to grow over night, Weylyn’s unique abilities are a curiosity at best and at worst, a danger to himself and the woman he loves. But Mary doesn’t care.
Since Weylyn saved her from an angry wolf on her eleventh birthday, she’s known that a relationship with him isn’t without its risks, but as anyone who’s met Weylyn will tell you, once he wanders into your life, you’ll wish he’d never leave.
Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance tells the story of Weylyn Grey’s life from the perspectives of the people who knew him, loved him, and even a few who thought he was just plain weird. Although he doesn’t stay in any of their lives for long, he leaves each of them with a story to tell.
Stories about a boy who lives with wolves, great storms that evaporate into thin air, fireflies that make phosphorescent honey, and a house filled with spider webs and the strange man who inhabits it.
There is one story, however, that Weylyn wishes he could change: his own. But first he has to muster enough courage to knock on Mary’s front door.
In this warm debut novel, Ruth Emmie Lang teaches us about adventure and love in a beautifully written story full of nature and wonder.
Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance was published on November 14, 2017, from St. Martin’s Press.
Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine is another heartwarming, charming, endearing, and completely addictive book to cozy up with this winter!
I’m in love with Gail Honeyman’s writing style, and Eleanor as a character is so incredibly unique. I must have a thing for tragic comedies in the dark, winter months, because this book just screams wintry reads to me.
If winter books, romance in particular, is on your TBR list, this one will give you that winter reading aesthetic without necessarily taking place in the winter time.
But really, this isn’t just romance. It’s a book about self-discovery and grief and letting go of our assumptions about people. It’s hard-hitting but also such a compelling read.
Here’s the synopsis:
No one’s ever told Eleanor that life should be better than fine.
Meet Eleanor Oliphant: She struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life of avoiding social interactions, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy.
But everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office.
When she and Raymond together save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen on the sidewalk, the three become the kinds of friends who rescue one another from the lives of isolation they have each been living.
And it is Raymond’s big heart that will ultimately help Eleanor find the way to repair her own profoundly damaged one.
Soon to be a major motion picture produced by Reese Witherspoon, Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine is the smart, warm, and uplifting story of an out-of-the-ordinary heroine whose deadpan weirdness and unconscious wit make for an irresistible journey as she realizes the only way to survive is to open your heart.
Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine was published on May 9, 2017, from HarperCollins.
Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster by Jonathan Auxier
Sweep is one of the most incredible historical fiction/fantasy middle grade books I’ve ever read! I do believe it will be a classic, so keep your eyes on this one if you’re looking for that classic winter books vibe.
This is the kind of heartwarming middle grade book I gravitate toward in the winter. A heartbreaking story of sacrifice, a beloved treasure, rich friendships, and gorgeous prose.
If you love to listen to audiobooks, add this one to your winter audiobooks list. The narrator is perfect.
Here’s the synopsis:
For nearly a century, Victorian London relied on “climbing boys”—orphans owned by chimney sweeps—to clean flues and protect homes from fire.
The work was hard, thankless and brutally dangerous. Eleven-year-old Nan Sparrow is quite possibly the best climber who ever lived—and a girl.
With her wits and will, she’s managed to beat the deadly odds time and time again.
But when Nan gets stuck in a deadly chimney fire, she fears her time has come.
Instead, she wakes to find herself in an abandoned attic. And she is not alone.
Huddled in the corner is a mysterious creature—a golem—made from ash and coal. This is the creature that saved her from the fire.
Sweep is the story of a girl and her monster. Together, these two outcasts carve out a life together—saving one another in the process.
Sweep was published on September 25, 2018, from Puffin Canada.
The Diviners by Libba Bray
I read and listened to The Diviners in tandem, and it was the most immersive reading experience! This is another great audiobook to check out for winter time. It’s dark and haunting—a real page-turner!
This book would work for a fall reading list, too. It’s paranormal historical fiction/horror, and since it’s a series, you can tear through it on those long wintry days when it’s too cold to do anything else.
I’m not sure there’s ever a wrong time to read about 1920s New York, but the mystery, the supernatural powers? You really won’t be able to put it down.
If you’re making a list of winter books for young adults, anything Libba Bray writes is perfect.
Here’s the synopsis:
Something dark and evil has awakened. . . . Evie O’Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and shipped off to the bustling streets of New York City—and she is pos-i-tute-ly ecstatic.
It’s 1926, and New York is filled with speakeasies, Ziegfeld girls, and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is that she has to live with her uncle Will and his unhealthy obsession with the occult.
Evie worries her uncle will discover her darkest secret: a supernatural power that has only brought her trouble so far.
But when the police find a murdered girl branded with a cryptic symbol and Will is called to the scene, Evie realizes her gift could help catch a serial killer.
As Evie jumps headlong into a dance with a murderer, other stories unfold in the city that never sleeps.
A young man named Memphis is caught between two worlds. A chorus girl named Theta is running from her past.
A student named Jericho is hiding a shocking secret. And unknown to all, something dark and evil has awakened. . . .
The Diviners was published on September 18, 2012, from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.
Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson
Thank you to Random House for this complimentary book!
Maybe it’s because it was first released in the month of February, but I really think Black Cake is an excellent book to read in winter.
This is a sweeping story about love, family secrets, culture, loss, and so much more. Black Cake is expansive—it touches on identity, prejudices, racism, political division, grief and survival . . . oh, there’s a lot to unpack.
Also, OMG, Black Cake is being made into a TV series, coming out this November! I cannot wait!
It’s a slow start, but a rewarding finish. Black Cake is an exquisite, memorable story, and it’s one of the best books for winter.
Here’s the synopsis:
We can’t choose what we inherit. But can we choose who we become?
In present-day California, Eleanor Bennett’s death leaves behind a puzzling inheritance for her two children, Byron and Benny: a black cake, made from a family recipe with a long history, and a voice recording.
In her message, Eleanor shares a tumultuous story about a headstrong young swimmer who escapes her island home under suspicion of murder.
The heartbreaking tale Eleanor unfolds, the secrets she still holds back, and the mystery of a long-lost child challenge everything the siblings thought they knew about their lineage and themselves.
Can Byron and Benny reclaim their once-close relationship, piece together Eleanor’s true history, and fulfill her final request to “share the black cake when the time is right”?
Will their mother’s revelations bring them back together or leave them feeling more lost than ever?
Charmaine Wilkerson’s debut novel is a story of how the inheritance of betrayals, secrets, memories, and even names can shape relationships and history.
Deeply evocative and beautifully written, Black Cake is an extraordinary journey through the life of a family changed forever by the choices of its matriarch.
Black Cake was published on February 1, 2022, from Ballantine Books.
Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
Thank you to Ballantine Books for the complemintary book!
If you’re looking for a fast, entertaining book to get completely lost in on a cold winter night, Dark Matter is that book.
This genre-bending sci-fi thriller is so well written and thought out. It’s full of surprises around every corner. Dark Matter is the pure escapist book to add to your winter reading list.
It’s twisty, mind boggling, and asks some terrifying and profound questions that will play in your mind over and over!
RELATED: Book Review: The House in the Pines
Here’s the synopsis:
A mindbending, relentlessly surprising thriller from the author of the bestselling Wayward Pines trilogy.
Jason Dessen is walking home through the chilly Chicago streets one night, looking forward to a quiet evening in front of the fireplace with his wife, Daniela, and their son, Charlie—when his reality shatters.
“Are you happy with your life?”
Those are the last words Jason Dessen hears before the masked abductor knocks him unconscious.
Before he awakens to find himself strapped to a gurney, surrounded by strangers in hazmat suits.
Before a man Jason’s never met smiles down at him and says, “Welcome back, my friend.”
In this world he’s woken up to, Jason’s life is not the one he knows. His wife is not his wife. His son was never born. And Jason is not an ordinary college physics professor, but a celebrated genius who has achieved something remarkable. Something impossible.
Is it this world or the other that’s the dream?
And even if the home he remembers is real, how can Jason possibly make it back to the family he loves?
The answers lie in a journey more wondrous and horrifying than anything he could’ve imagined—one that will force him to confront the darkest parts of himself even as he battles a terrifying, seemingly unbeatable foe.
Dark Matter is a brilliantly plotted tale that is at once sweeping and intimate, mind-bendingly strange and profoundly human—a relentlessly surprising science-fiction thriller about choices, paths not taken, and how far we’ll go to claim the lives we dream of.
Dark Matter was published on July 26, 2016, from Ballantine Books.
Frequently Asked Questions about Winter Books to Read
What books should I read this winter?
I’m a big fan of fantasy books in the winter, cozy mysteries, hard-hitting literary fiction, and tragic comedies. Some of the best books for winter are: The Bear and the Nightingale, The Great Alone, and Unlikely Animals.
I’m also a big fan of the Chronicle of Narnia series in the winter months.
What books are set in winter?
The Bear and the Nightingale, The Great Alone, Dark Matter, Oona Out of Order, Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstances—to name a few!
Is Jane Eyre a winter book?
Yes, and it’s one of the more popular classic winter books. You can’t go wrong cozying up with Jane Eyre around the holidays.
What are the best non-Christmas winter books?
Most of the books on this list are non-Christmas winter books or provide that cozy winter reading aesthetic.
I’ll share my favorite holiday rom-coms soon if you are looking to add to your Christmas reading list!
New Books to Read in the Winter: 2023 Releases
Be on the lookout for my most anticipated 2024 book releases! There are quite a few winter books coming out in early 2024 I have my eye on.
So don’t forget to add them to your winter books list!
Here are just a few I’m excited to dive into:
- A Love Song for Ricki Wilde by Tia Williams, out February 6, 2024
- The Heiress by Rachel Hawkins, out January 9, 2024
- The Queen of Sugar Hill: A Novel of Hattie McDaniel by ReShonda Tate, out January 30, 2024
- Come and Get It by Kiley Reid, out January 30, 2024
Let me know what cozy winter books you’re planning to pick up, including 2024 book releases, so I can get a good mix of backlist and new wintry reads!