26 Cozy Winter Reads for 2021
Winter is coming and this year will be a winter for the books…literally. We may all be more isolated than usual once the colder weather hits, so we wanted to round-up a plethora of cozy winter reads for you to enjoy. The books below are set in snowy locales, amidst blizzards, or have key scenes that take place in the snow. There are charming middle-grade mysteries, romance novels, fantasies, historical fiction, and murder mysteries galore. So nestle inside a warm blanket on the couch, turn on the fire (or put the yule log on your tv,) and grab one of these novels when you need a mid-winter pick-me-up.
Check out the best winter books to read in 2023!
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Middle Grade/Young Adult
The Winterhouse by Ben Guterson
At Winterhouse hotel, a young orphan girl is spending her winter break exploring the grounds of the hotel. Instead of the quiet vacation, she was expecting, she stumbles upon a sinister plot to destroy the hotel. A bit of mystery, a bit of magic, and a lot of heart make this one of my favorite snowy book series.
The Greenglass House by Kate Milford
This middle-grade mystery reminded me of Harry Potter in some ways. A child is trying to uncover the secrets of Greenglass House, a hotel for smugglers and spies before the adults do. We read this as a family read-aloud and it was wonderful.
A Castle in the Clouds by Kerstin Geir
Thanks to MacMillian for my advanced copy. All opinions are my own. What a cute story. Taking place at a dated luxury hotel at Christmas time, there is an abundance of antics afoot. Jewel thieves, ghosts, kid-nappers, back-door dealings, and teenage drama fill this tome. Though it was billed as a YA book, it felt more like a middle grade read to me. Adorable but not quite what I was expecting.
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
This is a classic tale of four siblings who step through a wardrobe and into the land of Narnia. This story is one of the original fantasies with witches, talking lions, and creatures galore.
Cover Your Tracks by Daco S. Auffenorde
Thanks to the author for my review copy. All opinions are my own. The action starts on page one of this wilderness survival story featuring an ex-army officer and a woman who is 8.5 months pregnant. After an avalanche takes out their train car, they are the last survivors fighting for survival in the snowy mountains. We get to learn more about their backstory and what might actually be drawing them together. My heart was pumping the entire time! I couldn’t put it down.
Still Life by Louise Penny– The first in the series of Chief Inspector Gamache. There is something about this book that is so great. I just loved it. It is a good, old-fashioned who-dun-it. Somehow, this book was so relaxing to listen to. It didn’t make me anxious and didn’t require too much thought. The story takes place in Quebec, Canada. I was born in Montreal (which is in Quebec) and listening to a book set in Canada was somehow nostalgic.
Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
This is a classic. It’s one of those books that unless you know the ending, you would never guess it. So well-devised, this book is a definite favorite and it all takes place on a train in the middle of a snowy tundra.
The Darkest Evening by Ann Cleeves
There is a reason that Anne Cleeves has been writing crime fiction since 1986 and has won awards for her writing. She is a master at her craft. This series has also been made into a television show. Vera Stanhope is on her way home one stormy night when she finds a baby in an abandoned car. to make the situation even more difficult, the abandoned car is near her estranged family’s home. In order to find the baby’s mother and get out of the storm, Vera has no choice but to go to the family home. What could go wrong? Cleeves is an excellent writer and this book does not disappoint.
As a thriller, this book is fast-paced and heart-thumping as one person after another winds up dead. As a mystery, I had a problem with the fact that I knew who the killer was from the very beginning. Where does that leave my feelings on the book? Right in the middle, I guess. I enjoyed reading it but I had no surprises.
I read this as research for our Books to Read if you Love A Court of Thorns and Roses post. It’s another beauty and the beast retelling, except this Beauty is more like Katniss Everdeen. No ballgowns or talking tea-pots, just a female huntress out to avenge her father’s death and free the beast from his prison. Light on the romance, heavy on the hunting descriptions. Yet there was a charm in this tale set in the wilds of Russia that I found as captivating as the magical firebird in the story.
Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield
(I received a free copy of this book for review. All opinions are my own.) Diane Setterfield has been a must-read author for me since I first read The Thirteenth Tale. Her latest was just as captivating, with a bit of magic and mystery mixed in. When an almost drowned child is found in the river, three separate families lay claim to her. This story is filled with drama, love, and loss. The story is compelling, but the writing is spectacular.
A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J. Maas
This short novel bridges the gap between the #ACOTAR trilogy and the next three books set in the same universe. It saw us catching up with all of our favorite characters during the Winter Solstice. Cute and fun with no real plot – just some stage setting for the next book. Think of it as an extended epilogue to A Court of Wings and Ruins.
The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
This story that is based on Russian folklore was a slow build. I wasn’t sure about it until about halfway through when I couldn’t put it down. In fact, I went out to buy the sequel (The Girl in the Tower) immediately because I needed to find out what happens.
Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik
I adored this book by Naomi Novik. There was something about it that I loved more than her first book (Uprooted). I loved the strong female characters, the story, and the writing. This book is an adaptation of Rumplestiltskin that complex and wonderful. I don’t want to give anything away but, the ending had me in tears.
Miracle on 5th Avenue by Sarah Morgan
Miracle on 5th Avenue is a cheesy Christmas Romance about a reclusive writer and a cheerful housekeeper who get snowed in together. Totally predictable but also cute. It is filled with an abundant amount of Christmas romance that is perfect for this time of year. Is it a Pulitzer worthy novel? No, but it’s good fun and totally the vibe I needed when I read it.
Some Like it Plaid by Angela Quarles
Bringing Down the Duke by Evie Dunmore
Thanks to Berkley for my copy. All opinions are my own. This was billed as historical fiction but it’s really historical romance. Heavy on the romance. In order to keep her scholarship to Oxford, Annabelle Archer must sway the Duke of Montgomery to her cause aka the suffrage movement which took hold of Victorian England in 1879. It’s such a heart-warming book that also taught me a bit about the British women’s suffrage movement. I learned a bit about inheritance law too, but it was FOR SURE the romance that had me flipping pages with a goofy grin on my face. The sparks between Annabelle and Sebastian were palpable. Bringing Down the Duke was a breath of fresh air for my reading stack and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons
HOLY 5 Star PERFECTION. This is OUTLANDER level awesomeness. An epic love story set in WW2 Leningrad. It was a fantastic story from a historical fiction perspective because I really learned a lot about everyday life in that era. Like Outlander, it’s a whopping 1000 pages but I couldn’t stop!
The first time that I read this, I guess I was not in the mood because I could not make it past page 40. This time, I picked it up and could not put it down. Frederick Backman is a master story weaver. He doesn’t just tell a story but, he submerges his reader deep in the lives of his characters. This town will follow me for a long time.
The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon
As a book blogger, I find pride in reading across genres. I have pretty eclectic taste so it’s rare to find a well-known author I haven’t dabbled in. Cut to my conversation with my friend, Dan, who was SHOCKED that I hadn’t ever read a Michael Chabon book. He immediately thrust this into my hands and told me to get reading. I can honestly say that I would NEVER have picked this book on my own. A failed Israel leading to the Jewish state being formed in the wilds of Alaska? A Yiddish police force solving murders before their state reverts back to US occupancy? No thanks… but instead… I enjoyed it! It’s grittier than my normal picks, more of a “man’s book” if I had to stereotype it. But I love the subtle details, the little bits of world-building about the area, and the faux history.
Us Against You by Fredrik Backman
Backman does it again with this book. He writes about characters that are so real in a story that is so compelling that you cannot help but keep turning the page. This story picks up exactly where Beartown left off so reading Beartown first is a must. I thought that Beartown ended well and it wasn’t until I started reading this book that I realized the story wasn’t nearly finished. Maya, Ana, Amat, Bobo, Peter, and Benji are all back with their stories.
The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
This book is so haunting. I could not get it out of my head. Kristin Hannah is an amazing writer with wonderful characters. Her stories feel realistic almost to a fault. They are heartbreaking and heartwarming and utterly unforgettable. I did not think that I would like a book about Alaska but, I could not put it down.
The Lost Daughter by Gill Paul
I was OBSESSED with Gill Paul’s book Another Woman’s Husband when I read it earlier this year so I was eager to try another of her books. The Lost Daughter follows a similar format of skipping between two different timelines, this time exploring the Romanovs. The first tells the story of Grand Duchess Maria in 1918 and the second is set in 1973 when Val Doyle seeks to investigate her father’s dying words. Maria’s story drew me in immediately, but I floundered a bit when it skipped over to Val’s portions. I just didn’t feel a connection to her and found myself wishing it would get back to Maria’s parts. Still, it was a good story if you are interested in a lesser-known Romanov.
In Sight of the Mountain by Jamie McGillen
Thanks to Jamie McGillian for my review copy. All opinions are my own. If you are a historical fiction reader who loves a bad-ass woman ahead of her time, then In Sight of the Mountain is for you. Set in 1889, Seattle-dwelling Anna lives at the foot of Mt. Rainer and dreams of being the first female to reach the summit. As she struggles to balance her dreams of reaching the top of the mountain with the pressures of her gender, she finds her inner strength. The story deals with lots of other subjects including the Great Fire, prostitution, racism towards Indigenous people, and even a treasure hunt.
The Romanov Empress by C.W. Gortner
Thanks to Ballantine Books for an advanced copy of this book. If you are into Historical Fiction, this is a great one for your list. I had no idea that the Tsarina was such a force. I loved listing to the inner workings of the royal marriage market and how the Russian aristocracy behaved. I’m more of an anglophile in general, but I really liked expanding my horizons.
I Was Anastasia: A Novel by Ariel Lawhon;
Told from two different perspectives this historical fiction has a “is she, isn’t she” component that makes it fascinating. The first perspective is narrated by the older Anna in reverse chronological order, while the second narrator is the young Grand Duchess Anastasia told chronologically forward. Is Anna the Grand Duchess Anastasia and if not, why would someone be an impostor? In the end, the two stories come together, finally giving you the truth.