What a winter it has been.
It’s time to get even cozier as we wait and wonder how much longer this lack of sunshine will go on. Here is a list of book recommendations for all ages to help fight the winter ennui.
In Katy and the Big Snow (1974) by Virginia Lee Burton, Katy is a snow plow. And there is a big snow. And Katy helps them out. That’s the plot. The illustrations are bright and colorful and there is a great deal of hope and security, communicating that these little children will be cared for. Like Katy, we will keep working away.
Brambly Hedge: Winter Story (1984) is book 4 of 8 from the Brambly Hedge series written by British author Jill Barklem. The Brambly Hedge books, each filled with detailed, generously, stunningly lovely illustrations follow a community of mice that live in the hedge, their celebrations, traditions and some misadventures. Winter Story follows what happens after a very big snow. When the snow falls deep and heavy enough, the mice throw a winter ball. The children are amazed at what comes next and the youth and vitality they see in the grown-ups who work so hard to bring in a little festivity. We see in this little book the joy of living out traditions. They illuminate a small light in dark and difficult times.
The Long Winter (1940), book 6 of 9 from the Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder. In winter I appreciate books like that that remind me, it could always be worse. This autobiographical novel is set in the southeastern Dakota Territory during the severe winter of 1880-1881. Blizzard after blizzard blew and by December the snow was high enough to cover one-story buildings. For months the supply trains stopped. If your family doesn’t have those generational stories that teach heroism and resilience, books like this can help fill that gap. It’s good to know that even in the hardest of times, there is a way through.
The Call of the Wild by Jack London, was published in 1903 and set in Yukon, Canada during the 1890s Klondike Gold Rush. Strong sled dogs were in high demand. The story follows the development of its central character, a dog named Buck. More snow and the pleasure of a story so removed from the stuff of everyday life and yet reveal the truth about love, total devotion, and sacrifice described, in this case, between man and beast.
And for some non-fiction, With God in Russia (1964), a memoir by Fr. Walter Ciszek, a Polish-American Jesuit priest known for his clandestine missionary work in the Soviet Union between 1941 and 1963. Ciszek tells his story with remarkable clarity, and through his journey. We learn the inner strength and orientation that can help us maintain hope and courage. Rather than despair, Ciszek takes practical stock of his situation, asking, if I am to survive, what do I need to do? He develops a routine of prayer, exercise, and mental work to keep his mind and body strong despite the solitary prison cell around him.
The weather might just open us up for reflection on the world, its challenges, and how we approach them. So if there is a self-help or spiritual book you’ve had on your help for some time, now might be the time to pick it up. Saints and poets have long seen the dormancy of winter as a ripe time to deepen our roots and prune out the overgrowth.
For myself I am reading Healing through Dark Emotions: The Wisdom of Grief, Fear, and Despair (2004) by Miriam Greenspan. In it, Greenspan invites the reader to consider that so-called negative emotions may actually be a vital part of our growth and healing.
If the rain has you stuck indoors, transform your environment with the Danish and Norwegian concept of hygge. There isn’t an exact word for it in English but it indicates a mood of coziness and “comfortable conviviality”. Think candles, evergreens, blankets, cozy fires, cups of hot tea and warm baked bread. It’s the sort of sensory experience that makes you feel wrapped up and safe, like your home itself is a place of refuge.
For two books on hygge see The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well (2016) by Meik Wiking and Hygge: The Secrets of the Hygge art towards a Stress-Free and Happier Life (2021) by Danielle Kristiansen.