The end of winter is in sight. With Colorado and the midwest slowly thawing out of a two-week deep-freeze and Boston coping with its transition to the world’s largest snow-fort, the world needs books. And thus, we masses of slipper-clad, fuzzy-robed bibliophiles revile in sedentary, strangely exciting moments in which we can trade up the apocalyptically bleak moonscape of snow-ridden malaise for a world of more interesting climes.
For me, I want to read about winter, during winter, and thus here are my top five winter reads. No matter how depressing the landscape gets, I can always lose myself in the poetry and wonder of the following books:
1. Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoevsky
*Arguably Dostoevsky’s crowning masterpiece, Crime and Punishment is the quintessential story of madness, illegality, and the extent that consciousness can cope with wrongdoing. Poor Raskolnikov has committed a crime he’s ill equipped to deal with, and we get to delve into the shockingly profound repercussions that follow. Less dense than you might think, humorous despite it’s grim content, this classic is a must read for those of us coping with loss, guilt, or remorse.
2. The Shining – Stephen King
*Drawing on a sense of impending claustrophobia and the insidious presence of a malevolent hotel, this horror staple has captivated readers for decades. My advice: disregard the artistically lofty Kubric film (I love it, but separate it entirely from the novel), and delve into the terrifying world of Jack Torrence, residing author of the most sinister locations on the planet. Sure to frighten and transfix, this lengthy read is sure to distract from the doldrums of slate grey skies and frozen ground. Play more, work less, and read this gem!
3. For Whom The Bell Tolls – Ernest Hemingway
*Frankly, Hemingway’s best (and one of his longest), this characteristically self-reflective meditation centers around a group of Spanish militia men banding together in attempt to destroy an enemy bridge during the civil war. The novel grounds its reader in the Spanish countryside during the dense snows of winter, and beautifully relates the horrors of warfare on the psyche that lie therein. A characteristic (for Hemingway) tale of courage, bravery, love, and romance, this is a must read for the devout bibliophile.
4. A Portrait of the Artist As A Young Man – James Joyce
*My all time favorite book, this masterpiece from modernist genius, James Joyce, relates the story of Stephen Daedalus coming to terms with life as a devout aesthete amongst a more religiously inclined 1920’s Irish boarding school backdrop. Beautifully lyrical and poetic, this classic thesis on the inherent choice we face daily between spiritual gratification and the ethical conundrums of the flesh is sure to take you to places well outside the walls of snow perpetually growing outside your home–a must read for the would-be artist, or aesthetic devotee.
5. Hunger – Knut Hamsun
*Lesser known Norwegian author Knut Hamsun delivers up a terrifying psychological portrait of the starving artist. Told from the viewpoint of an unnamed vagrant writer in the distantly antiquated city of Kristiania (Oslo) desperately writing to live and living to write, this is a story of profound moral ineptitude and baffling artistic choices. Hamsun debates the age old question–which should come first, art or life? Read his tortuous psychological portrait and decide for yourself.
In redux: read more and read often. Let these meaningful classics take you out of the dead of winter into the glorious rebirth and renewal of spring. Ultimately, enjoy!