The likelihood of a snowy holiday season in most American cities is practically zilch this year (thanks, El Niño), so any festive atmosphere to be enjoyed will have to be the imaginary sort. Luckily, there are books for that.
The Complete Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen
Any reader of fairy tales knows Andersen’s responsible for the oppressively snowy scenes in "The Snow Queen", the story of children Kai and Gerda, who must confront the goddess-like woman who controls all snowflakes after Kai is kidnapped. "The Shepherdess and the Chimney Sweep", and "The Fire-Tree" are great choices for the holiday season.
Scott Pilgrim by Bryan Lee O’Malley
The freezing setting of the popular graphic novel series -- snowy, snowy Toronto -- is offset quickly by its gripping pace and cheeky jokes. The movie is good, but the books are even better.
Family Life by Akhil Sharma
It's a beautiful yet tragic novel about an Indian family immigrating to America, only to face entirely new hardships. Sharma's novel isn't entirely set in the wintertime, but his poetic descriptions of winter weather as lovely yet isolating make it a great choice for a December read.
Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood
In addition to writing ballsy books about the exploitation of women, Margaret Atwood tackles climate change and other environmental themes in her writing, too. A snowy dystopia serves as the setting for one of the stories in Stone Mattress. Atwood believes it's her responsibility to imagine how current realities could worsen.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Go ahead and forgo the bizarre movie adaptations that've been produced recently and read or re-read the classic itself. You know the story: a scientist driven by his ambition discovers a method for creating life, and spends two years cobbling together a living creature, who later resents him.
An American Childhood by Annie Dillard
Dillard's first book is, as its title suggests, about her transition from being a self-centered child to being an adult more concerned with the world around her than with her own personal concerns. Her parents are key figures in the story. One notable scene takes place during what the author calls "a big snow", in 1950.
Tinkers by Paul Harding
Harding's novel is peppered with wistful descriptions of "wisps of snow," "sweet and sharp". It follows an old man, George Washington Crosby, back to his childhood in Maine, where harsh winters were the norm.
The Secret History by Donna Tartt
The narrator of The Secret History is obsessed with tradition, too, especially those that serve as identity markers, and those that might help him cover up his middle-class background. A chunk of the novel is set during a chilly winter break.
The Diaries of Sofia Tolstoy by Sofia Tolstoy
If you enjoyed Anna Karenina, you might find Sofia Tolstoy's diaries worth a read. Sofia complains of sacrificing her own happiness for the take of her husband's genius. Her observations of daily life as a mother aren't all dark, however: She recalls reading "Grimm's fairy stories" on a snowy afternoon after sweeping a skating rink.
Dubliners by James Joyce.
James Joyce wins the award for most emotionally wrought snowy scene. His longish short story "The Dead" begins with the lighthearted dramas. There's dancing, political conversation centered on Irish nationalism, and piano-playing. As sad as the story is, it champions the beauty of daily life, too