Winter is always the perfect time of year to cozy up next to the fireplace with a hot mug of cocoa and a good book. This past year has required more warmth and comfort than ever before, and not just because of the cold. Due to the continuous spike in COVID-19 cases, many of us have stayed indoors for our health and safety and have picked up new hobbies (or rekindled our love for old ones). Many of us have also found more time to spend with our families.
While this may have strengthened bonds, it’s made us lose any time we may have previously had to ourselves. But there are still many ways of seeking solitude and peace of mind, even amidst a noisy environment. One such way is reading, something that many bookworms are happy to finally have the time for—where previously our lives were too hectic juggling work, family, and social lives.
Because books can be a comfort in a time of uncertainty, I wanted to share a list of winter 2021 reads. We may not be able to engage in the social nature of a classic snowball fight, but we can still escape into the folds of a good book and let our imaginations surround us with a flurry of snowflakes.
Some of these books are older than others, but they all share one thing in common: whether YA, historical fiction, or fantasy, they all make for a joyful read anyone can appreciate.
1. The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu
If you haven’t heard of Marie Lu or read any of her books, you’re missing out! It’s been over ten years since her writing career took off. Knowing that she heavily writes in the YA dystopian genre, it came as a surprise when I heard she would be writing a historical fantasy. Just as with many of her other books, she did not disappoint. The Kingdom of Back is a beautifully written historical fantasy that follows Nannerl Mozart, sister of the prodigy composer we all know today as Wolfgang Mozart.
What many don’t know is that Nannerl was also musically gifted. Struggling with the societal expectations of a young woman in 18th century Europe, she must come to terms with her musical career ending when she becomes of marriageable age. Unwilling to accept this, she begins to compose in secret. All the while she and her brother discover another world, one that is musical and magical and can make her wish to be remembered, come true. But all magic comes with a cost.
2. The Wolves of Mercy Falls Trilogy by Maggie Stiefvater
In this bittersweet YA fantasy romance, New York Times Best Selling Author, Maggie Stiefvater, takes the concept of what makes a werewolf and runs with it, making it new and refreshing. For years, Grace has known about the wolves in the woods behind her house. She’s watched them from afar, but she’s drawn to one particular wolf most of all, Sam.
Sam lives a double life, one where he rarely gets to remain human. In the winter, he lives in the frozen woods as a wolf with his pack. Meanwhile in the summer, Sam only has a few months of being human before the cold forces him to shift back. When their lives clash, Grace recognizes the wolf in the boy, and together they must fight to find a way for Sam to stay human before they lose each other forever.
3. Blood Heir by Amélie Wen Zhao
In the wintry landscape known as the Cyrilian Empire, Crown Princess, Anastacya Mikhailov, is feared for the power she is gifted with. Her magical gifts are deemed unnatural as a whole, but it’s her ability to control blood that frames her as the prime suspect for her father’s death. Chased out of her own home, Ana must brave the world outside of the castle walls to find out who murdered her father. She seeks out Ramson Quicktongue—a well-known crime lord who can help her find the person behind her father’s death, but can he be trusted? After reading Zhao’s debut book, you won’t have to wait long for book two, as it’s set to be released in March 2021.
4. The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee
In this beautifully written YA historical novel, Jo Kuan is hired as a lady’s maid for the obnoxious daughter of one of the wealthiest families in Atlanta. In daylight she may live as a servant, but by night she takes on another identity: Miss Sweetie, the pseudonymous writer of a newspaper advice column for the genteel Southern lady. Here she takes liberty in being herself and uses the power of the pen to challenge societal expectations of race and gender. Her column gathers a lot of attention because of its controversy, but what would others think if they knew a seventeen-year-old Asian American is the writer behind the words?
Meanwhile, a mysterious letter sets her off on a mission to find out about her own past and the parents she doesn’t have around. In this insightful and fresh perspective, Stacey Lee does a phenomenal job of exploring the south through the eyes of an often underrepresented minority that has been in the United States since the 1800s.
5. What Light by Jay Asher
In this heartwarming YA Christmas romance, Sierra’s family runs a Christmas tree farm in Oregon. Every year around the Christmas season they must relocate to California to sell their trees. Though often feeling torn between her two homes, things change when she meets Caleb. Unfortunately, Caleb’s bad reputation precedes him. Will Sierra be able to look past his mistakes and help him find forgiveness, or will she succumb to the advice to avoid him? This is a book that reads fast enough you can cozy up and finish it in one sitting.
6. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
Though I’ve already listed five books, I couldn’t end this review without recommending a children’s classic novel that was a favorite of mine growing up. What better time to read about a magical world frozen in eternal winter than during winter? It’s one of those books I can read more than once because journeying to Narnia with Lucy and her siblings will always take me back to my childhood. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is a book that many of you will recognize and even love.
Interior photos from amazon.com and goodreads.com
Article photo by Alisa Anton on unsplash.com