When the weather gets Canadian, Canadians get reading. Even if you’re not spending half your day on Pinterest coveting bookshelf configurations, how can you not buy into the fantasy of the great Canadian blizzard outside, great book inside (Canadian, or otherwise)? For optimal literary hibernation conditions, add a hot drink – and, if you have them, a fireplace and a purring cat. To create a list of optimal cold-weather reads, we went to two book-loving, winter-living types. Here, in no particular order, are some of their picks, Slanket optional.
The working title for her upcoming novel, due in September, may be Sweat, but Fernie, B.C., author Angie Abdou knows from Canadian winters.
Her last novel, The Canterbury Trail, is a kind of Chaucer meets mountain culture as a disparate group of characters embark on a journey in ski country. One downside to living in a ski resort town, says Abdou (who teaches English literature and creative writing at the College of the Rockies), is the absence of read-all-day-in-pyjamas snow days. Instead, at the first sign of a blizzard, “everyone throws their gear in the truck and races for the mountain.” But if she could curl up with a good book on a cold day, here are some of her picks.
A Fine Balance, by Rohinton Mistry
“Hibernation calls for the gigantically fat, emotionally gruelling novel – the one that makes me feel I’ve lived an entire life in the space of one book.”
Every Lost Country, by Steven Heighton It’s a literary mountain-adventure story with “fantastically sexy subplots,” says Abdou. “There’s nothing as cozy as curling up by the fire while reading about people suffering because of their extreme athletic pursuits in the cold and snow.”
The Demonologist, by Andrew Pyper “For me, scary books are the ultimate escape fiction. Maybe it harkens to my preteen obsession with Stephen King. In my mind, Andrew Pyper is the best scary writer today.”
The Virgin Cure, by Ami McKay “Is there a word for women’s literature that is intelligent and beautifully written? … Like chick lit, but better? In that category, Ami McKay [is one of] my go-to writers.”
Essex County, by Jeff Lemire Lemire is a “brilliant” graphic novelist, says Abdou, and “nothing says ‘snow day’ like a comic book.”
Andrew Richardson is the acting dean, Applied Arts Division at Yukon College in Whitehorse. Courses he has taught include introduction to literature, introduction to the novel, and literary representations of the natural world. In coming up with his picks, he thought a lot about what resonates with his students – and also did some crowdsourcing on Facebook.
Cocaine Nights, by J.G. Ballard “Most of his work I would not recommend curling up with, [but] this is an escapist piece. Set on the Mediterranean, it’s about expat Brits behaving very badly, which is always fun to watch.”
Emma, by Jane Austen Richardson wanted to go with “anything by JAusten” but, when pushed, selected Emma. “It’s the lightest and the sort of breeziest, which I guess on a long winter day or days is probably what you want.”
Kerosene, by Jamella Hagen Hagen, who is an instructor at Yukon College, writes poetry about life in the North – and her travels through South America. “So if you’re kind of cooped up here for the winter and you’re not naive enough to ignore the fact that you’re living here … but in your imagination you want to be whisked away … to summer down in Peru, it’s a good pick.”
To the Lighthouse, by Virginia Woolf When the snow is piled so high that you can’t get out of the driveway for days, Richardson suggests you spend the time stuck at home marvelling at “what seem like the hours of care, or obsession, that have gone into even individual sentences” of this book, a personal favourite.
The Left Hand of Darkness, by Ursula K. Le Guin This sci-fi novel is set on a planet that is in a perpetual winter. “So if you want to feel that there are in fact people colder than you, this is the book.”