Winter Reading List

Wrathful winds in raging skies wrestle with the sun;
Leaves are lashed loose from the trees and lie on the ground
And the grass becomes grey which was green before.
What rose from root at first now ripens and rots;
So the year in passing yields its many yesterdays,
And winter returns, as the way of the world is.

from Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, trans. by Brian Stone

Winter, with its cold days spent indoors and long nights, always seems like a perfect time to do some serious reading, although (of course) I read all year long.  Here are some of the books on my reading list this winter:

  • Ice by Pauline Couture – What could be better reading for winter than a book about ice?  I bought this at a second-hand book sale in the fall, and I’ve been waiting until winter to read it.  I’ve just started it, but I think I’m going to enjoy it; ice is such a broad topic that touches on so many others.
  • Sir Gawain and the Green Knight – This is a long poem that was originally written in Middle English in the fourteenth century.  That may make it sound dull, but I own the Penguin Classics edition translated by Brian Stone, and I find the story both readable and interesting.  Gawain in this poem is an admirable and honourable character, and the poem as a whole contains many connections to pre-Christian folklore and the turning of the season.  I often read it at this time of year as it is set around the time of Christmas.
  • The Idea of North by Peter Davidson – This book explores the concept of north in art, literature, and history.  This is a topic that I find especially fascinating, as I’ve always been attracted by the north and anything connected with it.  I’d rather travel to the Arctic than anywhere else in the world, for example.  I bought this book several winters ago, but it’s time for a re-reading, since I can’t remember much about it.
  • Middlemarch by George Eliot – For some reason that I have never understood, many people believe that summer is the best time for “light” reading (whatever that is).  If that’s the case, then maybe winter should be the time for some decidedly non-light reading?  George Eliot’s Middlemarch, which I recently re-read, would probably be a candidate.  Middlemarch is about the lives of several inhabitants of a smallish town in England.  Eliot’s main focus is not on events, but on how the characters respond to those events.  I remember loving this book the first time I read it, but this time I found it rather long (and I’m speaking as someone who loves long, complex novels) and I felt that she spent too much time with characters that I didn’t care much about and not enough time with the characters that I thought were more central to the story.  Maybe after a third reading I’ll finally be able to decide what I think of this book!
  • Kraken by China Miéville – After finishing Middlemarch, I wanted to read something completely different, so I settled on re-reading Kraken.  It’s an entertaining book, full of squid cults and tattoos that come alive and an embassy of the sea and messages sent through street-lights and many more oddities.  It’s not the most amazing book I’ve ever read, though, and I wouldn’t recommend it unless you’re a fan of fantasy and science fiction.

What’s on your reading list this winter?  Have you read any of the books on my list?

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