Your local radio station may be playing "Winter Wonderland" on repeat, and your distant relatives may have already sent out their yearly, rather effusive card and family photo. "Bah! Humbug!" you may say, in re: the festive storefronts and seasonal beverages that have begun cropping up the past few weeks. We can't exactly blame you. While the holidays are intended to promote things like cheer, they sometimes end up being little more than irritating.
Still, no one likes a Scrooge (or a Grinch, for that matter). If you're having trouble getting in the holiday spirit, we suggest reading one of these wintry books. Edith Wharton's snowy landscapes, Charles Dickens's warm-hearted characters, and William Shakespeare's wild holiday parties are sure to do the trick.
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
You've likely already heard this story of a curmudgeonly old bachelor, and the awful ways in which he mistreats his employees. What he lacks in compassion, he makes up for in... general disregard for the feelings of others? That is, until he's visited by a trio of ghosts who show him what's what. Dickens's book is always worth revisiting, because, Tiny Tim! If he's unable to put you in the holiday spirit, you may be out of luck.
Wintriest quote: "There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humor."
Dubliners by James Joyce
Okay, so all of Dubliners may not be ideal holiday reading material, but one of the collection's longer stories, "The Dead," is an excellent, if somewhat grim, winter tale. An insecure man attends a dinner party, and reflects upon a story his wife tells him about a former suitor who travelled far in inclement weather to see her.
Wintriest quote: "His soul swooned softly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead."
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Virtue triumphs over material possessions in Alcott's pleasant and enduring story about a close-knit family of sisters.
Wintriest quote: "Jo was the first to wake in the gray dawn of Christmas morning. No stockings hung at the fireplace, and for a moment she felt as much disappointed as she did long ago, when her little sock fell down because it was crammed so full of goodies. Then she remembered her mother's promise and, slipping her hand under her pillow, drew out a little crimson-covered book."
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
This childhood favorite takes place in a world where, no thanks to the seriously sinister White Witch, it's "always Winter, but never Christmas." Yikes! The snowy adventure is peppered with mouth-watering descriptions of festive treats, like Turkish delight.
Wintriest quote: "It was a full moon and, shining on all the snow, it made everything almost as bright as day..."
Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
Okay, so Wharton may be writing about a sledding accident, and also the inescapability of one's fate, but the descriptions of the snow-covered town will prepare you for winter.
Wintriest quote: "But at sunset the clouds gathered again, bringing an earlier night, and the snow began to fall straight and steadily from a sky without wind, in a soft universal diffusion more confusing than the gusts and eddies of the morning. It seemed to be a part of the thickening darkness, to be the winter night itself descending on us layer by layer."
Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare
The title of Shakespeare's wonderful comedy refers to the Twelfth Night of Christmas, also called the Epiphany. The celebration involves drinking, eating, general merriment, and, in Shakespeare's iteration, a rattling of traditional gender and socio-economic roles. The dramatic, drunken party, complete with romantic pursuits and festive songs, will certainly leave you excited for your own Christmas dinner.
Wintriest quote: "Dost thou think, because thou art virtuous/ There shall be no more cakes and ale?"
The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Anderson
Hans Christian Anderon's fairy tales already evoke childhood memories, in a manner similar to baking holiday cookies. "The Snow Queen" is one of his longest stories, and chronicles the tale of Gerda and Kai, next door neighbors who must thwart an evil, wintry queen. There are even reindeer, and spells that can only be broken by love. How heartwarming.
Wintriest quote: "The flake of snow grew larger and larger; and at last it was like a young lady, dressed in the finest white gauze, made of a million little flakes like stars."
Anton Chekhov's Short Stories by Anton Chekhov
It's pretty much never not snowing in Russia, so it's difficult to select just one classic Russian author capable of transporting you to a wintry mindset. Chekhov may well be the best candidate, although his stories aren't decidedly merry. His story, "Grief," is a particularly compelling description of cold weather.
Wintriest quote: "Clouds of snowflakes were whirling round and round in all directions, so that one could not tell whether the snow was falling from the sky or rising from the earth."
The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
Pullman's tribute to Milton involves a kind-hearted, strong-willed protagonist, and talking, fighting polar bears.
Wintriest quote: "Lonely? I don't know. They tell me this is cold. I don't know what cold is, because I don't freeze. So I don't know what lonely means either. Bears are made to be solitary."
The Call of the Wild by Jack London
Buck, a St. Bernard-Scotch Collie, is carelessly shuffled around from owner to owner, and winds up in Canada, where it is seriously cold. Buck's the one telling the story, giving the book a charming, fable-like quality.
Wintriest quote: "When the long winter nights come on and the wolves follow their meat into the lower valleys, he may be seen running at the head of the pack through the pale moonlight or glimmering borealis, leaping gigantic above his fellows, his great throat a-bellow as he sings a song of the younger world, which is the song of the pack."
The Poetry of Robert Frost by Robert Frost
Frost's forte is, of course, penning his observations about the natural world. Wintry scenes may not necessarily be his speciality, but his poems about snowy landscapes are some of his most celebrated. "A Patch of Old Snow," "An Old Man's Winter Night," and "Dust of Snow" are all incredibly evocative.
Wintriest quote: "All out of doors looked darkly in at him/ Through the thin frost, almost in separate stars,/ That gathers on the pane in empty rooms."
The Tiger's Wife by Téa Obreht
Protagonist Natalia attempts to shed light on her grandfather's mysterious death. She treks through Balkan country, recalling her bond with her family, and the peculiar fables from her childhood. Natalia's exploration of her family's history, coupled with the enchanting way Obreht tells her story, is sure to get you into the holiday spirit.
Wintriest quote: "In my earliest memory, my grandfather is bald as a stone and he takes me to see the tigers."