discussions genre stuff

Winter Reading

I don’t know about you, but the changing of the seasons can massively alter my reading preferences. I’m not a reviewer, and I’m not sent books according to a publishers’ schedule, so I’m free to pick and choose purely on a whim from the ridiculous amounts of books I buy each year. I very much read according to mood. Winter seems made for reading: the holiday period offers lots of free time, and the weather discourages you from heading outside. There’s something about the winter nights drawing in that makes me want to hibernate – the bitter winds, images of skeletal trees against a darkening sky – and at this time of year I tend to seek out the bleakest kinds of fiction.

I’m more likely to read fantasy at the change of a season – Spring or Autumn, perhaps, but whatever I read in winter needs to be bleak and thoughtful stuff. Summer is easily a non-fiction time of year, and around this time I read quite a bit of the literary genre. (Though, to contradict this, I remember reading David Peace’s 1974, which was one of the most miserably bleak crime books I’ve ever read, one very warm week in Summer.)

A tradition of mine, for the past few years, has been to read a Henning Mankell Wallander novel over Christmas – the bleak and minimalist Swedish thriller seems to fit my mood well, and it’s broken up nicely – in that typical thriller way – so that when I’m disturbed (mince pies, Christmas lunch) I can easily pick up from where I left it.

I’m currently clutching Sovereign, the latest C.J. Sansom novel – crime set in the 16th Century, and around this time last year I was also reading historical fiction – Umberto Eco, and another C.J. Sansom novel. I often wonder if there’s something about escapist fiction – good, honest, take-my-mind-from-here novels – that appeals most in Winter?

By Mark Newton

Born in 1981, live in the UK. I write about strange things.

6 replies on “Winter Reading”

hmm, I was thinking of posting on this, but I shall just comment here instead. 😉
I tend to read more horror and thriller/crime in winter. Something about being indoors with electric light and a blanket, while it’s dark and cold outsdie, lends itself to this over fantasy or sci fi. Of course the odd urban fantasy sneaks in.

The seasons influence my reading, along with my physical location and the shifting nature of my moods.

During the start of last summer I reveled in the brief heat, sitting in my back garden while the wasps droned around the strawberries and the children played in the splash pool, drinking sweet mint tea and making my way through the wonderful Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell (recommendation courtesy of Mark Newton). Then the summer lost steam and ran prematurely short of both light and warmth and left me stranded, unable to finish the third book as a soggy, more typically British weather settled in. Now it awaits along with Clea for the return of heat and an unconquered sun.

As one door closes, another opens. And I dove into Wolf Solent and Weymouth Sands and portions of Porius all by John Cowper Powys (and again, thanks to M. Newton) fortified by many pots of tea, plates of toast, and the reliably unreliable damp English weather. Weymouth Sands especially, seemed to evoke the sour joy of the English sea-side in all weathers but most of them involving rain.

With the current cold spell squatting over us like a malignant ice spirit, I’m looking forward to a newly translated copy of Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak (which I’m sad to admit, I’ve only ever seen the various cinematic adaptations of), Aurorarama by Jean-Christophe Valvat, and Dark matter by Michelle Paver – the latter two novels one fantasy the other horror, set in the icy darkness of the polar far north.

All in all and aside from the hours of pleasure they’ll likely provide, the cold weather depicted inside will be one more excuse to draw closer to the fire or farther under the duvet. Especially so as I have been awaking to find a thick rime of ice on the *inside* of our bedroom window, glittering like melted glass, a smooth alien topography to run our wondering fingers across.

Good reading, everyone


Dark nights make winter the peak time for suicides, so in theory it’s the best time to be reading something cheerful and funny. But I don’t really plan my reading with regard to the season, it’s more about how I feel at the time.

I do enjoy reading your writer’s page, Mark.

The picture perfectly illustrates this warm, cosy piece about your winter reading.

I think all writers have this idiosyncrasy of our little “traditions” and moods of reading matter determined by the seasons of the year.

You are always informative and entertaining, often light and never dull. You read like a writer – not just your reading matter, but the words you put down on the page for your readers.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and for tweeting the updates.


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