We have had three days in a row where the temperature has been over 100 degrees Fahrenheit where I live. Because it’s been so hot, I wanted to create a list of books in cold places to help cool off anyone who is in similarly toasty environs.
Dr. Zhivago, by Boris Pasternak
I saw the movie before I read the book but even without that visual, Pasternak’s prose fully evokes the legendary cold of Russia. Just logically, I’m sure Yuri Zhivago experienced springs and summers in his life, but it seems like he’s living in a perpetual winter as the Bolshevik Revolution and Russian Civil War break out. I found it surprisingly readable, given how grim and Russian it is at times—though it’s hard for me to not picture Omar Sharif as Yuri and Julie Christie as Lara (not that this is a bad thing) as I read it. This book thoroughly deserves its reputation as a modern Russian classic and works almost as well as actual air conditioning.
The Oyster Thief, by Sonia Faruqi
This unconventional fantasy takes place almost entirely underwater—not surprising given that most of the characters are merpeople or aquatic creatures. There’s nothing Disney-esque about this underwater adventure and I loved how matter of fact it was about the science and culture of an oceanic society. Faruqi’s humorous touches make it just that much better. This is such a fun, refreshing read.
Far North, by Marcel Theroux
I think we’re already for a climate dystopia in which the world gets colder, aren’t we? This book reads like a fistful of snow down the back of your collar. It’s harrowing, richly described, and is written by one of my favorite underrated authors.
Spinning Silver, by Naomi Novik
Novik retells Polish fairy tales in a beautifully drawn novel set during an unending winter. I wasn’t quite sold on this book at first, because I loved its precursor so much. Once I got into it, I loved the depth of the stories themes about prejudice, gender roles, and family obligations. Most of all, I loved the main character who has a knack for “turning” silver into gold. I just adore a cynical hero who does the right thing with an imagined quirk of an eyebrow the whole time.
Wolf Winter, by Cecilia Ekbäck
I read this historical mystery about four and a half years ago and I still think about it. Set in eighteenth century Finland, two characters investigate a murder from different directions and differing levels of enthusiasm. It was the first book I’d read set in Finland and, since then, I’ve had my eye out for more. This book clearly gave me a crush on a whole country.