When the snow is falling and the wind howls, there’s nothing I’d rather do than curl up by the fire with a book. I always look forward to winter because there’s something so satisfying about feeling safe and cozy indoors while I lose myself in someone else’s story.
I adore a white Christmas and always look forward to the brilliant blue skies in January, made even brighter by the mounds of fresh white powder, as far as the eye can see. I live in the Midwest specifically because I relish all four seasons and can’t imagine ever seeing in the New Year clad in shorts and a pair of flip flops.
My point is, I love winter. I really do.
But as I gaze out my window and see the fluffy piles I love so much still banked four feet high on either side of my front walkway, I sort of want to kick a lung out of someone. I find myself repeating, “Go home, winter. You’re drunk,” every time I have to layer up to leave the house or pay a gas bill.
Fortunately, there’s no better escape from the winter doldrums than a great book, so I’m delighted to share my Spring Is Coming (Because It Has To, Eventually) book picks!
My first recommendation for a great escape is Dave Barry’s Insane City. For almost a quarter of a century, Barry was on the scene for the Miami Herald, documenting the truly bizarre, the outrageous, and most importantly, the hilariously true stories in his weekly diatribes. Deemed The Funniest Man in America by the New York Times, Barry’s always been at his best when employing his catchphrase, “I am not making this up.”
Yet he’s equally as skilled when he does, indeed, make it up.
His novel Insane City, neatly answers the question, “What if a Pulitzer Prize winner interpreted The Hangover in book form?” We open with hapless Seth Weinstein on his way to his wedding in Miami with his Groom Posse, three men who are “connected by the bond of college, as well as the bond of being unsuccessful at everything they had tried since.”
After an airport kerfuffle, the Posse arrives in South Florida and things quickly go awry. Wedding rings (and pants) are lost, replaced by a Haitian refugee family, a large jewel-encrusted-bikini wearing stripper named LaDawne, and an eleven foot albino python.
Complicating matters are Seth’s affianced bridezilla, an amorous orangutan named Trevor in possession of said lost ring, and an entire wedding party who inadvertently get stoned to the bejesus due to a misplaced batch of pot brownies. But it’s not until billionaire guest Wendell Corliss discovers the one thing his money never bought was fun that the action truly begins.
The laughs generated from Insane City will absolutely shake the chill from your bones.
Next up is The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. Do yourself a favor and read this book before the movie comes out, because no matter how fine the film may be, it won’t hold a candle to the magic and nuance that is Green’s writing. The way he’s able to capture and articulate his characters’ thoughts and feelings is nothing short of masterful and this book is destined to become an American classic.
I had the privilege of meeting the author a few years ago and I had to ask him, “At what point in your life were you a fifteen year old girl with cancer? Because clearly this book is too real for you not to have personally lived this.” Green attempted to convince me that he was, in fact, never a fifteen year old girl, but I was having none of it. At no point did I ever consider the fact that characters Hazel and Augustus weren’t living human beings; Green has breathed so much life into them that they simply can’t not exist.
One of the myriad reasons that this book moved me so much is because Green possesses a rare gift and that’s the ability to take the teenage experience and make it relatable to those of any age. (Please don’t be dissuaded by the Young Adult label!) Filmmaker John Hughes had this gift, too – the ability to look at teenagers and take their hopes, thoughts, and dreams and translate them to a broader audience, without mocking or minimizing the experience.
I recommend The Fault in Our Stars as a spring pick-me-up because even though there are so many heart-breaking moments in the tale of two cancer-surviving teens finding love, it’s one of the most uplifting novels I’ve ever read and it will warm you to your core.
My final pick is Sarah Jio’s The Bungalow. Although this wasn’t her first novel, it’s the one that introduced me to her work and now she’s one of my all-time favorite authors.
I’ll be honest – I grabbed this particular book because I was attracted to the cover.
I know, I know.
In my defense, I was in the middle of another bitter Chicago winter and when I saw the ocean backdrop and thatched hut, all I could think was, “I want to be there.” So I opened the book for the cover, but Jio’s writing captured me instantly, brilliantly weaving a tropical tale of the past and present into a powerful narrative. Jio’s work embodies everything I love about contemporary women’s fiction. I’m not sure I can do the story justice, so here’s the description in her own words:
A sweeping saga of thwarted love, murder, and a long-lost painting… In the summer of 1942, twenty-one-year-old Anne Calloway, newly engaged, sets off to serve in the Army Nurse Corps on the Pacific island of Bora-Bora. More exhilarated by the adventure of a lifetime than she ever was by her predictable fiancé, she is drawn to a mysterious soldier named Westry, and their friendship soon blossoms into hues as deep as the hibiscus flowers native to the island. under the thatched roof of an abandoned beach bungalow, the two share a private world–until they witness a gruesome crime, Westry is suddenly redeployed, and the idyll vanishes into the winds of war. A timeless story of enduring passion, The Bungalow chronicles Anne’s determination to discover the truth about the twin losses–of life and, and of love–that have haunted her for seventy years.
As I read, I could practically taste the salt in the air, with the trade winds gently mussing my hair. Granted, the salt was likely from my icy walkway and the wind from a faulty fireplace damper, but for the time I spent reading this book, I had completely and utterly escaped the clutches of winter. And for that moment in the snow and the slush of 2012, it was enough.
So, even though Mother Nature may not have had the last word yet, we’ve definitely broken the back of winter.
Spring is coming, and with the help of a good book, likely sooner than you think.
Jen Lancaster is a New York Times bestselling author. Read an Excerpt from her latest novel: Twisted Sisters.