21 Books To Read While You Ride Out Winter

Because you’d have to be insane to go out.

February 19, 2016
21 Books To Read While You Ride Out Winter Photo by AFP / Stringer / Getty Images

A remarkable winter deserves remarkable books. For all its dalliances at the warmer end of the spectrum, the 2015-2016 cold season in New York has turned into quite an unpredictable, toothy little bitch. Since the vagaries of Winter Storm Jonas and unpredictable bouts of freezing sleet have rendered planning even a day or two in advance nothing more than sketches of intention, it's wise to stock up on some substantial reading, just in case. We recommend keeping a good music biography—Ruth Pointer or The Replacements will do, some world-shaking poetry (try Dead Beat and Blood) and some really strong fiction at arm's reach. We've compiled stories of sexual awakenings, a tragicomic intergenerational prostitute ghost tale, and some books that will truly change your life (read Random Family immediately). So even when you have to cancel plans—cough cough, we're sick—at the last moment, you'll never truly be alone.

1. The Castle Cross The Magnet Carter: A Novel, Kia Corthron

Fiction, Pages: 800, Published: January 2016.


Playwright and TV writer Kia Corthron (The Wire) makes her book debut with a 700+ pager that re-imagines the Great American Novel. It's the story of two families—one white, one black—enduring and resisting the upheaval of the Civil Rights era, told with the intimacy and fervor of a writer who has spent years fine-tuning dialogue. Get it here.

2. Tex, Beau Rice

Memoir (kinda), Pages: 252, Published: November 2014.


Described as a "performance act in print," Beau Rice's Tex is 252 pages of text messages between the writer and an ex-hookup named "Matt G." It's part emoji-stuffed memoir, part unhinged document of unrequited love. Get it here.

3. The Late Bourgeois World, Nadine Gordimer

Fiction, Pages: 96, Published: February 1983.


This brisk novel by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Nadine Gordimer is currently out of print, but don't let that throw you off this slim, brilliant text. This story about the world shifting underneath your feet follows a widower deciding whether to join the South African black nationalist movement. Its frustrations, summed up by its epigraph from Franz Kafka, "There are possibilities for me, certainly; but under what stone do they lie," translate just fine to 2016. Get it here.

4. Trouble Boys: The True Story Of The Replacements, Bob Mehr

Nonfiction, Pages: 502, Published: March 2016.

You would be remiss to miss this exhaustive, authorized bio. Get it here.

5. Women In Public, Elaine Kahn

Poetry, Pages: 101, Published: April 2015.

You can read this amazing book of poetry over the course of just one substantial subway ride. It has squishy imagery and also really good metaphors to make you feel things. "A Voluptuous Dream During An Eclipse" is probably our favorite, but we love every single one of these poems. Get it here.

6. Giovanni's Room, James Baldwin

Fiction, Pages: 176, Published: 1956.

Is there any better book for the last miserable dregs of winter than this heartbreaking and moving classic? Get it here.

7. Beauty Is A Wound, Eka Kurniawan

Fiction, Pages: 384, Published: September 2015.

A tragicomic intergenerational ghost story about a legendary prostitute and her four daughters that also functions as a critique of Indonesia's political and historical record. Get it here.

8. Call Me by Your Name, André Aciman

Fiction, Pages 256, Published: January 2008.

A story about a pretty controversial sexual awakening. Ello's story can maybe give you hope for a better existence in the spring, but also a reality check that realized dreams never really pan out as you hope. Get it here.

9. Random Family, Adrian Nicole LeBlanc

Nonfiction, Pages: 432, Published: 2003.

Trying to summarize Random Family could only do this sprawling work of journalism an immense disservice. LeBlanc's years spent living with multiple generations of a family in the Bronx led her to writing the most coherent and compassionate portrait of poverty's labyrinthine cycles. Get it here.

10. Still So Excited!: My Life As A Pointer Sister, Ruth Pointer

Memoir, Pages: 256 Published: February 2016.

Ruth Pointer's memoir documents her time with the The Pointer Sisters, the trailblazing, Grammy-winning girl group who first found fame in the ’70s. It’s a brutally honest account—she is perhaps hardest on herself—of the damage that stratospheric fame can inflict, and a cautionary tale for those enamored with the excesses of the music business. But it’s Pointer's endless wit and wisdom that’ll keep you turning pages. What a legend. Get it here.

11. Love's Executioner And Other Tales Of Psychotherapy, Irvin D. Yalom

Memoir, Pages: 312, Published: 1989.

If you're only going to read one book this winter, it might have to be this one. While the corny cover and title initially threw us off, nothing could have prepared us for the well of introspection, thrills, and emotional revelations this book contains. Described by the San Francisco-based psychotherapist on whom In Treatment was based, the broken souls who wander through Yalom's waiting room are each engaging enough to merit their own book, but their chapter-sized stories are wholly fulfilling. Get it here.

12. A Manual for Cleaning Women, Lucia Berlin

Short Stories, Pages: 432, Published: August 2015.

Lucia Berlin had four children and a few divorces, scoliosis as a kid and alcoholism after, a younger sister who died of a cancer, a mother who committed suicide late in life. She lived in interesting places and worked interesting day jobs—in hospitals, or cleaning houses—and, starting in the 1960s, began obliquely translating her life into one of the most immersive collections of short stories maybe ever. Get it here.

13. Not Me, Eileen Myles

Poetry, Pages: 216, Published: June 1991.

Eileen Myles is having a moment. This book opens with her most famous poem, "An American Poem," which is just as beautiful and pertinent as it was when she wrote it 25 years ago—Listen, I have been educated./ I have learned about Western/ Civilization. Do you know/ what the message of Western/ Civilization is? I am alone./ Am I alone tonight?/ I don’t think so. Get it here.

14. Dread Beat And Blood, Linton Kewsi Johnson

Poetry, Pages: 72, Published: December 1975.

Linton Kwesi Johnson's poetry collection Dread Beat And Blood eventually became a seminal dub album of the same name, and for good reason. Johnson's piercing, dialect-filled verses were as relevant to black immigrants dodging police rage in Brixton in 1975 as they are to Brooklynites doing the same four decades later. Get it here.

15. You Too Can Have A Body Like Mine, Alexandra Kleeman

Fiction, Pages: 304, Published: August 2015.

Your roommate, the grocery store, and prepackaged pastries will never look, taste, sound, feel, be the same after reading this visceral book. Get it here.

16. Love Me Back: A Novel, Merritt Tierce.

Fiction, Pages: 224, Published: 2014.

Read this, and then go out and buy a copy for your mom. Get it here.

17. Sing To Me, L.A. Reid

Memoir, Pages: 400, Published: February 2016.

Really obsessed with L.A. Reid's memoir Sing to Me. Lots of music gossip—one of the best anecdotes being Jay Z asking Usher during a late-night smoke session why he was "not as big" as him or Beyoncé. Super motivational with lots of lessons about how to blaze your own trail in life. Get it here.

18. The Birds, Tarjei Vessas & Waste, Eugene Marten

The Birds: Fiction, Pages: 224, Published: 1968.
Waste: Fiction, Pages: 116, Published: 2008.

These two novellas from the perspectives of intellectually disabled adult men—one completely alone, the other codependent with a sister, both profoundly affected by death—pair up for interesting back-to-back reading. Vessas writes mostly of beauty, Marten of ugliness, or maybe they’re both about how it’s hard to tell which is which. Get The Birds and Waste.

19. Newspaper, Édouard Levé

Fiction, Pages: 150, Published: September 2015.

Levé was a multidisciplinary French artist whose best known writing was probably Suicide, which is also how he died, almost immediately after turning the book in to his publisher. That event certainly colors his earlier, recently translated experimental novel Newspaper, a jagged survey of life in the 2000s comprised entirely of excerpts of fictional journalism—stories about war, sports, entertainment. Individually, the imagined stories are banal, too realistic to be interesting. You read them quickly, skimming to see if something happens, until you start to feel the sum total, and the pointlessness becomes terrifying. Get it here.

20. Let Them Call It Jazz, Jean Rhys

Short Stories, Pages: 96, Published: 1962.

These three short stories, taken as a whole, form a gripping, troubling, and musical vision of pre-war London. Get it here.

21. Witches Of America, Alex Mar & The Witches: Salem, 1692, Stacy Schiff

Witches Of America: Nonfiction, Pages: 288, Published: October 2015.
The Witches: Salem, 1692: Nonfiction, Pages: 512, Published: October 2015.

Witches then vs. Witches now. Get The Witches: Salem, 1692 and Witches of America here.

21 Books To Read While You Ride Out Winter