It’s never too early to start planning for the winter holidays. In fact, if you’re looking to get a head start on your reading list, we’ve got you covered with our 2021 Winter Reading Guide. This year’s selection features something for everyone, from thrilling page-turners to heartwarming tales of family and friendship. So sit back, relax, and let us help you get ready for a great reading season!
About The 2021 Winter Reading Guide
The 2021 BiblioLifestyle Winter Reading Guide is here, and I’m thrilled for it to be out in the world! After all, the short, cold winter days beg for blankets, hot beverages, and lots of good books.
This year’s reading guide has a total of forty books, and all books in the guide are organized into categories, so you can head straight to your favorite section if you prefer. Because we’re all about lifestyle here, you will also find some fun recipes and things to do at home. There are also some tips to help you improve your reading life.
- Get our latest Winter Reading Guide here.
- If you’re looking for only a handful of books, check out our Minimalist Reads list from The 2021 Winter Reading Guide.
- If you’re keen on picking up a classic novel, check out our list of classic novels to read in the winter.
More About The 2021 Winter Reading Guide
Thousands of books will be gracing bookshelves this winter, and I haven’t read them all. What I have done is selected my favorites from the books I have read. I then organized them into categories. I’ve also included publication dates so you’ll know what comes out when (although these dates may change).
Some of these titles have heavy themes, so if you need trigger warnings, please email me at hello[at]bibliolifestyle[dot]com, and I will do my best to advise you accordingly. I also recommend using The StoryGraph for trigger warnings as well.
Above all, reading is a personal experience! I’ve included summaries to help you decide if that book sounds right for you based on your taste, interests, and current reading mood.
If you like what I’ve put together in The Winter Reading Guide, please share the guide’s homepage on your favorite social media channels or directly with your favorite bookish friends. Don’t forget to tag @bibliolifestyle and use the hashtag #bibliolifestyleWRG in your posts so we can also see what you’re reading.
I hope you’ll find plenty of books you love in this guide, and I’m looking forward to hearing about your favorites!
Books from The 2021 Winter Reading Guide
The Historians by Cecilia Ekbäck
It is 1943, and Sweden’s neutrality in the war is under pressure. Laura Dahlgren, the bright, young right-hand of the chief negotiator to Germany, is privy to these tensions, even as she tries to keep her head down in the mounting fray. However, when Laura’s best friend from university, Britta, is discovered murdered in cold blood, Laura is determined to find the killer.
Yellow Wife by Sadeqa Johnson
Born on a plantation in Virginia, Pheby Delores Brown has lived a privileged life. Freedom has been promised to her, but instead of the idyllic life she imagined, she finds herself at the infamous “Devil’s Half-Acre,” a jail where the enslaved are broken, tortured, and sold. A harrowing story that follows an enslaved woman forced to barter love and freedom while living in the most infamous slave jail in Virginia.
Meet Me in Bombay by Jenny Ashcroft
It’s New Year’s Eve in Bombay, 1913, and Madeline Bright, new to the sweltering heat of colonial India, is yearning for all she has left behind in England. But then, at the stroke of midnight, Maddy meets Luke Devereaux, and as the year changes, so do both of their lives.
The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah
Texas, 1934. Millions are out of work, and drought has broken the Great Plains. In this uncertain and dangerous time, Elsa Martinelli, like so many of her neighbors, must make an agonizing choice: fight for the land she loves or go west, to California, in search of a better life.
The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charle
Based on the actual World War II story of the heroic librarians at the American Library in Paris, this is an unforgettable story of romance, friendship, family, and the power of literature to bring us together.
The Slaughterman’s Daughter by Yaniv Iczkovits
Fanny felt an inexorable pull toward her father’s profession of ritual slaughterer and, under his reluctant guidance, became a master with a knife. Though she has given up the profession, she still keeps the knife tied to her right leg, which might come in handy when heedless of the dangers facing a Jewish woman traveling alone in czarist Russia. An irresistible, adventurous tale of two Jewish sisters.
Featherhood by Charlie Gilmour
A wry, moving story of a young man who, as his estranged father is dying, saves a baby magpie only to find that caring for the mischievous bird has, in fact, saved him.
The Crown in Crisis by Alexander Larman
An hour-by-hour, suspenseful day-by-day narrative that gives a thrilling new view of the Abdication Crisis of 1936. Informed by never-before-seen material, interviews with many of Edward’s and Wallis’s close friends, and the roles played by those that supported and stood against him.
We Need to Hang Out by Billy Baker
The story of a middle-aged everyman who realizes he doesn’t have any close friends inspires him to set out on a humorous and ultimately moving quest to revive old tribes and build new ones, all with the goal of having someone to hang out with on Wednesday nights.
Two Truths and a Lie by Ellen McGarrahan
A journalist turned private investigator revisits the case that has haunted her for decades — the execution of Jesse Tafero, a man convicted of murdering two police officers in 1990. When it later emerged that Tafero may have been innocent, McGarrahan decided to find out the truth.
Surviving the White Gaze by Rebecca Carroll
Rebecca Carroll grew up the only black person in her rural New Hampshire town. Adopted at birth, her life changed when she met her birth mother. Her memoir explores the tension between the aching desire for her birth mother’s acceptance, the loyalty she feels toward her adoptive parents, and the search for her racial identity.
Speak, Okinawa by Elizabeth Miki Brina
A searing, profoundly candid memoir about a young woman’s journey to understanding her complicated parents — her mother, an Okinawan war bride, her father, a Vietnam veteran — and her fraught cultural heritage. An exploration of identity, inheritance, and forgiveness.
The Barbizon by Paulina Bren
The story of New York’s most glamorous women-only residential hotel and the women, both famous and ordinary, who passed through its doors The Barbizon offered its residents a room of their own and air to breathe, unfettered from family obligations and expectations It gave women a chance to remake themselves however they pleased.
The Babysitter by Liza Rodman, Jennifer Jordan
A chilling true story that’s part memoir, part crime investigation — about a little girl longing for love and how she found friendship with her charismatic babysitter, who was also a vicious serial killer.
Summerwater by Sarah Moss
A park in the Scottish Highlands is the site of tension and unease for a group of vacationing strangers. Suspenseful and intimate, we see family life in various stages framed by nature, which becomes a character. An exploration of our capacity for kinship and cruelty and a gorgeous evocation of the natural world that bears eternal witness.
Trio by William Boyd
Summer 1968 was a time of war, assassinations, protests, and riots. While the world is reeling, our trio is involved in making a disaster-plagued, Swingin’ Sixties British movie in sunny Brighton. All are leading secret lives, and as the movie shoots zigs and zags, these layers of secrets become increasingly more untenable.
The Removed by Brandon Hobson
A novel about a fractured family reckoning with the tragic death of their son. Steeped in Cherokee myths and history, blending the real and spiritual, to dig deep into the reverberations of trauma. A meditation on family, grief, home, and the power of stories on both a personal and ancestral level.
We Play Ourselves by Jen Silverman
After a humiliating scandal, Cass, a young playwright in New York, flees to Los Angeles to escape and reinvent herself. There she is drawn into the morally ambiguous orbit of a charismatic filmmaker and the teenage girls who are her next subjects in a semidocumentary movie. When a girl goes missing, Cass must reckon with her own ambitions.
The Delivery by Peter Mendelsund
Set in an unnamed city, one such citizen finds himself working for a company that makes its money dispatching an army of undocumented refugees to bring the well-off men and women of this confounding metropolis their dinners. Harrowing and hilarious, The Delivery is an exploration of the ways language and commerce unites and isolates every one of us, native and immigrant both.
Dark Horses by Susan Mihalic
Roan’s relationship with her father has long been inappropriate. She has been able to compartmentalize that aspect of her life by focusing on her Olympic ambitions as a rider. But her developing relationship with a boy her own age changes everything. A darkly gripping debut novel about a teenage girl’s fierce struggle to reclaim her life from her abusive father.
Infinite Country by Patricia Engel
With grim prospects in Bogotá, a young family sets their sights on the United States. As their family expands, they plunge into undocumented status. When Mauro is deported, Elena is now tasked with caring for their three small children. She makes a difficult choice that will ease her burdens but splinter the family even further. A novel about a mixed-status Colombian family fractured by deportation.
Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro
Klara is an Artificial Friend, a solar-powered humanlike robot designed to be a child’s companion. Klara is eventually bought by teenager Josie. When Josie becomes seriously ill, Klara pleads with the sun to make her well again and confronts the boundary between service and sacrifice. A dystopian novel with a provocative look at a disturbing near future.
Mysteries and Thrillers
The Woman Outside My Door by Rachel Ryan
A thrilling page-turner about a young mother who can’t shake the feeling that her son’s “imaginary” friend is putting him in genuine danger, and she will stop at nothing to keep him safe.
Before She Disappeared by Lisa Gardner
Frankie Elkin is a recovering alcoholic with more regrets than belongings. But she spends her life doing what no one else will — searching for missing people the world has stopped looking for. When a Haitian teenager vanished from her high school, Frankie stopped at nothing to discover the truth, even if it meant the next person to go missing could be her.
Possession by Katie Lowe
Ten years ago, Hannah’s husband was brutally murdered in their home, and she doesn’t remember a thing about that night. Instead, the police charged someone else, and Hannah packed up her daughter and left London behind. But now a viral true-crime podcast has turned its attention to her husband’s murder for its new season.
Magpie Lane by Lucy Atkins
When the eight-year-old daughter of an Oxford College Master vanishes in the middle of the night, police turn to the Scottish nanny, Dee, for answers. Roaming through Oxford’s secret passages and hidden graveyards, Magpie Lane explores the true meaning of family and what it is to be denied one.
The Downstairs Neighbor by Helen Cooper
Emma often overhears the seemingly perfect family upstairs from her downstairs apartment. Until one day, she hears something their daughter Freya has vanished. An addicting and twisty novel about an apartment building devastated by the disappearance of a teenage girl — and by the secrets that won’t be kept behind each closed door.
Who is Maud Dixon? by Alexandra Andrews
Florence believes that she’s destined to be a famous writer. So when she stumbles into a job as the assistant to the brilliant, enigmatic novelist known as Maud Dixon — it appears the universe is finally providing Florence’s big chance. Taut, twisty, and viciously entertaining — a psychological thriller about how far into the darkness you’re willing to go to claim the life you always wanted.
Love at the Icicle Cafe by Denise N. Wheatley
California lawyer Mina Richards spent her childhood helping her mom bake at their winter-themed café. So when her retired parents want to sell café, Mina returns to facilitate the sale. But faced with Scott, her childhood friend and crush who doesn’t want to sell, Mina’s plan quickly falls apart.
Love Songs for Skeptics by Christina Pishiris
What if, despite what all the songs and movies say, your first love isn’t necessarily the right one? In the wake of a life-changing choice, Zo must decide if she’s right to be skeptical about love or if it’s simply time to change her tune.
Happy Singles Day by Ann Marie Walker
As a Certified Professional Organizer, everything in Paige Parker’s world is as it should be. As the owner of a now-dormant bed & breakfast, Lucas Croft’s life is simple and quiet, which is just the way he likes it. But their two worlds collide when Paige books a room that Lucas’ well-intentioned sister listed without his knowledge.
The Ex Talk by Rachel Lynn Solomon
When the struggling radio station needs a new concept, Shay proposes The Ex Talk, a show where two exes will deliver relationship advice live, on air. Their boss decides Shay and Dominic are the perfect co-hosts, given how much they already despise each other. Unfortunately, as the show gets bigger, so does their deception. When Shay and Dominic start to fall for each other, getting caught could mean the end of more than just their careers.
Family and Friendship
The Center of Everything by Jamie Harrison
Since a recent head injury, Polly has struggled with memory problems, remembering too much and too little. Disjointed images of the past haunt her as she prepares for a large family reunion. A beloved friend goes missing, which dredges difficult memories for a family well acquainted with tragedy.
What Could Be Saved by Liese O’Halloran Schwarz
When an American family’s young boy goes missing in Thailand and resurfaces over 40 years later, a family must confront the secrets that shaped their lives for decades—alternating between past and present, a novel about a family shattered by loss and betrayal and the beauty that can exist even amid brokenness.
My Brilliant Life by Ae-ran Kim, translated by Chi-Young Kim
A novel that explores family bonds and out-of-the-ordinary friendships interweaving the past and present of a tight-knit family, finding joy and happiness in even the most difficult times.
Faye, Faraway by Helen Fisher
Faye is a thirty-seven-year-old happily married mother of two young daughters. She lost her mother at age seven but discovered how to travel back in time. She is now obsessed with spending time with her long-lost mother. A novel that movingly examines loss, faith, and love.
Landslide by Susan Conley
A mother whose fisherman husband is hospitalized across the border in a Canadian hospital after a fishing accident struggles to keep it together while caring for her two teenage sons. The crumbling fishing industry her New England community relies on threatens to collapse around them. A compelling and beautiful portrait of a family.
The Kindest Lie by Nancy Johnson
A novel that closely and intimately follows the life of a Black Chicago woman after the 2008 presidential election. It also examines the heartbreaking divide between Black and White communities, an unflinching view of motherhood in contemporary America, and the never-ending quest to achieve the American Dream.
Ladies of the House by Lauren Edmondson
When it’s revealed that her esteemed father was involved in a public scandal before his untimely death, Daisy’s life becomes complicated fast. She plans to maintain a low profile and keep her family intact. But when another twist in the scandal comes to light, she must summon the courage to stand up—a Modern Retelling of Sense and Sensibility.
The Mission House by Carys Davies
Fleeing his demons and contemporary life in the UK, Hilary Byrd takes refuge in a former British hill station in South India and stays in a mission house. But religious tensions are brewing, and the mission house may not be the safe haven it seems. An exploration of post-colonial ideas in a world fractured between faith and non-belief, young and old, imperial past and nationalistic present.
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