If your primary tactic for surviving the winter is to drag a big blanket into a cozy chair and hibernate with the most inspiring books you can find, then these five reads, selected in partnership with Vintage Books, are for you.
The Stars Are Fire
By Anita Shreve
Shreve’s novel draws inspiration from Maine’s history and follows a young woman as she comes into her own after a devastating fire in 1947. The disaster destroys over a quarter of a million acres and ushers in a new life for Grace Holland, whose husband goes missing during the fire. Now effectively a widow with children to raise by herself, Grace begins to build something new from the ashes. As she slowly realizes how stifling her marriage was, she tentatively opens herself up to a new life and new love. Shreve captures the joy of self-discovery in this stunning novel.
By Hope Jahren
Laugh, cry and fall madly in love with the world around you while reading paleobiologist Jahren’s bestselling memoir, an entertaining, spirited look into the world of plant researchers. Whether she’s sharing the challenges of being a female scientist or the unique relationship she has with her lab partner, Jahren displays an effervescent, clear-eyed delight in her subjects, and never more so than in her insights into the natural world. Even if science and nature books aren’t your cuppa, Jahren’s descriptive writing style makes this an enjoyable reading experience for just about anyone.
By Tom Bissell
Take a break from wintry binge-watching with this updated edition of celebrated cultural critic Bissell’s 2012 collection of essays on the act of creating. The 18 passionate essays are an aerobic dance between highbrow and lowbrow, exploring our culture through its creations, whether it’s a sitcom, a documentary on the Iraq War, the cult classic film The Room, David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest or a movie made in Bissell’s hometown in northern Michigan. There’s so much to enjoy here, but it’s a particular pleasure to read his gleeful takedown of how-to books, especially those that will (supposedly) tell you how to write.
Swimming in the Sink
By Lynne Cox
In a straightforward, candid style, Cox shares a comeback tale that’ll have you flipping the pages like you’re reading a thriller instead of an inspiring sports memoir. Legendary open-water swimmer Cox has a unique ability to acclimatize to extreme cold (jealous, much?), which has allowed her to swim the Bering Strait, among other frigid waters. But after the deaths of her parents, Cox was diagnosed with broken heart syndrome, which seemed to mark the end of her swimming life. But behold the power of mindfulness and positivity, because Cox learns to swim again—beginning in her sink.
By Richard Russo
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Russo knows a little something about the human heart, and hope blooms like your most stubborn houseplant in this folksy, poignant tale set in the blue-collar town of North Bath, New York. Centering on down-on-his-luck, 60-year-old Donald “Sully” Sullivan (his knee is bad, he drinks a little too much), it’s a perfect balance of little tragedies and dark comic relief. Once you’ve gotten well acquainted with the town’s wonderful characters—as well as you might any neighbor in a small town—you can pick up Everybody’s Fool, which returns to Sully’s world, 10 years later, for another old-fashioned tale.