Make the Most of Winter

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Make the Most of Winter

Books to help you survive (or even celebrate) the coldest season

After the friendly and familial reunions, comfort food, and celebrations at the end of the year, turning the corner into January can sometimes seem like a slide right into the darkest heart of winter. Sometimes it feels like the sun never shines, and when it does, it seems colder than ever. At least we had a significant snowfall, so if you're a snow lover like me, there's plenty of the white stuff to enjoy. But if you don't like it, and you don't like the cold, you're stuck indoors. New year’s resolutions are a great idea in theory but January feels like the worst time to start something new. Change is for the spring! And, sadly, winter 2019 might seem especially bitter as we grit through a shutdown. 

If you’re finding yourself mired in winter blahs, going stir crazy due to cabin fever, or in need of a fresh perspective on the season everyone loves to hate, here’s a list of books that might help you view the season with fresh eyes... or perhaps see it as something to celebrate. 

The Snowflake: Winter's Frozen Artistry by Kenneth Libbrecht and Rachel Wing
Authors Libbrecht and Wing are a physicist and park ranger, respectively, and they dive deep into the beauty and science of winter’s emblem, the snowflake. While this book would be captivating for the microphotography of snow crystals alone, it also explains the science behind the creation of snowflakes, from their formation in clouds to their facets and branches. It also covers the history of snowflake hunting, and includes references to snowflakes in art and literature. Overall, a beautiful look at a very tiny structure that makes up a huge part of the winter experience.

The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living by Meik Wiking

Hygge - pronounced hoo-ga - is a Danish concept that doesn’t directly translate to English, but is all about feeling cozy, contented, and connected to others. Author Meik Wiking, the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen, Denmark, describes it as “an atmosphere and an experience… about being with the people we love. A feeling of home. A feeling that we are safe." What better time to explore those experiences than the winter? Wiking’s book serves as a primer for the Danish philosophy and offers advice for incorporating it into your own life, with tips for dressing hygge, making your home more hygge, and more.

Winter World: The Ingenuity of Animal Survival by Bernd Heinrich

This is an insider's exploration of the natural world and how animals of all varieties have adapted to survive harsh winters. You probably know that many animals hibernate, but did you know that nursing young black bears continue to feed and survive through the winter, even though their mothers drink or urinate very little? Or that several common North American frog species freeze to the point that their hearts stop and they are essentially dead, only to revive again in the spring? The book features charming illustrations throughout by the author. Bernd Heinrich is a professor emeritus of biology at the University of Vermont, and has written a number of books on animals, insects, and the natural world.

The Winter Table: Fireside Feasts for Family and Friends by Lisa Lemke

Summer shouldn’t hold the monopoly on food made with in-season ingredients. Take your winter comfort food game to the next level with recipes that showcase the best of the season. Swedish television chef Lisa Lemke has compiled recipes that make the most of cold-weather crops like onions, beets, and more, with dishes that will surprise such as a risotto made with rye. Many of the over 75 recipes fall into the one pot or one pan category and the book features color photographs and notes throughout, making this a seasonal staple for chefs of all levels.

The Joy of Forest Bathing: Re-connect with Wild Places and Rejuvenate Your Life by Melanie Choukas-Bradley  

Forest bathing - sometimes called forest or nature therapy - is the practice of reconnecting with nature through spending quiet, reflective time in it, whether in a park, forest, or your own backyard. Choukas-Bradley is the local D.C. author of A Year in Rock Creek Park and City of Trees: the Complete Field Guide to the Trees of Washington, D.C., among others, and is a certified nature and forest therapy guide. She provides a simple, easy to understand introduction to this contemplative practice which can help you disconnect from modern stressors by reconnecting with the beauty of trees, plants, and animals. The chapter on “Forest Bathing Through the Seasons” doesn’t skimp on the winter section, which paints a vivid picture of the pleasures to be found in following animal tracks in the snow or contemplating bare branches contrasted against the sky.

Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing
This one is good for when you don’t feel like venturing out into the cold yourself but wish to live vicariously through others’ bravery. In 1914, Ernest Shackleton and his crew set out from England to explore Antarctica. After months of travel and only a day shy of their destination, their ship, Endurance, became trapped in the ice pack where it remained for 10 months before being crushed by the ice. The sinking of the ship is just the beginning of an incredible journey that remains one of the most amazing adventure stories of the 20th century.