As a remedy for the grey, gloomy weather the winter months bring, I have several literary candidates, each a sure way to alleviate the weight of the grey skies and spark hope in the heart.
One solution which I find very effective is to indulge in pure escapism with a fantasy book. This is not always a simple task, however. There are many fantasy novels which I have read, loved and got utterly lost in, but which weren’t suited to the this particular season. A lot of fantasy can be heavy and political so for this particular task of pure enjoyment, I would nominate Senlin Ascends by Josiah Bancroft.
Unlike the more typical fantasy novels, Senlin Ascends avoids the trudge and horror that can spring from a fantasy setting. Now, this isn’t to say that it doesn’t have its darker side – it most certainly does – but on top of all that is a wonderful journey. The reader is as much a passenger up the Tower of Babel as Senlin himself and it is a joy to discover all the weird and wonderful inventions of the tower right along with him. This adventure in innovation can be daunting and confusing at times, but for the most part, the childish glee of discovering the new overrides all else and will pull you from any winter gloom.
Sometimes, beyond a distraction in a magical land, we just want to smile and for that I can suggest no one more highly than Terry Pratchett
But of course sometimes, beyond a distraction in a magical land we just want to smile and for that I can suggest no one more highly than Terry Pratchett. Having read the first few of his Discworld novels, I know that they are always a quick treat that I look forward to. They never fail to make me laugh out loud (even when in public, I must confess) and the total whimsical madness that ensues in each novel is so ridiculous that it makes any troubles in the real world seem equally trivial. Not only this, but there are so many of them that I often think of them as my pick-me-up stash and one that will last for quite a while.
My final suggestion would be a different kind of book all together. Stephen King’s collection of four novellas, Different Seasons, almost seems tailor made for this purpose. Each of the stories within are assigned to a – surprise, surprise – different season. While I wouldn’t recommend reading Apt Pupil or The Breathing Method at this time of the year (they’re more likely to bring you further down than to lift you up), I would definitely recommend both the spring and summer stories, Rita Hayworth and The Shawshank Redemption and The Body.
Both of these stories have been made into successful films (The Shawshank Redemption and Stand By Me) but in each case, I loved the source material and would recommend them to anyone. Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption does have some very dark moments of despair, as you might expect from an author like King, but behind it all there’s a constant glint of hope. And likewise with The Body, despite the narrative centring around a hunt to find a dead body, the story is primarily one of self-discovery and childhood friendship. Both feature endearing characters who find the light in the dark and who can serve as inspiring role models for the cold winter months when we need exactly that.