Not sure what happened to that polar vortex that was predicted, but this has been a mild winter. Unless we get a blizzard in March — which is almost a certainty, isn’t it? — spring might come early.
That said, it is still February, and we’re still looking for big, engrossing books (or, as one reader put it, “bloated books”) to while away the dark evenings.
Last month I wrote about books to read in deep wintertime, and I’m chagrined to see so many readers writing in to defend “Moby-Dick,” which admittedly I had slandered. I will read it! Someday. As soon as I retire. It’s first on my list. Or, possibly, second.
Thank goodness for Mark Luther of Minnetonka, who agreed with me. He said: “Regarding ‘Moby-Dick,’ I too read it and it was not pleasurable at all to read. If you can tell me why this book is such a classic I would like to know. The whole crew died except Ishmael (I think). Great day when I finished and could archive the book on my Nook. P.S. ‘Anna Karenina’ was a good book.”
Mary-Clare Bates, who lives in northeast Minneapolis, liked “Moby-Dick,” but I got the sense she likes long books in general. “Some other classic fiction reads that are thoroughly enjoyable albeit bloated are ‘David Copperfield,’ ‘Bleak House,’ ‘Middlemarch’ and ‘Don Quixote,’ ” she wrote.
She went on to say: “However, my favorite books to read in the winter evoke a strong appreciation for cozy blankets and hot cocoa, such as the ones listed here:
“ ‘The Singing Wilderness,’ by Sigurd Olson; a collection of North Woods essays for all four seasons, but winter is my favorite. In the chapter ‘Coming of Snow,’ he writes, ‘Those first drifting snowflakes are a benediction.’
“ ‘The Gift of the Deer,’ by Helen Hoover. The deer that visit Helen and her husband, Adrian, over the course of four years are the central characters. Winter is the season when bonds are foraged between humans and deer as they both struggle with the elements in northern Minnesota.
“ ‘South,’ by Ernest Shackleton. You may have read Caroline Alexander’s ‘The Endurance,’ but there is nothing like experiencing this adventure through Shackleton’s eyes. I shivered when he and his crew shivered. I celebrated when his crew celebrated. This book gives you a healthy respect for snow and ice.
“ ‘H Is for Hawk,’ by Helen MacDonald. While not a winter book per se, it is about the winter in Helen’s life as she works through grief and depression with the help of a goshawk named Mabel.”
Joe Harbin of St. Paul writes: “I was a history major and I found ‘War and Peace’ more interesting than ‘Anna,’ but I know most critics rate ‘Anna’ as Tolstoy’s best novel. I’ve read ‘Moby’ twice and enjoyed it greatly, apart maybe from the graphic descriptions of whales’ deaths and processing. Christopher Hitchens suggested that ‘Moby’ might still be the great American novel and I rarely disagree with his opinions.”
Harbin likes to read series in winter: John Dos Passos’ USA trilogy, Ford Madox Ford's Parade's End series, and Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin historical novels.
Meanwhile, Barry Rosenman recommends the mammoth novel “The Crimson Petal and the White,” by Michel Faber.
“The novel is set in Victorian England in London and the countryside,” Rosenman writes. The main characters are William Rackham; his mistress, Sugar (a former prostitute), and Rackham’s wife, Agnes. “Wonderful characters and a great deal of detail of everyday life.”
There you have it! Bring on the compelling, engrossing, bloated books. If these titles, and a vat of cocoa, don’t get you through winter, nothing will.
Laurie Hertzel is the Star Tribune senior editor for books. On Twitter: @StribBooks. On Facebook: facebook.com/startribunebooks