As I write this, I'm sitting at my computer on a small enclosed porch in the upstairs of my house. I am, essentially, in the treetops.
From the big windows I can watch the ever-busy squirrels, the woodpeckers pounding away at the suet feeder, the upside-down nuthatches hopping up and down the tree trunks. There are rabbit tracks in the snow.
Everything I can see is gray, white or brown.
I love winter, but somewhere around mid-January I start craving color. Here are 10 books to remind me that the world is mostly vivid and that eventually our landscape will be filled with color once again.
"The Yellow House," by Sarah M. Broom: This memoir won the National Book Award for nonfiction and the National Book Critics Circle Award for best debut. The house is one that Broom's mother bought in East New Orleans when she was just 19. It became a refuge for extended family but after Hurricane Katrina it was razed. In Broom's capable hands, the yellow house becomes more than a home — it becomes a symbol of Black America.
"A Study in Scarlet," by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: The first Sherlock Holmes novel. Originally published in 1887, the mystery revolves around the discovery of a corpse in a London house with the word "Rache" scrawled in blood nearby.
"The Color Purple," by Alice Walker: Winner of a Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award, the novel is set in the American South in the early 1900s and tells the story of several poor Black women. One message of this powerful book: Keep fighting. Never give up.
"The Scarlet Letter," by Nathaniel Hawthorne: Published in 1850, the novel is set in Puritan America. It's the story of Hester Prynne, who conceives a child out of wedlock and is forced to wear the scarlet "A" for adultery on her clothing.
"A Clockwork Orange," by Anthony Burgess: Not for the faint of heart, Burgess' dystopian novel is set in the not-too-distant future and centers on an extremely violent youth culture and the attempts by the state to control them.
"Half of a Yellow Sun" by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: Set during the Nigerian Civil War, the novel tells the story of the war through the lives of three characters.
"Blue Highways," by William Least Heat-Moon: In this memoir, the author travels only the "blue highways" on a road map — the back roads and roads least traveled — looking for the real America.
"Between Shades of Gray," by Ruta Sepetys: I realize we're looking for color here and not more gray, but this book is so splendid and was so overshadowed by the porn novel of a similar name that I need to mention it again. Made into a film ("Ashes in the Snow"), the young-adult novel is the gripping, tragic story of a Lithuanian family deported to Siberia by the Soviets during World War II.
"Island of the Blue Dolphins," by Scott O'Dell: Based on the true story of "the lone woman," the last survivor of the native Nicoleno population who lived on California's San Nicolas Island alone after the rest of her people were massacred. "Island," a novel, won the Newbery Medal in 1961.
"The Green Road," by Anne Enright: The far-flung members of the Madigan family return to the family home in County Clare for Christmas, bringing angst and dissatisfaction with them. Of course.
Enjoy your winter. Look forward to spring.
Laurie Hertzel is the Star Tribune senior editor for books. On Facebook: www.facebook.com/startribunebooks