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The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

Books to pass the time in in the cold winter months

Photo by Rory Donaghy ’24.

As The Mac Weekly heads off to hibernation in the winter months of the holidays and J-Term, we’ll be curling up with a blanket, a warm beverage of choice and some books. For those who prefer to pass the time inside, broadening their minds and getting lost in another world, we’ve compiled a list of recommendations ranging from cozy fireside tales, romance, mystery and more. 

“The Snow Child” — Eowyn Ivey

Set in Alaska in 1920, homesteading couple Jack and Mabel are slowly drifting apart due to the pressures of loneliness, working on their farm and being unable to bear a child. Following the first snowfall in their new home, they build a snow child, who disappears before the following morning. The couple soon encounters a young girl, running through the woods, who seems to be a part of nature itself. “The Snow Child” is a story of love, loss and struggle, and though it passes through the seasons, takes place predominantly in the winter months, where hard-fought lessons are learned.

“By the Shores of Silver Lake” — Laura Ingalls Wilder

An autobiographical historical fiction novel published in 1939, the fifth book in the “Little House on the Prairie” series follows the Ingalls family as they set up house in the Dakota Territory. Alone to survive the winter, the family faces struggles, only to emerge through to the springtime as a town pops up around their homestead. Filled with the threads of manifest destiny and the pressures placed on young girls to fill domestic roles, this book is bittersweet in many ways. For those who choose to follow Laura through the books, you can see how external pressures force her to quickly mature, at the ripe “old” age of 12 and 13. 

“Spinning Silver” — Naomi Novik

In a multi-POV mythical retelling of the classic fairy tale Rumplestiltskin, main character Miryem spins her way into the attentions of major players amongst two realms. The icy and dark Staryk Ice King clashes with the fiery rage of the Tsar daemon, sending the main three characters on a quest to maintain the balance. Novik’s tale is a cold and wintery folktale of clever, determined and cunning women. It incorporates societal stigma, while Novik seamlessly weaves in the meaningfulness of Jewish identity from her personal experience. For those not interested in romance, but who love a fairytale retelling or badass female protagonists, this is an icy cold book to distract you from the icy winds outside. 

“Fourth Wing” — Rebecca Yarros

The beginning of what promises to be a series, “Fourth Wing” combines our two favorite genres of books: fantasy and romance. Centering the life of Violet Sorrengail, we follow the story of a girl destined to be a scholar and librarian but forced instead into the brutal Riders Quadrant at Basgiath War College. The Riders Quadrant is harsh and designed to train dragon riders to be strong and unafraid. Members, in theory, can kill anyone who isn’t in their squad. Violet, with advice from a book written by her dead brother, Brennan, makes her way through the quadrant, getting stronger and more capable with every passing day. Yet despite her training, there is someone out to get her: Xaden Riorson, son of a famous rebel leader whom Violet’s mother executed. But not everything is as it seems with Xaden and the two quickly find themselves drawn into each other’s orbit. Romance, dragons, mystery; what more could you ask of a book?

“The Love Hypothesis” — Ali Hazelwood

This slowburn, fake-dating trope novel is perfect for making you feel all warm and fuzzy inside over the cold winter months, if a little frustrated at how dense both main characters are when it comes to romance. Main character Olive is a PhD candidate whose lab head is about to retire, forcing her to look elsewhere for funding to continue her research. Through a series of accidents and communication errors, she ends up in a “fake” relationship with the most famous professor at her university, propelling her on a course to success, academically and romantically. Though Olive’s concerns might make you a little anxious if you’re a science student yourself, this StarWars inspired book is both mildly frustrating and endearing at the same time. 

“Red, White & Royal Blue” — Casey McQuiston

You may have watched the film when it came out this summer, but did you know there’s also a book version? Two rivals, the son of the American president, Alex, and the prince of England, Henry, are forced to work together to apologize for a very public accident at a royal wedding. But what started as a rivalry soon blooms into something more. The book is set against the backdrop of modern, albeit fictional, politics and what it means to be a young adult in love in such a public position. In true enemies-to-lovers fashion, this book centers romance while also blending in elements of political tension and the concepts of duty and responsibility.  

The Twisted Series — Ana Huang

This four book series follows a series of friends who attend(ed) college together in Washington, D.C. and their less-than-traditional pathways to love. As the title suggests, their stories are fraught with moral and social dilemmas that the characters have to grapple with, all while finding success in their respective careers. The “twisted” nature of the series applies not only to the love interests, but also to the leading ladies, who discover that their own personal lives may be more complicated, and their futures less certain, than they know.

“Iron Widow” — Xiran Jay Zhao

How does one describe “Iron Widow” without feeling like you’re leaving something out? The answer: you can’t; there will always be something about this wonderful book that readers have to discover for themselves. Set in an alternate version of futuristic China, called Huaxia, repeated attacks from alien invaders have led to the creation of giant Chrysalises, robots that require a male and female pilot to run properly. Think “Pacific Rim,” except girls tend to die in the process, being sacrificed for the good of national defense. When Zetian’s sister is sacrificed,  Zetain makes it her mission to find and punish whoever is responsible for her sister’s death. She finds him fairly quickly and manages to pilot the Chrysalis herself, killing him in the process. Dubbed “The Iron Widow,” she is soon paired with Li Shimin, the strongest and most controversial male pilot in Huaxia. Will these two forces destroy each other? Or will they be the answer that Huaxia needs? 

Six of Crows Series — Leigh Bardugo 

For anyone looking for a cozy read, “Six of Crows” may not be for you, but there are moments where the main characters are deep in the northern reaches of their world, freezing and trekking across snow that will remind you of Minnesota in February. Six thieves come together under the direction of crime boss Kaz Brekker to pull off the most ambitious heist ever: break into the Ice Court. Renowned for its impenetrable defenses, the heist won’t be easy and the tensions among the crew certainly don’t help anything, but between the six of them, they might just pull it off.

“Two Can Keep a Secret” — Karen McManus

A mystery novel set in high school might seem juvenile to those reading this newspaper, but for those who enjoy discovering the dark secrets of quiet towns, this book does not disappoint. The story follows main character Ellery through a school year of discovery after moving back to her mother’s old town, where she finds that all the townspeople she meets are a bit more connected than one might think. Though the mystery itself might not be the hardest to unravel, there is a certain charm to feeling able to look ahead to what the characters will discover before they do so. For true crime lovers, looking through Ellery’s eyes will feel comfortable, and the book is overall a fun, balanced and suspenseful read.

“Babel, or the Necessity of Violence”— R.F. Kuang

When young Robin Swift is taken from the husk of his family’s home in Shanghai to the UK, he is trained to join the Royal Institute of Translation, or Babel. The intricacies of translating from one language to another powers magic in Robin’s new world, and Babel itself is the heart of the British Empire’s world dominance with their magical capabilities. In true dark academia fashion, Robin finds a small group of students to bond with and learn alongside before a mysterious figure appears and recruits Robin’s help for a mysterious group intent on the destruction of Babel. A story of friendship, a commentary on imperialism and an ending that will leave you spinning, “Babel” is worth a read for anyone and everyone. 

“These Violent Delights” — Chloe Gong 

Gangsters. Romance. Mystery. Rivalries. In 1926 Shanghai, the Cai family and Montagov families and their respective gangs have been at odds for generations. Their heirs Juliette and Roma are no different. With mutual hatred simmering under the surface, two former lovers turned enemies are quickly forced to work together as members of their gangs start to go crazy and whispers of a contagion quickly whip the city into a terrified frenzy. Now Juliette and Roma are the only ones that can solve the mystery or there will be nothing left of their beloved city. A retelling of “Romeo and Juliet,” but with guns and monsters set against the backdrop of the 1920s is sure to leave anyone dying for more.


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About the Contributors
Lucy Diaz
Lucy Diaz, Managing Editor
Lucy Diaz '24 is a Managing Editor, from Montclair, NJ. She is a biology major with a horrifying combination of minors/concentrations that includes psychology, biochemistry and community & global health. She owns earrings that say "Be Gay do Crimes," a tiny chemistry beaker filled with d20 dice, and knows a lot about medieval european monarchy.
Justine Ballard
Justine Ballard, Features Editor
Justine Ballard '25 (she/they) is an international studies/media and cultural studies double major with and English minor from Washington DC-ish. In her free time, she plays with and Mac Pep Band and plays/watches a lot of DnD while working on her cross-stitch, their COVID hobby that she has stuck with to this day.

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