Your Frostbitten Reading List

In 2009, Shane Jones published a novel called Light Boxes, which imagined what it would be like if a town were trapped in a perpetual February—and then decided to fight back against it. Every year since, when this month rolls around, we come back to this book, which is braided with magical, transportive imagery that practically blows icy gusts of wind from its pages. Today, Jones shares a list of the novels he reads when he's looking for a book that can go toe-to-toe with the cruelest month.

I first got the idea for my novel, Light Boxes, in 2003 when I was living in Buffalo, NY, as a college student. Looking back, I think I was seriously depressed, spending most of the day in bed wrapped in a large green blanket. My roommate at the time didn't think I was depressed, but that it was a case of "February." Winter in Buffalo is cold, dark, and it snows constantly. You kind of give up in February. So my roommate and I began saying "Fuck February" and soon a kind of higher-being, a character, grew out of it. Four years later I would come back to this idea and begin writing Light Boxes—a book about a town that fights a war against the month of February.

Here are five other books to read during the worst month of the year, to aid your fight against the winter:

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Chilly Scenes of Winter by Ann Beattie

One of the funniest and saddest books I've ever read. For those of you who are detached, but really want to connect to other people as you sit in your apartment alone all day eating soup, this is for you.

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Icelander by Dustin Long

This is a fun and dreamy novel that takes place in a fantastical Iceland with philosophical investigators, underground tunnels, and "250-pound Norwegian thugs." I recommend reading this while baking cookies, sitting on your kitchen floor, wrapped in a blanket.

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In the Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje

This novel takes place in snowy Toronto, Canada, in the 1930s. When I lived in Buffalo I visited Toronto often, which was also cold and snowy, but not nearly as depressing as Buffalo. I just really love Toronto and wanted to put this book on this list.

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Correction by Thomas Bernhard

If you feel at all insane during February this may put you over the top. That's why I'm including it. The book is about a guy who becomes obsessed with building his sister the perfect "cone" to live in. There's lots of discussion about being isolated in an Austrian forest, which is exactly what February feels like to me.

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Winter Chemistry by Joy Williams

This is a short story, so I have officially failed to list five novels and probably won't receive payment for this list. I think short stories are perfect winter reading because they're always in "attack mode" which is what you need to win the war against February. Williams describes the cold as lying: "powerfully encamped—waiting, altering one's ambitions, encouraging ends." Yup.

All of these books are available at

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