A Book List for Long Hibernations

When we aren't living, breathing and bathing in organic cotton, we most certainly enjoy cracking open the spine of a new book; either new to us, or revisiting a favorite title in a new chapter of our own lives. We've collected a list --twenty-one titles to be exact-- of what we are currently reading with one thought in mind: What story will keep us warm through the long winter ahead? Some titles, you may be able to guess who's nightstand it sits on...

Above Photo: Alabama Studio Sewing + Design by Natalie Chanin

1. At Home by Bill Bryson- Another great exploration of the things around us from the travel author, humorist, experiential author Bill Bryson as he takes us through a tour of his home outside of London and provides the fascinating history of the everyday objects that fill our home – and the home itself – telling us the story of how they all came to be including why does a fork generally have three prongs, what does it mean to pay for “room and board” and how exactly do you “sleep tight”?

2. Just Kids by Patti Smith- A memoir of a NY artist during the 70’s when NY became a mythical place for all types of artist. A good picture into old school New York!

3. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving – One of John Irving’s best novel. This novel is funny, sad and brilliant in equal measure. Owen—with his strange voice—thinks he’s an instrument of God and has, unfortunately, accidentally killed his best friend’s mother with a baseball. 

4. Because It Is Bitter, and Because It Is My Heart by Joyce Carol Oates – This novel showcases Joyce Carol Oates’ best writing and her ability to stare unflinchingly into humanity’s soul. The lives of a poor white girl named Iris and a black athlete named Verlyn intersect amid a backdrop of racism and violence in the 1960s. 

5. Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh- The story is set prior to the Opium Wars, on the banks of the holy river Ganges and in Calcutta. The author compares the Ganges to the Nile, the lifeline of the Egyptian civilization, attributing the provenance and growth of these civilizations to these selfless, ever-flowing bodies. He portrays the characters as poppy seeds emanating in large numbers from the field to form a sea, where every single seed is uncertain about its future.

6. Into the Forest by Jean Hegland – Two sisters, Nell and Eva, find themselves orphaned and living alone in the forest, struggling to survive the encroaching world.  Set in post- modern society, this story shows the fierce determination and bond of two young women who refuse to surrender to hopelessness.

7. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon – I read this novel to my middle school-aged sons and it has remained one of our favorite books. Christopher Boone, a quirky, autistic 15-year-old boy is accused of killing his neighbor’s poodle and he sets out to find the killer.

8. Wild by Cheryl Strayed –  Cheryl Strayed faces many challenges—both emotional and physical—in her unprepared quest to hike the Pacific Crest Trail after the loss of her mother, a failed marriage and a self-destructive period of heroin use. This inspirational, page-turner demonstrates the determination and generosity of humankind.

9. Night by Elie Wiesel—A very raw and disturbing memoir of Eilie Wiesel’s time at Auschwitz where he lost his entire family.  Despite witnessing the humiliation and horror that these human beings endured and observed, we glimpse the incredible strength of the human spirit.

10. Before They Pass Away by Jimmy Nelson- Photographer Jimmy Nelson uses a 50-year old techincal plate camera to get exceptionally large negatives that feel surreal, overley detailed like a magnifine glass built into the thick, glossy pages. Before They Pass Away is a homage to the world's most indiguous trides and a reminder of the harmony between man and nature that once was. Worth the price, but another option is to visit the interactive and informative website, http://www.beforethey.com/.

11. Yosemite by Glen Denny- Photographer and filmmaker Glen Denny was among a small group of committed climbers who dropped out of the mainstream of work and society to take up residence at Camp 4 in the 1960s. He captured his fellow climbers' personalities and parties, aspirations and preparations, loves and dreams in black-and-white photographs. This majestic visual record of Yosemite in the 60s includes a foreword by Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia.

12. Amsterdam by Ian McEwen- Former lovers of recently deceased Molly Lane, Vernon Halliday and Clive Linley, enter into a euthanasia accord. Each man, undone by ego and faltering morals, launches into a fatal game of revenge. 

13. The Tortilla Curtain by TC Boyle —The lives of a wealthy Southern California couple are juxtaposed with the lives of two illegal immigrants from Mexico.  Readers will find compassion and understanding for each couple’s struggles. This is a story that questions the prejudices and assumptions of humanity.

14. Where’d You go, Bernadette by Maria Semple- An enjoyable story told through multiple viewpoints using letters, emails, student and patient reports.  The emails (rants) between Bernadette and a virtual assistant in India she has hired to help her plan a much-dreaded family trip to Antarctica, including finding a doctor to prescribe and a pharmacy to deliver an anti-psychotic RX, are fresh and often veer off into hilarious territory.

15. Seven Types of Ambiguity by Elliot Perlman - I loved the writing in Elliot Perlman's Seven Types of Ambiguity and the unique structure of the novel. Each of the seven narrators are distinct and complicated, deeply flawed yet so interesting and entertaining.

16. Sustainable Fashion & Textiles by Kate Fletcher- Innovative ways of thinking about textiles and garments based on sustainability values and an interconnected approach to design. Arranged in two sections, the first four chapters represent key stages of the lifecycle: material cultivation/extraction, production, use and disposal. The remaining four chapters explore design approaches for altering the scale and nature of consumption, including service design, localism, speed and user involvement.

17. The Responsible Company by Yvon Chouinard and Vincent Stanley-  Yvon Chouinard, founder and owner of Patagonia, and Vincent Stanley, co-editor of its Footprint Chronicles, draw on the their 40 years' experience at Patagonia – and knowledge of current efforts by other companies – to articulate the elements of responsible business for our time. If you read Let My People Go Surfing, this is a must.

18. A Fine Balance by Robinton Mistry – Even when you think the lives of the four characters can’t get worse, they do.  Set in India in the 1970’s during the government imposed sterilization, this story of these unlikely friends and their struggles will get under your skin and not let go. 

19. Alabama Studio Sewing + Design by Natalie Chanin An invaluable reference for any woman who has dreamed of creating her own gorgeous handmade wardrobe. In this follow-up to Alabama Stitch Book and Alabama Studio Style, author Natalie Chanin presents all of the stenciling, hand-stitching, and bead¬ing techniques her company uses to create the award-winning Alabama Chanin line of organic cotton clothing, plus more than 50 variations that lead to infinite design possibilities.

20. And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled HosseiniAn unforgettable novel about finding a lost piece of yourself in someone else.

21. A Dual Inheritance by Joanna Hershon- For readers of Rules of Civility and The Marriage Plot, an engrossing novel of passion, friendship, betrayal, and class—and their reverberations across generations.

Have a favorite winter read? Please share!