20 Books to Chase the Chill Away

Chris Schluep on February 07, 2018
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The Super Bowl was held in Minneapolis this year. It was one of the coldest Super Bowls in history—the temperature was minus 6 degrees on Sunday morning, with a wind chill of minus 25 degrees.

That’s cold.

But the game was played in a dome, which provided warmth, beer, hot dogs, and protection from the elements. During this long, cold, snowy, gray, incessantly-rainy-if-you’re-in-the-Pacific-Northwest winter, I’d like to offer up some books to chase the chill away. All of these books are set in warm places. As we endure winter’s final drive, I hope you’ll use them as your own personal dome.


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The Mosquito Coast by Paul Theroux - In a breathtaking adventure story, the paranoid and brilliant inventor Allie Fox takes his family to live in the Honduran jungle, determined to build a civilization better than the one they've left. It is an adventure better read about than attempted.


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Get Shorty by Elmore Leonard - Get Shorty chronicles the over-the-top, sometimes violent Hollywood misadventures of a Florida mob loan shark who chases a deadbeat client all the way to Tinseltown and decides to stick around and make movies.

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The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann - In 1925, British explorer Percy Fawcett ventured into the Amazon jungle, in search of a fabled civilization. He never returned. Journalist David Grann tells Fawcett's story at the same time that he recounts his own journey into the jungle.


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The Summer Girls by Mary Alice Monroe -Set on Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina, The Summer Girls captures the complex relationships between three half sisters scattered across the country—and a grandmother determined to help them rediscover their family bonds. This best seller is set in one of the most beautiful summer destinations in the country.

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Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter -Speaking of beautiful... how about the Italian coast in the 1960s? Here is the best-selling story of an almost-love affair that begins on the Italian coast in 1962, only to be rekindled in Hollywood fifty years later. The cover alone will make you feel warmer.

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Miss Burma by Charmaine Craig -Miss Burma was a finalist for the 2017 National Book Award. Based on the story of the author's mother and grandparents, this beautiful novel is the story of one family caught up in the most violent and turbulent years of world history--it's a novel of love and war, colonialism and ethnicity, and the ties of blood.

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The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende - Allende's novel, set in Chile, is an enthralling epic about the Trueba family. It spans decades and generations, weaving the personal and the political into a universal story of love, magic, and fate.

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Wide Sargasso Sea by - A prequel to Jane Eyre set in the Caribbean. This book comes recommended by Erin Kodicek, another editor on the Amazon Books team.


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Wizard of the Crow by Ngugi wa Thiong'o - Set in a fictional African country (the Free Republic of Aburiria) Wizard of the Crow uses corrosive humor and keen observation to dramatize the battle for the souls of the Aburirian people, fought between a megalomaniac dictator and an unemployed young man who embraces the mantle of a magician.

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The Widows of Malabar Hill (A Mystery of 1920s Bombay) by Sujata Massey - This is one of the more recently-published books on the list. In 1920s India, Perveen Mistry, Bombay’s first female lawyer, is investigating a suspicious will on behalf of three Muslim widows when the case turns murderous. Here's a great new heroine inspired in part by the woman who made history as India’s first female attorney.


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Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat -In this literary debut, Danticat evokes the wonder, terror, and heartache of her native Haiti—and the enduring strength of Haiti’s women—with vibrant imagery and narrative grace that bear witness to her people’s suffering and courage.

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Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah - This book might be a surprise entry on the list, but I loved it and so did a lot of other people. Trevor Noah, born to a black mother and a white father, was literally born a crime in South Africa. This book is charming, moving, funny, profound.  

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Here's to Us by Elin Hilderbrand -Hilderbrand's books set on Nantucket have become a summer standard. When larger-than-life celebrity chef Deacon Thorpe dies unexpectedly in his favorite place on earth, a ramshackle Nantucket summer cottage, his (messy, complicated) family is reeling. Now Deacon's three wives, his children, and his best friend gather on the island he loved to say farewell.

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Ninety-two in the Shade by Thomas McGuane - I'm currently reading Cloudbursts, Thomas McGuane's new short story collection (coming out in March). I'm loving the short stories, but Ninety-two in the Shade hearkens back to McGuane's wilder days--it's the story of a lost soul who heads home to Key West to escape the junkies and burnouts he's been hanging out with. I would describe McGuane's writing in this book as adventurous, surprising, literary, weird, and riveting.

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The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings - Matthew King used to be lucky. One of his missionary ancestors married a Hawaiian princess, making Matt a royal descendant and one of the state’s largest landowners. But now his two daughters are out of control, and his thrill-seeking, high-maintenance wife lies in a coma after a boat-racing accident. Soon she will be taken off life support. They can hardly picture life without her, but as Matt and his daughters come to terms with this tragedy, their sadness is mixed with a sense of freedom that shames them–and spurs them into surprising actions.

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Death on the Nile: A Hercule Poirot Mystery by Agatha Christie -Hercule Poirot embarks on a journey to Egypt in one of Agatha Christie’s most famous mysteries. The tranquility of a cruise along the Nile is shattered by the discovery that Linnet Ridgeway has been shot through the head. She was young, stylish, and beautiful. A girl who had everything. Now... not so much.

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Euphoria by Lily King - In this literary novel, three young, gifted anthropologists in the 1930s are caught in a passionate love triangle that threatens their bonds, their careers, and, ultimately, their lives. This novel, set in New Guinea, was inspired by events in the life of the anthropologist Margaret Mead.

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Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen - In 1914 the author arrived in Kenya with her husband to run a coffee farm. Instantly drawn to the land, she spent her happiest years there until the plantation failed. She was ultimately forced to return to Denmark in 1931, where it was significantly colder. It was there that she wrote this classic account of her experiences.

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The Sound of Things Falling by Juan Gabriel Vásquez - Juan Gabriel Vasquez is one of South America's literary stars. In the city of Bogotá, Antonio Yammara reads an article about a hippo that had escaped from a derelict zoo once owned by legendary Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar. The article transports Antonio back to when the war between Escobar’s Medellín cartel and government forces played out violently in Colombia’s streets and in the skies above.

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One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez -I'll close this list with some magical realism. One Hundred Years of Solitude tells the story of the rise and fall, a.k.a. the birth and death, of the mythical town of Macondo through the history of the Buendia family.


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