Growing up in the Pocono area of Pennsylvania meant that we always had a lot of snow. Winter meant bundling up like the Michelin man and shivering at the bus stop in front of my house. My mom still lives in my childhood home, a little one-story house on top of a very big hill with a nice view of surrounding farmland and the mountains. Yeah, it was pretty, but when it’s 25 degrees and the hurricane-force winds are whipping through your winter coat, pretty is a poor excuse for warm.
I’ve generally avoided winter sports my whole life. The closest I got to winter sports was the day I threw my metal Scooby Doo lunch box at my brother (you know, because younger brothers are annoying), and it went skimming all the way down that giant hill on a foot-deep bed of ice-topped snow. And of course, I had to march down the road to retrieve it. It felt like it took forever and really cemented my dislike of the cold and snow.
This year has been the winter of my discontent.
As of today, this has been a winter-setting record in Philadelphia, my adopted home for the last 14 years. Today’s snowfall–around 10 inches or so at this point (we’re due to get more tonight)–marks the first time in the city’s history that there have been four 6+ inch snowfalls or more in season. In addition, we are now in the top 5 snowiest winters of all-time. Awesome.
I might dislike the winter, but there’s something good to come out of it: I’ve had more time than normal to read. And I’ve had a great run of luck so far this year as far as books go. So if you’re looking for a good book for a snowbound day, I’m going to recommend the following:
The Fate of Mercy Alban by Wendy Webb. This is timely since February is Women in Horror month. The Fate of Mercy Alban is a very classic gothic ghost story. It has one foot in the contemporary world and one foot in a decades-old mystery and a generations-old family legend about a house. I very rarely find a book that compels me to stay up past my normal bedtime to finish it, but this one did. Wonderfully paced with a great atmosphere, this is a book to read when you’re all alone and the wind is making the windows of your house moan. You’ll shiver and pull the blanket closer around you, swearing you can feel eyes watching your every move. Yeah. Good, good stuff.
The Necromancer’s House by Christopher Buehlmann. Look, Christopher Buehlmann could write anything, and I’d read it. Anything. He’s a poet, and it’s his use of language that makes his long-form fiction so compelling and wonderful. Like The Fate of Mercy Alban, The Necromancer’s House is, well, about a very special house. In this case, it’s not haunted, it’s bewitched. The novel marries old school witchcraft with modern technology in a way that’s really fascinating. The tone of this book is quite different–it’s not a creepy novel. Well, not really. Parts of it are. Interestingly, the real crux of this book is a man’s relationship with his dog. It sounds kind of strange, but it works.