The Atlantic Daily: Eight Books to Read This Winter

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In the Woods, Tana French

What’s better in the winter than overcast skies, a nearly searing cup of cherry tea, and a crime novel pitting a novice detective against two parallel murder mysteries (one involving his childhood friends)? Tana French’s debut, In the Woods, is a chilling and deep reflection on trauma, desire, memory, and envy. Set surrounding Dublin, Ireland, this book is more than a police procedural. You’ll leave French’s world looking over your shoulder.

— Christian Paz, assistant editor

Nightbitch, Rachel Yoder

Although few people might be able to relate to the protagonist of Nightbitch’s main problem—she’s turning into a dog—many might see themselves reflected in her need for artistic self-fulfillment. The book is a darkly funny debut that offers insight into marriage, mommy groups, the art world, and more. Yoder’s prose is confident and energetic. And, during the pandemic, the novel serves as a salient reminder to cultivate your own creativity, like a mother wolf might nurture her cub.

— Mathew Rodriguez, senior editor

Grief Is the Thing With Feathers, Max Porter

Prose or poetry, sorrow or hilarity: Who wants to have to choose right now? Max Porter’s 128-page Grief Is the Thing With Feathers, more prose poem than novel, offers both in one gulp. Three alternating voices—Dad and Boys, with help from Crow—confront staggering tragedy: the sudden death of a young wife and mother. Crow, a mythic figure who crashes into the household, serves as an irrepressible guide with a hard-won, welcome message: Grief, he rasps, is “the fabric of selfhood, and beautifully chaotic.”

— Ann Hulbert, literary editor

Stranger Faces, Namwali Serpell

Namwali Serpell’s most recent essay collection is a nimble, elegant exploration of the perplexities and allures of all kinds of faces. In this compact book that draws on art history, pop culture, and Freudian psychoanalysis, she peers into the face of a Black woman who passes, the frequently mythologized and much-mocked features of the Elephant Man, and the ever-mutating lexicon of emoji expressions. Most faces I see these days are distant and masked; Serpell’s acute eye on both the face of the stranger and the face of the self(ie) is as comforting as it is revelatory.

— Nicole Acheampong, associate editor

Lost & Found, Kathryn Schulz

Kathryn Schulz’s new memoir chronicles finding the love of her life and losing her father in the span of 18 months. The book weaves together poetry and insights about language with personal experience, examining loss and discovery on a micro and macro scale. Its events take place before the pandemic, but Schulz’s lyrical prose articulates feelings—such as the grief of losing someone you love and the joy of finding a new partner—that are as poignant now as ever.

— Kate Guarino, associate editor

The Sense of an Ending, Julian Barnes

Julian Barnes’s 2011 book begins with a bullet-point list: a shiny inner wrist … steam rising from a wet sink … bathwater long gone cold behind a locked door. “This last isn’t something I actually saw,” the narrator notes, “but what you end up remembering isn’t always the same as what you have witnessed.” It’s a perfect start to a novel all about memory: how we manufacture and manipulate it in our own mind; how it warps and loops and collapses as years pass; how the stories we tell ourselves can unravel with the pull of a thread. The new year has me feeling like time is kaleidoscopic, terrifying, and strange—but Barnes reminds readers that its shifting patterns are exquisite, too.

— Faith Hill, associate editor

These Precious Days, by Ann Patchett

Death surrounds all the essays in Ann Patchett’s collection These Precious Days, but it feels more like an embrace than a threat. Its presence enables Patchett to reflect with love and humor on her three deceased father figures; her pilot husband, Karl; and the possessions piled in her house. The strange, wonderful title essay meditates on a friend who comes to stay with her in Nashville for cancer treatment on the brink of the pandemic. Given the preciousness of each day, the best moment to read it will always be now.

— Emma Sarappo, associate editor

Index Cards, Moyra Davey

We’re two years into an all-encompassing and unprecedented global pandemic, and I still feel like I don’t quite know how to make sense of the way it’s changed—is changing—my life, much less the world in general. Though the photographer and filmmaker Moyra Davey wrote the 15 essays collected in Index Cards long before the pandemic, their through line is a fixation that’s closely related to our current conundrum: How does one make art from life in moments when so much is happening so quickly? Davey’s approach, as expressed in these understated essays, interspersed with her photographs, is simply to let us witness her process.

— Christina McCausland, copy editor


Every weekday evening, our editors guide you through the biggest stories of the day, help you discover new ideas, and surprise you with moments of delight. Subscribe to get this delivered to your inbox.

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