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10 Recommendations to Keep You in the Winter Spirit

With the solstice and holidays now behind us, the drudgery of winter has set in. January and February tend to be kind of miserable: the clouds descend, the wind picks up, and it feels like we’ll never see the sun again. Not to mention the new semester coming quickly on the heels of the old one. It’s easy to fall into a slump.

That said, there’s a sort of desolate beauty to this time of year. As someone desperate to find some good in the coming weeks, I decided to compile a list of things that remind me of why I (sometimes) like winter. 

Any form of Little Women.

Louisa May Alcott’s novel and its 1994 film adaptation both open on Christmas Day. While Greta Gerwig’s 2019 adaptation reorders the plot, every version of this classic is cozy and warm. Gerwig’s version especially encapsulates the duality of winter: it’s bright and cheerful for the most part while also somber and worn down in places. 

Recommended when… You’re homesick for your family after the break and need a good, healthy cry.

Ceremonials by Florence + the Machine.

This album truly has it all: sweeping vocals, demonic references and a glimmer of hope. 

Listen to “Shake It Out” on full blast when you’ve had a shitty day or week (or year, let’s be real) and let yourself thrash around your bedroom. You’ll feel better having released some of that rainy day lethargy. Promise.

Recommended when… You have a lot of big feelings trapped in your body and winter feels like it’s going to last forever.

Hamlet by William Shakespeare.

I feel deep in my bones that Hamlet is a winter play. Although tragedies are traditionally aligned with the cold months, it’s the obsession with death and sleep, the insular setting and the icy feeling of the ghost that really lands it for me. This play is a classic for a reason. If you haven’t read it yet, you should. 

Recommended when… You have a dark, stormy night to spare.

I, TONYA  (2017).

The reason behind this one should be obvious, but if not, this movie is about Tonya Harding as she grows in fame and skill as a figure skater (a classic winter sport). Starring Margot Robbie, Sebastian Stan and Allison Janney, this movie is both funny and heartbreaking. Watch for the beautiful cinematography and costumes.

Recommended when… Your life is falling apart and you need to watch someone else going through it too.

The Winternight trilogy by Katherine Arden.

Based on Russian folklore, these books follow Vasya, a young woman who can see the spirits who live in her village, as she grows up. If you have any interest in Russian folklore, this trilogy is an accessible entry point. Not to mention that Vasya is a total badass. 

Recommended when… You need some good, old-fashioned escapism. (Seriously, I’m sick of the rain.)

The National.

The band was recently featured on Taylor Swift’s evermore (an excellent winter album), but all of their albums are great. Songs like “I Need My Girl,” “Carin at the Liquor Store” and “About Today” are simultaneously comforting and devastating. 

Recommended when… You’re stuck walking in the rain or staring through the foggy bus windows and want to feel like the main character.

Pieter Bruegel the Elder.

Bruegel is a Belgian painter from the 1500s. While all of his paintings are gorgeous, I was thinking specifically of “The Hunters in the Snow” when I decided to recommend him. He painted this work in 1565, which was the coldest winter in a century. There’s something celebratory in the skaters in the background of this painting, despite the hunters’ failure to bring anything home. 

Recommended when… You want to have a cup of tea and do a deep dive on a new subject.

Sufjan Stevens.

Ah yes, the musician who single-handedly fuels my breakdowns. I’m kidding, but his music is excellent to cry to. Release your inner Timothée Chalamet by staring into a fireplace (if you don’t have a real one, YouTube is fine) while it snows outside and “Visions of Gideon” plays. 

Recommended when… The long nights make you feel nostalgic or heartbroken and you need to wallow.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo.

This YA novel and its follow-up, Crooked Kingdom, are fast-paced with a diverse cast of characters. Six of Crows follows six teenagers as they attempt a dangerous heist. The characters are beautifully written and engaging (if terrifyingly competent) for teenagers. 

Recommended when… You need a fast read to distract you from your classes and want to watch a found family take care of each other.

Any of the Star Wars movies.

Because they released the new trilogy in December three years in a row, I now associate all of the Star Wars movies with snow. Counterintuitive, given that a good chunk of the series features enormous amounts of sand, and yet…

Recommended when… You’re feeling nostalgic and need to see the good guys win.

As the new semester picks up, try to engage with media that isn’t for school! I hope some of these help you get through the coming winter months. Remember, the days are getting longer, so the end is in sight!

Eli Mushumanski is a queer Writing and English Honour undergrad in their fourth year at the University of Victoria. They specialize in fiction and poetry. Their work has been published by The Albatross, The Warren, and Flare: The Flagler Review, and they are a fiction editor at UVic's literary journal, This Side of West. When not caught up by schoolwork or reading, Eli plays Stardew Valley and chats with their mom on the phone.
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