Sad Girl Winter Book Recommendations

Hello readers!

I don’t know about you all, but I’ve been actually quite depressed these past months, and I find a lot of solace in books that reflect that state of mind. Especially during Winter, I find the cold and darkness harder to deal with, and so inevitably get a bit down or downright depressed during these months. So I created this list thinking that maybe some people might also find comfort in reading about other people being sad during the colder months – I’ve also added a few books that don’t necessarily take place in winter but gave me a winter vibe in some sort of way (I’ll explain for each book below what my reasoning was).

Also this post is the result of a poll on Twitter:

Without further ado, here are my book recommendations for a proper sad (or S.A.D) girl winter!

The Shutter of Snow by Emily Holmes Coleman

The Shutter of Snow is the fictitious account of Mrs Marthe Gail’s time at a mental institute in the 1930s, when she had a breakdown after having her child and beleives she is God. The story, although fiction, is heavily based upon the writer’s real life experience. of being committed to an insane asylum after suffering from puerperal fever and a nervous breakdown after giving birth. The writing is both haunting and disconcerting, especially in the beginning as Marthe is less lucid and experiences things in a very confusing, but often poetic way. The novel takes place during winter and has several allusions to the weather outside, so I think it’s a perfect Winter read.

All the Lovers in the Night by Mieko Kawakami

Mieko Kawakami’s writing has a quiet, thoughtful quality that I think makes it perfect for reading during a cold day. All the Lovers in the Night is a particularly quiet and subtle book, telling the story of a woman who works as a copy editor and feels that she is drab and uninteresting, lacking something, not quite as alive as others. As she tries to change herself into someone more lively, she confronts her painful past. This is a story that truly resonated with me, and I highly recommend it for readers looking for a sensitive, subtle character study.

Cold Enough for Snow by Jessica Au

This slim novel tells the story of a mother and daughter traveling to Tokyo after not seeing each other for a long time. Cold Enough for Snow won the Novel Prize for its interesting format, and the way that all the mother and daughter do do is talk about everyday things, doing normal tourist things, but there seems to be always so much more happening below the surface, so much left unsaid, so much history. This is a sparse and beautiful story

Permafrost by Eva Baltasar, translated by Julia Sanches

This is the story of a lesbian Spanish woman who wants to leave her country and goes to Brulles and later to Scotland. She tires to break free from her family and who she’s expected to be, while also grappling with her solitude, depression and suicidal thoughts. This is not really depressing or bleak, but rather a quite funny (albeit a bit sad) account of her adventures. I am adding it as a Winter read because of its title: permafrost, which describes the way she feels frozen on the inside.

Magma by Thóra Hjörleifsdóttir, translated by Meg Matich

Magma is the story of a young woman felling in love quickly and deeply with a man whom she adores. They move in together and slowly their relationship starts going to dark places as he starts abusing her in such subtle ways that she does not realize at first that she’s being abused at all. This is a very short book, but it definitely leaves a strong impression and even after a year or so since I read this book, I have a very vivid memory of reading this and feeling the coldness of the setting and the bleak, claustrophobic feel of the relationship. An incredible book that doesn’t last so long that will leave you depressed, in my opinion!

Snare by Lilja Sigurðardóttir, translated by Quentin Bates

This is less “sad girl” vibes than “desperate mother finds herself stuck in a smuggling scheme in order to try to keep custody of her son” vibes, but I think it’s such a perfect Winter read for its setting in Iceland, its noir style, and it does touch on heartbreaking topics that would for sure make me sad if I were on some of these people’s shoes. I thought it would be fun to add books to this list that are not exclusively about depression and feeling helpless or going through something horrible, to keep it interesting!

Nightshift by Kiare Ladner

Nightshift is a novel about a young woman who becomes obsessed with her coworker and changes to the night sift in her job so as to continue to be close to her, slowly giving up her life to follow her. Because this story takes place mostly at night, I feel like it gave Winter vibes. This young woman goes through a dark journey, and things get very, very bad (trigger warnings all around, seriously), so please take that into consideration before picking this up! It’s a very, very good book, and I loved it so much.

Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart

Oh, Shuggie Bain is king of depression books, together with A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. It tells the story of young Shuggie in the 1980s Glasgow, he is sweet, loving and lonely. Despite its name, the book focuses more on Shuggie’s mom’s story, her struggle with alcoholism. This is a very sad book but it’s gorgeous and totally worth a read and it does have a hint of hope. I think it’s a great Winter read if you can handle the book’s themes.

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Winter is perfect to tackle the chunky classics and Anna Karenina is an epic, taking place in Russia in the late 1800s and I loved reading this January last year. Tolstoy’s writing is so wonderful and the book’s characters are so interesting and there is so much drama going on that this is actually quite a juicy read (except for the farming parts, but you can speed-read those).

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk, translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones

This is the story of a woman in Poland during a very dark Winter, she strongly prefers the company of animals to those of people, and has a bit of a reputation in her town. When her neighbor shows up dead, she becomes increasingly convinced that the animals are behind it. Just talking about this book makes me want to re-read it, it’s just such a great read, especially if you enjoy books where you wonder if the main character is right with her wild theories or if she’s imagining things.

Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips

Oh I do wish more people read this book! This is a slow-paced mystery which tells the story of two sisters in Siberia who are kidnapped and the police has no idea who took them. This reverberates throughout the entire community and the most interesting part is that you get to see the story develops through the eyes of several people who belong to this community. So you get to see the main mystery, but also slices of life of the other people living there, and it’s so beautiful and emotional, this truly is a gem of a book, and some of the stories you see are quite sad, so I think this definitely gives Sad Girl Winter vibes.

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Oh, boy this should be on every Sad Girl Winter TBR, honestly. This is the story of a Lithuanian girl in the 1940s whose life is torn apart when Soviet soldiers forcer her and her family from their home and into a work camp in Siberia. It is heartbreaking, but not so sad that it leaves you too depressed – it’s a young adult book, so there is a certain innocence to the storytelling and hopefulness that keeps you reading. This is an incredible book and I LOVED it.

A Spell of Winter by Helen Dunmore

This is for the fans of Gothic literature – you have family secrets, an enormous house, siblings abandoned by their parents, and a war encroaching on their isolated lives. The siblings start falling in love and try to keep their love secret. I know, this is a very niche recommendation, but it definitely hits all the notes for fans of Gothic lit, and it is a very good read!

My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell

My Dark Vanessa is a difficult, complex book about a woman who had a relationship with a teacher in her teens and has been romanticizing it and defending him for years – but now, several years later, he is being accused of sexually assaulting several students throughout his career. She slowly starts realizing that the most important relationship of her life might not have been as romantic as she has been convinced herself all these years. From my memory this also takes place during Winter, so it’s a perfect fit for this list.

Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan

This is the most nostalgic Christmas vibes books I’ve ever read. It also literally takes place during Christmas, so listening to this made me think of the stories I heard during this time of year in my childhood. It tells the story of a man who must make a choice to go against the local church and save a young girl or stay out of it and keep his family safe. It’s a book about courage, community, power, hope and one’s roots. It also takes place in Ireland 1985, which I found pretty cool. So if your Sad Girl vibes this Winter could use with a little bit of hope and Christmas spirits, I can highly recommend this one – it’s also pretty short (in audio it took me 1.5h) so a great way to help your reading challenge in the last minute.

How to Keep House While Drowning by KC Davis

I just had to add one uplifting recommendation to this post, before everyone is too depressed. How to Keep House While Drowning is one of the few self-help books I will ever recommend in this blog, because I genuinely think it helps and contained useful advice for those who, like me, struggle with chores when they get depressed and this is just such a kind approach to how to make chores work for you and your lifestyle, and not the other way around. I loved this!


2 thoughts on “Sad Girl Winter Book Recommendations

  1. I’m sorry I missed your poll but I would have voted for Sad Girl Winter too! I think Drive Your Plow is the perfect choice and so many here that I haven’t read yet, like I love Mieko Kawakami but haven’t got to this one yet.


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