As another sultry summer settles in, it may be time to do some escapism reading of a different sort. Reading novels set in cold weather can offer a brief mental respite from a heat wave. In some cases — especially with one of our picks, The Road — they can even make you glad you are feeling hot instead of bone-chilling cold.

Reading to cool off on a hot summer’s day

Here is a list of books (and a few wintry quotes) to help cool you off on a hot summer’s day.

Hot summer’s day reading – Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton (1911)

Edith Wharton sets this tragic tale during the harsh New England winter. The title character struggles to make a living as a farmer and struggles to find happiness in his marriage. His view of life changes when his wife’s young cousin comes to live with them. Wharton conveys her disdain for forced societal conventions in this rich story.

Favorite quote: “He seemed a part of the mute melancholy landscape, an incarnation of its frozen woe, with all that was warm and sentient in him fast bound below the surface; but there was nothing unfriendly in his silence. I simply felt that he lived in a depth of moral isolation too remote for casual access, and I had the sense that his loneliness was not merely the result of his personal plight, tragic as I guessed that to be, but had in it, as Harmon Gow had hinted, the profound accumulated cold of many Starkfield winters.”

Hot summer’s day reading – The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx (1994)

The Newfoundland coastal landscape and climate are as much a part of this Pulitzer Prize-winning novel as is Quoyle, the protagonist. Quoyle is a journalist who returns to his family’s ancestral home in Newfoundland as a single dad with two troubled daughters. After he finds a job reporting the area’s shipping news for a weekly newspaper, he and his family learn a great deal about themselves, their roots and each other.

Favorite quote: “By January it had always been winter.”

Hot summer’s day reading – Dr. Zhivago by Boris Pasternak (1957)

This epic novel brings the Russian Revolution to life through the characters of the strong and loyal Zhivago, a physician and a poet; Strelnikov, a bold revolutionary; and Lara, the beautiful woman they both love. The descriptions of the land are beautiful, and the book leaves an indelible message about what war and strife can do to the human soul.

Favorite quote: “Winter had long since come. It was freezing cold. Torn-up sounds and forms appeared with no evident connection from the frosty mist, stood, moved, vanished. Not the sun we are accustomed to on earth, but the crimson ball of some other substitute sun hung in the forest. From it, strainedly and slowly, as in a dream or a fairy tale, rays of amber yellow light, thick as honey, spread and on their way congealed in the air and froze to the trees.”

Hot summer’s day reading – The Road by Cormac McCarthy (2006)

A harrowing journey into post-apocalyptic America, The Road will leave you thankful for four seasons, including the hot weather of summer. A father and his son attempt to make their way to the coast in a world that is permeated by destruction and intense dampness and cold. Yet, the book leaves you with a strange sense of hope.

Favorite quote: “With the final onset of dark the iron cold locked down and the boy by now was shuddering violently. No moon rose beyond the murk and there was nowhere to go.”

Hot summer’s day reading – Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson (1995)

This beautifully written novel is set in 1954 on Washington’s San Piedro Island. It reads like a murder mystery, yet it is much more than that. The story revolves around a murder trial of a Japanese American man accused of killing a white fisherman, and like To Kill a Mockingbird, it forces us to confront our own prejudices and our own fears. Guterson weaves a sense of time and place that make this novel rich and memorable.

Favorite quote: “The snowfall obliterated the borders between the fields and made Kabuo Miyamoto’s long-cherished seven acres indistinguishable from the land that surrounded them. All human claims to the landscape were superseded, made null and void by the snow. The world was one world, and the notion that a man might kill another over some small patch of it did not make sense.”

Cool Reading For A Hot Summer's Day