The best epic novels to read by a cozy fire

Trevor Shane Author Of List of Fears
By Trevor Shane

The Books I Picked & Why

Winter’s Tale

By Mark Helprin

Winter’s Tale

Why this book?

Lush, pulpy, and utterly beautiful, I first read this novel when I was in college. It was December in New York City and I was supposed to be studying for finals. I decided to take a break to peruse some books at the local bookstore. I still remember picking this book up and reading a quote from a New York Times book review on the back: “I find myself nervous, to a degree I don't recall in my past as a reviewer, about failing the work, inadequately displaying its brilliance.” I had to buy the book. Needless to say, I spent the next three days holed up in my dorm room, ignoring my studies, and falling completely into this ridiculously over-the-top and gorgeous adventure.


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The Shadow of the Wind

By Carlos Ruiz Zafón, Lucia Graves

The Shadow of the Wind

Why this book?

I had never heard of this book before when I walked into a small independent bookstore in a quaint town in upstate New York. Whenever I go to independent bookstores, I seek out the staff's recommendations. Well, love for Shadow of the Wind had spread in this bookstore like a virus, being recommended by at least four of the staff members. I bought the book immediately, not realizing that I was about to get lost in a gorgeous mystery set in historic Spain about a shadowy man trying to track down and burn every copy of a very specific book. A beautiful book for books lovers, I personally don’t know anyone who has ever read Shadow of the Wind and not loved it.


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Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell

By Susanna Clarke

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell

Why this book?

A novel so lovely that its footnotes alone would be worth a recommendation. Susanna Clarke somehow makes this epic novel about dueling magicians in 1800s England feel more real and relevant than the nightly news. Rarely does a book actually make my heart race, but I still remember how I felt when I read the words, “Tell Norrell I am coming.” From that line on, I don’t think I stopped reading even to breathe.


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The Hungry Tide

By Amitav Ghosh

The Hungry Tide

Why this book?

When I read The Hungry Tide for the first time, it read to me like a fantasy novel set in a faraway world. Except it isn’t. The setting for The Hungry Tide is a real place, but it is as dangerous and as fantastic as something created by Tolkien. It takes place in the Sundarbans of India, a world where tigers hunt people and tidal floods come without warning and wipe out villages. Sometimes I read a book to get lost in a world that doesn’t exist. Other times I read a book to get lost in a world that does. I’ve never been to the Sundarbans, but I still periodically dream about them. 


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The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August

By Claire North

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August

Why this book?

To describe this book is to lessen it. The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August is so unique, inventive, and well-constructed, that it made me feel like a kid again, discovering new adventures for the first time. That rippling of time is quite a feat for a book about a man who, each time he dies, returns to where his life began with the full knowledge of his past lives. Given that premise, anyone could imagine the myriad directions that an author could go. I guarantee you that nothing you imagine can match the tale that Claire North spins here. Get this book. Light your fire. Enjoy.   


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