Novelist Liam Callanan stops by with a few good books for a snow day. We're talking about the kind of day that requires a comfy fleece robe, a warm mug of cocoa and doing nothing more strenuous than putting another log on the fire… Are you ready to curl up and read?
Liam Callanan's Top 5 Snow Day Books
All I have left of fifth grade is a single day, my memory seeing fit to crowd itself since with other, less vital things (cut-off times for Fedex drop boxes, children's Tylenol dosage guidelines), but what a day: the snow came.
A bigger deal for me than you, I'm sure, because I was living in suburban Los Angeles at the time, and seeing snow lightly dust the 1000-foot mountains north of the L.A. basin was nothing short of historic. We left our desks and stood outside under the palm trees and stared at the horizon, transfixed (probably the best use I've ever put that word to, come to think).
So when the Happy Booker called for a Holiday Top Five list, I decided to bypass the usual holidays, and even the unusual (I'd thought about doing the Top 5 Books of Farvardigan) and go with my Top 5 Snow Books.
1. Snowy Day, Ezra Jack Keats. Because as soon as you read what I was up to here, you thought, "he can't not include SNOWY DAY." And you are, of course, right. One of the best things about becoming a parent is getting to read this book all over again (and again).
2. "Genesis" in Wolf Willow, by Wallace Stegner. Wolf Willow is a wonderful, strange book -- part history, part memoir, part fiction -- I don't know how Stegner pulls it off so seamlessly, but he does. In any case, I'm grateful to Alan Cheuse for this pick, who tipped me off years ago to "Genesis," the novella embedded smack in the middle of WW, is the best cowboy story ever told. He's right. Best and snowiest. Even if you don't read cowboy stories, even if you live in the Florida Keys, "Genesis"' icy grip is inescapable once you start reading.
3. The White Cascade, Gary Krist. From an author right in THB's backyard comes a winter travel story that more than puts your 4-hour forced layover at O'Hare in perspective. An amazing, awful adventure.
4. Indian Creek Chronicles, by Pete Fromm. Into the Wild with a happy ending? Not quite. But 19-year-old Fromm leaves his swimming scholarship at the University of Montana behind to spend a winter in the Bitterroot Wilderness guarding 2 million or so salmon eggs. With almost no outdoors experience to speak of, he finds himself alone in a tent in the pre-cell phone wilderness, a forty mile walk from the nearest road. And then, the snow comes.
5. "Those Winter Sundays," by Robert Hayden. True, this is a poem, not a book (but you can get it in a book: Collected Poems, by Robert Hayden), but it is about as perfect, and heartbreaking a poem as I will ever read about snow, or fatherhood, or childhood. "What did I know, what did I know / Of love's austere and lonely offices?"
Nothing. Nothing till I read Hayden, until I ventured out in my own Wisconsin cold this morning and set about clearing the night's delivery of cool, white, everywhere snow.