5 must-read books to keep winter at bay


Winter weather means searching for any excuse to stay inside, and few excuses hold up better than curling up with a good book under a blanket and journeying to another world without having to leave the house. Several literary-minded community figures agreed to share their picks for books to keep the mind warm throughout the season.

Hatley Mason, owner of Mermaid Books:

“Spies in the Family: An American Spymaster, His Russian Crown Jewel, and the Friendship That Helped End the Cold War” by Eva Dillon: This memoir by the daughter of an American intelligence officer recounts the lives of two men on opposite sides of the Cold War.

“It’s just an interesting book,” Mason said. “It’s really more about the families of these people. Really, the world is not a bunch of political units. It’s made up of families and communities. It’s a better way to look at the world.”

Melissa Simpson, adult services director for the Williamsburg Regional Library:

“The Hating Game” by Sally Thorne: After two companies merge in England, their respective executive assistants compete for a newly announced position.

“‘The Hating Game’ is a really good romance I enjoy. It’s definitely a very light read, but I liked the characters.” Simpson said, adding that the novel is witty and contemporary. “It was a unique spin on perhaps an old theme.”

David Morales, head of circulation at William and Mary’s SWEM Library:

“American Gods” by Neil Gaiman: After leaving prison, a man travels across America learning about the gods who exist at war in his world.

“He’s a fantastic storyteller and his characters are really rich,” Morales said. “It’s definitely a fantasy, science fiction kind of book, but I think it brings it into the world. Fantastic book. Fantastic characters.”

Joan Peterson, executive director at Literacy for Life:

“Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do” by Claude Steele: A social psychologist offers insight into his research on stereotypes and identity.

“I’ve recommended it to a number of people in the past few months. It’s a great book,” Peterson said. “I’m just fascinated by social psychology. Race and gender issues are, of course, very important to me. I think everyone should read it. I just think it’s eye-opening.”

Marcia Jourdaine, assistant manager of the Barnes and Noble in New Town:

“A Gentleman in Moscow” by Amor Towles: A Bolshevik tribunal sentences an aristocrat to a life of house arrest in a hotel across the street from the Kremlin.

“It’s a very well-written, intriguing story,” Jourdaine said. “There’s history, there’s literary reference.”

Birkenmeyer can be reached by phone at 757-790-3029.

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