The Art of Seasonal Reading

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Seasonal reading is the practice of choosing your reading material to match the moods and seasons of the calendar. Here’s an exploration of this reading method, and why every bookworm should give seasonal reading a try.

Teacup on a stack of books, with bright flowers in a vase

Read According to the Seasons: Start a Seasonal Reading Habit

When a good author writes a good novel, they’re keenly aware of the setting and tone of their story. These things create that oh-so-important immersive quality that allow readers to escape into the novel’s world.

As a reader, you can take that experience a step further by aligning your current, real-life setting with the world in the novel.

You do this by being intentional about when and where you read certain books, saving those books for the right time and place. For instance, you might read Heidi on a trip to Switzerland, since that novel is set there. Or you might read A Christmas Carol at Christmastime, to underpin the festivity of the season.

Sometimes you might not match the exact setting or holiday in the novel, but you can mirror a book’s tone by reading it at a particular time of year. This is called seasonal reading.

I’ve been a seasonal reader since junior high. I was an avid bookworm by then, and I began to realize that certain books evoked certain seasons. The books I read in summer were lighthearted–stories about vacations in the countryside, treasure hunts, adventures at sea, and lazy, hot days.

Fall became my season of choice for pensive, melancholy books, gothic novels, and anything with a haunting loveliness. In winter, I dove deep into rich, meaty classics; and in spring I looked for books with hopefulness, change, and humor.

When you begin reading seasonally, you discover a delightful anticipation as you plan and look forward to each change in the year.

Directing your reading life in this way also makes you a more active reader. It does the extraordinary thing of letting you take part in the world-building that the author began, opening a portal of interaction between you, the author, and the story. As Henry James said, “a novel is a living thing.” You can feel that pulse of life a bit more clearly when it syncs with your own.

Of course, mirroring a book’s world with yours isn’t the only meaningful way to read. Mood reading has its place, too. Or reading for mastery of a certain subject, author, or period. There are countless other reasons and methods for choosing your reading material.

But I promise you you’ll find a richness that can’t be beat when you engage in seasonal reading. It makes every book more memorable.

Open book with fall leaf, coffee mug, and bowl of figs
Seasonal reading patterns become something you recognize, fall into, and anticipate as a delightful treat!

How to Become a Seasonal Reader

Take a look at your TBR (to be read) list and circle a few titles that you think would be a good fit for the upcoming season. Your reasons for assigning a particular book to a particular season don’t have to make sense to anyone but you! While I enjoy tackling long classics in deep winter, you might associate them with summer, and that’s as you please.

Move the “seasonal” titles you selected over to your short-term TBR (The Book Lover’s Companion has these pages). Then, do a little research to check where you can get each book (library, inter-library loan, bookstore, etc.) and make a note of that. Now, when the seasons shift you’ll be able to jump right in with seasonal reading!

In future, when you add a new book to your TBR, make a note with a brief summary of the book’s premise, as well as what time of year you’d like to save it for.

After you grow accustomed to being a seasonal reader, you’ll start to get a feeling in your bones at certain times of year. You’ll smell a bit of autumn in the wind on a late September day, and suddenly you’re itching to wander the moors with Jane Eyre. Or a wave of summer heat will make you want to run off to sea with Captain Jack Aubrey.

Go ahead and follow those promptings. Immerse yourself, and watch your reading come to life.

A Curated Seasonal Reading Experience

Want a bit of seasonal reading delivered straight to your doorstep? You may want to subscribe to my Seasonal Reading Box! With boxes delivered quarterly, you get to anticipate each new season with a book to match. And because reading is always better when you have something to sip along with it, you also get a tea, hand-picked to pair perfectly with the book.

Seasonal Reading Book Lists

Tea and Ink Society has a few book lists that go particularly well with certain seasons, and I’ll be adding more lists like these in the future!

For summer reading:

For fall or winter reading:

For holiday reading:

Are you a seasonal reader? What kinds of books do you associate with the different seasons?
The Art of Seasonal Reading
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14 Comments

  1. I generally prefer to do the opposite, which is read stories of warmth in the winter and cold in the summer. I feel like I get into the story more and then don’t, in a matter of speaking, “confuse” the story with my actual setting. I think I would have remembered The Old Man and the Sea better if I hadn’t read it seaside without sargasso seaweed floating towards shore. Yet it was a fun, memorable experience to do that.

    1. Oh, that’s interesting! I love the visceral experience I get when I superimpose a story on a similar setting–you’re right that it blurs the boundaries a bit, but I do like that! But I can see how reading stories opposite of their seasons would help you look at the book more objectively, so to speak. You can kind of “walk around it” a bit more, see it as its own separate thing.

  2. I am such a seasonal reader as well! I won’t read certain books except in the summer or winter because of the feel of the book. I’m also a mood reader, so if I just read a dark, somber book, I’ll often want to read a lighter, happier read. And I adore reading outside whenever the weather is nice to make the reading experience even more enjoyable.

  3. Hello and thanks for sending me the email I do most of my reading in the truck after I shut down for my 10hr break or waiting g to load or unload. Right now am reading Hawthornes House of seven gables perhaps you have heard of Joseph Conrad works reading some of his stories in the spring time . Because somewhere in the world its winter. And I I look forward to the open ocean duing spring have a day. Frank.

    1. Sounds like a great way to wind down the day and fit in reading. I had college professors who were great at making me appreciate Hawthorne and Conrad. Definitely a feast of words there.

  4. I think I am a bit of a Seasonal Reader, and I didn’t even know it! I tend towards reading books that take place in summer during summer months (although I love New England and all things British, so I will read those settings at any time). But come late fall/Christmas, I only want to read Christmas-themed books.
    I never thought about doing this on purpose, however. But now that you have put this in my mind…I may have to completely reorganize my entire TBR bookcase. Oh well!!

    1. Interesting that you gravitated that way instinctively! I’d happily read a British book any time of year, too. And I am in love with Maine as a setting right now, too!

  5. I do this and never really realized it! The one that springs to mind first is The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim, which I read every April. It seems to set the Spring for me.

  6. Ha ha! I thought I was the only one who ever did this! Every year, I write out my TBR for the new year the day after Christmas (gives me something to look forward to instead of post-holiday blahs). I choose which month of the year I think that particular book suits the mood of. I have a list of half a dozen for each month in mind. I’m very list and rules oriented, I guess. When I reach the halfway mark in a book I’m reading, I start planning on obtaining the next on the list for that current month. If I can’t find it, I go down to the next. When I buy books at used sales, I add the title to a running list of the ones I own and which month I’d like to read it in. If I’m waiting without a book in between interlibrary loan orders, I have a book I own that I can pick up to read to match with the current season. Generally speaking I prefer: Winter = Classics, Dystopian; Fantasy. Spring = Light reading; Romance; British Lit. Summer = Adventure; Sea Stories; American Lit. Fall = Mystery; Moody; Children’s Lit. Great post!!!

  7. Great article. I’ll have to check out some of those seasonal reading lists. As I’ve gotten back into reading again (like many my reading habit took a hit during college and in the years that followed), my reading choices have become more and more informed by the seasons. At the beginning of the year, I read a fantasy book that I didn’t end up loving, but I realized that I had still enjoyed it more than I might’ve because the snowy outside world so well-reflected the wintry setting of the story. This summer, I am planning to read books with languid, sunny atmospheres, such as Picnic At Hanging Rock (which is actually set in February, Summer in Australia) and I even have a whole readthon of books set in Egypt (a bucket list travel destination and life-long obsession) planned for July/August. But I’m also really excited for fall. I’m building quite the TBR of dark and moody classics and witchy/horror books for those crisp, rustling months.

    1. Picnic at Hanging Rock is an awesome book, and actually it’s one of the ones I recommend in the “summer page-turners” post I linked to above! So good. The old Peter Weir movie does a fantastic job translating it to screen, too.

      Nice idea with Egypt for summer! Do you have any Agatha Christies on the list? She has a couple of mysteries set in Egypt!

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