If you live in a place where the cold has closed things down around you, here is the perfect book to curl up with in front of the fireplace. Gary Schmidt and Susan M. Felch, who teach literature at Calvin College, have gathered 30 essays, stories, and poems on the spiritual dimensions of the winter season. This effort is right in sync with another favorite of ours, The Promise of Winter: Quickening the Spirit on Ordinary Days and Fallow Seasons (1997) by Martin Marty and his son Micah, a photographer, on winter and its manifold meanings and moods.

This fine anthology is divided into five thematic sections: Winter As a Time of Sorrow and Barrenness, Winter As a Time to Be Scoured and a Time to Succor the Scoured, Winter as a Time of Shoring Ourselves Up, Winter as a Time of Purity and Praise, and Winter as a Time of Delight and Play. There are quite a number of lyrical passages on this season, including this one by Patricia Hampl: "The cold was our pride, the snow was our beauty. It fell and fell, lacing day and night together in a milky haze, making everything quieter as it fell, so that winter seemed to partake of religion in a way no other season did, hushed, solemn. It was snowing and it was silent." This author writes so well about winter because she lives in St. Paul, Minnesota, which she calls "the coldest metropolitan area in the world." Check out Kathleen Norris on this season as an occasion to contemplate endings and loss, John Updike on the cold, and E. B. White on winter as a catalyst to playfulness.