Cover Image: Wintering


Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

I've been meaning to read this book for years, so I was surprised to see it on Netgalley. I'm glad I finally sat down to read it! Great psychology addition.

Was this review helpful?

Reading this in January was the best idea. We've all had our "Winters". Those times when everything seems to collapse at once. We feel frustrated and stagnant. Or everything is changing for the worse and it's doing it too quickly to keep up.

Katherine May gives us a look at her own winter and the skills it helped her develop to slow down, prioritize rest, and focus on our bodies, our minds, and our inner lives.

Was this review helpful?

What can I say about this beautiful book that hasn't already been said?

Katherine May has a lovely way with words, for taking things that sound mundane (like sleeping) or odd (like swimming in freezing water) or terrifying (like dire medical circumstances) and making them seem profoundly poignant.

I chose to read this in December-January, and it was a perfect choice. I found myself seeing through her eyes, "We must learn to invite the winter in." (13)

Full of hope but also honest acceptance of the dark, this book might be a good read for anyone who struggles in the depth of their own winter.

"There is nowhere else to be, after all. Winter opens up time." (210)

In addition to her personal stories and anecdotes from her friends & acquaintances, May also includes stories from research into everything from religion and science to politics and children's stories. There's really something for everyone within these pages.

Ultimately, "In winter, you're never more than a few steps from darkness." (30) And, according to the author, that might be just fine.

Was this review helpful?

The good of this book was in the nature writing. The dormice piece in particular was nice. I was put off, though, by the sheer privilege of the author. Being able to jet off on exotic vacations, take extended time off work, and homeschool a child are all huge privileges. It's not terrible the author has these...but she seems unaware of it. Really stuck out to me.

Was this review helpful?

Katherine May gives readers a view of wintering around the world, both literally and metaphorically. Her own experiences are discussed through the majority of the book, though the experiences of other people and of the animal world are sprinkled throughout. May provides much food for thought. This is a book that the reader will want to sit with and ponder. Highly recommended for most adult collections.

Was this review helpful?

A beautifully written book, and one that is still popular with my library patrons. I plan to recommend it this winter for a display.

Was this review helpful?

I found some parts slow but liked the way the book ends. This could be seasonal reading and really strike a cord for fall sales

Was this review helpful?

This is a book I'll be rereading multiple times, one of those books you turn to in various seasons of life and take something different from it each time. As a daughter of an acupuncturist, I've been familiar with the idea of how winter is a time to slow down and rest, but this book put it in a whole other context that made it even more applicable to my life. I love how she went through each month, making this a book you can read at almost any time of year, or one you could read slowly throughout all 12 months.

Was this review helpful?

This book piqued my curiosity because it showcased a blurb that discussed what I understood in simple terms to be burnout by connecting it to how humans, animals, and the environment alike cope with the harshness of winter. Whether that burnout is the product of work, trauma, or other combinations that life hefts on top of us in general, the author seeks to use examples of how various processes and rituals carried out by people and nature alike holds them steadfast through the harsh winter months that cycle inevitably each year and leave them the better for it.

The author trudges through the winter months with each chapter and brings to light the cultural rituals, habits, or environmental processes that are enacted in these months to preserve life. While I did enjoy these educational bits the most out of the book, sometimes I found it hard to connect them directly to the purpose of the self-help objective of this book I was looking for. However, I did especially enjoy the segment about bees. Very interesting. As the author explores these educational type subjects, she introduces them through what is essentially a memoir of her life at certain points of time. Mainly dealing with how she coped with the burnout that results from the previously mentioned complications of life. Illness, depression, work, etc. While I understand that she weaved these stories of her life into the narrative to try and connect the purpose of the matter as a whole, I think I just didn't go into this book expecting that. I was expecting more self-help than personal narrative, but I think that mainly points to my misunderstanding of what this book advertised itself to be to begin with.

Having listened to this as an audiobook, very soothing and a perfect match to the content of this book. The narrator did a wonderful job and I must say that it did improve my connection to the content of the story. While I walked out of this book not quite getting what I thought I had walked into it for, it was still nevertheless a very informative book that explains the feelings of depression, burnout, etc. in an on point way that doesn't sound clinical. May's Wintering does a lyrical, smooth overview of how across the world, across time, people and nature have endured hardship and loss again and again yet have wintered their way to the inevitable thaw of spring. 3 out of 5 stars. Soothing, reassuring, and educational. Especially on audio.

I would like to thank NetGalley and the publisher for an eARC of this book.

Was this review helpful?

Thank you, NetGalley, for access to Wintering.

I’ve decided my winter daily routine is fine as it is. No edits needed! Come home from work, go on a long walk, take a hot shower, apply all my face serums and moisturizers, get in my flannel jammies, and read all evening. I thought I would enjoy this book more.

Was this review helpful?

This book is beautiful and calming. A book for these awful confusing times. Would highly recommend to anyone looking for some guidance and acceptance.

Was this review helpful?

WINTERING was chosen as Veranda magazine's December Sip & Read Book Club pick! A review was posted at

Was this review helpful?

This was such a lovely book. I devoured the author's writing, perspective, and comparisons of difficult times to nature and seasons. Such a simple and beautiful way of looking at the peaks and valleys of a life and how to gracefully find our way through. I will be thinking about this book for some time.

Was this review helpful?

The premise of this book is that all of life ebbs and flows like the seasons. And we have to remember that life will always flow in a way that brings life and death in a cyclical pattern.

Unfortunately, I really struggled to connect with this book. May shares her stories that she attempts to use as a way of connecting the concept of wintering with real life experiences. However, I could hardly connect with her experiences or understand where she was coming from. It seemed she had a high view of herself and what she should be able to experience and when those things failed to come true, she entered her “winter” season.

There was not enough exploration of managing those expectations through the wintering season and coming out of it.

Was this review helpful?

When I saw the title and cover image for Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times by Katherine May I was immediately intrigued. I was pulled in even further when I read the subtitle speaking to difficult times and personal respite. I think we would all agree that 2020 has been an off-the-rails rollercoaster ride. And, even those of us who are normally blessed by smooth sailing have hit the rocky shores more than once.

… There are gaps in the mesh of the everyday world, and sometimes they open up and you fall through them into somewhere else. Somewhere Else runs at a different pace to the here and now, where everyone else carries on. Somewhere Else is where ghosts live, concealed from view and only glimpsed by people in the real world. Somewhere Else exists at a delay, so that you can’t quite keep pace. Perhaps I was already teetering on the brink of Somewhere Else anyway; but now I fell through, as simply and discreetly as dust sifting between the floorboards. I was surprised to find that I felt at home there. Winter had begun… p. 9 – September

Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times moves through the seasons of Fall into Winter’s belly and brings the reader to conclusion in Late March, the threshold of new growth and survival’s promise. Each chapter holds the story of the late Fall to Late Spring months and expresses a different level of “wintering” and the challenges and joys of overcoming and finding a space of respite from the onslaught of cold and storm, doubt and fear. The Prologue begins in September with the recounting of the author’s suddenly finding herself in the spiral of worry and disbelief that rears up when a loved one is suddenly very, very ill and the feelings of powerlessness cling to you with icy hands. Add to this the other areas of her life that come crashing in around, setting off a chain of events that are unplanned and filled with open-ended challenges and you have the recipe for the brewing of the perfect storm and as Ms. May puts it … “Winter had begun”.

Wintering:The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times is a beautifully written book that takes the reader through the metaphor and realities of those inevitable moments of crisis that we are all subject to at some point. The grace in the telling of her stories and those of related experience offers hope that all will be as it should be. And, then, just as the seasons themselves flow one into the other, follows through to conclusion exploring the coping skills required and openness and honesty that are necessary companions to survive the winter.

Would I Recommend:

There is not much that I can say by way of an in-depth review for Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times by Katherine May that wouldn’t detract from the immersive experience that can only be derived by reading the book for oneself. This is a book that is much needed right now and the feelings that are evoked soothe, heal and comfort in a time that feels much colder and longer than any winter has been. Ms. May has gifted us with an expressively written book with powerful verbal imagery that carries you gently home; safe and secure as the snow falls with intentioned purpose and the winds howl their discordant song of wintering lament.

Reviewed by Robin Fennelly of PaganPagesOrg

Was this review helpful?

A beautiful reflection on learning, observing, and caring for ourselves in the cycle of the seasons. I loved the encouragement to hibernation and a deeper connection to nature. Living in northern MN it gave me a new perspective on embracing the long winters we experience.

Was this review helpful?

This just wasn't the book for me right now. I found the writing style difficult to get through and didn't take much from her story. I found all of her research/dives into how other cultures handle winter and rest very interesting but I think either we didn't dig deep enough or just moved on.

Was this review helpful?

Wintering, what is it? Have you heard of it? Have you ever experienced it?

Well, if like me you are left feeling a bit confused by the term, check out this definition.

“Wintering is a season in the cold. It is the fallow period in life when you’re cut off from the world, feeling rejected, side-lined, blocked from progress, or cast into the role of an outsider.”

So not only is winter a season, but it is also a feeling; a state of being.

Wintering could happen at any time in our lives. It could result from an illness, bereavement, or even a birth. It could hit us because we feel humiliated or a failure. Sometimes, this feeling will creep up over a period of time, gradually infiltrating our thoughts and actions. It could be the slow burn out of a relationship or discovering that the world around us now sees us as obsolete because we haven’t continued to develop the skills we needed for a certain job role. It really could be any number of things.

The one thing that Katherine May highlights, perhaps helping to pull on one’s depressive state even further, is that “wintering is usually involuntary, lonely, and deeply painful.”


What Katherine reminds us is that we are just like nature’s seasons – we are prone to “stifling summers and low, dark, winters, to sudden drops in temperature, to light and shade.”

Wintering is therefore unavoidable and will hit us all at some point. She also highlights that just like nature, our personal wintering is likely to last forever, it will just become dormant for periods of time. Therefore you need to learn to weather the storm and get through these difficult seasons.

“Sometimes we will have to name our personal winters, and the words will feel barbed in our throats: grief, rejection, depression, illness, shame, failure, despair.”

Maybe this is the perfect time to learn more about ourselves so that we can begin to grow during times that are meant to try us rather than treating it as a period of time when we would normally hideaway. After all, if we can get through our winters we can survive every other season.

In 2016 ‘hygge’ was named the word of the year. It’s a Danish term representing coziness as a kind of mindful practice. A domestic comfort that helps to detract from the harsh reality we face when we head outside into the world. During our wintering phases perhaps we all need to fall into practicing hygge to help improve our overall health and wellbeing.

Often, when suffering from this particular phase in our lives, we find ourselves questioning how others see us. It’s as if our fragile state heightens certain paranoid elements of our brain into thinking that we are the centre of other peoples’ conversations. We worry that they are gossiping about us and believe that they doubt whether or not we are truly suffering. But is this really the case? Are people really talking about us? Questioning our actions? It is probably more likely that those who care about us are worried about us and want to help whereas those that are potentially talking about us to others aren’t the individuals we want in our life anyway.

Wintering is one of those books that takes what we think of a certain thing and completely turns it upside down. We need to stop looking at this state of mind as a negative time in our lives and start refocusing our attitude towards it. If we want to grow personally, we need this phase in our lives. It will help us to slow down, reflect, and alter our paths if needed in order to achieve everything we ever wanted.

Nature needs time to regenerate, and so do we. Society, however, sees our dips as a failure, and therefore we tell ourselves we are no good but in actual fact, if we use our wintering periods wisely we will come back even stronger.

Wintering by Katherine May, looks at the power of rest and retreat in difficult times

My Thoughts on Wintering
Autumn is my favourite month. I love the fact that the weather cools slightly but that the evenings are still warm and the nights light. I love the changing colours of the trees when they go from rich, vibrant forest green to a golden and butterscotch yellow or a rich cherry red before turning dark mahogany.

For me, it symbolises the end of summer and a return to light winter jackets and perhaps a scarf.

I have never been one to celebrate the joy of winter though. That is until I read Wintering. For the first time, I have had my eyes opened to what the winter signifies both for us and nature.

It’s a time when nature can slow down and regenerate itself. The trees may be shedding their leaves but they are also getting ready to bore a new cycle of life. They, therefore, need time to rejuvenate and prepare for another cycle. If we take our cues from this, we too need time to revitalise ourselves; to recover from the hectic year, and prepare for a new one starting.

Human nature dictates that many of us see winter negatively. It’s cold, it’s dark, it’s miserable and so it’s easy to see why. But what if we were to look at it in terms of a time to slow down, to spend longer sleeping if needed, to relax in the comfort of our own homes, wrapped up warm enjoying the rich home cooking and the warm, indulgent drinks that come with the season? Perhaps we need to see it more as an opportunity to do exactly the same as nature. See it as a time of solace, to restore the much-needed energy in order to have another successful year.

“Change will not stop happening. The only part we can control is our response.”

That includes how we respond to the changing of seasons.

Winter is a time where we tend to feel more despondent and irrelevant, a time when depression is probably at its peak.

“There will be moments when we’re riding high and moments when we can’t bear to get out of bed. Both are normal… Both in fact, require a little perspective.”

Realistically this period of time will pass so rather than looking upon it gloomily, we need to embrace the change in season and mindset and relish the opportunity to almost hibernate for a month or so. Ultimately we need to weather the winters in a manner that sees us immerging in spring ready for a successful year.

“Nature shows that survival is a practice. Sometimes it flourishes… sometimes it pares back to the very basics of existence in order to keep living.”

This is a book that all those suffering during the winter months need to read. If you are a sufferer of S.A.D. or just feel yourself struggling more at certain times of the year, then this will be a breath of fresh air for you. Everyone goes through difficulties in life, but it is important to recover your mindset so that you become stronger.

For me, this is one of the most powerful books I have read in a very long time. It helped me to realise that I need to stop beating myself up every time I fall into a ‘wintering’ slump and see it more as a time for personal reflection. I need to start seeing these periods as opportunities; as a time for mindful recharging and to make sure that I get back on the right track when I am ready to venture back outside once again.

Was this review helpful?

In the spirit of accomplishing more each day--more work, more chores, more errands, more self-care--I've read countless books on time management. The one that changed my relationship with work more than any other, though, was not about doing more, but about doing less. In Do Nothing (Harmony, $25), Celeste Headlee invites readers to reconsider the role of rest in work, all while placing our modern understanding of work in its historical context. We must rest, she argues, or we burn out.

This concept of burnout is the crux of Anne Helen Peterson's Can't Even (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $26), which expands on her viral Buzzfeed article. In Worked Over (Basic Books, $28), sociologist Jamie McCallum draws important connections between this culture of burnout and constant work with persistent inequalities in American society. When I picked up Wintering (Riverhead, $24) last month, I encountered yet again these themes of work and rest and burnout, woven into Katherine May's story of her own forced rest and what it taught her about the nature of her work.

These books about the culture of work (and rest) have me thinking in news ways about how I relate to my own daily work in the nonprofit sector, how I show up and how in turn I encourage others to show up. To that end, my first planned book for the new year is You Belong (HarperOne, $27.99), in which meditation expert Sebene Selassie explores how our sense of belonging and connection shapes the world we live in. Before I start that work, however, I will take time to rest on these shortest days of the year and embrace that I am--and we all are--more than what we can produce in a given day. As we stare down the uncertainty of a new year in this strange time, I invite you to do the same.

Was this review helpful?

This is less a guide for embracing rest and relaxation in the colder months and more a woman’s memoir for weathering depression, illness, and unexpected challenges. May explores the iciest depths of Northern Europe to take note from the species that burrow in winter to heal and renew. This is all fine, just not what I was looking for or expecting.

tl;dr embrace winter and find joy in its activities (or lackthereof). Please see a medical professional if you are experiencing depression, anxiety, or hopelessness. Preparing for and changing your mindset as winter approaches is one tool, but there are also many others, such as medical and therapeutic treatment, to help you during difficult seasons.

Was this review helpful?