An Essential Stormy Weather Reading List


In case you haven’t heard, a massive storm is slated to sock the Northeast over the next two days as Hurricane Sandy, combined with a wintery cold weather system (that’s why it’s earned the seasonally-appropriate nickname “Frankenstorm”) threatens to slam into us. If you live anywhere on the East Coast or thereabouts, we imagine you’ll be wanting to stay inside for the foreseeable future, so we’ve put together an essential stormy weather reading list to get you in the hurricane mood and keep you busy while the weather rages. The lights might go out, but books don’t run out of batteries. Just don’t forget the candles.

The Tempest , William Shakespeare

Probably our favorite stormy weather read: the magician who conjures up a vengeful storm, the shipwrecked prince, the lonely daughter, the airy spirit and the monster. Oh, Prospero. “I have be-dimm’d/ The noontide sun, call’d forth the mutinous winds,/ And ‘twixt the green sea and the azur’d vault/ Set roaring war.”

“The Long Rain,” Ray Bradbury

For those of you who’ll be spending most of the hurricane time with your noses pressed against the window, watching cars and cows fly by, here’s an excellent science fiction short story for your few free minutes. It begins: “The rain continued. It was a hard rain, a perpetual rain, a sweating and steaming rain; it was a mizzle, a downpour, a fountain, a whipping at the eyes, an undertow at the ankles; it was a rain to drown all rains and the memory of rains. It came by the pound and the ton, it hacked at the jungle and cut the trees like scissors and shaved the grass and tunneled the soil and molted the bushes. It shrank men’s hands into the hands of wrinkled apes; it rained a solid glassy rain, and it never stopped.” Now if only we too could find a Sun Dome to protect us from the elements.

Paul Clifford , Edward Bulwer-Lytton

We don’t know anyone who has read this 1830 novel, but we bet everyone would recognize its opening line: “It was a dark and stormy night…” How appropriate. It goes on, “the rain fell in torrents—except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.” My word. If there was ever a time to read this book, it’s now.

Bleak House , Charles Dickens

Bleak House begins with the weather: “Implacable November weather” with a dense fog everywhere. Not only this, but mud and drizzle and flakes of soot “as big as full-grown snow-flakes — gone into mourning, one might imagine, for the death of the sun.” The weather is meant, at least in part, to evoke the equally dark and oppressive mire of the mid-nineteenth century judicial system — both topics perfect to read about while sitting safe inside by the fire as a wild storm rages outside.

A Wizard of Earthsea , Ursula K. LeGuin

Magical manipulation of weather is one of the elements of LeGuin’s world of Earthsea that sticks in our brains. After all, Ged’s first major spell is a fog-gathering one that he picked up from a passing weatherworker, and it sets him on his path. Master Windkey probably can’t teach you enough weatherworking magic to make a difference before the storm hits, but it’s worth a shot.

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs , Judi Barrett

For reassuring small children (and yourself) about the possible upside to inclement weather. And for reassuring yourself that it could be worse — pea soup fog and meteorological doughnuts crushing your car? We’ll take the normal wind and rain, thanks.

The Perfect Storm , Sebastian Junger

Hurricane Sandy has already been touted as having the potential to top 1991’s Perfect Storm, about which Junger’s book was written, so we think it’s perfect for a little bit of research. The moral probably being, don’t go out swordfishing for the next few days.

Zeitoun , Dave Eggers

Hurricane Katrina is still the major weather event that takes up the most space in the minds of Americans, and Eggers’s Zeitoun, the true story of a man who travelled around his flooded city in a canoe trying to help where he could, is essential reading. Now, if only we had room for a canoe in our apartment.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz , L. Frank Baum

Maybe this massive storm has actually come to snatch us up and deposit us in the Land of Oz, where we will defeat evil witches and make best friends with large felines. Hey, we can dream, right?

Frankenstein , Mary Shelley

Well they are calling it the “Frankenstorm,” after all. Plus, many a high school paper has been written on the symbolic use of bad weather in Shelley’s gothic classic. Use this information to make predictions about what the hurricane might portent for your upcoming week.