July: The Ballad of the Sad Cafe by Carson McCullers (American, 1951)
Hopefully hopeless, Anna Karenina details the rise and fall of a Russian beauty who is ultimately destroyed by the strength of her desires and her willingness to seek out her own sexual and romantic happiness. While it has been interpreted as a morality tale by early critics, it is now seen as a ground-breakingly realistic depiction of the way people are both born through, and devastated by, love and its various successes and failures. For those of a less romantic bent, much of the novel revolves around men and their place in the natural world, which for Tolstoy apparently meant being outside hunting, shooting, fishing and farming as often as humanly possible. Complex and intricate in its plot structure, this novel is practically made for the darkest, longest days of the year.