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28th November 2021

Cosy books to warm you up

Five book suggestions to warm you up as the weather gets colder and to give you some stocking filler ideas
Cosy books to warm you up
Photo: Aileen Loftus @ The Mancunion

When I woke up this morning it was precisely zero degrees, and I was pretty sure that I could see my breath as I lay in my room, under my double duvet and blanket. Yes, winter is well and truly wrapping its paws around Manchester, I thought, as I buried myself in about five layers before tentatively venturing out, deeply wishing that I was somewhere far nearer the equator. 

Despite this, winter is still my favourite season, and not just because I’m a sucker for a good parka. No, with winter comes thick blankets, heated homes, open fires, hot chocolates, gorgeous street lights, snowy days and, perhaps most importantly of all, Christmas. 

So, to stave off the cold before various members of the family who you haven’t seen since before COVID and think that scratchy socks and a copy of last years Beano annual is an acceptable Christmas present, let me instead offer up five of the best books to keep you warm and cosy as the weather gets colder.

1. The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien

The first, and most obvious choice (no winter book list would be complete without it), is J.R.R Tolkien’s fantasy epic of dragons, hobbits and trolls, The Hobbit. In fact, just the trio of trolls, humorously named Bert, Tom, and William, arguing over when they’ll next eat anything but mutton as poor Bilbo tries to hideaway, is a scene that brings flooding back to me images of cosy winter moments curled up next to the fire, one hand on the book and the other with fingers crossed that Bilbo wouldn’t end up as their next meal. 

Tolkien’s fantasy epic is a classic and an absolute must for anyone as the weather draws in; a well-hewn tale, a fantasy of epic proportions, and one that can be read year upon year to warm your bones in the dead of midwinter.

2. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Perhaps another clichéd choice, but one not any less fitting, is Charles Dickens’ winter tale A Christmas Carol. The chagrin of many a GCSE student, A Christmas Carol has been imagined, portrayed and visualised in endless formats. The muppets version is a particular favourite of mine, with Miss Piggy putting in an Oscar-worthy performance as Emily Cratchit. 

Ultimately, Dickens’ richly woven Christmas tale of repentance and Christmas spirit is the ultimate feel-good classic for this winter. Dickens’ trademark poetic flair allows the reader to get drawn into the perfectly crafted world of Victorian London; we can retreat under a blanket and descend under the snowy blanket of early 19th century London.

3. Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata

Continuing on the theme of novellas for Christmas, we take a slight veer to the left with Japanese author Sayaka Murata’s novella Convenience Store Woman. Comforting in a different manner, it is more a story of familiarity, of the comforting mundanities of life and how they can provide us with purpose in an unstable and shifting life. 

It tells the story of Keiko, a thirty-six-year-old single woman who has always worked in a chain supermarket and who ventures out, finding a world lacking the order and safety of the supermarket shelves, drawing her back into the comfort and familiarity of the strip-lit aisles. 

It is a short, easy reading book that can even be read in one sitting and envelops you like a warm hug or a familiar smell. Every person identifies with it in a different way, for example, it reminds me of a national trust cafe after a long winter walk. This is a personal favourite of mine and I’d highly recommend it as a happy, humorous little pick me up, the literary equivalent of a hot chocolate on a cold winter day.

4. The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

We all love a bit of snow around Christmas and A Christmas Carol isn’t the only place we can get our fix; funnily enough, there are a few more recent books that include snow that can bring us a bit of cosy comfort. One such is American author Eowyn Ivey’s debut novel, a 2013 Pulitzer Prize finalist, The Snow Child

Based on the Russian fairytale Snegurochka, it follows a childless couple, Jack and Mabel, in the cold of 1920s Alaska as they struggle to make ends meet and, in an attempted moment of vivacity, build a child out of snow. The child comes to life and slowly becomes a more important part of their life. The story straddles the barrier of fairytale and reality with amazing poise, drawing the reader deeper and deeper into an emotional, heartwarming tale that is sure to warm you up no matter the weather outside.

5. The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

If you’re looking for something to challenge you a bit more this Christmas, my final recommendation is Nobel-Prize-winning author Kazuo Ishiguro’s Remains of the Day. The plot follows the motoring trip of Mr Stevens, the butler of Darlington Hall, as he reminisces back upon his time at the Hall. He looks back upon the recently deceased Lord Darlington and his possible unsavoury characteristics, his own love affair with the housekeeper (did the butler do it?) and much more.

Ishiguro rolls back the years to the early 20th century, telling a tale of a quaint English country house, and after all, what’s more Christmassy than Downton Abbey on the TV and a bowl of sweet chilli Sensations? It is a true character piece and an intellectually stimulating read for those who find themselves bored easily. 

I hope these reading recommendations help to keep you warm as we hit the depths of winter and can bring you as much joy as they did to me. Who knows, if nothing else, they might even provide a good stocking filler for that Australian cousin you forgot you had.

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