The Cosy Books to Read This Winter.

What makes a book ‘cosy’? It’s a question I’ve often struggled to answer. In the ever commercialising, digitalising, and everything-else-ising age, I’m not sure ‘cosy’ reads satisfy today’s reader as much as they used to. The winter is no longer necessarily freezing cold, and the summer no longer boiling hot. The climate is changing, and the urge to write in recognition of this has only increased.

Nevertheless, the winter months are a time to find warmth – if not literally, then innerly – through the power of language. And there’s plenty out there to get warm with. Let’s start with The Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak, a story of finding one’s feet in a big world. The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo, shortlisted for the Hearst Big Book ‘Prima Page-Turners’ Award 2018, is as spellbinding as it is touching. It tells the story of two university students as they experience the tribulations of life and, ultimately, love.

Perhaps you want something a little darker. John Le Carré’s Silverview, tells the tale of a man who gives up urban living for a simpler life running a bookshop in a Norfolk village. His serenity is suddenly interrupted by a Polish émigré who seems intent to know everything about his new business. Or, how about A Glimmer of Death by Valerie Wilson Wesley? A thrilling and cosy mystery where a woman’s psychic power plunges her future into despairing doubt. Alternatively, Catherine Ryan Howard’s equally enthralling debut, 56 Days, might take your fancy. It’s a tale about two Dubliners, Ciara and Oliver, who meet in a supermarket queue before beginning their lives together. At least until the police find a decomposing body in Oliver’s flat. Has lockdown created the perfect conditions for someone to commit the perfect crime? Yes, it seems so. 

Maybe you prefer a classic. If so, The Lion the Witch and Wardrobe will always have a place on my bookshelf. Same with A Christmas Carol and Ali Smith’s, Winter, which continues to stir attention.

Take my suggestions with a pinch of salt. After all, what ignites my flame might turn yours off. But whatever you do, sit back and relax, be moved by violence, be angered by cruelty, be humoured by wit, and be pressed into action by fiction’s unending and arguably under-appreciated power to tell the truth, even in the darkest of times. All that’s missing is the hot chocolate.

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Sam Gordon Webb

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January 2022
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