Looking for a good book to cozy up with around the fire? Grab a recommendation from the Hothouse staff that’ll surely warm your cheeks and heart this holiday season.
Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
Some may recognise this title from the Studio Ghibli 2004 film of the same name (which is brilliant if you also want a film recommendation), but Howl’s Moving Castle was originally a fantasy novel published in 1986 by British author Diana Wynne Jones. The story takes place in a fairytale type land where magic is commonplace. The novel’s heroine, Sophie, is expected to take over the family hat shop rather than follow her own path. Through a series of events, Sophie is turned into an old woman by a witch and begins her quest to reverse this spell, striking a deal with a fire demon that dwells in the wizard Howl’s magical house. Howl is a hugely powerful wizard but can be vain, moody, and self-centred but also has a good heart (think Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock Holmes), and Sophie becomes his cleaner as she tries to work free of the spell. The story follows their experiences in the magical land, with Howl’s house being able to be present in four different locations depending on how you exit the door. Thus, readers get four times the magic and adventure. The book is written in a witty and engaging way, beautifully visualising its characters and the lands they find themselves in. In terms of genre, the novel is considered fantasy, but I would compare it more to a fairytale than, say, the magical realms in Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter. The book dances between classic fantasy tropes and new, engaging depictions of “the wizard” and “the heroine” archetypes. It’s funny and touching, imaginative and clever, making it a great choice to curl up on the couch with in front of your own friendly household fire demon.
~Eliza Day, Fiction Board
Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
“So, what if, instead of thinking about solving your whole life, you just think about adding additional good things. One at a time. Just let your pile of good things grow.” Curling up in front of the fire with Attachments by Rainbow Rowell over Winter Break is certainly something you can add to your pile of good things. This fun, heartfelt novel is sure to keep you as cozy and warm as that comfy blanket you’ll be wrapped in while reading it. So slip on those fuzzy socks, pour yourself some hot chocolate, and settle into the world of Lincoln O’Neill, a 20-something “internet security officer” whose job is to monitor his company’s work email for anything inappropriately non-work-related. Sounds like a pretty dull life, huh? Well, it is, until the hilariously entertaining and remarkably personal email conversations between Beth Fremont and Jennifer Scribner-Snyder start showing up through Lincoln’s security software. He knows he should turn them in, but he can’t seem to deny himself the amusement of reading their messages. From witty banters about how hot Colin Firth looks in period dramas to detailed and intimate exchanges over their individual romantic troubles, the two friends essentially spell out their entire lives for Lincoln to read, and he eventually (and inevitably) feels like he really knows them. But he doesn’t. He’s never met them, not physically. This becomes somewhat problematic, especially when Lincoln realizes he’s starting to fall for Beth. Can you fall in love with someone you’ve never met? Is there such a thing as love before first sight? You’ll have to read to find out!
~Kendall Talbot, Marketing Board
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
What better way to relax by the fire than with a classic 19th century novel? Dickens uses his eloquent prose to create vivid imagery of nature scenes while following Pip’s journey to become a gentleman and win the heart of Estella Havisham. Great Expectations is the perfect fireside book, a riveting tale full of adventure and romance that touches on themes such as the power of deception and loyalty to family. As one of the first Realist novels, Great Expectations stood as a highly progressive novel in its time in the way it blurs the lines between social classes in society.
~Xavier Richardson, Poetry Board
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is an oldie but goodie for a lot of folks out there. While the later books deal with more serious topics and center around a more angst-filled Harry, the first book in the Harry Potter series is a light and easy read sure to bring that nostalgic feeling back into your heart—at least if you’ve ever read the books before. Most people are plenty familiar with Harry Potter, but if your only exposure has been the movies, picking up Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is a good entry into the series and a comfortable way to spend an afternoon. The writing in the first book is on par with a middle school or even elementary school student, so even someone completely new to Hogwarts should have an easy time jumping in. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is a feel-good book where magic is real, anything is possible, and evil is always defeated in the end. Curl up with it under a warm blanket and a cup of hot chocolate this break, and let the magic begin.
~Morgan Southworth, Nonfiction Board
Winter Stroll by Elin Hildenbrand
When cozied up around the holidays, the only type of books I want to read are filled with nostalgia, cheer, and the beauty of relationships. This is not a time for depressing tales and gross introspection. Something as sweet and intimate as my glass of eggnog will do just fine. Elin Hildenbrand’s entire collection of novels are set in the town of Nantucket off the coast of Massachusetts in the most picturesque of communities. Usually heartbreak or a saucy romance initiates the novel, but the stories serially conclude with the warmness of companionship and the overwhelming magic of the Nantucket community. Her novel Winter Stroll, unlike most of her other summer books, is set around the holidays and follows the family and relational drama that accompanies Christmas reunions. Sprinkled with savory meals and fond memories, the reminiscence of past Christmases, and the strength of familial bonds, this is the perfect winter book to warm your hands in.
~Abigail Gamm, Poetry Board
Child of God by Cormac McCarthy
Child of God tells the story of a deranged and destitute man who lives alone as an outcast in the mountain woods of Appalachia. This truly disturbing tale of innocence, obsession, and necrophilia is one that will inspire you to curl into a ball and try your hardest to forget how dark and evil humankind can really be. A nice fire in the background might make the disgust and intrigue you feel more bearable and comfortable, as well as contrast the chilly mountain wind you’ll be reading about. Although certainly not a light holiday read, Child of God presents a story that will challenge you and your ideas of morality, as well as probably creep the bejeebers out of you. Give it a go.
~John Calvin Pierce, Poetry Board
Persuasion by Jane Austen
Okay, I know the first thing you think of when you hear “cozy book” may not be Jane Austen, but hear me out. Persuasion is by far the most dangerously underrated Jane Austen book out there – why reread Pride and Prejudice for the tenth time this holiday season when you can start anew? Persuasion tells the story of Anne Elliot, a young (unmarried) woman who missed out on her chance at love after rejecting the love of her life, Captain Wentworth, due to his status. Years later, Anne finds herself thrown into Captain Wentworth’s company again while visiting her sister. Add in the fact that Anne’s family is heading towards financial ruin, while Wentworth is richer than ever. You can slice the tension with a knife, which makes the book that much more enjoyable. One of my favorite parts of the book is the heroine, Anne, who has to be Austen’s most realistic female lead ever. She’s not as quick as Elizabeth, as stubborn as Emma, or as mousy as Fanny; instead, she creates a character that readers can easily identify with. If you’re still not convinced, just wait until you read a certain letter that will make you forget all about some guy named Darcy.
~Sara Leonard, Nonfiction Board
Wild by Cheryl Strayed
At the age of 26, Cheryl Strayed began her solo trek across the Pacific Coast Trail in an effort to rediscover herself and truly mourn the loss of her mother. Although she begins and ends the journey alone, Cheryl meets other hikers along the way that define her experience more than her time alone does. They instill in her a confidence and willpower that she might not have found anywhere else and teach her necessary skills for the trail. Wild is the perfect novel to pick up during the holidays. Whether surrounded by friends and family or sitting peacefully near a fire, you’ll enjoy this amazing adventure and the beauty of the trail community.
~Madison Brock, Fiction Board
The Secret History by Donna Tartt
It’s cold outside, there’s a steaming mug of hot chocolate in your hands, and there’s a fire crackling beside you. All that’s missing is a good novel – but fear not! The Secret History by Donna Tartt is the ultimate fireside read. Taking place on a cold winter campus is a tale filled with intrigue, bacchanals, and eccentric college students whose tastes chill to the bone. In part psychological thriller, the story presents itself to be thoughtful and yet beyond our grasp. Tartt’s first novel tells the story of Richard Papen, an economically downtrodden boy who abandoned California for the looming heights of Vermont’s Hampden College to study the Classics. What he doesn’t quite anticipate are the questionable ambitions of his fellow students, the debauchery he finds himself surrounded by, and the emotional turmoil he is plunged into once their dionysian frenzy goes wrong and their weakest link must be taken care of. Shocking and compelling, the pages seem to fly. When I first read this novel per the recommendation of a friend, I could not put it down. In the way Henry Winter says “I love Homer,” I can only say that I love Donna Tartt for this novel and I cannot recommend it enough.
~Julia Schoos, Poetry Board
All book covers courtesy of Amazon.