We asked our website writers what their favorite way to curl up with a book is and for any titles that sparked that cozy-warm-holiday-feeling we all know and love. Read below for some ideal wintery-reading-respites and have a very merry holiday season!
My grandmother’s house no longer exists as I remember it, but I remember what it felt like to read there. I would wake up far too early in the mornings, made restless by the different time zones, and creep downstairs to the couch by the window. Snow outside and warmth inside made the whole world quiet.
Unfortunately, of course, I can’t exactly recreate the experience in Houston, Texas, but a mug of spiced drink in my hand goes a long way. This winter, I’ve stacked up a sizable stack of books to read, mostly tales from long ago: the Contes de Fées of Madame D’Aulnoy, the Lais of Marie de France, and fairy tale retellings by Angela Carter. Perhaps I’ll even wake up too early in the mornings once again.
My favorite reading method involves a park bench, a fiction novel, and a revolving backdrop of dog-walkers, stroller-pushers, and trail-runners. Looking at the stagnant text while the people, all existing in their own worlds, pass by, is such a relaxing way to devour whatever book that’s been sitting on my nightstand. This winter break I’m looking forward to reading, The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky, unrelated in all but title, The Idiot by Elif Batuman, and Flush by Virginia Woolf.
Somebody revive me when they invent the shrink ray because I vow to one day live in a storybook. Once I’m five inches tall, I’ll make a little bowl of cinnamon oatmeal, get under my tiny quilt, and let my miniature lamp illuminate the room with soft light. As a kid, the anthropomorphic animal friends in The Wind in the Willows and The Tale of Peter Rabbit were the epitomai of comfort.
In honor of revisiting childhood, I can’t wait to settle down this winter with old favorites like The Borrowers, The Phantom Tollbooth, and A Wrinkle in Time. Every night, my mother and I would tuck into bed and immerse ourselves in these stories. In those moments, the big bad world is outside, you are warm, and things look just a little brighter.
My grandmother’s rocking chair, with its light brown frame and faded blue cushions, has endured every move, every impulsive interior design choice, and currently stands beside the red leather upholstery of my mother’s latest acquisition. It was in this chair that my brother and I were nursed, spanked, and sung to sleep.
El Pipiripau and El Titiritau and El Bibiribau and El Chichirichau and El Sisirisau and El Wiwiriwhau and El Ciciricau and El Fifirifau and El Gigirigau and El Xixirixau and Sinbad the Sailor and Tinbad the Tailor and Jinbad the Jailer and Whinbad the Whaler.
As a ten-year-old, I’d push the limits of this chair, rocking so far back the legs would come off the floor for a prolonged moment of uncertainty. Twelve years later, an enchanted relic at the far end of the living room, this chair would be where I would spend my final moments reading Ulysses. Not wanting to let go of an experience I’d never be able to repeat, I knew the end was near, a cup of tepid coffee nearby, my electric-green pen annotating no longer. My farewell to Mr. Joyce’s novel would coincide with the restlessness of Molly Bloom and begin at two in the morning. I was unsure of what I’d do with my life when I finished, my eventual withdrawal from conservatory looming over me as I would grieve for a life spent years in the making; yet, more importantly, I had realized in the warmth of the dull yellow lamplight, the dignity and beauty of my presumably uninspired life in the Valley as it converged with the stagnancy of Dublin, Ireland. Alone in this rocking chair, in a state of pure bliss, I closed the book. Yes, I had traveled. Yes.
Somewhere calm where distraction cannot reach me. My favorite mug tucked into my palms, an unremarkable gray one that has seen me through hundreds of cups of tea and all my years of college. Angry torrents of rain outside, but I’m untouchable in my own private nook. Crisp pages and dry clothes and a knit blanket. A candle that smells of gingerbread burns on the table as I greedily consume the words curled in my lap. Something literary, something personal and desperate and beautiful. Something real. This is my dream world, one perfectly tailored to fade away around me.
Harmony Moura Burk
Picture a cup of coffee or tea steaming in hand. A blanket that holds heat captive and imposes its weight upon your shoulders as it pools around your body. A comfortable couch in which you can recline back and forget the world. Next to that, a window with just enough natural light to make the lights irrelevant. Now picture your cat, large and warm and soft and comfortably purring on your lap. Add headphones to the mixture, wordless music crooning in your ears and drowning out the outside world. You’re safe, calm, locked in a little bubble of comfort and happiness and contentment, and you’re ready. Ready to pick up that copy of Sally Rooney you’ve been neglecting for months, or to slide out a pen and that thin little book of poetry you bought as a form of self-care last week, or that comfort novel you haven’t touched in years. Ready to get to work— reading, imagining, thinking, transcending. At that moment, it’s just you and your book. You live in the moment, in that flash of peace that might only last until your little brother needs something or you remember that assignment you’ve been procrastinating on all day. For a moment, however, none of that matters. Your only concern is turning to the next page to know more.
As we get closer and closer to the holidays this December, I’m looking forward to some homemade food, Christmas lights, and a much reduced to-be-read list. The weather channel is predicting some storms over the break—luckily the best kind of reading weather. Perhaps I read one too many Brontë books at an impressionable age, but something about rain pelting against the window sets the perfect mood for any genre. After a busy semester, I’m looking forward to revisiting some of my favorite classic sci-fi novelists. Micheal Crichton, Andy Weir, and thunder all pair very well together, just take my word for it. If you see me in Houston this winter, it will be with a book and umbrella in hand!
My ideal reading environment is quite cliché, but for me to truly feel immersed in a story, it helps for my surroundings to be silent. In a perfect world, a window overlooking cold rain illuminates my room, both providing an excuse to not go outside and the pristine meditative ambiance I need to relax. Additionally, the room is scarcely lit, only a lamp right next to me is turned on, precisely shining a light on the pages of my book. I have no neighbors loudly stomping upstairs and no loud cars revving their engines outside. Whether the book is an old classic I’ve had to collect dust on my overstuffed bookshelf (I’m so sorry Don Quixote), or an impulse buy my feeble mind was tricked into purchasing from a YouTube video, I’m certain I’d enjoy it in my imaginary fortress of tranquility. While certainly not a completely unique or nuanced reading environment, I find this scenario to be the most ideal for me, even though it seems I can never obtain these conditions.
My favorite spot to read a book has changed from when I was younger. The old spot was tucked tightly under the covers, phone or Kindle in hand—a memory familiar to any avid reader.
More recently, as my family has established a tradition of going on sunny beach vacations in December (we all hate the cold!), my favorite reading spot has become some corner of a day-long cruise boat. I can feel the sun on my face, the cool breeze as the boat cuts through the water and the spray of water on my arms. Every so often, we stop to swim. My father swings by every hour or so to hand me a mocktail—I’m partial to virgin mojitos—or a glass of wine. We return to shore just after dusk, having watched the sunset over the ocean. I go back to school in January browned and feeling refreshed. I feel extremely nostalgic during these trips because the beach has always been a place where I’ve spent time with family—some of my happiest memories with my parents and grandparents have been by the ocean. After having been burned out from the semester previous, I like to re-read some of my favorite classic novels rather than dive into something new—books with happy endings. One year, I sped through Little Women and the first two novels of the Anne of Green Gables series. Another year, I re-read Black Beauty and War Horse back-to-back. This year, I plan to re-read Life of Pi, The Little Prince, and hopefully, some short stories from my copy of Malgudi Days.