As December approaches and the days get colder and shorter, the idea of staying inside where it is warm and dry becomes increasingly inviting. With lockdown it may feel a little harder to get into the festive spirit this year, but covering yourself in blankets and sitting down with a cosy winter read and a mug of hot chocolate might be the very best option right now. Amongst the stress of end-of-term coursework that needs completing and the dreaded approach of Christmas shopping, stepping into an alternate world offers a welcome escape.
Dark nights and howling winds outside signal to many of us a time for spooky reads, especially in the period close to Halloween. While it may be a bit strange to continue dressing up in your Halloween costume a month later, picking up a scary book could be the perfect continuation for many people’s favourite holiday. Gothic and supernatural books are great for this time of year due to the gloomy weather. Stephen King’s classic The Shining is not only creepy but has the chilling setting of a hotel high in the snowy mountains, and never fails to make me think of the winter months. But if you’re looking for something a little less well-known, I recommend Andrew Michael Hurley’s The Loney.
Historical novels are always perfect for this time of year, with their often romantic plot lines and sweeping dramas
Set on a desolate piece of English coastline, The Loney follows a young boy who goes to stay with his family on a religious retreat when the body of a boy is washed up on the beach, and all sorts of supernatural events start to occur. The Loney is a book where the setting is a character in and of itself, and things as innocuous as a child’s toy start to take on unsettling qualities. Its understated style keeps the reader questioning whether there are evil powers at play or if the atmosphere of the setting is simply making us as paranoid as the characters in the novel. Perfect for something to keep you awake at night and inject some adrenaline into your lockdown!
But if spooky reads are not for you, a more comforting option might be preferable. For me, historical novels are always perfect for this time of year, with their often romantic plot lines and sweeping dramas. Longbourn by Jo Baker is a brilliant example; it tells the story of Pride and Prejudice from the point of view of the servants downstairs, who are only briefly glimpsed in the original novel. Longbourn is a lot more realist than Pride and Prejudice, revealing how tough life as a servant really was, but it still includes a romance between two of the main characters. For a glimpse into this often romanticised time period, but with a dash more of realism and emotional struggle thrown in, Longbourn is ideal. Just like The Loney, the setting of the Bennet’s house and the surrounding countryside are rich in detail and great at whisking us away from dreary winter weather.
Returning to old favourites like classic books can give us a sense that things will eventually return to normal
Winter is often a time we return to old favourites, whether they be personal or global classics, as their familiarity makes them so uplifting. A great example of a cosy winter classic is Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, which starts at Christmas with its famous opening lines of the March sisters grumpily contemplating the idea of Christmas without presents. Full of themes of love, family, growing up and independence, it can be a reassuring read when so many people are worried about how much they’ll be able to see their loved ones over Christmas. Returning to old favourites like classic books can give us a sense that things will eventually return to normal.
Other classics that could serve the same purpose include Dickens, particularly A Christmas Carol if you want to feel festive, or Austen’s uplifting romances. With winter being the perfect time to read, and a welcome alternative to finishing every good series on Netflix, there are many different options for a cosy read. Whether you want to try something new, or return to an old friend, picking up a book and leaving the reality of the grey weather for a while can make us all feel a lot more grateful for the colder months.