As winter break approaches, we are looking forward to sitting in front of a fire with a warm cup of tea or hot cocoa and reading a good book. Our favorite books to read during winter are ones that bring us comfort, familiarity and nostalgia. These look different for everyone, but here are some of our comfort books.
For readers in search of a character-driven, low-stakes fantasy, In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan is an incredible book with everything you may want: a matriarchal elven society with swapped gender roles! A violently pacifist narrator! Best of all, mermaids! In Other Lands follows hilariously sarcastic thirteen-year-old Elliot Schafer as he grows up in and out of a magical world on the other side of a wall visible to very few. He struggles with frustrating authority figures, multiple romantic mishaps, friendship, and existential questions about his purpose in any world—but the magical one especially. We highly recommend this book to anyone who likes to gently poke fun at the traditional fantasy-story stereotypes and main characters who need a sword and magic powers to be heroic.
Filled with morally questionable characters, backstabbing, and a brutal faerie world, The Cruel Prince by Holly Black may seem like an odd comfort book. However, there’s something about the fearless and somewhat terrifying main character, Jude Duarte, that makes this book comforting. Still living in Faerie years after she is kidnapped by a Redcap General named Madoc at the age of seven, Jude is drawn into the complicated politics of the High Court of Faerie. She finds herself entangled in political games and a rivalry with the human-hating Prince Cardan, the youngest son of the High King. Jude quickly proves her ability in manipulation and violence, playing the game more effectively than everyone else despite being a powerless human teenager in a world of fae. This slow burn story, in both plot and romance, can be a reprieve from the world of fast paced fantasy while never ceasing to surprise you. If you’re an enjoyer of all things morally grey and dark fantasy this book is definitely for you. This book is first in a trilogy, and we highly recommend bingeing all three.
The next book is a more traditional comfort book. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Annie Barrows and Mary Anne Shaffer is about finding love through literature in the aftermath of World War II. London author Juliet Ashton, while struggling to find inspiration for her next book, comes across a letter from a mysterious man from the island of Guernsey. As she begins her correspondence with him, she uncovers secrets about the island and its inhabitants during its German occupation, and becomes more and more invested in their story. This epistolary story is witty and interesting, and for those who are wary of a book made up completely of letters, has a Netflix movie adaptation. We recommend this book to any readers looking for historical fiction with characters that love literature as much as they do.
Sunshine by Robin McKinley is not your average vampire book. In this alternate universe the vampires are not pretty. They are not perfect. They are scary, gross, and very much a threat to public safety. The absolute joy of this book doesn’t necessarily come from happy storylines so much as it does from its complex and weirdly lovable protagonist, Rae “Sunshine” Seddon, and her ragtag bakery running family. After Sunshine is kidnapped by vampires she must use a gift she’s kept hidden for a long time and make an unexpected alliance. This book is delightful and individual in its world and character building. It’s refreshing to have a book where no one is perfect and nothing is straightforward. The only issue with this book is the cliffhanger and subsequent lack of a sequel, but besides that, Robin McKinley can do no wrong with this wonderful adventure.
The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart, for anyone who didn’t read it in a frenzy during middle school (and probably those who did), is the perfect comfort series for anyone who isn’t looking to read romance. Four uniquely talented children join forces under the tutelage of the eccentric Mr. Benedict in order to infiltrate a school that is brainwashing people all over the country. This witty series is a blast from the past but still holds up for older readers, and is guaranteed to pull you into the mystery and adventures the children get up to.
Lastly we have a book that’s published both in print and on the Webtoon app. Heartstopper by Alice Oseman is a graphic novel following Nick and Charlie, two British schoolboys, as they experience young love, friendship, coming out, and all the adventures and misadventures that come with growing up. Nick and Charlie’s story is the perfect blend of teenage angst and queer joy, and the characters are lovable and endearing. This series is the ideal lighthearted story for anyone who needs a little pick-me-up this holiday season. If you continue reading the series, it’s good to keep in mind that it does start to tackle some more difficult topics but it keeps its heartwarming nature throughout.
Some of these books contain upsetting or triggering content. For more information on these subjects, or if you have any suggestions, reactions, or additional opinions on books you want to share with us, we welcome all emails sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.