The excitement and fun of the holiday season are dwindling down, and, in you live anywhere in the middle-to-upper United States, the winter season is in full swing. Snow has fallen, the sidewalks are full of ice, and the amount of time I want to spend anywhere besides my couch with a warm mug of chai tea has risen exponentially.
WHERE IS THE SUN. WHERE. HAS. IT. GONE.
There are, however, a number of perks that come with hibernation season. I've made some easy and delicious crock pot dinners, fallen strangely in love with quick jogs in the snow, and, what's best of all, have acquired a stack of books to snuggle up with. While some are new and unknown stories (I often ask for surprise books as holiday gifts), others are classic novels or old favorites. Since my time spent outside is minimal, I have a special tendency to read tales of escapism — books that take place in worlds outside of my own. But then again, I can't help but re-read some of my favorite novels from young adulthood to make me feel the comfort and warmth of nostalgia.
No matter the genre or the era, these are some feel-good (but not cheesy!) books to warm up your soul in the dead of winter:
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
A children's book that can be read as a lesson for adults, the 80 pages of The Little Prince are chock-full of wisdom and reminders of how to be a genuine and caring person. As the Little Prince, a naive traveler from outer space, planet-hops and meets different grown-ups who range from royals to drunkards, he and the reader alike learn to never underestimate childish abilities. The Little Prince offers a refreshing optimistic outlook on the way we relate to each other — sure to take you out of an emotional funk.
Tiny, Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed
Cheryl Strayed's memoir Wild was a book club-favorite before it hit the big screen in late 2014. But many people who read about her trek across the Pacific Crest Trail might not know that for many years, Cheryl Strayed was the anonymous "Dear Sugar" advice columnist for The Rumpus . Tiny, Beautiful Things is a collection of some of her best letters, and reading Strayed's earnest (but often tough) responses reveals more about her fascinating history than watching Wild ever could. Reading this collection is like reading a bunch of notes from your oldest friend — the person who knows you better than anyone. You'll feel all of the emotions in a very good way.
Kafka On the Shore by Haruki Murakami
Reading Haruki Murakami's Kafka On the Shore is an exercise in escapism that's ideal for the rut of winter. Anchored by two seemingly different plots (Kafka Tamura, a teenager who runs away from home and Satoru Nakata, an aging simpleton), this novel converges the unlikely stories and puts us in a world full of mystical sprits and talking cats.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
A book that can be shared across different generations (my mom and I read it simultaneously when I was 13), The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time holds one of the most improbably heartwarming stories I've ever encountered. Narrated by Christopher John Francis Boone--a 15-year-old boy who knows all the countries, their capitals, and every prime number up to 7,057 — the story follows his investigation of the mysterious death of a neighboring dog. Curious Incident gives you all of the satisfaction of solving a mystery novel with the added bonus of the companionship you feel with Chris.
Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer
I wouldn't call myself a "nature person," but reading the stories of Robin Wall Kimmerer — a botanist, Potawatomi woman, and mother — made me think about my relationship with the natural world in an entirely new and refreshing way. With soothing prose and mesmerizing storytelling, Braiding Sweetgrass celebrates natural gifts and reminds readers that humans aren't the only ones living and interacting on this Earth. Instead of looking out my frosted window and dreading the snowy walk to the grocery store, these stories make you think about the trees you pass along the way that will live through way more of "Polar Vortexes" in their lifetime than you will.
Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
David Sedaris opens this collection with an essay about being forced to visit his elementary school's speech therapist because of his lisp and ends with stories of his move to Paris and an entirely new struggle with language. Both sincere and humorous, Me Talk Pretty One Day will surely make you laugh, it might make you cry, and it will definitely make you feel like you've been there been there in some way or another.
The Giver by Lois Lowry
A staple read for 7th graders everywhere, this Utopian (and then Dystopian) novel might seem like a dark choice for a "warm your heart" book. But the story of Jonas, a 12-year-old who becomes the "Receiver of Memory" in a society without colors, love, and other emotions becomes an uplifting and victorious tale above a totalitarian world.
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz
Oscar Wao is the epitome of a lovable nerd — he's overweight, lovesick, and stuck in New Jersey with his traditional Dominican mother and spunky sister. This colorful and original novel is one part immigrant epic, another part a magical realist saga, and is altogether a heartwarming ode to misfits everywhere.
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Every once and a while, all I need is a really good love story — even if it's a bit out of the ordinary. Rainbow Rowell's Eleanor & Park tells the story of two Midwestern outcasts that discover true friendship, love, and the power of Joy Division together. Eleanor's complicated family life will break your heart, but Park comes around to heal it back up. This is a book that will even make cynics believe that you can find love in the most unusual circumstances.
I Was Told There'd Be Cake by Sloane Crosley
Lighthearted, funny, and insightful, these 15 essays are snapshots of Sloane's young adult life in New York City. Not unlike David Sedaris' collection, these essays range in topics from horrible bosses at first jobs, the horror of being a bridesmaid, and being locked out your apartment (twice), and relate to everyone in some way, shape, or form. Crosley's wit and humor make you feel like you're out for coffee with a friend, even if you're sitting in bed wrapped in your Snuggie.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Renowned for its warmth and humor despite serious themes of racial inequality and sexual abuse, To Kill a Mockingbird is very much still relevant to modern readers. The primary reason it's on the list is due to Atticus Finch — one of the most influential and inspirational fictional characters of all time. Atticus' relentlessness and bravery serve as a comforting reminder of the good in people.