Cozy Books

“Is The Kite Runner good?” I asked Amy while perusing her bookshelf for something to read.

“Oh, you haven’t read it yet? You should read it!”

So I read it, and it fell vaguely short of my expectations. Which was somewhat of a feat, as I had very few expectations going into it. I guess I just expected to enjoy reading it more than I did.

Then I picked up A Tangled Web, by L.M. Montgomery, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Something in my soul filled up, making me feel beautiful and happy and content and thoughtful.

So then, of course, having read two books in a relatively short span of time, I had to compare them. I had to know why I preferred one over the other so strongly.

Some of the difference was actual quantifiable things that made one book better that the other. Hosseini wrote pages and pages about flat characters who only had one trait. “The sweet supportive wife.” “The kind, selfless friend.” “The evil sadistic villain.”

Montgomery, on the other hand, wrote characters that were only mentioned once in the entire book, but had distinctive and unique personalities. And she laughed when cousin Hannah from Summerside asked her if it could be true that she was going to marry “a certain young man.” Cousin Hannah would not say “a Gibson.” Her manner gave the impression that Gibsons did not really exist. They might imagine they did but they were mere emanations of the Evil One, to be resolutely disbelieved in by anyone of good principles and proper breeding. One did not speak openly of the devil. Neither did one speak of the Gibsons. 

But all technicalities of good writing aside, I discovered that an essential characteristic of the books I love, deep in my soul is coziness, abundantly present in all of Montgomery’s books, but not so much in Hosseini’s. This is also a difference I’ve noticed between British and American fantasy. Almost all my favorite fantasy writers were British, and they tended to infuse their books with coziness. Even a fantasy epic like The Lord of the Rings had these incredibly cozy descriptions of eating second breakfast in Bag End.

My three favorite cozy books are Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith, and The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery.

Castle Books

Pictured is a foreign language (Portuguese?) edition of Howl’s Moving Castle, because I liked the cover art better than the English version. 

I think of them as my castle trilogy, as they all three have the word “castle” in the title. At first this seemed a grand coincidence. But later I reflected that books with “castle” in the title usually have a strong sense of place, as the castle is so present in the books that it is almost a character itself. And there is something very very cozy about books with a strong sense of place.

My friend Esta later mused that maybe it’s an introvert thing to be so drawn to cozy books, because we want this strong familiar sense of place to retreat to.

That was kind-of a round-about ramble, but all that to say I’ve been craving cozy books lately, and if you have recommendations for cozy books with a strong sense of place I would love to hear about them!

The coziest book I’ve read recently that wasn’t a re-read was Parnassus on Wheels by Christopher Morley.

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13 responses to “Cozy Books

  1. I enjoyed that post, and love hearing about great new books to read. I know what you mean about flat characters and feel the same way about places mentioned in books. I like to be able to picture both and feel like an observer in a story. Description and character traits help that happen. Though too much description can bog a story down. Have you ever read any of Jan Karon’s books about the little town of Mitford?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Emily Sara Smucker

      I started to listen to a Mitford audio book once but it was heavily abridged and hard to follow. I should give the print books a try.

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  2. I was really surprised you read what you wrote about “The Kite Runner”. It’s been a while since I read it, but I do kind of get what you mean about the characters being flat. I think though that there’s actually something really fascinating about the way that book is written, and I wonder if it’s because he grew up in a different culture than we did. But to me it’s almost like the characters all represent something (which could be described as flatness I suppose). So instead of reading a dynamic character and resonating with their turmoil – you read about the two kids and see yourself in both of them. All to say, I really loved the book 🙂

    Fairly recently I read “The Code of the Woosters” – P.G. Wodehouse, who is actually British. And I think that’s a book you might like…it’s cozy as you say. It’s worth reading if for nothing else the incredible names he comes up with for his old relatives.

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    • Emily Sara Smucker

      Definitely my favorite aspect of the book was the Afghan culture. I think part of my disappointment was that it seemed to me like he only wrote about the parts of Afghan culture that an American could relate to. Maybe that’s why the characters came off as a little flat. I liked the book, I guess just not as much as I thought I would.

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  3. It’s almost more satisfying to listen (audio) to The Code of the Woosters and other PG Wodehouse books

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  4. I’ve read two of those and loved them. Now I want to read “Howl’s Moving Castle”. I’m in the middle of an L. M. Montgomery one now; I just have to reread them every so often. They’re just so comforting.

    Have you read “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society”? I’m trying to decide if I’d call it cozy or not, but it definitely does give me loads of warm fuzzies every time I read it.

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    • Emily Sara Smucker

      I also found “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” to give me cozy feelings. I think part of the appeal of that book was the way it felt like despite the terrible chaos going on around them, they were able to retreat to their society and their books and have a sense of cozy stability there.

      Full disclosure though, I found the ending of TGLAPPPS to be a little odd. Particularly that tangent about finding that story by Oscar Wilde, and then it getting stolen. It didn’t seem to fit with the rest of the book, and I couldn’t help but be a little bitter and wonder how it would have gone if the original author had been able to finish it herself.

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      • You’re right, the ending doesn’t quite fit. Such ordinary people shouldn’t have something like that happen to them. I didn’t know the original author didn’t finish it, although I did notice there was a co-author. So much makes sense.

        Another genre of books that gets me every time is food memoirs. They are the coziest thing ever, as long as you don’t read them hungry. Maybe start with Shauna Niequist’s “Bread and Wine”. Except I bet you’ve already read it. 🙂

        P.S. Have you tried saying “TGLAPPPS” aloud? Sounds like a Dr Seuss character.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I like reading The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery every winter. I don’t like winter very much and this book really cheers me up 🙂

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  6. I love “Home for Christmas” by Lloyd C. Douglas. It is very cozy…I read it during the Christmas holidays – reading it very slowly, savoring the sounds, the smells, the laughter…. living vicariously through that family reunion.

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  7. Perhaps cozy books are attractive to introverts but it is certainly not exclusively so. I LOVE cozy books. I’ve been rereading some Montgomery lately and just letting it soak into my soul. I have a divisive opinion though. After rereading it, I decided that Kilmeny of the Orchard is the worst book of hers I’ve ever read! And just not really a good book in general. Oh, it had it’s charm, but the characters were extremely one dimensional. And also kinda lame.

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  8. Good post. A cozy book in a cozy place on a cold rainy day is indeed a fabulous thing. And good characters! Having Characters that have depth, are well defined, and colorful, does sooo much for a book. Come to think of it, real life people are much more interesting that way as well. As for cozy books, I can think of a number, but Meindert DeJong has written a some good ones. Shadrach, and The Wheel on the School, come to mind.

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  9. Since you mentioned some books I loved, I really wanted to give you a recommendation, but every book I think of, I’m rather certain that you have probably read it.

    Have you read any by Elizabeth Goudge such as The Scent of Water or The Bird in the Tree? They aren’t perfect like The Blue Castle but the sense of place is strong.

    On the nonfiction side, I found Miriam’s Kitchen by Elizabeth Ehrlich to be strangely cosy. Somehow she managed to merge both Holocaust stories, recipes, and her current religious pilgrimage into a wonderful read. I learned so much about the modern Jewish religion from this book.

    I couldn’t get into The Kiterunner and abandoned it.
    Gina

    Liked by 1 person

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