The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living, by Meik Wiking
“Hygge” is a Danish word that doesn’t really have an English translation, though it could be described as “cozy togetherness.” Think of a group of friends sitting in front of a fire, sipping hot cider. The Danes carefully construct their lives so that they experience as much Hygge as possible. For instance, having candles burning at the office and in school classrooms.
Wiking decided that the rest of the world was missing out, so he wrote an entire little book on the subject. I don’t usually read much nonfiction, and I only picked it up because I was looking for cozy/winter-themed books for this blog post. But I thought it was irresistibly charming.
It has some etymology, some recipes, some exploration of culture, and various tips on how to incorporate Hygge into your life. After reading, I promptly went out and bought an oversized wool sweater from a thrift store.
P.S. These are all children’s books. I don’t know why there aren’t more good Christmas stories aimed at adults, but alas. I tried to find some and had little luck. If you know of any good ones, let me know!
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, by Barbara Robinson
This is probably my favorite Christmas-themed story ever.
First, because Robinson has a John Crist-level grasp on the idiosyncrasies of American Christian culture. They’re a wee bit outdated, as this book was written in the early ’70s, but still hilarious.
And you know how I wrote, once, that you can tell when an author knows her/his subject because they know what goes wrong? Well let me tell you, Robinson certainly knows what goes wrong while directing a Christmas Pageant.
The Tailor of Gloucester, by Beatri
This little book is so charming and delightful. The Christmas theme isn’t super heavy-handed, but the book hinges on the fact that a wonderful coat needs to be finished for the mayor to wear on his wedding day, which is on Christmas morning.
Somehow this books makes getting married on Christmas morning seem like the most charming thing ever.
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, by C. S. Lewis
This classic introduction to the Narnia series (and trust me, it’s a much better introduction than The Magician’s Nephew) is the perfect cozy book to read over the Christmas holidays. So wintry! So charming!
While it’s not a “Christmas story” per se, Christmas is an important part of the plot. I’m not quite sure how Christmas existed in Narnia at that point, as Christ had a different name there, and hadn’t even died yet. But it’s still a cool bit of symbolism to play with. You know, Christmas coinciding with the savior coming, the end of winter’s grip, etc.
Ramona and her Father, by Beverly Cleary
This book begins with the start of a new school year, and ends with a Christmas Pageant. It’s a very rainy Christmas, being set in Oregon, and that felt like a nice touch.
P.S. Did you know that Beverly Cleary is 102 years, 8 months, and 12 days old?
Lovely Classics that Feel Wintry
There’s something about a classic novel that feels cozy and wintry, like it should be read in front of a fireplace. Here are some that feel dramatic and wintry, but still feature a good cozy happy ending.
Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte
I actually looked up a timeline of this book to see if it was set in winter. It takes place in all seasons. But I still feel like, between the orphanage and the giant mansion, Jane is cold a lot. So it feels like a winter book to me.
Persuasion, by Jane Austin
I read on a random blog that Persuasion is the most wintry of all Jane Austin’s books. I agree. I have no evidence to back this up. It just feels wintry for some reason, Haha.
True-ish Books Set in Harsh Climates
Mrs Mike, by Benedict and Nancy Freedman
A young girl moves to Alberta for health reasons, and falls in love with a Mountie. What follows is a fascinating account of the harsh realities of life up north.
There are several scenes in this book which really fascinated me and stuck with me. But I’m afraid telling them would spoil key parts of the story.
Tisha, by Robert Specht
Tisha is similar to Mrs. Mike, only with more idealism and less tragedy. The book follows a girl named Anne who moves to Alaske to become a teacher, or “Tisha,” as her students call her.
I haven’t read this book in ages, but I recall it being lovely.
Kyra, by Kyra Petrovskaya
While all three of these books are based on true stories, Kyra is an actual memoir of a woman who lived in the Soviet Union during WWII.
Her story was enthralling. I could hardly believe so many things, and so many husbands, had happened to one person. Particularly fascinating was her account of living through the Siege of Leningrad.
It’s interesting to me that although we have countless books, movies, etc based on WWII, most of them are from an American, British, or German perspective. But the Soviet Union had far and away the most deaths. Kyra was the first WWII book I’d ever read from a Soviet Union perspective.
That’s all for now. I was going to add a section. I was going to add a section about cozy topic memoirs, like food memoirs and home renovation memoirs, but it’s Christmas eve y’all and I’m too tired.
Every year I read The Best Christmas Pageant Ever aloud to my family. Every year they burst into gales of laughter. And every year I fight tears as I see the Christmas story through the eyes of the Herdmans once again….”Hey! Unto you a child is born!”
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Papa Panov’s Special Christmas by Leo Tolstoy is good, too.
I notice you don’t mention “A Christmas Carol”?