Recently I was talking to my daughter about books that can change our mood. There are times when we are not feeling particularly cozy and we need to grab a book to read that will put us back into a comfort zone of happiness and warmth. She mentioned "Pride and Prejudice." She pulled it out one night when she need her spirits lifted and it worked!
I started thinking about the books I pull out to read for a mood boost and I came up with the following ones.
"Emma" by Jane Austen, because no matter how badly behaved she is, we love Emma. Her heart is in the right place. And we love watching her learn about herself. As in so many of Austen's books, the characters in "Emma" are all people we know in our own life. We know a Mrs. Elton, a Miss Bates, and a Harriet. These are all characters we recognize as being true. And who can resist the moment when Emma realizes she loves Mr. Knightley!
"Excellent Women" by Barbara Pym, because I love the funny, wise, and good-natured voice of the narrator Mildred Lathbury. A clergyman's daughter and a spinster in London in the 1950's, her closest friends are the vicar of her church and his sister. Her peaceful existence is shaken up when an estranged couple move in next door and draw Mildred into their world.
"Howards End" by E.M. Foster, because the Schlegel sisters are two of my favorite literary characters. One is passionate and impractical, the other is calm and sensible. I love their women's discussion group and their passion for the music of Beethoven. This book has many Austen-like qualities -- it is about writing letters, sisters, property, and inheritance. And it is an Anglophile's dream, an homage to England's gorgeous countryside and beloved old homes.
"Brideshead Revisited" by Evelyn Waugh, because when Charles Ryder falls in love with Sebastian Flyte's family we understand. We are also prepared for the big let-down. A fascinating and tragic saga of a great English family struggling with its demons. But I keep coming back for those luscious scenes of Oxford University and that great English house, as well as the memorable characters, such as the members of Sebastian's family.
"Merry Hall" by Beverley Nichols, because it is more than just a classic of garden literature. It reads like a novel as it tells the story of Nichols' purchase of the run-down Georgian mansion 'Merry Hall' and his rescue and transformation of its garden into a glorious paradise. What keeps me coming back is the hilariously funny writing.
"The Pursuit of Love" and" Love in a Cold Climate" by Nancy Mitford, because sometimes we just need to laugh and feed our love of British eccentrics and British wit.
"The Moonstone" and "The Woman in White" by Wilkie Collins, because nothing beats a good, sprawling Victorian mystery to draw us in.
"The Age of Innocence" by Edith Wharton, because sometimes we just need a good cry.
"Queen Victoria" by Lytton Strachey, because it is a delightful and illuminating biography of Queen Victoria. Strachey upended the genre of biography with this book and others, as he wrote with irony, wit, and a touch of irreverence, unseen in that genre before. This book is utterly charming.
I would love to know what books you like to read when you need a little coziness?