Monday, July 25, 2011

Books That Take You to a Cozy Place

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?


  1. I think you and I could be very good friends.

  2. Sunday,
    Your blog has become my favorite of cozy readings.
    Although richer than I could plan, my path hasn't offered much room at all for leisurely, contemplative browsing. Your perfectly written synopses of such well chosen topics are unspeakably quenching and compelling. Your voice is so gracious; your range of knowledge, beyond impressive.
    Our frequent conversations are a providencial gift to me. Amazing God.

  3. Pamela, I agree! I often feel that way when I read your blog. One of the joys of blogging is discovering kindred spirits.

    Kris, I love our conversations! Thank you for your kind words.

  4. Lovely, thoughtful post and just in the nick of time. Thank you!

  5. Meg, I loved "Eat, Pray, Love." I need to look at that one again. Great suggestion.

  6. I loved this post!!! Heather and I were talking about this too recently. Probably because I also go for Pride and Prejudice when I need a pick me up. I really really really am curious about Excellent Women though. The other book that gives me great comfort is The Weekend. Have you read any of Peter Cameron's books? The Weekend is brilliant and beautiful!! Also: thank you so much for your lovely comment today! See you soon!

  7. What a wonderful treat this list was to see this morning, Sunday. With the exception of Wilkie Collins, which I must remedy, all are favorites.

    At least once a year, the child in my grabs the LIttle House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder and when I want a quick fix about books, 84 Charing Cross Road is always there for me. Howard's End, however, is my favorite for all the same reasons you mention.

    Thank you.

  8. A marvelous list with a few classics here I'm rather embarrassed to admit I haven't read and so many others I could add. But what I'd like to comment on are your beautiful bookcases!! I just love them - are they original to the house? What a lovely room to sit and read in!!

  9. Stacey, we built the house about ten years ago and we were able to design this small library in the front of the house. I was inspired by a library from a home on the east coast that I saw in a magazine at the time, and we came up with this concept for our library. Fortunately for me, a book lover, we were able to include bookcases in most of the rooms in the house.

  10. Rosamund Pilcher novels- the book equivalent of tea and toast.

  11. Great list. I would add Le Divorce by Diane Johnson.

  12. Cold Comfort Farm and any of the Provincial Lady books by EM Delafield. Love your post.

  13. "When I am playing with my cat how do I know she is not playing with me" Saul Frampton (on Montagne).
    The Gilead by Marylynne Robinson. I agree with Genuine Lustre on Rosamund Pilchel and also Kim on Em Delafield on the Provincial Lady. Dirk Bogarde's books (all).
    Another great blog
    Helen xx

  14. We share many favourite books, and you have flagged up a few that I must read. I also love my Persephone books, Greenery street, Someone at a Distance, Mrs Pettigrew lIves For a Day..When I'm looking for cosiness, I tend to turn to cookery books as well, I love reading about food and recipes.

  15. Have you read Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, (or indeed, any of her work?)...I expect you have.. if not I highly recommend it as a truly fabulous piece of writing and storytelling which invites the reader in with an air of conspiratorial cosiness..all her books are written in the same wonderful way..another fave by her is My Cousin Rachel.

  16. I like many of the books you've listed. In addition, I like "Beauty" by Robin McKinley, a good Georgette Heyer, New favorite "A Little Folly" by Jude Morgan, or "I Capture the Castle" by Dodie Smith.