Books to Warm You Up as the Weather Gets Cooler
As the weather gets colder, sometimes it’s hard to find things that really warm you up. Sure, a blanket and a warm drink are nice, but a good book can warm up the soul in a way that those things just can’t quite match. Here I have five book recommendations, put on a scale to show the physical comforts each book can mimic within your heart, that may help add a little heat to the cold months of the year.
Your favorite sweater on a thirty degree day – The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M Valente
You know those books that you read by chance when you were younger but still stick around with you years later? That’s what this book is to me. Every time I open it, it feels like being reunited with an old friend. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland follows the story of September, a twelve-year old who gets whisked on a quest by a Green Wind that tells her Fairyland needs her help. Along the way she makes friends of all sorts, including a Wyvern who loves books and a blue boy named Saturday. This book is a warm, curious coming-of-age story about a girl learning to find friendship and self love in a fantastical world, only a Leopard’s flight away from her own.
The author, Catherynne M Valente, is a writer, poet, and literary critic. She writes in the postmodern, fantasy, and mythpunk genres. Although I’ve not read any of her works but this one, I have heard great things about the rest of this series, and many of her criticisms, short fiction, and essays have won awards and national acclaim.
That first bite of your favorite toasty meal – The Graveyard Book by Neal Gaiman
Content warning: murder
This is another book that I’ve carried with me for a long time. Nobody “Bod” Owens is the main character of this tale, a boy who is adopted and raised by the ghostly occupants of a graveyard after his parents are murdered. He begins the story as a toddler with a sense for adventure, as him climbing out of his crib and up to the nearby graveyard spared him from murder. Much of the rest of the story is Bod making friends with ever more of the supernatural inhabitants of the graveyard, as well as the occasional human who comes to the graveyard to play. This coming-of-age tale made me laugh, cry, and clutch my hands to my heart to hold in all of the love I have for Bod and his family.
Neil Gaiman himself is also a figure I hold dearly in my literary heart. I’ve read many a Gaiman and Gaiman-esque novel – from Stardust to American Gods to Good Omens to works by the many authors who take inspiration from him. The Graveyard Book, however, holds a special place in my heart because it was the genesis of my Gaiman obsession, as well as a comfort for me in a rough time in my life. Personal sentiment aside, it is a lovely book that navigates the joy and pain and care of found family and learning oneself amidst the chaos of growing up.
Wrapping your naked body in a thick blanket – The Ex Hex by Erin Sterling
The Ex Hex is a more recent read, one that was suggested to me in an ad on Instagram. My first thought was that the concept reeked of heteronormativity. However, I’m a bit of a romantic and always a sucker for a witchy aesthetic, and honestly I needed a bit of a dopamine rush, so I bought it anyway. And I’m truly glad I did. Firstly, the author, Erin Sterling (who also writes under the pseudonym Rachel Hawkins), studied gender and sexuality in Victorian literature, which showed in the dynamics of her lovers, open sexuality, and host of queer side-characters. Secondly, the book was just plain fun to read.
Full of wit, badass women, and sexual tension, this book puts a witchy spin on something many a broken heart has wanted to do: curse their ex. Main characters Vivienne and Rhys had a brief summer fling in Vivi’s hometown of Graves Glen, Georgia before he broke her heart and went back to Wales. Drunk on vodka and sadness and encouraged by her cousin’s enthusiasm, Vivi performs what she thinks is a fake curse. Nine years later, Rhys returns to Graves Glen for a fall festival celebrating the town’s founding by his family, the Penhallows. Little do either of them know, his returning to town will unleash a curse fueled both by a broken heart and an old, deep-rooted anger.
Sipping on a warm, spiced drink while it’s raining outside – The Near Witch by V.E. Schwab
V.E. Schwab has been one of my favorite authors since I stumbled across her Shades of Magic trilogy in my high school library. Since then, I’ve devoured every book of hers that I can get my hands on: the Monsters of Verity duology, the Villains books, and The Invisible Life of Addie Larue, to name a few. The Near Witch is one of her lesser known books, but also one of the first stories that ever came into her head to become a book. First published in 2011, this debut novel had long been out of print – in 2019, however, the book got reissued and is now back on shelves. Thank the publishers for that.
Part fairy tale, part love story, this tale resembles both a story told to frighten children and a supernatural mystery that reels in older audiences. Shrouded in fog, mystery, and a dash of patriarchy, The Near Witch is a compelling read that pulls you into its depths from the start. The conundrum begins with a stranger entering the small town of Near. Soon after, when children start disappearing from their beds in the night, the blame from the townsfolk points to the only new person in town. Lexi, the main character of the book, determines she will solve the mystery because she is certain it is not the stranger who’s stealing children… rather, it is an ancient power that has, until now, resided in the fallacies of myth.
Stepping into the fireplace – Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao
Content warning: violence, abuse, suicidal ideation, discussion of and references to sexual assault, alcohol addiction, and torture
Iron Widow is inarguably the best book I’ve read this year. I bought it impulsively after seeing a video on TikTok by the author the day before the book was released. Giant mechas meets historical re-telling? Hell yes. The way this book lived rent-free in my head the entire time I read it made for an immersive, thought-consuming experience. Xiran Jay Zhao is an incredible writer and personality who memed themself into becoming a bestselling author – and their author photo is them in a cow onesie? I fell in love with the world, the characters, and the author behind them, and continue to recommend the book to anyone who will listen.
This book is a science fiction retelling of the only woman emperor in Chinese history, Empress Wu Zeitan. Zeitan, the main character of the book, is an angry, spirited woman living in a rural town in the country of Huaxia – a country constantly under constant threat of attack by mecha aliens called Hunduns. Their only means of defense are giant, transforming mechas called Chrysalises, which are piloted by a man and woman who channel their spirit energy into the armor: this system, however, is a system in which girls more often than not die from the mental strain. Zeitan enlists to be a concubine-pilot in order to get revenge for her dead sister, who was killed by a pilot. However, what she doesn’t anticipate is killing the pilot who killed her sister through their psychic link in a Chrysalis, a killing that shows her how much mental power she truly has and sets her on a course to challenge the system and stop more girls from being killed.
Other books I’m currently reading that fit the vibes:
- Blood Like Magic by Liselle Sambury
The Keeper of Night by Kylie Lee Baker