13 Cozy Books to Curl Up With

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Looking for a cozy book to curl up with? Grab one of these immersive, cozy novels that will take you into another world. Add these to your list of cozy fall or winter books, grab some tea and a blanket, and snuggle in by the fire while you get lost in these cozy, comforting books.

When you think of cozy books, what comes to mind?

You might think of winter, or mysteries with interesting characters (and not too much violence). Cozy mysteries, in fact, seem to be a genre and reading taste unto themselves.

Feel-good, comforting books set in the English or Scottish countryside also often fit the bill, maybe because so many cozy classics seem to be set in these locations.

But my definition of cozy books is a little broader. For me, cozy books have in common some element of isolation–sometimes literal and sometimes figurative.

The characters in cozy books often seem to exist in a world of their own, if only for a short time. They may be physically isolated, or they may be part of an intense friend or family relationship.

These books invoke a particular feeling of insularity and immersion when reading them. Even when the stories are dark, the settings and characters often feel comforting and we just want to sink into them.

The choices here are varied–some are light and some are decidedly dark–but all will take you into an insular, absorbing world.

They are perfect options for the “cozy book” category on my More Joy, Less Stress Reading Challenge.

Cozy Books for the More Joy, Less Stress Reading Challenge

In 2021, my reading challenge is to consciously choose one book a month that will bring me joy.

All reading does this in different ways, but since much of my reading tends to be heavy and sometimes dark, I’m pushing myself to choose some books that are a little lighter, that make me smile, or that bring me some contentment.

And of course, one of the categories on this reading challenge is cozy books.

If you could use a little more joy in your reading life, I invite you to join me in this reading challenge (that I hope won’t feel like a challenge at all).

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Cozy, Comforting Books to Get Lost In

The Shell Seekers by Rosamund Pilcher

The Shell Seekers

Author: Rosamund Pilcher

This is the book I’ll be reading for the “cozy books” category in my reading challenge, and it’s one I’ve wanted to read for a long time. The premise doesn’t seem like much: a woman in her old age discovers that her father’s painting is worth a small fortune.

It’s the raves and reviews that have me convinced that this is an appropriate “cozy” read: they promise that it will make me want to cook and garden and enjoy the outdoors and all the comforting pleasures of the world. I am hoping this will be a new favorite.


Winter Street by Elin Hilderbrand

Winter Street

Author: Elin Hilderbrand

If cozy winter holiday reading is what you’re after, this story of a family who owns a Nantucket inn may fit the bill. This book delves into some weightier issues and relationships, but it has a slight comic edge that keeps it light (one character runs off with the inn’s Santa Claus!). The family veers toward dysfunctional–relationship issues abound, one character is facing jail–but they are overall likable and kind to one another.

This is the first in a four-book series and the dreamy Nantucket inn at Christmas makes the whole series a great cozy choice.


Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield

Once Upon a River

Author: Diane Setterfield

When a little girl is pulled from the Thames river, seemingly dead, and comes back to life, the mystery of her survival is just the beginning. Three families claim she may belong to them–but none are sure, and the little girl isn’t saying.

Setterfield truly creates an atmosphere in this Victorian-era novel, one shaped by the powers of storytelling, nature, and mysticism. Light a candle, suspend a bit of disbelief, and curl up with this dark mystery.


The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker

The Dreamers

Author: Karen Thompson Walker

At a dorm in a small college town, a freshman girl falls asleep and doesn’t wake up. Soon, other students also fall into deep sleeps and are hospitalized, kept alive by tubes. The remaining students are isolated, but others in the town succumb. Soon the town itself is under quarantine, its residents living in fear of falling asleep and volunteers risking themselves to keep people alive (sound familiar?).

The Dreamers is less dystopian fiction and more rumination on the true nature and power of dreams, as well as the freedoms we sacrifice in the name of fear and safety. Pandemic-lit is definitely not for everyone right now, but if you’re up for it, this is a great novel to curl up with.


Summer Hours at the Robber's Library by Sue Halpern

Summer Hours at the Robbers Library

Author: Sue Halpern

Set in a small Carnegie library in a failing New Hampshire town, Summer Hours at the Robbers Library brings a trio of loners together in the one public space left for them to find one another. Kit, a quiet librarian in her early forties, wants only to be left alone to forget her past. When she is charged with overseeing 15-year-old Sunny’s summer community service (for stealing a dictionary), she is drawn to the girl’s magnetic curiosity about the world.

The two muse about the identity of the professionally dressed man who shows up all day, every day. Soon Rusty, too is drawn into an unlikely circle of friendship, along with The Four–the retirees who spend mornings over coffee and the paper at the library.

The first chapter (fast-paced and a little racy) doesn’t match the tone of the rest of this book. Get past that and enjoy the cozy small-town quirkiness of these friendships.


Caroline: Little House, Revisited by Sarah Miller

Caroline: Little House, Revisited

Author: Sarah Miller

Told from Caroline’s (“Ma’s”) perspective, this book revisits the familiar Little House on the Prairie story through adult eyes. It highlights the challenges and uncertainties of being a young, pregnant mother, alone on the prairie with only her wanderlust-filled husband and three- and five-year-old daughters. Only now that I’m a mother do I realize what a feat this was.

If you have memories of cozy childhood readings of Little House on the Prairie, this is an excellent choice for a grown-up dose of nostalgia.

Related: 17 Books about Motherhood and Mothers


Still Life with Breadcrumbs by Anna Quindlen

Still Life with Breadcrumbs

Author: Anna Quindlen

Rebecca Winter is a 60-year old photographer, still famous but no longer sought-after, who moves to a rural town in an attempt to save money by renting her Manhattan apartment. She feels lost until she begins spending time with a local roofer, twenty years her junior, and finds a photography project in the mysterious crosses and mementos scattered through the woods. 

Quindlen is always a solid choice for excellent prose and depth of feeling, and the light touch makes this a great cozy read.


News of the World by Paulette Jiles

News of the World

Author: Paulette Jiles

Captain Jefferson Kidd travels the west, reading the news from around the world to the small hamlets scattered across the yet-untamed land. At one stop, he is asked to return a young girl who the Kiowa held captive for years after killing her family. Johanna has almost no memory of her previous life, including how to speak English, but she soon comes to trust Kidd. The two become an unlikely team as they face threats on their journey.

I loved Kidd and Johanna, their journey, and how their relationship unfolded. Kidd’s newsreading events that drew entire towns felt both foreign and charmingly innocent in contrast with today’s information overload.


Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

Bel Canto

Author: Ann Patchett

At a party in the vice-presidential mansion of an unnamed South American country, a band of young terrorists enters and takes hostages. The hostages include a world-renowned soprano, a Japanese business titan, and diplomats from various countries. The days and months stretch on and lines blur, relationships form, and tensions rise and fall and rise again.

This is one of my favorite books and was my first introduction to Ann Patchett–now one of my favorite authors. The mansion becomes a community and world in itself for the inhabitants, and you’ll be fully pulled into its orbit.


Run by Ann Patchett

Run

Author: Ann Patchett

Set over a period of 24-hours during a blizzard in Boston, Run brings together the former mayor, his twin sons, and a stranger and her child who are involved in an accident. Privilege and poverty collide and connections unfold in another moving tale of family from Patchett.

You can feel the quiet on the snowy streets of a usually bustling Boston, giving this muted but fast-paced story an insular snow-globe effect–perfect for a quiet night in.


Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

Gilead

Author: Marilynne Robinson

This Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, the first in the trilogy set in Gilead, Iowa, takes the form of a father’s letter to his son. Rev. John Ames is 76-years-old and nearing the end of his life, but his son is only seven. In the letter, he reflects on his own life and relationships with his father and grandfather, and realizes some of his regrets–including his difficulty relating to a son so many years his junior, and that he won’t be around to watch him reach adulthood.

Robinson’s writing is quiet and meditative, but often astonishing in its perceptive observations on human nature.


Beartown by Fredrik Backman

Beartown

Author: Fredrik Backman

In the declining Swedish town of Beartown, hockey is the one bright spot. The talented junior team–and one player in particular–have the potential to win it all and revitalize the town. But a brutal event at an after-game party could be the downfall of the team, the players, and the future of the town itself. As the residents grapple with their loyalties and their own morality, each one is forced to answer for themselves how much they are willing to sacrifice for the love of a town and game. 

An excellent winter read, Backman brings sharp observations about small town relationships, family, and the saving grace of team and sport.


Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner

Crossing to Safety

Author: Wallace Stegner

First meeting at the start of the men’s academic careers in Wisconsin, Larry and Sally and Sid and Charity instantly fall into a friendship that lasts through decades of work, play, children, sickness, travel, conflict, and heartache. These are quiet lives, punctuated with successes and disappointments, driven by ambition, intellectual pursuits, and their closeness with one another.

Stegner brings close the small moments and personal memories that loom large in personal memories, especially as the four reflect on them late in life. Curl up with a pen to underline the many poignant passages.

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What are your favorite cozy books?


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13 Cozy Books for Quiet Nights

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8 Comments

  1. Thanks for this list! My favorite cozy book these days is A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles.
    cheers!

    1. Thanks, Nora! A Gentleman in Moscow is on my shelf, waiting to be read. From what I know about it, you’re right that it fits my description of a cozy book. Loved Towles’ Rules of Civility!

  2. What a great list! Two of my favorite reads are on it. “Once Upon a River” anon d “News of the World”. There’s eight on the list to read. Thanks for the list.

    1. Thanks, Donna! Glad you found some good ones!

  3. Hi Allison! As soon as I saw the title of your article “the Shell seekers” popped into my head and then there it was the first book on your list! I first read this book quite a few years ago and just a couple years ago I re-read it for the fourth!! time. I have to say that’s about the only book I’ve read that many times but as much as I enjoyed it the first three times I liked it even BETTER on my fourth go-around. It is truly one of my all time favs!! Thanks for your other suggestions as well, some I’ve read and others I’m still looking forward to reading. Keep up the great work – I really enjoy your blog!

  4. This is such a great list! My favorite cozy reads are the Chief Inspector Gamache mysteries by Louise Penny. They pair so nicely with a comfy blanket, a fireplace, and a hot cup of coffee.

  5. Loved “Caroline’. Tried to love News of the World but I just can’t read books without quotation marks. Takes the joy out of reading for me.

  6. Gosh, I’m sorry to say I’m disappointed in your list. I skipped over most of it after reading the description. I can only say that you do seem to be drawn to heavy and dark reads and I’m not so sure you have not strayed far from your usual with a lot of this list. I will add The Shell Seekers and Winter Street to my list and maybe Crossing to Safety, but that’s it.

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