Prepare to disappear down a rabbit hole of dreamlike realms, sublime storytelling and beautifully-spun narratives, perfect for distracting you from those cold winter nights.
From fiercely feminist debuts inspired by The Nutcracker to talking cats and Hocus Pocus horn, here’s a buffet of books that’ll help you feel like you’re anywhere but stuck in your living room, surrounded by clothes that never seem to dry and the faint aroma of last night’s Deliveroo.
1. Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern
You can always rely on magic to drag you away from the real world and Erin Morgenstern’s Night Circus is no exception. Two star-crossed magicians set their best pupils against one another in a contest but unbeknownst to them, there is a price to pay for their magic. A feat of the imagination, truly one of the best reading experiences you’ll ever have.
Read this one if: you want to fill the Potterverse void
2. Stay Another Day – Juno Dawson
TW: Eating disorders, self-harm, mental health.
Four sleeps till Christmas, three siblings, one juicy secret – if you read one book this season, make it this one. Cosy and festive but with Dawson’s trademark grit and quick-witted social commentary, get you a Christmas book that does both. Probably the wildest Christmas book you’ll ever read.
Read this one if: you’re here for the drama over the décor
3. Gifts – Laura Barnett
They say don’t judge a book by its cover but in this case, go right ahead. Like chocolate for the eyes, Gifts tells the bittersweet story of 12 interconnected characters on the hunt for the perfect gift for the people who matter most to them. An immensely readable book made for a cosy day at home, preferably with a snoozing dog on your lap.
Read this one if: you want a quintessential feel-good festive read
4. The Seven Imperfect Rules of Elvira Carr – Frances Maynard
Fans of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine will love this coming-of-age story about a 27-year-old neuro-atypical girl, living with her overbearing mother. When her mother is taken ill with a stroke and moves to a nursing home, Elvira comes up with several rules to help her make sense of the world around her.
Read this one if: you’re a simp for a heart-warming tale
5. The Flip Side – James Bailey
The book equivalent of a Richard Curtis film – James Bailey’s debut novel is a rom-com gem, destined to get you through cuffing season. When Josh’s proposal to his long-term girlfriend goes disastrously wrong, he decides all future decisions about his love life shall be left up to a fifty pence piece. As in a coin toss. Bold move, Josh. Bold move. Cue the road trip with Jesus, pigeons and a plethora of heart-warming scenes.
Read this one if: you want a laugh a minute and a romp across Europe
6. The Cat Who Saved Books – Sosuke Natsukawa (author) Louise Heal Kawai (translator)
Immerse yourself in this heart-warming Japanese tale of a sassy talking tabby cat named Tiger on a mission to rescue imprisoned and unloved books from a series of labyrinths. Grief-stricken high school student Rintaro Natsuki is about to close the secondhand bookshop he inherited from his late grandfather when Tiger saunters into the store and asks to help him on his bookish quesst…
Read this one if: books / cats are your love language
7. Midnight in Everwood – M.A. Kuzniar
This dark and sumptuous adult retelling of The Nutcracker is a feast for the imagination. It tells the story of Marietta Stelle, a young woman with big dreams of being a ballerina. Alas, her high society family wants her to settle down and find a husband. When the creepy toymaker Dr Drosselmeier moves into a neighbouring townhouse, he constructs an elaborate theatrical set for her final ballet performance. As the clock strikes midnight, Marietta finds herself transported from the ballroom to a frozen sugar palace where she must learn to fight for her freedom.
Read this one if: you have a mountain of confectionery within arm’s reach
8. The Bookshop on The Corner – Jenny Colgan
When 29-year-old Nina is laid off from her job at the library, she starts her life over, buying a camper van and transforming it into a bookshop on wheels. She moves to a sleepy village in the Scottish Highlands, driving from neighbourhood to neighbourhood bringing people together through the power of storytelling. From helping her grumpy landlord deliver a lamb, to sharing picnics with a charming train conductor who serenades her with poetry, Nina discovers there’s plenty of adventure, magic, and soul in a place that’s beginning to feel like home… a place where she just might be able to write her own happy ending.
Light-hearted and witty, it’s the perfect companion for those quietly brilliant pj-clad weekends with a packet of Viennese biscuits for a pillow.
Read this one if: you’re hard manifesting moving to Scotland and living on a farm
9. The Candlelit Menagerie – Caraline Brown
Serving Greatest Showman energy, The Candlelit Menagerie will transport you to the dim halls of the exotic animal world of London, three hundred years ago. Lillian, the main character, is a freakishly tall woman with closely shorn hair who struggles to fit into society due to her size. She finds solace in Grady’s Menagerie where she befriends the wild animals and discovers what it means to belong.
A sensory exploration of old London and the impacts of colonialism on the British Empire. A unique story that will no doubt find its way to the big screen, if there’s any justice in the world.
Read this one if: you love complex literary heroines and historical fiction
10. The Ex Hex – Erin Sterling
Wait, you expect us to buy into another booktok romance… with witchy horn? You son of a bitch, we’re in.
Vivienne Jones handles heartbreak just the way any self-respecting girl would – with baths, vodka and revenge, or in this case a curse. Nine years later when the irritatingly gorgeous Rhys Penhallow (the ex with the hex) is back in Graves Glen, Vivienne realises the curse has worked and she must face the consequences of her drunken antics in order to save the town and her ex.
It gets hot real fast. Case in point: “Vivienne if you’ll allow me to make you come tonight, I’d consider myself the most fortunate of men”. Sorry, I can’t make it. I’m doing hot witch shit.
Read this one if: you’re a Hocus Pocus stan
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