The Cocoa Read: Books to Cuddle Up With This Winter
December 21, 2017
You know all about the Beach Read. In the summer, you spread a towel on the sand and open up a breezy (or not so breezy) book, the sound of ocean waves lapping against the shore in the background. But what about the chillier months of winter, when frost patterns your windows in icy floral designs and your reading spot of choice is by the fire or the heater vent? What do you read then?
WritersDomain is here to solve that problem. We proudly present the Cocoa Read! If you’re looking for books to warm up your soul or give you a delightful shiver, our editors have you covered. Here’s a list of our editors’ Cocoa Read picks.
Let’s start with some classics:
In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash by Jean Shepherd
This title likely doesn’t sound familiar to you, but if you’ve ever watched the film A Christmas Story, you know many of its stories. Read the original text that inspired the hilarious scenes of a dad praising his “fra-gi-le” leg-shaped lamp and a son begging endlessly for a Red Ryder BB gun. Part of the fun is seeing how the screenwriters wove the episodes together into a single plot line.
Shepherd’s linguistic skills make hearing the novel read aloud just as enjoyable as watching the movie. Last December, I listened to the audiobook read by Dick Cavett. The sentences are full of universal observations about the hilarity of everyday life, particularly during the holidays. If you want to rediscover Shepherd’s version of a nostalgic Midwestern Christmas, play this book over your car stereo as you drive around town doing holiday errands.
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
Hopefully you’ve already read Anne of Green Gables, but if you haven’t, then get a copy from your local library as soon as you can. Read Anne’s hilarious exploits near a window while snow falls. Most importantly, periodically stare out the window and get lost in melodramatic, poetic thoughts.
Anne’s imagination and optimism is inspiring at the best of times, but I find her poetic nature particularly appealing when the world is cold and dark. She reminds me to look at the world through eyes of wonder and see falling snow as fairy dust rather than a safety hazard.
All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot
James Alfred Wight uses the pen name James Herriot to relate semiautobiographical tales about his experience as a veterinary surgeon. The hilarious, heartwarming, and bittersweet stories about animals and their owners are apt to make you laugh and cry.
The setting of fictional rural Darrowby in 1930s–1950s England is as cozy as can be. Wight is a descriptive, warm, and witty writer. He really communicates the love and hard work his job required. My family loves this book, and we often listened to the audiobook on road trips. It’s perfect to read when you’re nestled on your couch and ensconced in the fluffiest of blankets. Get ready to tear up, but also to mostly laugh and laugh and laugh. Here’s a small taste of what’s to come.
“It was to a moribund horse, and Mr. Sidlow, describing the treatment to date, announced that he had been pushing raw onions up the horse’s rectum; he couldn’t understand why it was so uneasy on its legs. Siegfried had pointed out that if he were to insert a raw onion in Mr. Sidlow’s rectum, he, Mr. Sidlow, would undoubtedly be uneasy on his legs.”
Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
Northanger Abbey was the first novel that Jane Austen wrote, even though it was one of the last novels she had published (it was published posthumously along with Persuasion). A satirical look at the Gothic romance novels that were popular at the time, Northanger Abbey focuses around Catherine Morland, the most unexpected heroine.
While on holiday, she travels with Henry Tilney (the romantic interest in the novel . . . I know everyone is obsessed with Darcy from Pride & Prejudice, but let me tell you, he doesn’t have anything on Henry Tilney) and his family to stay at their abbey. It’s here that Catherine’s training in reading Gothic romance novels—what has been established as her greatest and possibly only skill in life—kicks in. But what secrets does the abbey and the family who inhabit it hide? And is it Catherine’s imagination or is there something truly sinister going on?
Northanger Abbey is the perfect book to curl up with as you explore the cold, stone abbey with Catherine and discover what dark secrets lurk there.
Here’s a taste of fantasy:
Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust
Melissa Bashardoust released this debut novel earlier this year, and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since. Girls Made of Snow and Glass makes for an excellent read—it’s a captivating retelling of Snow White that is unlike anything I’ve read before.
The novel follows Queen Mina and her step-daughter, Lynet—brought together by a man with a sick vision of cheating death. Their relationship is loving and strong until Lynet discovers that she is actually made of snow and the king gives her authority over the southern territories—lands once promised to Queen Mina. The two women suddenly realize the power play that was created for them: should Mina assert her power and challenge Lynet’s authority? Should Lynet finally stand up for herself and be the queen she wants to be? They have to decide—and decide quickly—if they were meant to hate each other or support each other.
This retelling is pretty creepy at some points (again, lots of references to glass and hearts), but it’s hard to decide who you want to win at the end of the day. There’s no clear lines of good versus evil until the very end of the novel. You’ll shiver in anticipation and pull your cocoa and blanket closer to you so you can keep reading.
Here, There Be Dragons by James A. Owen
If finding easter eggs and connecting the dots between stories is your jam, Here, There Be Dragons might need to be your next wintry-day indulgence. This YA novel by James A. Owen is the first in The Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica series. Owen masterfully mixes fiction, pop culture, classic tales, legends, and history into one savory adventure that leaves you simultaneously satisfied yet thirsty for more. It’s unlike any retelling I’ve ever encountered.
While you may be snowed in, Owen takes you exploring through the Archipelago of Dreams, a collection of dangerous and raw lands pulsating at the borders of our known world. Here, you’ll journey with companions Tolkien and Lewis, unveil the origins of Mordred, and discover a secret society of deceased caretaker-authors. Guest appearances include H.G. Wells, Captain Nemo, and Deucalion—but as with all things in this book, they are not as they seem.
And last, but certainly not least, some humor and self-help to get you through the holidays and winter blues:
Grace’s Guide: The Art of Pretending to Be a Grown-Up by Grace Helbig
This book is ridiculous and will not be everyone’s cup of cocoa. But that’s okay. YouTube creator Grace Helbig’s take on a self-help book epitomizes what she so eloquently states at the end of all her videos: “I don’t know.” Luckily, no one else does either.
Sure, plenty of adults act like they know everything, but who are they really fooling? Grace wants to make sure you don’t take any part of this so-called adulthood too seriously. She tackles everything from interviewing for a job and managing anxiety to owning a walk of shame and successfully hanging out by yourself.
And while it might be a book geared toward Millennials and those on the cusp of adulthood, even “true adults” will find genuine insight and laughs in Grace’s Guide. It’s an excellent combination of self-deprecation, honesty, and silliness.
What books would you add to our Cocoa Reads list? Have you read any of these books already? Just want to
swoon over talk about Gilbert Blythe? Tell us everything in the comments below!