Let us set the scene for you: it’s 4.30pm and you decide to shut your laptop. The sky has turned an oceanic blue, inky in fact, and a candle is lit. Side lamps are on and you don’t need to think about dinner for a couple of hours. You could watch a show but as soon as you open your computer, there’s an urge to check emails or get sucked into some other internet pastime. A stack of books sits on your coffee table. It might not be the holidays (when books are often voraciously consumed) but you’ve got an hour of quiet to escape into a different world. We’ve put together a shortlist of cosy winter books to see you through the next couple of months, when the moment strikes, the time is right and the house is (mostly) quiet.
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
Spanning a hundred years and one family, Pachinko begins in the small Korean fishing village of Yeongdo, where Sunjin, the teenage daughter of a crippled fisherman, falls for a wealthy stranger, which decides the fate of her and her family for years to come. Moving between Korea and Japan, from the early 1900s to the 1980s, Pachinko charts the challenges of Sunjin’s displacement, coming to terms with a new identity and fighting for survival for her and her family.
Conversations On Love by Natasha Lunn
Journalist Natasha Lunn started a newsletter where she interviewed interesting people about love. Twee it is not; interrogative, heart wrenching and utterly relatable it is. In Conversations With Love, Natasha has published these dialogues with the likes of Dolly Alderton, Roxanne Gay and Esther Perel and interspersed them with her own rolling narrative of love, loss, grief and hope.
Cleopatra & Frankenstein by Coco Mellors
Are you impulsive? Would you move to the other side of the world, bouncing from party to party, and fall straight into the arms of an older man like Cleopatra, a 24-year-old British artist who runs away to New York? When she quickly marries Frank, she discovers that things can't be fixed that quickly. This is a book that shows the underbelly of spontaneous decisions and deep, intense romance.
Small Fires: An Epic In The Kitchen by Rebecca May Johnson
There are a lot of food memoirs out there, but Rebecca Johnson manages to immerse the reader in staccato poeticisms, the act of cooking through a political lens, a critical take on the role of food writing and how food – the preparing, cooking and eating of it – gives us a new way of experiencing our bodies and ourselves. Rebecca talks of the eroticism of tying an apron, elevating the humble sausage and the joy of making a recipe again and again.
East Side Voices by Helena Lee
Helena Lee is another journalist who has edited and curated some of the most interesting and exciting East and Southeast Asian voices, from Gemma Chan to Naomi Shimada, Zing Tseng to Catherine Cho. There are stories of spirit festivals in Myanmar, growing up on set of a Harry Potter film, being on the frontline of the NHS during the pandemic. It’s an amazing set of essays that gives a voice to the Asian experience.
The Romantics by Galt Neiderhoffer
The Maine coastline sets the scene for this rocky narrative where a group of college friends gather for two of their group's wedding day. Laura is the literary maid of honour, Lila is the seemingly perfect, unshakeable bride, Tom is the confused groom who is caught between the two. It's a sharp tale of friendship, young love, nostalgia and elitism, where falling in love with your friends can be as dangerous as it is romantic.