Best feel-good books: comfort reads you can enjoy over the winter months

It might be cold, dreich and dark outside but there’s plenty to love about winter: the chilly, grey days are the perfect excuse to stay inside and indulge in one of our favourite pastimes, reading. The Danish concept of hygge is still having its moment, and for good reason: it encourages us to indulge in the seasonal aspects of life by being intentionally cosy in the wintertime. With this in mind, we’ve complied a list of some amazing books written by women that are perfect to hunker down with this winter:

Winter Warmers:

  • Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell
  • The Tenderness of Wolves by Step Penney
  • The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
  • Winter by Ali Smith
  • The Winter Book by Tove Jansson
  • Moominvalley in November by Tove Jansson
  • Merry Midwinter by Gillian Monks
  • Wintering by Katherine May

Wendy the GWL Librarian recommends:

“‘Old Baggage’ by Lissa Evans – a fabulously comic novel about the legacy of the Women’s Suffrage Movement and one woman’s determination to create a meaningful present in the wake of her own thrilling and revolutionary past. Meet Mattie Simpkin, one-time militant Suffragette – she is a brilliant creation! The novel is very funny, but not without sadness and regret. If you love Mattie, she makes an appearance in Lissa Evans earlier novel, ‘Crooked Heart’, which follows the fortunes of Noel, a quick-witted 10-year-old evacuee, who gets caught up in dodgy dealings on the Home Front…

Any poetry by Mary Oliver is like a soothing balm! I have a collection of her selected poems called ‘Devotions’ that I love to dip into regularly. Sometimes called ‘the mistress of paying attention’, I always take solace from her mindful approach to living and the natural world. Her book of essays, ‘Upstream’, takes us on a lovely meander through her thoughts and experiences of life as a poet. Here’s a rare, intimate interview with her, with Krista Tippett.

It might sound strange, but crime fiction is often a comfort read for me. Although it’s been many years since I read her, I remember absolutely loving Sue Grafton’s ‘Kinsey Millhone’ series. Kinsey is a brilliant fictional creation – a fiercely independent, super smart private investigator (PI), sleuthing in California in the 1980s (I secretly wanted to be her). Anything by Jackie Kay is my go-to when I need a pick-me-up, her writing is infused with warmth and empathy. I particularly love her short story collection ‘Reality, reality’, and her poetry collection ‘The Empathetic Store’ – her stunning poem, ‘April Sunshine’ about her parents’ activism, always brings a tear to my eye.

If you want to be transported to sunny days, you can’t go wrong with Tove Jansson’s ‘The Summer Book’, it’s a delight! One of my favourite non-fiction reads this year has been ‘Be my guest: reflections on food, community and the meaning of generosity’ by Priya Basil – when I’m not eating, I’m thinking about eating, so I love to read anything about food, and I’m particularly interested in how the sharing of food brings people together. But this book is about so much more than that, it’s a thought-provoking meditation on food, family, identity, immigration, and, most of all, how we extend hospitality to others.

I went to hear Amanda Thomson speak about her book, ‘A Scots Dictionary of Nature’ a while ago, and I’m so glad I bought a copy. I’ve been astonished by how fascinating, poetic and beautiful the Scots language can be. You’re sure to find words in there that will brighten your day, no matter what the weather. A few of my favourites are ‘button mouse’ (a small field mouse) and ‘north-dancers’ (Aurora Borealis). A wonderful book to dip into.”

Meanwhile, our volunteer Ashley sent us this comprehensive list of must-reads:

Semi-autobiographical accounts
  •  Americanah by Chimamanada Ngozi Adichie
  •  Karukku by Bama
Modern Fiction
  • The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  • The Testaments by Margaret Atwood
  • Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood
  • The Gap of Winter by Jeanette Winterson
  • The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin
  • Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice
  • The Bee by Laline Paull
  • The Color Purple by Alice Walker
Historical Fiction
  • Circe by Madeline Miller
  • Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
  • The Earthsea Cycle by Ursula Le Guin
  • The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
  • Feast of Souls by Celia Friedman
  • Lud-in-the-Mist by Hope Mirrlees
  • Pride and Prejudice by  Jane Austen
  • Persuasion by Jane Austen
  • Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  • Eleanor of Aquitaine by Alison Weir
  • Isabella; the She-Wolf of France by Alison Weir
  • She-Wolves by Helen Castor
  • Blood Sisters by Sarah Gristwood


Our Museum Curator Jenny suggests Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City series:

“A return trip to Barbary Lane always wraps me up in the warmth of meeting old friends. Sheer comfort and joy!”


Over on our Twitter feed:

We asked you to tell us “what are your go to books during the cold, dark winter months?

As always, you didn’t disappoint, here are some of your suggestions:


@armsofrain Wintering by Katherine May directly relates 🙈

@TKenlon Excellent Women by Barbara Pym – Just the right amount of wistful melancholy 

@IslaBoag Anything by Ali Smith, especially Autumn, Winter, Spring and Summer. This quartet tackles the harsh realises of Brexit and the rise of fascism but does so in a way which leaves the reader feeling hopeful. we need hope right now.

@LauraDudSmith Kathleen Jamie – The Overhaul. The poems are about the end of Winter / first signs of spring and always remind me of better things to come. 

@Paula_Baker84 A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes ‘Haynes gives much needed voice to the silenced women of the Trojan War’ Great Read!

@Jenmccarey I am a big fan of Laura Ingalls Wilder books and especially Little House in the Big Woods. The stories of staying at home and preparing for winter, making Christmas presents and treats. The girls are brave and courageous. It’s the perfect winter book to share with a child. 

@Idontphotoshop I always re-read India Knight’s Comfort and Joy each December. Preferably in the bath with a gin and tonic and some nice nuts. 

@ozayethenoo The Shipping News, which I read again and again and it never fails to make me feel better. And Anne of Green Gables, a warm hug of a book. 


We’d love to hear your suggestions, get in touch with us via Twitter @womenslibrary or email us at

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