Sunday, October 22, 2017

The pages that warm me

Some of the best things in life are seasonal. Everyone will have a different set of comforts that change with each term of the year. I find satisfaction in perfumes curated to induce certain feelings, the foods that come naturally, the clothes that either hug or flow from body, and the books that I read. Today the focus is on the books I crave in the cooler months, these are books that I have reread a few times, but always when it was cold outside. These, are the pages that warm me.

I have a rather strict criteria for my warming books. 
Characters must be full. Full of life, passion, love and meaning. I want them to leap off the page, to dance across my heart and leave their mark. Their story and emotions need to become tangibly and irrevocably entwined with my own. I want to feel their grief, experience their joy, and cherish each flutter of their hearts as if it were my own. These characters need to leave a print on my soul, something that I wouldn't neccessarily demand of a summer read. 

Stories that I find myself particularly drawn to for cold weather reading are, for lack of a better phrase, heart warming. They are the books that you find yourself joyfully smiling at while wiping a stray fallen tear from your cheek, the ones that you find in your dreams long after you've turned off the lights. In quite a few of these books you will notice I have a penchant for a mix between magic and history. Historical fiction is always a good choice in my mind, but add in a touch of the mystical unknown and you have me; hook, line and sinker. 

These are the books that I will think of first when people ask me for recommendations. I'm always looking for new books to add to any of my seasonal lists, so please, if you have any loves of your own pop them down in the comments. It would be much appreciated by this book worm. 

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak 
Should I call this a cult classic? It hurts me slightly to insinuate that this masterpiece would only be popular with a certain group in society, therefore I won't. 
If you haven't already read this gem, then to put it nicely - you need to get your life in order and read it NOW. Even if you have seen the movie, which was actually one of the best book to movie adaptions I've ever seen.
This was the first book that I had a deep, pain in your tummy, red puffy cheeks cry over. But, don't let that deter you. If anything, my crying only demonstrates the beauty and depth contained within the pages of this book. 
Death is the teller of this story, which focuses on the life of one particular little girl, Liesel, in Nazi Germany and how the events of World War II turned her world, and so many others, upside down. 
Thought-provoking, charming, tragic, comedic, resilient, inspiring, and breathtakingly beatiful; this is a story that will change you, in the best possible way. 

Sexing the Cherry by Jeannette Winterson 
This is my newest addition to the short list, but it is no less precious than those that have been included for years. Winterson tells two stories in these pages, that of the Dog-Woman and that of her adopted son, Jordan with the narrative switching between each of them. Both tales haphazardly walk a tight rope between complete fantasy and historical fiction. The Dog-Woman inhabits most of the historical fiction sections of this tale, as she depicts her life in London during the Puritan Revolution. She, as a Royalist, is an outcast of society - a position she is more than familiar with, as you may have guessed from her name. Her narration is full of the sympathy, unconditional love, strength, and the specific je ne sais quoi that can only be found in a character that has accepted their outsider position. 
Jordan's tale encompasses much more of the mystical, however both narrations do crossover multiple times. He is consumed by his journeys, both in reality and in his imagination as he chases down an elusive woman. Jordan travels through many different lands, many of which represent fairy tales, as he reflects upon topics such as space, nature, love, and time. 
Even though she is desperately ignorant on many topics the Dog-Woman represents home, she is an anchor for Jordan throughout his adventures - something that I and many other readers will resonate with. 

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern 
Perhaps 'cult classic' is more suited to this magical little number. A story built around the magic and mysterious Le Cirque des Reves, the Night Circus of the title. Morgenstern pulls the reader into a past world full of magic, mystery, love and romance. Two timeless wizards, Prospero the Enchanter (aka Hector Bowen) and the mysterious Mr. A. H., are competing via two young surrogates and there can be only one standing at the end. The Night Circus itself is the arena in which the young magicians engage in a decades-long duel. Not with wands or lightsabers, but via their heartfelt creations and manipulations — a maze of clouds, an ice garden, a living carousel. They attempt to one-up each other until they fall madly in love.
This is my Christmas read and I take reading it every year over the holiday season as seriously as I take stuffing myself full of way too many helpings of mashed potatoes - for those of you that don't know my affinity for carbs, that's extremely seriously. 
If you are looking for romantic read with hints of Harry Potteresque magic tied up in a stunning Victorian bundle then this is absolutely the read for you. 

Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom 
Most people are first introduced to this book in school, I however did not have that pleasure and have only read it quite recently. Albom's story is one that a lot of readers can identify with on some level. Mitch, the protagonist, suddenly feels compelled to reconnect with his favourite lecturer from college when he learns of the elderly man's terminal illness. Tuesday's with Morrie does not beat around the bush with the idea of mortality, but rather than offer a bleak outlook, this book will inspire you to live the best life you can, while you can. Morrie, the lecturer, outlines specific lessons in life that Mitch, and the reader, can benefit from immeasurably. Definitely read this if you are looking for a literary pep talk, this book will remind you how beautiful life can and should be. 

Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick 
I picked this book up on a spur of the moment trip into a London bookshop one January about five years ago. Perhaps it is the title, or the fact that I began reading it immediately on a bus driving through a rather gloomy London, but this story has been on my winter-reads short list ever since. The story of Eric and Merle is told in seven different parts, in seven different time periods. So again it tickles my magical and historical fancies. A tale of soulmates searching for one another, to be reunited following their tragic and untimely seperation. This novel is both comforting and mysterious, it will gladden your heart but also leave you on edge. Perfect if you're looking for a slightly less obvious warmer. 

Plainsong by Kent Haruf 
Plainsong tells the story of various different people living in the fictional town of Holt, Colorado. As the book progresses the unstable lives of each character connects to form a vision of life, relationships, and their town that binds them together. This is a story of overcoming the mighty burden of place and circumstance. 
The characters are each deeply flawed and troubled in their own way, but through this novel the reader is offered a window into their growth, humour, and humility. This is a very raw admission of the imperfections of humanity, but also a celebration of love, charity, and the importance of learning from ones mistakes. This is perfect for those of you who don't share my preference for otherworldly tales - these characters will seem so real, it'll feel like you know them even after you close the book. 


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