Is it just us, or do the cold winds of December make you want to bring down your favourite childhood stories, classics hardcovers, and delicious thrillers from your shelves too?
Here are the books that the staff writers of Daily Star Books return to every year, to recreate the illusion of end-of-year holidays.
Little Women (1868)
Louisa May Alcott
Selected by Shababa Iqbal
I absolutely love Louisa May Alcott's Little Women. I have read the book multiple times over the years, especially during winter. I stayed in on many lazy afternoons wrapped up in the warmth and sweetness of the March household. Drawing inspiration from her own life with three sisters, Alcott, who was born on November 29, 1832 and lived with financial difficulties, burgeoning the American Civil War, presented an honest, insightful story that chronicled the passage from adolescence into adulthood for the March sisters, Jo, Meg, Beth and Amy. Each of the sisters present their own distinctive model of womanhood, as we see them make and lose friends, argue with one another, fall in and out of love and grapple with grief.
The first pages of the book see the newly impoverished March family experiencing a frugal Christmas. The loss of their family fortune inspires the March sisters to learn how to appreciate the little things in life, make sacrifices for people in need, and resolve to become better people — something all of us need to remember in these trying times.
Golpo Guchho (1939)
Selected by Mursalin Mosaddeque
Holidays are all about finding a cosy, peaceful niche for me. So I am less inclined to pick up books that will require me to take voracious notes or do background reading for getting into the text. I am also terrified of running into a book that will spoil the mood and ruin the peace. So I have found myself taking a safer route by rereading old favourites like the stories of Tagore in Golpo Guccho or Sumana Roy's How I Became A Tree. In February, Vivian Gornick's brilliant essay collection on rereading, Unfinished Business: Notes of a Chronic Re-reader came out and I hope to reread it soon.
Good Omens (1990)
Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett
Selected by Rasha Jameel
Fantasy is a necessity, much like its antithesis: the reality. What better to way to relish fantasy during cozy winters than to dip your toes into the most eccentric fantasy-comedy of them of all? Master storytellers Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett's bestselling novel is nothing short of a fantastical epic about the prophesied Apocalypse, set during the late 20th century. Unlikeliest of friends, Aziraphale the Angel and Crowley the Demon close ranks to counter the imminent threat, in a narrative adequately laden with humour, sarcasm, and wholesomeness. Due to its contemporary setting, the book is relatable and it offers both socio-political commentary and comedy. At the core of it all, of course, is Aziraphale and Crowley's rather illustrious friendship, which steals the show. The best way to enjoy the frenetic journey of these two frenemies is to bundle up with blankets at midnight, with a mug of hot chocolate in hand, as you proceed to read about witches and warlocks and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
Selected by Yaameen Al-Muttaqi
If you're searching for a book that will have you chuckling through the cold, Sir Terry Pratchett's "Hogfather" may be your best bet. Set in his zany Discworld, it follows the antics of Death as they fill in for The Hogfather (Discworld's Santa) when The Hogfather goes missing. Every page is a Matryoshka doll of jokes that will only become apparent on your various rereads, and if you look past the layers of jokes, you may just find a heartfelt love letter to the best parts of humanity, and a Strongly Worded Telegram (letter to follow) to the worst.
Inheritance of Loss (2006)
Selected by Shah Tazrian Ashrafi
There's an abundance of passages dealing with food in Kiran Desai's Booker prize-winning novel, The Inheritance of Loss. Those passages have the ability to tug at one's senses, allowing them vicarious comfort, especially when you wrap yourself in a blanket with a hot mug of drink in winter. Moreover, the tropical, Northeast Indian atmosphere brimming with hills, forests, and bouts of rain, and the towering presence of Kanchenjunga make for a comfortable reading experience in the winter season.
The Night Circus (2011)
Selected by Selima Sara Kabir
"The circus may come without warning, but for me it is hardly an arm's length away at all times."
Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus is often described as whimsical. Although it does hold elements of whimsy and fantasy – there is something deep and warm about the magic it weaves. It feels quite like a cup of hot chocolate, comforting and rich in its visual narrative, with elements of a marshmallow romance and a cinnamon-spice mystery to keep you alert and engaged. Morgenstern manages to craft a story that feels layered, with small surprises tucked away in her sprawling descriptive prose that welcomes a re-read in a story where the emotions always hit home.
Ocean at the End of the Lane (2013)
Selected by Ishrat Jahan
A novel set in Sussex, England, Ocean at the End of the Lane follows a middle aged man's journey down memory lane when he returns to his childhood home to attend his father's funeral. It reads as a deceptively simple tale until you finish and realise it is anything but.
The book invokes feelings of warmth and safety only found in memories of childhood and the knowledge of magic. But it does not dismiss the dark and melancholy that comes as part of growing up, and as we realise that our human realities are at times broken and beyond our control.