Happy to be here — Cozy comfort

Published 5:19 pm Friday, February 3, 2023

Many people enjoy winter. Some look forward to skiing. They arrange vacations and plan travel to seek out snow. My daughter is a snowboarder. She loves clipping her feet to a piece of wood and flinging herself off mountain tops. I know ice skaters, and I know snowmobilers. And, there are people who tell me they love the peaceful feeling of walking through snowy landscapes. They claim the crispy air is refreshing, renewing, and invigorating.

My own view of how to enjoy the season is best summed up in a quote I encountered on the internet. To paraphrase, it noted, “My favorite winter activity is coming back inside and putting on my pajamas.” To this formula, I would add a few more ingredients: a steaming cup of tea, a warm blanket, and a good book.

Let me tell you about some books I’ve enjoyed recently. 

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Beginning with fiction, I’ll start with my current favorite book, The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern. I’ve read it three times, and I’m already looking forward to the fourth. The story involves a secret society that watches over an underground library where all stories seem to be interconnected. It is filled with hints, suggestions, analogy, and metaphor. The first page declares (parenthetically), “The pirate is a metaphor but also still a person.” Reviews I’ve seen suggest that people either love this book passionately, as I do, or hate it with equal fervor. There is no middle ground. 

Here are a few additional titles for those of you who share my love for fantasy and science fiction: Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One looks at a dystopian future that blurs the boundaries between virtual reality, role-playing games, and the real world (a movie version exists, but I haven’t seen it). The House in the Cerulean Sea, by T.J. Klune, tells the story of a caseworker who oversees the care of magical children in a world that doesn’t appreciate their unique abilities. In a story that is more science-based (albeit with some linguistic fantasy), Andy Weir’s Project Hail Mary imagines a desperate attempt to save humanity from a dimming sun. And, if you enjoy humorous absurdities and word play, don’t miss The Color of Magic and The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett (the first two volumes in his Discworld series). They introduce an incompetent wizard, a tourist, and the most unusual luggage you’ll ever meet.

For people who enjoy other fiction genres, here’s a different list: Anxious People, by Fredrik Backman features a diverse group of characters who were at a real-estate open house when taken hostage by a bank robber. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll wince as your preconceptions are challenged. Unsheltered, by Barbara Kingsolver, will also ask you to examine preconceptions. If you do everything correctly and follow society’s rules, you’re supposed to win at this game we call life, right? Joshua Ferris, in his book, A Calling for Charlie Banks, also considers what it takes to be successful and what that even means. I offer one suggestion for navigating Ferris’s book: Pay attention to the section titles.

I can also recommend options for fans of non-fiction. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain, discusses the differences between extroverts and introverts, and it explains why silence and solitude can be good things. First Steps, by Jeremy DeSilva, notes how rare bipedalism (walking on two feet instead of four) is among mammals and what it may have meant for the development of human society and culture. Edward Dolnick’s The Writing of the Gods reads almost like a detective novel as it recounts the efforts of competing scientists who rushed to decipher the Rosetta Stone. The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu, by Joshua Hammer, also has a novel-like structure with mounting tension and plot twists as a group of dedicated custodians try to save ancient manuscripts from destruction when Al Qaeda’s forces advanced into the region.

The calendar suggests that winter may yet make another blast or two before spring arrives. If so, I hope you get the opportunity to enjoy the cozy comfort and company of a good book.

Karen Bellenir has been writing for The Farmville Herald since 2009. Her book, Happy to Be Here: A Transplant Takes Root in Farmville, Virginia features a compilation of her columns. It is available from PierPress.com. You can contact Karen at kbellenir@PierPress.com.