BY Ke-Qing Yap

Winter is here! With the weather threatening to freeze us all to death- and on top of it all, the rather ambiguous social situation out there - it’s no wonder most of us are choosing to indulge in the comfort of our own homes. 

So bundle up, because here are 3 (2.5 really) books that’ll melt away the cold, warm your soul, and leave your heart unbelievably full.

1. Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell (2013)

Even if you’ve never read it before, Fangirl’s dynamics bring an inexplicable familiarity your way as you flip past its pages, and for re-readers like me, it’s comparable to walking into a house and suddenly knowing you’re home.

Set in Nebraska, Fangirl is a coming-of-age novel that follows reserved fanfiction writer Cath as she navigates relationships, career paths, and family, all through her freshman year at university. Hilarious, heartwarming, and relatable, Fangirl is easily one of the most fulfilling books I have read in a long time, solely due to Rowell’s illustrative writing, notably for the relationships between her characters.

As she deals with unaddressed familial complications and an all-around absentee mum, our protagonist Cath faces the repercussions of moving away from home and living in the “real world”, all while juggling a degree she’s not sure will do her much good career-wise. Sound familiar? For a fair portion of us, Cath reminds us of ourselves, and with that element in hand—it ironically brings a fulfilling sense of belonging and assurance we might not have realised we needed.

Unlike her identical twin sister Wren, Cath is a rather timid English major who’s an avid fan of ‘Simon Snow’ (this novel’s equivalent of a Harry Potter-esque series), and would rather be home reading and writing- instead of out partying and meeting people- which is essentially a defining characteristic of hers this novel builds itself on.

Whether it be platonic, familial, or romantic relationships, the bonds tying the characters together are written so well you’ll feel the emotions of every single character emanate from the pages, and above all, the warmth that’ll have you ready to embrace the season with.

Fangirl comes in second on my list of favourite books, and for good reason.

P.S: It ended the way I wanted it to so major plus points :D

2. Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott (1868)

I couldn’t write this without including a classic.

With Little Women resurfacing in popularity due to its 2020 film adaptation, more people have taken to reading the moving story of the four radically distinct March sisters. A semi-autobiographical touching tale of sisterhood, growing pains, and independence—it would be an understatement to say Little Women was way ahead of its time.

Much like other works by Alcott, Little Women is a rather sentimentally didactic novel that follows the lives of Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy March, set in England during the Civil War. In the midst of their rocky transition into adulthood, the sisters’ unwavering loyalty to each other touches you in a somewhat redeeming way, especially when paired with the heart-warming knowledge that they’d give up anything for the betterment of each other.

In my experience, the plot of a story is usually the centre of a novel (like in Fangirl or All the Light We Cannot See). But in Little Women, I truly believe the core belongs to its characters and the roles they play in the lives of each other, the extent in which they care for one another- well, some of them- is made evident by their playful yet affectionate interactions, of which Alcott does a commendable job of writing.

More often than not, it’s the warmth of pure love and friendship that make up the primary relationships in the novel, and that’s unquestionably a component that further emphasises the themes of family, marriage, and sisterhood at the heart of this contemporary book.

This novel will ultimately turn you into the human embodiment of the phrase “cold hands, warm heart”, making it perfect to cosy up to this winter!

3. All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr (2014)

This was something else entirely.

The warmth we find here is a little bit different from the fulfilling kind you’ll find in the past two books; in this novel, we see the warmth in the humanity of two people. Doerr has found a way to beautifully interweave two strands of seemingly separate lives, amounting everything to their first and last meeting, and when that moment arrives, it’s as heart-wrenching as it is heartwarming.

A novel genuinely deserving of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction—Doerr’s novel parallels the lives of two carefully crafted protagonists from childhood to adulthood, a blind French girl; Marie-Laure, and a German boy; Werner, both young and living in their respective countries. Set primarily in France during World War II, the story builds up to their collision as they strive to survive the destruction of war.

Contrary to the title of this article, a great part of the book isn’t very warm at all- especially in Werner’s half- rather, it’s cold, inhumane, and carries the unimaginable sentiments of war until the final few chapters, and even then, their heavily anticipated meeting lasts only as a fleeting but meaningful interaction.

So why did I pick this out?

How the two stories intertwine is truly where the heart of the book lies, and though the time they spent together was limited, the relationship they developed with each other within that short span of time was what brought wonder to the book. The fact that they found relief, warmth, and safety in one another despite being right in the middle of a bloody war oddly gives you a sense of comfort and awe, that in spite of the death surrounding them, they carried on.

Warmth and wonder are sprinkled in bits all over the book, and if you look hard enough, you’ll notice it in the way blind Marie-Laure sees the world; in her dependent relationship with her loving father; in Werner’s humanistic choice to save Marie-Laure; in Werner and Frederick’s sweet friendship despite the hellish circumstances; in the hopeful start of new families after the war, and in Marie-Laure growing old.

I’ve got nothing but praise for this one. I’m sure there has to be a better way to phrase this, but I think there has to be some kind of fulfilling miracle in seeing acts of kindness while there’s a war going on.

All the Light We Cannot See is a novel that might make you cry, but I still believe it’s the perfect book to pick up while you’re bundled up at home! Enjoy!

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