I’m on a cozy mystery kick lately. My top three: Agatha Christie (the master), Miss Fisher, and Flavia de Luce. I like them because I can read them really quickly, and they tick one of my favourite boxes: “wasting” a big chunk of time on a book.

Since I learned to read I have loved to dive into a book like its a swimming pool and stay in it until I’m exhausted and shivering (i.e., the book is finished). I have several memories of doing this.

  • When I was about 11, I spent an entire rainy afternoon curled up in a wing chair in the living room reading A Wrinkle in Time and A Swiftly Tilting Planet back to back, over and over. I read them each 3 times.
  • I challenged myself to read Narnia in three days (did it) and Lord of the Rings in the same (it took four, because my mom made me do stuff, ugh).
  • When the seventh Harry Potter book came out, I stood in line to get it at midnight, then read it until it was finished (at 6am).
  • I often go on Terry Pratchett benders and reread five or six of them in a row.

I’ve had this practice written off as being “just easy books” and not “real” reading – i.e., non-fiction or intensity books. That’s really annoying to me. I read a lot of meaty stuff, too, but I’m a sensitive flower and I like having a good immersive book available so I can check out sometimes. Lots of people have talked about the value of escapism in books, so I don’t need to cite a bunch of reasons, but I do want to say that that attitude persists and it’s annoying.

I will always love a book that feels like cozy jammies. I also love books that move me, change me, teach me, and shock me; I’ve learned so much from books, and I have a long list of “serious” books that I’ve found invaluable in shaking my privileged, sheltered self. But it’s really hard not to feel like I should read and write something serious, when it’s pretty clear that I gravitate towards the cozy end of the literary spectrum.

Maybe one day I’ll write a serious book. For now, swimming pool/pyjama/cozy stories it is.

I’m going to start a new feature where I list the books I read, both by myself with my kids each month. I have two extreme readers who are well ahead of their grade levels (4 and 1), and one kindergartener who is just starting to learn, so it’s a range of novels to picture books. And I read a whole bunch of everything. So here we go! January reads!

Leave Me Alone by Vera Brosgol. A grandmother gets fed up with her legion of grandchildren messing up her knitting so she goes in search of peace and quiet to knit their winter sweaters. Extremely relatable. Also, there is a picture of a child’s naked bum on the next page so this book has literal lols. Five out of five stars from both C and me.

Dream Animals by Emily Winfield Martin. This book is new to us C and I absolutely love it. The illustrations are dreamy and the rhymes are very soothing. Also, they scan well, which is a massive pet peeve of mine with children’s books. The book includes a narwhal, and our family loves narwhals so that is a huge plus. The children are diverse, and the concept of “dream animals” is such a beautiful one. My one qualm is that there’s a magical circus full of animals, and animal circuses make me very sad, so romanticizing them is a little unfortunate. Other than that, this is a keeper, and would be great for young children as well. 4.5 stars.

Finn Family Moomintroll and Moominland Midwinter, both by Tove Jansson. I freaking love Moomintroll and have for years, and last month R asked if we could read out loud together. I suggested these, and we are both adoring them. I bought the rest of the Moomin books at once (there are 8) and we are excited to read them all. They are sweet, silly, and delightful, and read out loud extremely well. Five stars from both of us.

Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty. Based on a recommendation, I got this out of the library for L. She said it was “GOOD” with that overly-intense look that means she stayed up past lights-out time to keep reading it. She also insists I read it too, so it’s been added to my list. She gives it five stars.

Other notable five-star reads from L in January: the Wings of Fire series (she has finished all the published ones), El Deafo by Cece Bell, and Harry Potter, which we are mid-seventh-book right now.

I read An American Marriage by Tayari Jones in January, and I can’t exactly say that I liked it, but it has really stuck with me. It was well-written and engaging; the premise (a black man is unfairly incarcerated shortly into his marriage, then suddenly released, and he and his wife need to figure out how to cope with these devastating shocks) is solid, but I can’t say that I cared for the characters enough to be fully invested in them. That might be because the experience of being black in America is not my experience, I don’t know. It’s good, but for me I think it’s only 3.5 cups of tea.

I’m currently finishing up We Are Never Meeting In Real Life by Samantha Irby. The kids are fascinated by it because of the cat on the cover and keep asking me why I’m laughing, which I cannot tell them because it is ALWAYS inappropriate. I didn’t start laughing out loud until the second half, and not every chapter/essay is a winner, but I’m enjoying it a lot. Especially the chapter on water aerobics and zumba. It gets four stars.