Happy Endings to Brighten Up Dark January Days: A Reading List
Eva Carter Recommends Clare Pooley, Elizabeth Gilbert, and More
My whole life, I’ve pretended that I love January. Yay for polar blue winter skies, new year’s resolutions, fresh starts, cozy nights in, with a clear, alcohol-free head. January is also my birthday month so I did my best to convince myself. You can keep your summers, I told people. This is my favorite time of year.
But I was lying through my wonky English teeth.
In reality, January in Britain means heavy gray clouds always either promising or delivering a downpour. Failing your resolutions. Getting nasty power and credit card bills, and nastier head colds. As for my birthday—since I hit double figures, the novelty’s worn off.
The one thing January is good for is reading. Specifically, comfort reading: in your softest armchair, with a mug of the strongest coffee. Or hiding under the quilt the moment dusk threatens, your Paperwhite’s warmest back light on. You are respecting your circadian rhythms the way the cave women did. It’s virtually Paleo.
Book choice is paramount. I’m an eclectic reader the rest of the year—embracing tropes, classics, small press sleepers, splashy bestsellers. But now is the time for feelgood.
Don’t judge me for wanting a happy ending. Or think that means detaching from reality. I like my characters to go through maximum torment to make my own privations seem trivial. And if it’s a memoir, the author had better suffer for their art.
But to inoculate me against the worst January has in store, the literary goodies—and baddies—must get the endings they deserve.
Iona Iverson’s Rules for Commuting by Clare Pooley
Commuting in winter sucks. But reading about commuting once you’re home and dry is the best. This novel by the author of The Authenticity Project puts you on the train with some cool passengers. I especially love Iona, the overlooked ‘dinosaur’ with an astonishing past.
The Summer of Impossible Things by Rowan Coleman
Sunshine seems so far away right now, it’s like summer is a different planet. As I don’t have a rocket, this stunner set in the 1977 heatwave in Brooklyn propels me into different climes and different times. It definitely delivers on heartbreak followed by redemption!
Vince and Joy by Lisa Jewell
My number one auto-buy author is Lisa Jewell. For maximum winter warmth, her early London-set novels are perfect, especially if you haven’t discovered them already. I adored this on-off love story—which starts in 1986 and ends in 2003—when it was first published, and reading it now adds a delicious layer of nostalgia.
Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild
Talking of nostalgia, your childhood favorite must feature somewhere on the January shelf. This is mine. If you like Brit Lit, and haven’t discovered Noel Streatfeild, dive into the irresistible story of Pauline, Petrova and Posy, the talented young Fossil sisters…
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
And if you’re a sucker for a castle and an eccentric, impoverished family, this vintage book by Dodie Smith (author of The 101 Dalmatians) will capture your imagination. The opening line—I write this sitting in the kitchen sink—draws you into a world you won’t want to leave.
The Appeal by Janice Hallett
I’ve never understood the appeal of jigsaw puzzles, but a literary puzzle is perfect. I raced through this contemporary mystery set in the world of amateur theater, which presents you with emails and messages to unravel.
Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert
So many self-help books push a very regimented way to Change Your Life—but Gilbert’s non-fiction book on creativity is gorgeously quirky and reassuring. I’ve listened to it several times—it’s a great audiobook—and it always takes me from fear towards a magical outlook on how inspiration shows up in our lives. Perfect if you’re scared to follow your creative urges.
The Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes
And this is another wonderful memoir that works brilliantly in audio. Having Shonda in my ear describing her journey from fearful introvert to saying yes to every new opportunity, is pure pleasure. The book inspires and empowers. So maybe I’ll get out from under my quilt and say yes to a few more things.
Or maybe I’ll wait for February…
Owner of a Lonely Heart by Eva Carter is available from Dell, an imprint of Ballantine Books, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC.