Once upon a time, I put one of my favorite Jane Austen quotes on my letter board. “Ah, there is nothing like staying at home for real comfort.” I had no idea just how true Mr. Woodhouse’s words would feel in the year to come.
Here we are, staying at home more than ever. As we approach the season of short days and chilly weather here in Kentucky, I’m getting ready to lean into the simple comforts of home even more: Daisy curled up at my feet, steaming cups of tea, my favorite candles—and, of course, plenty of good books.
Today we have a FUN list full of books with “house” or “home” in the title. Although this is a slight departure from our typical themed lists, I think you’ll find that these books do feature similar threads of belonging, community, family, history, and what makes a place feel like home.
This collection includes some of my favorite books that I never thought I’d see together in one list, plus a few titles on my TBR. I hope you find a few intriguing titles to add to your stack of books on the nightstand, on the floor, or wherever the books live in your house.
After her father died, Molly Wizenburg didn't know what to do with herself. So she went to Paris, and later, she started a blog. No spoilers here, so let's just say I especially loved hearing about how the internet introduced the author to new, life-changing relationships. This memoir made me laugh, cry, check airfare to Paris, and curse my low carb diet. Completely and utterly charming, accompanied by tasty recipes. More info →
One of my favorite Kate Morton novels. In 1933, a young child disappeared without a trace. In 2003, a disgraced young detective stumbles upon the cold case and soon discovers its ties to one of England's oldest and most celebrated mystery writer (think Agatha Christie). I absolutely loved reading a mystery novel about a mystery novelist: the references to the fictional author's writing process and working life were delightfully meta and utterly fascinating. More info →
Twelve-year-old Milo is looking forward to the Christmas season, mostly because his family’s inn is sure to be relatively quiet. Milo’s plans for relaxation are interrupted when several odd guests arrive to stay at Greenglass House. Each of the eccentric guests has a story to share, and each story has a mysterious connection to the inn’s history. Milo and his friend Meddy invent a role-playing game, casting themselves as daring investigators. When some of the guests have items go missing, Milo and Meddy work together to solve the mystery of the old house. An engaging read for kids and adults alike, and a perfect choice for cozy winter evenings. When you’re finished, pick up the sequel, Ghosts of Greenglass House, also set over the winter holidays. More info →
This is the first book in the bestselling Mitford series, and the one that made so many readers fall in love with Father Tim and the town of Mitford. I resisted Mitford for a long time because the premise sounded cheesy. And sure, it would be easy for this story to veer into sappy territory—if it wasn't extremely well done. A story about ordinary lives, (mostly) lovable characters, and the small drama of the everyday. Charming, heartwarming, purely enjoyable. More info →
"The Cider House Rules is difficult to define and impossible not to admire." I love that description of this novel from The Daily Telegraph. This coming of age story centers Homer Wells, raised in a Maine orphanage by founder and obstetrician Dr. Wilbur Larch. Homer studies under Larch's tutelage, but the men disagree about performing abortions, bringing two different perspectives to their practice. Homer gets an opportunity to leave and experience the world outside of the orphanage, and we follow his journey throughout the novel. More info →
Poignant and lovely. Robinson's novels are some of my favorites to reread (and I have my eye on this beautiful new edition). Part of the Gilead series, this installment Glory Boughton and her brother Jack, who return home around the same time to care for their father and mend their relationship. A quiet, beautifully-written novel about family, loss, healing, and faith. The Gilead novels don't need to be read in order, and many readers actually recommend picking this one up first. More info →
I recently listened to the newly released 40th anniversary edition of Robinson's debut, narrated by Therese Plummer. She calls this tale of two orphaned sisters in Fingerbone, Idaho her version of Moby Dick. The sisters struggle to find their place in the community and with each other after their mother's death. They're first cared for by a string of relatives, one of whom is named Nona. Finally, their eccentric Aunt Sylvie steps in, and comes to "keep house" for them. But Sylvie's odd ways disturb the staid members of their little town, and the misunderstanding threatens the little family's stability. More info →
Audiobook listeners, take note. I could not listen to it fast enough—I folded so much laundry and got the kitchen sparkling clean so I could listen to just one more chapter, over and over again. Hildy Good has lived all her life in the small town of Wendover, Massachusetts. She's 60 years old, divorced, a successful realtor. And she drinks—a lot, and the situation is getting out of control. Only Hildy doesn't see it that way. A quiet drama with terrific, fleshed-out characters and an entertaining, thoroughly untrustworthy narrator. More info →
By exploring the stories of two sisters, who met different fates in Ghana more than 200 years ago, Gyasi traces subtle lines of cause and effect through the centuries, illuminating how the deeds of ages past still haunt all of us today. Her debut follows the generations of one family over a period of 250 years, showing the devastating effects of racism from multiple perspectives, in multiple settings. For the first hundred pages I didn't quite grasp what the author was up to, but when it hit me it was powerful. A brilliant concept, beautifully executed. More info →
I didn't expect to love this, but WOW. This book is fascinating: short, pithy, insightful, and paradigm shifting. A timely examination of history, psychology, and anthropology. Junger shares what we can learn from trobal societies about the importance of belonging, loyalty, and shared meaning. The book focuses on soldiers who have experienced war and built intimate relationships, only to return home and struggle when their tight-knit network is gone. But the concepts and themes apply to civilians as well. More info →
Gorgeous writing, magical realism, forbidden love, and political drama. This Latin-American classic has it all. Fall in love with the Trueba family, from the passionate patriarch Esteban, to the revolutionary granddaughter Alba. History impacts each family member as they navigate tragedy and hope. Powerful female characters shine in this absorbing multigenerational saga. The backstory on this novel: it was rejected numerous times before one Spanish publisher said YES, then it went on to become an instant bestseller. More info →
As a homebody with a healthy dose of wanderlust, I was fascinated by Tsh's around-the-world adventure. With her husband and three kids under ten, Tsh leaves the States behind to travel to China and Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand, Ethiopia and Zimbabwe, Croatia and Germany and England and everywhere in between, for nine solid months. I so enjoyed getting to tag along on her family's global adventures, which were nothing at all like I expected—both more strange and more familiar than I had imagined. More info →
A National Book Award winner from "a brilliant chronicler of Native-American life" Louise Erdrich. After his mother is attacked and slips away from the trauma, Joe tries to ease her pain. Unsuccessful and lonely, he is forced to grow up too soon. His father, a tribal judge, seeks justice on another matter but faces obstacles. Tired of being foiled at every turn, Joe and his friends go on a mission for answers. At the Round House, an Ojibwe place of worship, their journey begins. Intricately descriptive, tense, and urgent, Erdrich's novels reveal deeply human truths. More info →
Journey to Jane Austen's England with historian Lucy Worsley as she tells the story of Jane's life through the rooms and spaces that shaped the author's worldview. If you enjoy books with a strong sense of place, or imagining exactly where Jane wrote her famous novels, then this biography is for you. Worsely connects Jane's possessions and homes with the author's life, work, and values. More info →
This modern retelling of Antigone was long-listed for the 2017 Man Booker Prize and powerfully probes themes of love, political allegiance, and terrorism. I’m not sure I would have realized this was rooted in the Greek myth if I hadn’t been told: Shamsie’s story feels modern, timely, and incredibly relevant to current events. I loved it enough to recommend it to a Scottish bookseller in a delightful episode of What Should I Read Next recorded live in Scotland's national book town, that's Episode 171: "A podcaster, a barrister, and a joiner walk into a bookstore." I was hooked from the first line: “Isma was going to miss her flight.“ More info →
This modern classic is a coming-of-age almost-memoir of a young Latina girl, Esperanza Cordero, who is inventing the woman she will grow up to be. The story unfolds as a series of vignettes—some joyful, some heartbreaking—that draw the reader deep into her Hispanic Chicago neighborhood. Esperanza's observations feel at once highly specific and incredibly universal, as she reflects on growing up on Mango Street, and how she eventually wants to leave. More info →
When I found out there was a new novel that featured two urban planners falling in love, you can bet I was all over it: I'm fascinated by urban planning, yet this topic never comes up in fiction! In this short book—just over 100 pages—two professional planners get to know each other by touring homes all over NYC's Uptown. I so enjoy a book that makes me google locations, and this one had me searching for Strivers' Row and Forest Hills Gardens. This was fast and fun. Heads up for open door scenes. More info →
One of my favorite books of 2019. I love sibling stories and meaty family sagas, as well as stories told with a reflective, wistful tone. This one delivers on all counts. Cyril Conroy means to surprise his wife with the Dutch House, a grand old mansion outside of Philadelphia. But a symbol of wealth and success for some is a symbol of greed and excess to others—including, crucially, Cyril's wife—and the family falls apart over the purchase. In alternating timelines, we get the whole story, over five decades, from Cyril's son Danny. If you like a character-driven novel that doesn’t sacrifice plot—what I’d call “compulsively readable literary fiction,” this belongs on your TBR. More info →
Alyn's debut novel follows three generations of a Palestinian family from the Six-Day War of 1967 to 1990 Kuwait to Beirut, Paris, and Boston. The story opens with Alia's wedding, when Alia's mother, Salma, reads her future and sees both turmoil and travel. While she keeps her premonitions secret, they all come true as the family is uprooted by war and loss. A lyrical tale of assimilation and the importance of family. More info →
Young widow Alva has two priorities: restoring a dilapidated Hyde Park mansion so she can write her interior design book and moving past the death of her abusive husband. Only one problem: the house is haunted and the workers refuse to come near the house. Enter scientist and ghost hunter Sam. Alva can’t afford any complications in her life, nor does she want to risk her heart. But Sam wants nothing more than to prove she deserves her very own happily ever after. As soon as he figures out how to get rid of the ghost, that is. An enjoyable, humorous historical romance set during the Gilded Age. Heads up for a few open door moments. More info →
In this whimsical fantasy, a 40-year-old career case worker has his life turned upside down by a special assignment. Linus Baker’s job is to ensure the children are safe—or at least he’s convinced himself that the field visits he makes to the orphanages sanctioned by The Department of Magical Youth are crucial to the well-being of these unusual children. But everything changes for Linus when Extremely Upper Management sends him to report on an island orphanage that’s a place of last resort for magical children viewed as misfits by the establishment, as well as their unconventional caretaker. Linus may have always been a company man, but this visit forces him to question everything he thought he knew about the world—and himself. Many readers are going to find this quirky book a delightful surprise. More info →
In her unique memoir, Broom writes about family, race, and class by noting the intersections of her family's history and the history of New Orleans. An ambitious memoir, Broom covers decades of history with personal stories and meticulously researched details. I'm personally fascinated by the author's writing process and the way it reflects the title and topic of her memoir. Broom says, “I knew when I started collecting evidence, so to speak, that I was trying to find the architecture of the book...I needed to know where the beams were and what was the supporting wall. I literally thought of it as a house because I knew that I was trying to put a lot in it.” More info →
The fifth book in L.M. Montgomery's classic Anne of Green Gables series. Our dear Anne girl finally marries her sweetheart, Gilbert Blythe. They move to a sweet little house on Four Winds Harbor, and the story follows the ups and downs in their first few years of marriage. Charming new characters are introduced as the Blythes meet their neighbors, and, as always, Anne's signature imagination shines. Romantic, dreamy, and poignant. A must-read for Montgomery fans. More info →
London fog, mystery, romance! This classic Victorian novel has it all (as it should, clocking in at over 900 pages). If you're up for tackling a tome, scholars say that this is Dickens' best work. Known for his social commentary on class, Dickens takes readers from high society to the London slums, with plenty of characters to meet. Break it up in 144 increments with the Serial Reader app for a more digestible reading experience. More info →
A Gilded Age classic set among New York City's high society. Follow the rise and fall of Lily Bart, a young woman trapped by social conventions, a victim both of society and of her own choices. Readers often recommend Wharton in terms of Jane Austen because they both write about women's everyday life: she's been called the new Austen, the anti-Austen, a more sophisticated Austen, a more depressing Austen. Social commentary plus tragedy, and lots of gorgeous historical detail. More info →
What cozy comforts of home are you leaning on these days? Do you have a “house or home” title to add to this list?I can’t wait to read your comments.