In the last few weeks, I’ve fallen into the delightfully charming universe of a genre I’d like to call lost and directionless protagonist quits everything in pursuit of cozy simple living. And oh, how lovely these books are.
Some of these books have similar vibes to bestsellers like Before the Coffee Gets Cold, Haruki Murakami’s Norwegian Wood, and The Midnight Library by Matt Haig, but they’re also uniquely cozy, charming, and perhaps most of all, gently transformative.
In these books, you’ll meet protagonists grappling with life changes such as quitting their job, ending a relationship, and starting both bookshops and hotels. As each character embarks on their journey from before to after, they inspire our own transformation as readers, too.
I’d wholeheartedly recommend each of these if you’re feeling stuck or unsure where to go next in life – especially if you’re craving coziness, simplicity, and a slower pace of life. I hope you enjoy reading these as much as I have.
(P.S. The recommendations also pair perfectly with these books to read when you feel lost and directionless and these books about fresh starts.)
The best fiction books about choosing a simpler and cozier way of life
Four Seasons in Japan by Nick Bradley
One of the most gently transformative books I’ve read lately is Four Seasons in Japan by Nick Bradley. There are a few stories within the book – each one delightful – starting with that of Flo, our Oregon-born protagonist who’s living in Tokyo, achieving her translation dreams, but feeling more lost and empty than ever.
At the start of this heartwarming story, Flo doesn’t feel like working, or even reading, until she stumbles upon a lost book in the subway that gradually brings her back to life, rekindling her purpose, creativity, and belief in the world’s beauty.
What follows is a gorgeous story of a book within a book that threads together themes of meaning and purpose, youth and ageing, and solitude and connection. It’s one of the best books you can read if you feel stuck, trust me.
What You Are Looking For Is in the Library by Michiko Aoyama
Another captivatingly cozy book in this vein is What You Are Looking for Is in The Library by Michiko Aoyama. Think of it as The Midnight Library by Matt Haig except set in Japan, featuring a cast of lost and confused characters who get back on track with the help of an enigmatic librarian, Sayuri Komachi.
Just published in English this year, this Japanese novel is a wonderfully uplifting feel-good book about books for anyone who’s ever felt lost, directionless, or in need of a hug. Oh, and the cover is stunning.
A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers
I recommend this book all the time, but it’s an absolute treasure. A Psalm for the Wild-Built is Becky Chambers’ hopeful story of Sibling Dex, our young protagonist who’s feeling lost and directionless but doesn’t know where to go next.
As they try their hand as a tea monk – travelling around in a bike-powered wagon and serving customers a perfectly customized blend of tea – Dex thinks they’re getting closer to where they want to be. But when Dex wanders into the long-abandoned wilderness and meets a robot who left civilisation long ago, they realise they’re only at the start of their journey.
If you love this book as much as I did, here are more of the best books like A Psalm for the Wild-Built to read next.
Welcome to the Hyunam-dong Bookshop by Hwang Bo-reum
One of the top books on my preorder list right now is Welcome to the Hyunam-dong Bookshop, which you can enjoy from October 26th. In the pages of this stunning book you’ll meet Yeongju, a woman who’s burned out, fed up, and about to leave her high-flying career and demanding marriage in Seoul to pursue an old dream.
Moving to a small neighbourhood outside the city, Yeongju opens the Hyunam-dong Bookshop, where, over time, she’ll build a space for lost souls to rest, heal, and turn a new page – including herself.
The Bird Hotel by Joyce Maynard
Chosen as my book of the month for October 2023, The Bird Hotel is above all a book about fresh starts. After hitting rock bottom, Irene is guided – by intuition and more than a little magical realism – to Central America, where she checks into a lakefront hotel overlooking a volcano and surrounded by otherworldly birds and flowers.
Starting with some decidedly uncozy events, The Bird Hotel is less lighthearted than some of the other books on this list, but it’s absolutely charming in the stunning place it evokes and the subtle magic that unfolds on this character’s healing journey.
I also think these books pair beautifully with Only Yesterday, the delightfully cozy Studio Ghibli movie about finding a new path and moving from the city to the countryside. Enjoy!