Before moving to Denmark in 2021, I thought that hygge was mostly just an idea that foreigners had adopted and enhanced to fit their own longings for catchy philosophies. But as it turns out, Danes are actually pretty obsessed with it.
Hygge is a concept best translated as cozy, but there’s more to it than that. When you have a good catchup with a friend, it’s hyggelig, even if there are no candles and woven blankets involved.
When you spend time in Denmark during the winter, you come to realise just why hygge is so important to Danes. Outside, it’s cold, often rainy, and most of all, extremely dark. The weather, quite frankly, is utterly miserable.
But inside, nearly every window you look through will be softly lit and wonderfully cozy, often with candles by the window and fairy lights outside. It’s the season for spending time with family and friends indoors, accompanied by good vibes, a drink on the go, and probably some iconic Scandinavian design nearby.
The hygge season is also the perfect time for some very cozy reading. To top up your winter reading list, these hygge books feel like coming in from the cold to sit by the fire, surrounded by warm blankets and with a hot drink to warm your hands. Enjoy.
The most hygge books to keep you cozy this winter
Nothing Much Happens by Kathryn Nicolai
Each year when the days get shorter and the mornings darker, I usually find myself struggling to get out of bed. I’ve adopted a few strategies to help with this (a sunrise alarm lamp, vitamin D, getting outside in the mornings for some natural light) but honestly, I also just embrace it.
After all, if any season is for rest, recuperation, and hibernation, it’s winter. To indulge in earlier nights and well-deserved rest this winter, read Nothing Much Happens, one of my favourite books to read before bed by Kathryn Nicolai. As the title suggests, nothing really happens, and that’s exactly why it’s such a lovely book.
Winter Tales by Dawn Casey and Zanna Goldhawk
As soon as Halloween is over, Copenhagen leaps into festive mode. This means Tuborg beer adverts, lights on balcony railings, and an excuse to spend more time enjoying the comforts of home.
One of the most wonderfully hygge books to escape into on a cozy evening is Winter Tales, this stunning compilation of wintery stories and folktales by Dawn Casey. The book is made even more beautiful with the artwork by Zanna Goldhawk, one of my favourite illustrators who’s known for her gorgeously magical and imaginative folk-inspired art.
Treat yourself or a loved one to this beautiful winter children’s and retreat into its pages for magical reading on hygge winter nights.
My Hygge Home: How to Make Home Your Happy Place by Meik Wiking
The most obvious hygge book to add to this collection would be the New York Times bestseller The Little Book of Hygge. But as that’s already on bookshelves everywhere, I’m going to suggest one of author Meik Viking’s follow-up books.
My Hygge Home is the author’s guide to making your home the coziest and happiest place it can be, both during winter and any other time of year. This lovely little book is also a perfect gift for others who love the hygge philosophy.
Copenhagen Food by Trine Hahnemann
Pastries laden with cinnamon and cardamon, cream-topped hot chocolates, roasted seasonal vegetables from the farmer’s market…. food is a core part of any hygge lifestyle.
For Scandi-inspired cooking this winter, Copenhagen Food is the best Danish cookery book I’ve come across for delicious Scandinavian recipes, plus excellent tips about the best places in the city to eat, wander, and shop.
It’s a cookbook cross-travel guide really, packed with Danish recipes that will warm your bones and soothe your soul on winter days (I can especially recommend the carrot, ginger, and lime soup).
Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher
Winter Solstice is almost certainly my favourite choice in my winter books list, and I’m so looking forward to rereading it in December. It’s set in Scotland rather than Scandinavia, but it’s exceptionally hygge.
At least in my eyes, books can’t get much cozier than this gorgeous novel that’s perfect to read in the lead-up to Christmas. As the book begins, the rippling effects of a tragedy bring five characters together in a large, neglected estate house near the Scottish fishing town of Creagan for the shortest day of the year.
Collected Works by Lydia Sandgren
Although two of the characters spend a few days in Copenhagen, visiting the Glyptoteket museum and eating hotdogs, Collected Works is set in Gothenburg, Sweden instead of Denmark. However, I’d still like to nominate it as one of the best hygge books to read – and just one of the best new books of 2023.
At over 600 pages, it’s a long, long book that seems to move at a glacial pace. And yet, it’s incredibly immersive. You soon fall into the Scandinavian world created by Sandgren with all of its cafes in winter and blustery streets in autumn.
Bringing together the worlds of academia and art with the story of a man’s missing wife, you can think of Collected Works as something like The Secret History meets Sally Rooney in Gothenburg.
Roast Figs, Sugar Snow: Food to Warm the Soul by Diana Henry
If there’s any book that perfectly matches the hygge vibes I’m seeking during the dark days of Copenhagen in winter, it’s this stunning new edition of Diana Henry’s classic cookbook Roast Figs, Sugar Snow.
Blissfully cozy and warming for the soul, these recipes celebrate the unique pleasures of autumn and winter in a decidedly lovely hardcover that’s perfect to enjoy on cold winter days, especially around the festive season. It’s also one of my recommended books to give as gifts in 2023 (particularly for foodies and homebodies who love the calm of winter).
A Line in the World by Dorthe Nors
As my book of the month in December 2022, A Line in the World is a stunning memoir; graceful and lyrical, but with a powerful roar in there too. This is Danish writer Dorthe Nors’ story of a year she spent traveling along the North Sea coast, from Skagen at the northern tip of Denmark to the Frisian Islands in the Wadden Sea.
A Line in the World is an especially excellent choice if you love The Salt Path by Raynor Winn and other raw and introspective memoirs rooted in wild nature. It’s hygge in a different way from the other books on this list; namely, through its stories of belonging, as well as the feeling of coming in from the cold and wild weather of the desolate North Sea coast.
Scandinavian Comfort Food: Embracing the Art of Hygge
Good food and drink are such key parts of a hygge lifestyle, especially when shared with loved ones over long leisurely evenings in a cozy candle-lit setting. So I’m allowing myself to share just one more recipe book: Scandinavian Comfort Food.
This is the second book on this list authored by Trine Hahnemann, and it’s so comforting for the winter months. From Trine’s favourite Christmas dinner recipes to soups for every season, the book is full of hyggelige recipes that will warm your spirit and provide perfect dishes for sharing. But above all, it’s a guide to creating a hygge lifestyle, no matter where you are in the world.
The Year of Living Danishly: Uncovering the Secrets of the World’s Happiest Country by Helen Russell
The Year of Living Danishly is the perfect cozy memoir to read in winter for hygge vibes. This is Helen Russell’s story of moving to Denmark and finding a life for herself in the country of cinnamon buns, Lego, and dismally dark yet hygge winters.
Like many Brits, I’ve long been enamoured with the Scandinavian way of life. I read Helen Russell’s memoir years before I actually moved here, soaking in the secrets of the world’s happiest people from afar. I loved reading it back then and really should give it a reread to compare it with my own transition to life in Denmark.
For more cozy reading and hygge winter books, complement these recommendations with…