How To Choose Cozy Books: Tips From A Cozy Mystery Author
by Esme Addison
Reading cozy books is a way to create a warm and inviting atmosphere that allows you to curl up with a good story and forget about the outside world for a while. It’s a form of escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and a chance to immerse yourself in a world of your choosing. But, how do you create the perfect cozy reading experience?
One way is by choosing the right genre of book.
I love reading cozy books. With all of the wackiness and negativity portrayed in the media, I try to be mindful about the images and ideas that I consume. To that end, I almost read cozy books exclusively, having purposely gotten out of the habit of viewing media or reading stories with very dark themes. I tend to search for books that are going to make me feel happy, and allow me to experience activities like baking, gardening and other cozy activities I don’t always have time for in real life.
I also enjoy reading (and writing) stories in which there is a battle between good and evil – and good prevails. Cozy books always have a happy ending.
I write cozy fantasy, a niche of the cozy mystery genre, and just the act of writing the coziness in my story is satisfying. But I’ve also started reading Regency romance again, something I declined to do for over five year. Watching the tv series Bridgerton reminded me how much I used to love the genre. And with all that tea drinking, beautiful gowns and HEA’s, I’d certainly consider historical romance cozy.
My point is, I know exactly what part of the bookstore or library to head to for a cozy read. But I know some readers don’t know – because I’ve been asked and I’ve seen the questions on social media.
So now is a great time to discuss the importance of choosing the right genre for the coziest experience.
Not all genres are created equal! I’ve created a list of the coziest genres for the cozies reads. Grab your cuppa and let’s dive in.
Table of Contents
Choosing The Right Genre For A Cozy Read
The right genre can make all the difference when it comes to a cozy reading experience. It’s important to choose a genre that matches the cozy mood you want to create. Genres like romance, cozy mystery, some women’s (especially with magical realism) and some fantasy are perfect for creating a cozy atmosphere. These genres typically have relatable characters, heartwarming stories, and a sense of community that can make you feel like you’re part of something special.
Keep reading, we’ll dig in deeper with these genres.
Non-fiction books can also provide a cozy reading experience, especially when it comes to hobbies such as cooking, gardening, and crafting. Books on these topics can be both educational and comforting, allowing you to immerse yourself in a world of your choosing while also learning new skills. Whether you’re exploring new recipes in the kitchen, tending to your garden, or knitting a warm sweater, non-fiction books can enhance the cozy atmosphere and provide a sense of accomplishment.
Just like with fiction, it’s important to choose a non-fiction genre that matches the mood you want to create. So, if you’re looking to add to your collection of cozy books, consider exploring non-fiction books on your favorite hobbies.
Three Clues To Coziness
Sometimes you can find clues to the coziness of a book by looking at the cover. It may be created in a pastel or soft palette of colors, feature pretty whimsical elements like flowers, food or animals, and the settings are usually beautiful and inviting. Titles can be a clue as can the title tag which you may see on online book sites, with words like “heartwarming” or it may describe the setting like “beachfront”.
For example, if you look at the row of cozy mysteries below (that’s mine in the middle) you can see that soft colors are used, there are idyllic settings: a maple syrup farm, a waterfront park and a country estate. And there are various cats and dogs on the cover – which are a hallmark of cozy mysteries.
My cover A Hex For Danger has a splash of dark purple to indicate the witchiness of the book (dark purple is often used for this purpose), but it’s contrasted with mystical swirls (there’s magic) and a lighter blue and pink in the background. Plus there’s a dog!
It’s like a mystery! (Sorry, I can’t not be a mystery author.) And you are the sleuth.
When you’re trying to determine if a book is cozy, consider the following elements (or clues):
- Cover Image (color, elements, style)
- Back cover blurb (the paragraphs on the back of the cover or inside the book that summarize the story)
Think about how you feel when you view the cover and read the back cover copy. Do you smile? Are you happy? Do you wish to visit the scene on the book? Does the cover make you want to bake something or work in your garden? Maybe knit a blanket? If you get any of these cozy feels, you may have a cozy book.
Choosing the right cozy reading genre for you
When it comes to cozy reading, it’s important to choose a genre that speaks to you and your interests. If you’re someone who enjoys the comfort of small communities and romantic relationships, then small-town or historical romance may be the perfect genre for you. Women’s fiction (and also southern fiction and general fiction) might work for you if you like a focus on interpersonal relationships, and family dynamics.
If you’re interested in solving puzzles and piecing together clues, then cozy mystery may be more up your alley. If you love podcasts and learning about new ideas, non-fiction could be a good fit for you. While we’re on the topic of cozy reading and choosing cozy books, let’s talk about how good, taking time for yourself and doing something that makes you feel comforted and relaxed can be.
Benefits of reading cozy books
Studies have shown that reading can have many benefits for mental health, including reducing stress and anxiety, improving empathy and social skills, and increasing overall well-being. The genre of the book you choose to read can make a big difference in how effective it is at providing these benefits.
Cozy reading, or cozy self-care in general, has become increasingly popular in recent years. The idea of taking time to relax and enjoy simple pleasures, such as reading a good book in a comfortable chair, has resonated with many people looking for ways to reduce stress and improve their overall well-being. But what is the science behind the benefits of cozy reading? Let’s explore.
One of the primary benefits of cozy reading is its ability to reduce stress. A study published in the journal PLOS ONE found that just six minutes of reading can reduce stress levels by up to 68%. The study compared various methods of stress reduction, including listening to music and drinking tea, but found that reading was the most effective at reducing stress.
Another study, published in the journal Social Science & Medicine, found that reading can also help to reduce symptoms of depression. The study followed a group of individuals who were experiencing symptoms of depression and found that those who engaged in leisure activities, such as reading, were less likely to experience depressive symptoms.
Cozy reading can also improve cognitive function. A study published in the journal Neurology found that reading, as well as other mentally stimulating activities, can delay the onset of dementia and cognitive decline. The study followed a group of elderly individuals and found that those who engaged in mentally stimulating activities had a slower rate of cognitive decline compared to those who did not.
In addition to the above benefits, cozy reading can also improve sleep. A study published in the journal Sleep Medicine found that reading before bed can help to improve the quality of sleep. The study compared various pre-sleep activities, such as watching TV and using electronic devices, and found that reading was the most effective at improving sleep quality.
So we understand that cozy reading is about more than just escaping into a fun story. It can be an act of self-care like meditation or taking a hot bubble bath. Selecting the right type of book if your goal is to create a cozy experience… is key.
Genres To Avoid For A Cozy Read
Reading books that contain negative themes such as violence or trauma can actually have a negative impact on mental health. In contrast, cozy books such as small-town romance, historical romance, and cozy mystery can have a calming and uplifting effect on the reader. In fact, a study published in the Journal of Positive Psychology found that reading a few pages of a positive book can increase happiness and reduce stress levels.
Genres to avoid for a cozy reading experience
However, not all genres are appropriate for cozy reading. Genres like horror, true crime, crime fiction, suspense, erotica and thriller can be too intense and unsettling for a cozy atmosphere. Even genres like literary fiction or non-fiction on serious topics may not be the best choice for a cozy reading experience. It’s important to choose a genre that matches the mood you want to create. Let’s look deeper into the reasons why what you read is important to consider if you’re trying to create a cozy experience.
Studies have shown that exposure to negative images, such as violence, war, and crime, can increase anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Moreover, studies have shown that exposure to negative images can lead to desensitization, which means that the more we see negative images, the less we react to them emotionally.
One study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that participants who watched a news broadcast with negative images, such as violence or disaster, experienced more negative moods, greater anxiety, and lower overall satisfaction with their lives than those who watched a news broadcast without negative images. Another study published in the Journal of Traumatic Stress found that exposure to images of the 9/11 terrorist attacks was associated with an increased risk of PTSD symptoms among people who lived in New York City.
The Opposite Of Cozy: Dark Themes In Books and Film
Just like negative images in the media, dark themes in books can have a negative impact on our mental health. Dark themes refer to topics such as death, suicide, addiction, and other heavy subject matter that can be triggering for some people which is why many books now carry trigger warnings, a thoughtful way to guide the reader’s choices. And while it’s essential to acknowledge and discuss these issues, exposure to them can be overwhelming and emotionally draining.
Studies have shown that exposure to dark themes in books can lead to a negative mood, lower self-esteem, and decreased empathy. Moreover, exposure to these themes can increase the risk of depression and anxiety. One study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders found that exposure to dark themes in literature was associated with an increased risk of depression and suicidal thoughts among young adults.
I am not making any judgements on the genres that include these concepts, except to say that some books in genres like thriller, supsense, horror, crime fiction ect. may not provide a cozy read.
Variety is the spice of life, however. So you might want to save these types of books, i.e. thrillers, suspense, horror and crime fiction for a spooky Halloween-ish read, or book club or whenever you want to be run through the emotional wringer.
Other media choices to consider
In addition to the genre of the book, it’s important to be mindful of the other media that we consume, such as social media and TV and film. Just like the wrong genre of book can ruin a cozy reading experience, constant exposure to negative images and information through social media and TV/film can have a detrimental effect on our mental health and well-being. It’s important to take breaks from these sources of information and intentionally seek out positive and uplifting content. Especially if you’re trying to cultivate a cozy mindset.
Small-town romance novels are set in tight-knit communities with a cast of charming characters that you’ll love. These books often feature heartwarming romances and cozy settings. Take a look at these covers: pastel covers, beautiful relaxing setting and whimsical titles.
The covers offer cozy aspirational imagery promising you a satisfying, cozy read. These are the types of covers you are looking for, and if you want a story with romance small-town romance is the genre with you.
Historical romance and Amish romance are two genres of fiction that can make for perfect cozy reads. Both genres offer a sense of comfort, warmth, and familiarity, making them ideal choices for curling up with a cup of tea or hot chocolate on a cold day.
Historical romance is a sub-genre of romance that is set in the past, usually during the Regency, Victorian, or Edwardian eras. The stories typically feature a strong-willed heroine and a dashing hero who overcome obstacles to be together. Historical romances often contain elements of mystery, intrigue, and scandal, and they may be set in exotic locations or feature famous historical figures.
One of the key elements of historical romance that makes it a perfect cozy read is the emphasis on the development of the relationship between the main characters. The slow-burn romance allows readers to become invested in the characters and their love story, creating a sense of emotional intimacy and comfort. The historical setting also adds to the cozy atmosphere, as readers can immerse themselves in a bygone era and experience the customs, fashion, and manners of the time.
Amish romance, on the other hand, is a sub-genre of Christian fiction that is set in contemporary times but focuses on the Amish way of life. These stories typically feature a young Amish woman who faces challenges as she navigates her community’s strict rules and expectations. The romance is often a secondary plotline and is usually portrayed as sweet and chaste.
One of the key elements of Amish romance that makes it a perfect cozy read is the focus on family and community. The stories often depict close-knit families and supportive communities, providing readers with a sense of warmth and belonging. The simple, wholesome lifestyle of the Amish also adds to the cozy atmosphere, as readers can experience the joys of simple pleasures like home-cooked meals, quilting, and gardening.
You may note that I’m only sharing Amish romance by Patricia Johns. That’s because I try to only recommend books I’ve read, and she’s the only Amish romance author I’ve read. But based on her books, I will definitely read other authors in the genre.
Cozy mysteries are a sub-genre of crime fiction that are known for their gentle and charming storytelling, making them perfect for a cozy read. These stories feature an amateur sleuth who solves a murder mystery in a small, often idyllic, community. The genre’s focus on character development, leisurely pacing, and lack of graphic violence makes it an excellent choice for readers who want to enjoy a crime story without feeling stressed or anxious.
One of the key elements of cozy mysteries that make them perfect for a cozy read is the cozy setting. The stories often take place in small towns, villages, or countryside communities, where everyone knows each other, and the pace of life is slower. The sense of familiarity and comfort that comes with the setting makes cozy mysteries an ideal choice for curling up with a book on a cold, rainy day.
Another aspect of cozy mysteries that contributes to their coziness is the emphasis on character development. The amateur sleuth is often a likable and relatable character who readers can root for. They are often flawed and make mistakes, but their determination and wit make them endearing. The supporting cast is also crucial, with characters like nosy neighbors, quirky shopkeepers, and gossiping locals adding depth and humor to the story.
The pacing of cozy mysteries is also a crucial factor in creating a cozy atmosphere. The stories often have a leisurely pace, with the mystery unfolding gradually over time. This allows readers to immerse themselves in the story and the community, creating a sense of emotional investment and comfort.
But What About The… You Know, Murder?
Cozy mysteries are a genre of fiction that is loved by many readers. These stories typically involve a small community or a group of friends who work together to solve a crime or a mystery. While these stories often involve murder and other crimes, they are usually presented in a way that is less graphic and violent than other types of mystery novels.
One reason why the murder and crimes in cozy mysteries do not impact the reader in the same way that other dark elements in books can is that they are presented in a lighthearted and humorous way. The tone of these stories is often playful, and the characters are typically quirky and endearing. This creates a sense of distance between the reader and the crime that is being investigated, making it easier for the reader to enjoy the story without being overwhelmed by the violence.
Another reason why cozy mysteries are less likely to have a negative impact on the reader is that they often focus on the process of solving the crime rather than the crime itself. The characters in these stories are usually amateur detectives, and they use their wit and intelligence to solve the mystery. This creates a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment for the reader, who is able to follow along with the investigation and feel like they are a part of the solution.
Additionally, cozy mysteries often take place in small towns or communities where the crime is an anomaly. This creates a sense of safety and security for the reader, who knows that the crime is not likely to happen in their own community. This can be comforting for readers who may be sensitive to violence or crime in the real world.
Finally, cozy mysteries often have a strong focus on community and relationships. The characters in these stories are often close friends or family members who work together to solve the mystery. This creates a sense of warmth and camaraderie that can be uplifting for the reader.
As I’ve mentioned, I write cozy mystery. There is a murder but I strive to write a story that is about so much more than the act itself.
Women’s fiction set in small town, rural, or beach settings is an ideal choice for cozy reading. This genre typically focuses on family relationships, personal growth, and emotional journeys, making it perfect for curling up with a warm blanket and a cup of tea.
One of the key elements of women’s fiction that makes it perfect for a cozy read is the cozy setting. These stories often take place in small towns or rural communities, where everyone knows each other and the pace of life is slower. The descriptions of quaint cottages, picturesque beaches, and charming local shops create a sense of warmth and familiarity that can transport readers to a more relaxed and peaceful place.
Family relationships are also a central focus of women’s fiction. These stories often explore the complexities of family dynamics, from the bonds of sisterhood to the struggles of motherhood. The themes of love, loss, and forgiveness are interwoven into the storylines, adding a layer of emotional depth that can create a sense of connection with the characters.
In addition to family relationships, personal growth and emotional journeys are also common themes in women’s fiction. The main characters are often women who are navigating life’s challenges and discovering their own strength and resilience. These stories offer a sense of hope and inspiration, which can be uplifting and comforting for readers.
Cozy elements are also prevalent in women’s fiction. These can include descriptions of home-cooked meals, quaint cafes, and cozy blankets, adding to the sense of comfort and familiarity. The small-town gossip and local traditions can create a sense of community and belonging, which can be especially comforting for readers who may feel isolated or alone.
I should mention that there are other types of women’s fiction that may feature tragedy or darker issues. I’m not talking about those types of women’s fiction! As I’ve mentioned earlier, take your clue from the title, the cover and also read the back cover blurb for an idea of what the story is about and the subject matter it contains. Women’s fiction can be a perfect choice for readers who want to enjoy a heartwarming story with relatable characters and a sense of comfort and familiarity.
Non-fiction books offer a wealth of knowledge and inspiration, and certain subgenres can be particularly cozy and soothing to read. Here are a few non-fiction subgenres to consider if you’re looking for a cozy reading experience.
Nature and Travel Writing
If you love the great outdoors, nature and travel writing can be a fantastic way to escape into a cozy and comforting world. From exploring national parks to hiking remote trails, these books often focus on the beauty of nature and the sense of wonder it can inspire. Whether you’re reading about exotic locations or familiar landscapes, these books can help you appreciate the natural world and feel a sense of calm and tranquility.
For a truly cozy experience, consider reading books that focus on the natural beauty of a specific region, such as “A Walk in the Woods” by Bill Bryson, which takes readers on a journey through the Appalachian Mountains. Or, try “The Hidden Life of Trees” by Peter Wohlleben, which explores the fascinating world of the forest and the lives of the trees that inhabit it.
Memoirs can provide a window into another person’s life, offering insight and inspiration that can be both comforting and empowering. Some memoirs focus on cozy experiences that many of us would like to experience or at least read about, such as starting a farm or vineyard, moving to the country, or creating a business related to a cozy hobby.
For a cozy and comforting memoir, try books that focus on the simple pleasures of life, such as “The Little House” series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, which tells the story of a family living on the frontier in the late 1800s.
There’s something undeniably cozy about cooking and baking, and reading books about food and cooking can be a great way to indulge that cozy feeling. Some food and cooking books focus on comfort foods like soups, stews, and casseroles, while others explore the art of baking delicious treats like cakes, cookies, and pies. Whether you’re looking for practical tips on meal planning or just want to indulge your love of comfort food, these books can be a great way to unwind and relax.
Culinary nonfiction often has a strong narrative component. Whether it’s a memoir that tells the story of a chef’s journey through the culinary world or a history that explores the cultural significance of a particular food, these books often have a clear story arc that draws the reader in and keeps them engaged.
Second, culinary nonfiction often focuses on comfort food and other cozy culinary delights. From hearty stews to decadent desserts, many culinary nonfiction books feature recipes and dishes that are designed to comfort and nourish the soul. This can make for a particularly cozy reading experience, especially on a chilly evening or a lazy weekend afternoon.
Third, culinary nonfiction often provides a sense of escapism. Whether we’re reading about a far-off land or a bygone era, culinary nonfiction can transport us to different times and places, allowing us to experience new flavors and cultures from the comfort of our own homes.
Cozy reading can be a wonderful way to promote mental health and well-being, but it’s important to choose the right genre of book and be mindful of the other media we consume. By intentionally selecting positive and uplifting content, we can create a cozy reading experience that truly promotes relaxation and escape from the stresses of daily life.
Note: I have read and love all of the books shared on this page. 🙂