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Illustration by Heidi Berton

Books are good for you.

We seem to know this intuitively – in soothing a child after a long day with a favourite bedtime story, or in the fizzy anticipation of escaping our weary world into a shiny new one, simply by turning a page.

It’s also something that science seems to support. Bibliotherapy – the use of carefully selected books for mental-health therapeutic purposes – was first used to help soldiers returning from the trenches manage their PTSD symptoms. More recently, a study published this year in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine found that health care workers, in the midst of the pandemic, had “significantly reduced” levels of anxiety and depression if they did things like eat well, have hobbies – and read books.

Even for the reader who hasn’t been on the front lines – health care or military – whatever your 2022 was like, you’ll benefit from a dose of comfort reading – twice daily, with food. (A book, a cup of coffee and a home-made cookie? The elixir of life, surely.) Here are some of our favourite comforting reads from this year.

The Globe 100: The best books of 2022

The top 10 mysteries of 2022

Holiday heart-warmers

A Holly Jolly Diwali by Sonya Lalli

Niki has always done the right thing – until everything in her life goes spectacularly wrong. Laid off from her tech job, she books a last-minute ticket to her best friend’s wedding in Mumbai, where – via an impromptu trip to the beaches of Goa – she finds self-confidence, a cute indie musician and, of course, the real meaning of Diwali. Light-filled and gently humorous, this one beats any Hallmark movie.

A Very Merry Bromance by Lyssa Kay Adams

The latest in the Nashville-set Bromance Bookclub series – about a group of dudes reading romance novels to root out their own toxic masculinity and finding true love along the way – is a very festive one. Colton is a chart-topping, people-pleasing country musician who needs a hit album, STAT. Immigration lawyer Gretchen is a grinch, at least when it comes to embracing the holidays. Cue a sweet, spicy seasonal miracle.

The Christmas Wish by Lindsey Kelk

There’s only one thing Gwen wants for Christmas, and that’s 24 hours where she can forget what a disaster her life is. Cupid, however, has other plans for her. As much about repairing broken family bonds as it is about embarking on a sparkly new love affair, this one’s 10/10 on the heartwarming scale.

Funny-bone ticklers

Shrines of Gaiety by Kate Atkinson

Should a book about a 1920s crime family – which includes a subplot about the murders of young girls associated with their nightclubs – be as hilarious as this one is? No, but then Kate Atkinson is no ordinary author. Bitingly hilarious, disarmingly warm at its core, this is Atkinson at her fiendishly clever, ruthlessly amusing best.

Ms. Demeanor by Elinor Lipman

After being caught in flagrante al fresco on her building’s rooftop, high-flying lawyer Jane Morgan finds herself convicted of public indecency, and under house arrest for the foreseeable. How she fills the time – getting friendly with another ankle-monitored tenant, starting a TikTok account, investigating the suspicious death of the Peeping Tomasina neighbour who dobbed her in – is the subject matter of this snarky, utterly delightful comedy.

Anon Pls by DeuxMoi

Inspired by the real life viral Instagram gossip account @DeuxMoi, this romp-y read marries the satirical wit of The Devil Wears Prada with the specificities of the internet age, while giving us a hint at the true backstory behind a phenomenon whose real identity remains, miraculously, masked.

Escapist delights

Yinka, Where Is Your Huzband? by Lizzie Damilola Blackburn

Distilled dopamine in literary form, this is a big, warm hug of a novel. Yes, it’s theoretically about the titular Yinka’s search for the titular husband – or “huzband,” as her badgering Nigerian aunties say it – but it’s really about family and friendship and muddling through as best as you can, the ability to laugh at the absurdity of it all your greatest asset. If you feel bereft at the end of this charming book, know you’re not alone.

The Beekeeper At Elderflower Grove by Jaimie Admans

The White Hare by Jane Johnson

It’s counterintuitive, but sometimes a creepy, gothic ghost story is exactly what you need to deliver you from the troubles of your own life. This twisty thriller, set in a house by the sea, is just the right blend of supernatural and spooky – is there really the spirit of an ancient goddess haunting the land around them? – with contemporary mystery, sending the very best sort of tingle up your spine.

The Beekeeper At Elderflower Grove by Jaimie Admans

The most heartwarming reads require their heroes to begin at their lowest ebb, which is exactly the case for Kayleigh, back living in her mother’s spare bedroom at 35. Desperate to escape the endless parade of her mother’s Tinder dates, she takes a job as a beekeeper at a ruined manor house on the edge of their village. This wholesome-but-not-saccharine novel is a mystery (did the owner of the manor really die in that devastating fire?) inside a sweet romance.

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