A good book can give us a moment to escape everyday life. It can even take the bite out of a cold, dark winter. That’s doubly true if you’re wrapped in a cozy blanket by the fire with a hot mug of something within reach.
As the days get shorter, you may find you’re itching to pick up a new book. But what should you read? Bookworms at Poudre River Public Library District and Old Firehouse Books helped identify some of the best reads by local authors to curl up with this holiday season.
Author: Connie Willis, Greeley
Genre: Romance, science fiction
Description: Bridget “Briddey” Flannigan works at a tech company, as does her boyfriend, Trent Worth. When Trent suggests they take their relationship to the next level by getting a new procedure that would allow them to feel each other’s emotions, Briddey is excited. What could be better than such complete emotional connection? But Briddey finds herself connected to someone else. She soon begins to realize the downsides of too much information—and just how complicated love and communication can be.
Why it makes the cut: Connie Willis brings all the complicated aspects of social media, smartphones and unrelenting access front and center with Crosstalk. The novel swings between funny and disturbing, nudging readers to think twice about their relationship with technology.
The Immortal King Rao
Author: Vauhini Vara, Fort Collins
Genre: Science fiction, satire, dystopian fiction
Description: In the 1950s, a smart young boy is born to a family of Dalit coconut farmers in an Indian village. This boy will become King Rao, the most accomplished CEO in the world. In the future, the Board of Corporations runs the world, and King Rao becomes leader of that, too.
As climate change ravages the world, his daughter Athena believes saving the planet requires a radical act: telling the truth. The story serves as a warning of the dangers of excess and greed while telling the tale of a complicated father-daughter relationship.
Why it makes the cut: Meg Schiel, a librarian with Poudre Libraries, says the highly acclaimed dystopian novel is an imaginative saga that pulls you in and holds you captive. “It follows a family through a wild exploration of multigenerational lineage, technological advancement, climate change, love, memory, art and societal collapse or salvation,” she says. The book was also a finalist for the 2023 Pulitzer Prize in fiction and made the New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2022 list.
The Arid Road Home
Author: J.P. Greene, Fort Collins
Genre: Adventure fiction
Description: Joseph is left for dead in the desert after being beaten and mugged. Set in the 1800s American West, Joseph barely survives the encounter. When he comes out of the desert, he stumbles upon a town that welcomes him with open arms. While he enjoys the kindness and generosity, he begins to sense that he must embark once again into the desert to discover the meaning of his life.
Why it makes the cut: “The Arid Road Home” is Greene’s debut novel. His love for poetry and the outdoors are evident in his lyrical prose. The fable-like story will speak to readers with questions about who they are and where they’re going.
Author: Laura Pritchett, Fort Collins
Genre: Fiction, thriller
Description: It’s been 10 years since Tess Cross left her newborn daughter behind with her sister. Grappling with her past as a runner of drugs and immigrants across the U.S.-Mexico border, she returns to the eastern plains of Colorado filled with regret. Then a wildfire blazes through the area, killing people in its path. But Tess is able to save someone. Now traffickers are after her, and she must face the life she left behind and the one she’s living now.
Why it makes the cut: Revati Kilaparti, manager and community liaison at Old Firehouse Books, says Pritchett’s books create a rich Western atmosphere accompanied with compelling human stories that make great snow day reads. “Laura Pritchett stands out as an author, not only for her writing talent, but also for her teaching abilities that likely contribute to her quality of work,” she says. Pritchett also directs the Master of Fine Arts program in nature writing at Western Colorado University.
Bonus read: “Playing With [Wild] Fire,” set to release Feb. 13 during the Fort Collins Book Fest. Preorder at laurapritchett.com/wildfire-book.
Author: Erika Wurth, Denver
Genre: Fiction, supernatural horror
Description: Described as “twisty and electric” in a New York Times book review, Wurth tells a story about an indigenous woman who must confront her past when visions begin to haunt her. Kari James, the novel’s protagonist, fills her days listening to heavy metal, reading Stephen King novels and hanging out in bars like White Horse. Debby, her cousin and friend, gives her a bracelet that once belonged to her mother, and she begins to see unexplainable things. When the visions won’t relent, Kari must face the truth.
Why it makes the cut: Kilaparti says Wurth is an amazing new Colorado voice who weaves together native storytelling with contemporary life: “Her atmospheric novel will be sure to draw in any reader.” White Horse, Wurth’s debut novel, also takes place in the Denver area, so local readers may recognize some locations.
The Last Ranger
Author: Peter Heller, Denver
Genre: Action fiction, thriller
Description: Ren Hopper is an enforcement ranger at Yellowstone National Park with duties that run the gamut from dull to exciting—they often include saving tourists from themselves. When hiking through the backcountry on his day off, Ren has a strange encounter with a man and a dog chasing a black bear. What begins as an investigation into a local poacher soon turns into something stranger.
Why it makes the cut: Kilaparti says Heller’s books captivate readers by immersing them in mystery and often isolation. “Yet there is an undercurrent of hope that keeps them engaged,” she says. “These elements combine to make his books intriguing and satisfying reads.”
You Better be Lightning
Author: Andrea Gibson, Boulder
Description: “You Better be Lightning” is a queer, political, feminist collection of poetry that explores the human experience. Gibson writes on topics ranging from outer space to love, trauma, climate change and illness in 38 poems, each exploring what it means to love today.
Why it makes the cut: Kilaparti says that while poetry can be intimidating, Gibson’s work is both approachable and poignant, stirring emotions and evoking thought. “You Better be Lightning” offers a distinct voice that is worth listening to and offers motivation to live a meaningful life.
If you need a book break but aren’t ready to leave the soft blankets and hot cocoa, puzzles are another great cozy day activity. With these local puzzle companies, you’re sure to find one worth piecing together.
How to Get Lost in a Book
The weather is perfect for a cozy day in, and you know you want to spend it with a book. Revati Kilaparti at Old Firehouse Books recommends these tips to sink into a good story:
Make a reading nook. Put together a dedicated reading space with a comfy chair, good lighting, a blanket and pillows.
Have a warm beverage nearby. Whether you’re a tea drinker, coffee fiend or cocoa lover, pairing a good book with a warm beverage will enhance the cozy vibes.
Choose the right book. Select a book from this list or talk to a librarian about what you’re in the mood to read. Consult book review sites such as Goodreads, LibraryThing or Book Riot, and follow book reviewers on Instagram and TikTok. Some top BookTok influencers include @aymansbooks, @thebooksiveloved, @ezeekat, @abbysbooks and @amyjordanj. The key is to pick a book that aligns with your interests and mood.
Read with intention. If you find yourself getting distracted by your phone, set a timer and put your phone down until it goes off.
Read together. Sit with a friend—yes, that includes four-legged ones—and enjoy the peace and quiet.
Puzzles by the Fire
Liberty Puzzles, a Boulder company, returns to the golden age of wooden jigsaw puzzles, according to the website. They bring intricacy, craftmanship and the beauty of classic wooden jigsaw puzzles to a new generation of puzzlers.
Liberty Puzzles prides itself on locally made, uniquely cut pieces crafted with quality materials. Each puzzle is made from quarter-inch-thick wood cut with lasers. It also boasts a history of supporting artists, replacing or remaking lost pieces and using beautiful packaging fit for a collector’s item or gift. Puzzle enthusiasts will be delighted to know they can also order custom pieces to make their own special keepsakes.
To design a puzzle, go to libertypuzzles.com.
For those who want to support a company focused on sustainability and supporting local artists, look no further than Goodfit.
Goodfit, a Denver puzzle company, got its start in 2020 when owners Bryan Le and Casey McDermott couldn’t find the puzzles they were looking for. McDermott wanted stylish, modern puzzles she’d be proud to hang up at home. Le suggested they make puzzles themselves.
Each collection features original work by hand-picked emerging artists, according to the website. Every puzzle is made with recycled cardboard and finished with linen texture. Goodfit puzzles also come with a reusable cotton bag to store the pieces.
Make an impact with your purchase at goodfit.us.
If you love all the captivating landscapes Colorado has to offer—from fall colors on Kebler Pass to the cityscape of Downtown Denver—Artistry Puzzles has something for you.
Artistry Puzzles is a division of Swiss Flower and Gift in Wheat Ridge. While the puzzle portion of the business launched in 2014, Swiss Flower and Gift has been around for half a century, according to the website. Their heirloom-quality wood puzzles made from birch and basswood, whether showcasing striking landscapes or custom designs, make great gifts for the puzzle collectors in your life.
For more information, go to swissflowerandgift.com/artistry-puzzles.html.