Every winter, like clockwork, my moods and my spirits get lower. The days are short and dreary, it’s cold and wet and miserable, and although the rare moments of sunshine help, I usually find myself retreating towards more reliable (and cozy) remedies — great books designed to lift your spirits. To get you through the last few weeks of the winter season, here at SheDoesTheCity, we thought we could all use the power of a great book. 

From poetry and prose that helps you remember how to fall back in love with life; to romances, ranging from the sweet, to the steamy, to the strange; to fantasies that help you escape dreary reality; to memoirs, and guides for wellness. This is a book list built to warm our cold bodies and hearts, and hopefully lift our spirits.

Devotions – Mary Oliver

I am nothing, if not a Mary Oliver stan. Her poetry has inspired me to look at the world in different ways, and to find magic in every stone, in every feather, in every creature. Her words have gotten me through some tough times, and Devotions is one of my favourite books, because it features selected poetry from many of her collections through the years. This is a book I find myself revisiting often, and my copy is full of sticky note tabs, so I can read my favourite verses time and time again.

We Are Never Meeting In Real Life – Samantha Irby

Samantha Irby is HILARIOUS. Whether you’ve read her books, or watched Shrill or the Sex and the City reboot, chances are she’s made you laugh before. We Are Never Meeting In Real Life is her laugh-out-loud funny essay collection that explores topics like her difficult childhood, “adult” budgets, and why she should be the new Bachelorette. Full of romantic and awkward sexual encounters, advice, and stories, as she navigates topics like grief, friendship, and selfhood, this essay collection is the perfect balm for the winter gloom.

Something More – Jackie Khalilieh

Jackie Khalilieh’s Something More is a beautiful young adult coming-of-age story following a young Palestinian-Canadian teen who is trying to navigate high school, while also hiding her autism. Jessie is fifteen, starting grade nine as a quirky loner, who is a little obsessed with the nineties. She’s diagnosed with autism just weeks before school starts, and she’s determined to keep her diagnosis a secret. She wants to give herself a fresh start, so she gives herself a list of goals: From turning her unibrow into two eyebrows, to getting a magical first kiss, to getting a spot in the school play, Jessie’s got goals and ambitions, and a plan… But things don’t always go according to plan, especially when two very different, very cute boys steal her heart. This book was honestly a joy. Full of love, heart, tenderness, and all the confusing messiness of growing up and having crushes, Something More brought me right back to high school, in the best of ways.

We’ve Got This – Ritu Bhasin

Ritu Bhasins We’ve Got This is a guidebook and a balm, aimed at helping you heal and thrive, despite hardship or hate. As a child of working-class immigrants of colour, Ritu has experienced her fair share of racism, bullying, and cultural confusion. Even as she found success as a lawyer and business leader, she grappled with embracing her authenticity, until she learnt about the true freedom that can come from belonging. The path to belonging can be difficult, but Ritu combines wisdom, empathy, humour, and research in this book, to help readers take their own journeys to unlock the beauty of belonging.

This Is How You Lose the Time War – Amal El-Mohtar, Max Gladstone

This Is How You Lose the Time War, co-written by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone, is like nothing I’ve ever read before. In the ashes of a dying world, an agent of the Commandant finds a letter labelled “burn before reading”. When she reads it, it sets off an unlikely correspondence (across time and space), between two rival agents, who are each fighting to secure the best possible future for their warring factions. A taunt on a battlefield turns into something deeper, something epic, beautiful, and romantic… Something that could change everything. This is a strange, confusing, and beautiful science fiction epic and love story. I loved the concept, and really lost myself in the curious magic that is this book.

Falling Back In Love With Being Human – Kai Cheng Thom

Kai Cheng Thom’s Falling Back In Love With Being Human is a work of art. Growing up as a Chinese-Canadian transgender girl, Kai has definitely experienced the hostilities of the world, but despite that, she’s held on tightly to the belief that every human is sacred, no matter how horrible or hateful they can be. During the pandemic, like many of us, she found her belief system shaken, as she was confronted by the viciousness with which people were treating each other. Instead of succumbing to her pain, she channelled her grief and her rage, and decided to write. From this bloomed Falling Back In Love With Being Human, a collection of “letters” made up of poetry, prose, reflections, and manifesto, designed to inspire hope and fierce love.

Heartstopper – Alice Oseman

If you haven’t already read Alice Oseman’s tender and cozy Heartstopper series, chances are, at least you’ve heard of the Netflix showHeartstopper is like a warm mug of cocoa for the heart. It follows Charlie, an overthinking, openly gay teen, who meets Nick, a cheerful, kind-hearted rugby player, at his all-boys school. After being outed last year, and bullied for months, the bullying has finally stopped for Charlie. He’s never spoken with Nick before, nor does he know much more about him than the fact that he’s a year older, and he’s on the rugby team. When they meet, they become fast friends… But is there something more beneath the friendship?

Happy Place – Emily Henry

If Emily Henry published her grocery list, I would read it, and Happy Place is so, so much more than a grocery list. It’s a gorgeous love story about the many kinds of love: friendship, romance, and the love of a place or time. This book follows a group of friends in their thirties spending a summer retreat at the Maine cottage that has been their friend group’s yearly getaway for the last decade. This cottage is the perfect place to leave their “real” lives behind… But that can be harder than you’d think, especially when Harriet and Wyn (the couple that defined #CoupleGoals) broke up months ago, but still haven’t been able to tell their best friends.

Bride – Ali Hazelwood

Look…I don’t know how to tell you this…but vampires and werewolves are BACK and hotter than ever in Bride, the sexy, steamy, and unputdownable new fantasy romance by Ali Hazelwood. It follows Misery Lark, a Vampyre forced into a marriage of convenience, to solidify an allyship with the dangerous werewolf Alpha Lowe Moreland. Aside from the tenuous alliance they are forging between their warring factions, they each have their own reasons for agreeing to the marriage. Although Weres and Vampyres are mortal enemies, soon Misery and Lowe discover that the heat between them might be more than just hatred…

A Magic Steeped In Poison – Judy I. Lin

For me, one of the things that always brings me joy is a beautifully written, immersive and lush fantasy, and Judy I. Lin’s A Magic Steeped In Poison duology fulfills that criteria for me. This young adult fantasy series follows Ning, who blames herself for her mother’s death, after all, it was her hands that unknowingly brewed the poison tea that killed her mother and now threatens the life of her sister Shu. When Ning hears of a competition at the palace, designed to help find the kingdom’s greatest shennong-shi — master of the ancient, magical art of tea-making — she decides to compete. The winner will receive a favour from the princess, a favour that might be Ning’s only chance to save her sister’s life. But the competition might be more than she signed up for, with all the backstabbing, the court politics, and the mysterious (but infuriatingly handsome) stranger with a secret, Ning soon discovers that here in the capital she may be in hot water (so sorry, I had to!).

Ameema Saeed (@ameemabackwards) is a storyteller, a Capricorn, an avid bookworm, and a curator of very specific playlists, customized book recommendations, and cool earrings. She’s a book reviewer, a Sensitivity Reader, a book buyer at Indigo Books & Music, and the Books Editor for She Does the City, where she writes and curates bookish content, and book recommendations. She enjoys bad puns, good food, dancing, and talking about feelings. She writes about books, big feelings, unruly bodies, and her lived experiences, and hopes to write your next favourite book one day. When she’s not reading books, she likes to talk about books (especially diverse books, and books by diverse authors) on her bookstagram: @ReadWithMeemz