On Hygge

When I first came across the word hygge, I had no idea what it meant. But it intrigued me. And I couldn't figure out how to pronounce it. I looked it up. Within a few days, that odd little word gave my world a different shape.

You probably already know what hygge is, but like me, you probably don't have a word for it yet. It’s a feeling; hygge, at its simplest, is the art of intimacy. It’s coziness, contentment, and comradeship all rolled up into one. It’s a feeling the Danish folks who came up with the word pursue avidly; they credit it with being able to get through those famously long, dark winters up north.

Hygge is making time to sit down and relax, drink tea or eat a meal by candlelight, spend quality time with good friends, read a story aloud in front of a fire. It’s cultivating those genuinely joyful, relaxed, present little moments that make all the difference in how you feel about your life.

For me, hygge has taken on some very particular qualities. It tastes like coffee, or a perfect cup of tea. It smells like warm beeswax. It's the reason I read. I’ve always been a bookworm, but it was only when I learned what hygge meant that I realized exactly what I was looking for, in all the books I read and re-read; I was seeking hygge. And some authors are amazingly good at creating it. They write stories I come back to again and again. Tolkien, L.M. Montgomery, Robin Hobb -- from literature to fairytales, the stories I cherish most are the ones that bring me hygge, and hopefully bring some of it to the characters I love, too.

I want to make room for more hygge in literature, and in life. When I lived closer to many of my friends, I would host hygge nights. We'd all cuddle up by candlelight, bring stories to read aloud to each other, snack on tasty snacks, and just relax and listen and talk and be people together. But now that I live in Ohio, it's harder to get the people together who want to be part of that very particular quality of time that I love. 

That's where HyggeLit comes in. In late 2015, I decided to start reading stories aloud and recording them. That way, I can share some of my favorite moments in stories with anyone who wants to listen, no matter where you are. I get to read aloud (on my own schedule!) from my favorite red velvet chair by the fireplace. And if you want me to read a particular tale or part of a tale aloud, whether it's a short story or a five-thousand-page epic fantasy, let me know and I'll add it to the HyggeList. I hope you love listening to me read these stories -- but I'd also love to hear from you. Tell me your favorite stories. And tell me about the moments of hygge you cherish most, in literature and in life.

I still don't know how to pronounce hygge, but I do know that that's far less important than knowing how to feel it.So settle in with a cup of tea, coffee, or hot chocolate, and light a candle or three. Let’s read some really good stories together.