Books to cure the winter blues


Escape from the frosty mornings and dark nights with these warming recommendations from some of our judges and past winners.


Tessa Hadley (2016 Wellcome Book Prize judge)

'Black Narcissus' by Rumer Godden. It's nothing like the Powell and Pressburger film (which Godden didn't like). A beautiful, subtle novel about nuns in the 1930s, set in the Himalayan mountains near Darjeeling. Bright and warm - though never sentimental - for dark days.

'Down the Rabbit Hole' by Juan Pablo Villalobos. Another hot place - Mexico this time. A clever and very funny story about a little boy holed up with his dangerous narco father.

'The Maple Stories' by John Updike. A lovely pocket-sized compendium of Updike's short stories about one family - warming and funny and wrapped around with New Englander-prosperity.


Damian Barr (2016 Wellcome Book Prize judge)

'Auntie Mame' by Patrick Dennis. This high-camp classic from 1953 is about an orphaned boy adopted by his fabulous and highly irregular aunt. The movie is also very good (for once!).

'Cold Comfort Farm' by Stella Gibbons. Seth Starkadder will set your pulse racing, you'll want to slap Delfine and watch out for something nasty in the woodshed!

'Tales of the City' by Armistead Maupin will transport you to Barbary Lane in the 1970s and put you in the shoes of Mary-Ann Singleton as she sheds her Midwestern inhibitions and loses her heart to San Francisco.


Sathnam Sanghera (2016 Wellcome Book Prize judge)

'Any Human Heart' by William Boyd. A book that will make you laugh, cry and think about what you want from your life and relationships. What else could you want in a novel? I must have bought it for about 20 people now."

'This Is How You Lose Her' by Junot Díaz. I've been obsessed with Junot Díaz ever since I picked up 'The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao'. I think Díaz is the most original voice to have appeared in the last decade.

'The Old Wives' Tale' by Arnold Bennett. Published in 1908, and about the lives of two sisters growing up in a drapery shop in the Potteries, this book provided part of the inspiration for my novel 'Marriage Material'. A forgotten classic and a massive treat.


Thomas Wright (winner of the 2012 Wellcome Book Prize for 'Circulation')

The Alice books by Lewis Carroll. Carrol's infinitely agile intelligence, wit and imagination never fail to invigorate and lift the mind.

'Puckoon' by Spike Milligan. Milligan's surrealist Irish blarney made me cry with laughter.

'The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentlemen' by Laurence Sterne. Post-modern, impressionistic and absurdist, decades before those artistic idioms were even thought of, this novel is always new no matter how many times you read it and always laugh-out-loud funny.


Joan Bakewell (2016 Wellcome Book Prize chair)

Anything by PG Wodehouse.

'The Warden' by Anthony Trollope.

Any Shakespeare play.


Frances Balkwill (2016 Wellcome Book Prize judge)

'Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls' by David Sedaris. Original and very, very funny.

'Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont' by Elizabeth Taylor. One of the most under-estimated writers of the 20th century... in fact, any book by Elizabeth Taylor!

'Some Tame Gazelle' by Barbara Pym - a (the!) 20th-century Jane Austen, all of her books are wonderful. Another under-estimated author.


Andrea Gillies (winner of the 2009 Wellcome Book Prize for 'Keeper')

Anything by PG Wodehouse. His work is not only magnificently droll, but draws us back into a lost world of utter safety that almost certainly never existed, and that's comforting.

The box-set of Jane Austen, because everybody secretly loves a love story. Especially one that comes about by beating insuperable odds (and involves carriages and dances and betrayal)!

'Life After Life' by Kate Atkinson, because it's just so incredibly good and brilliant and clever, and because when you get to the end, you have 'A God in Ruins' waiting for you, and I envy those who do.