When rain falls, books call. Answer the summons with one of these novels that are perfect for cozy, rainy day reading at home.
Close your eyes for a minute (when you’re done reading this sentence), and answer this question: What would you most want to do if it was wet and gray outdoors, but you were snug inside with time to spend as you pleased?
There. Did you close your eyes and imagine it? I bet at least one of the scenarios you considered involved a cozy blanket, the welcoming arms of a comfortable chair, and above all a good novel. There’s nothing like a rainy day to get one in the mood for curling up with a book!
While any volume will do, some books seem especially suited for rainy days. I’ve compiled a list of 12 suggestions to keep on your “in case of rain” bookshelf. (Figuratively speaking, of course, since you probably don’t actually have a designated shelf for that. But perhaps you should?)
12 Ideal Books for Rainy Days
1. Stormy Petrel by Mary Stewart
What better rainy day read than a book that takes place in rainy Scotland? Grab a wool blanket and your Scottish breakfast tea and head to the Hebrides with Rose Fenemore, a Cambridge professor who finds herself in need of a break from academic life. Rose settles into a rustic cottage and prepares to enjoy a holiday full of writing and long walks. She gets a bit more intrigue and excitement than she bargained for when two mysterious strangers turn up on her doorstep.
2. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
“There was no possibility of taking a walk that day.” Thus begins Jane Eyre, a novel that starts literally and metaphorically in the pouring rain, but ends when “The rain is over and gone, and there is a tender shining after it.” On a cozy rainy day, reading (or re-reading) a well-loved classic is a natural choice. Jane Eyre contains all the nuances of sunshine and shadow; it can be read deeply for its symbolism, or simply enjoyed as a very good tale.
3. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
If Jane Eyre seems a little daunting for you, try a shorter novel set in the same Yorkshire moor country. The Secret Garden is a children’s novel that shares many of the Gothic elements present in Jane Eyre: a gloomy mansion with locked doors, old family secrets and tragedies, cries in the night, and a telepathic summons that brings a wanderer home.
For more Gothic novels for rainy days, check out my list of 7 classics.
4. The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware
Sometimes an unexpected rainy day makes me want to cast away my current reads and pick up something I can sail through quickly, and a Ruth Ware thriller always fits that bill. (Ware is one of my favourite contemporary authors!) The Woman in Cabin 10 is set on a small (claustrophobic) luxury cruise ship. One night, journalist Lo Blacklock witnesses a woman being thrown overboard. But when she tries to investigate, she finds that all evidence of the crime has vanished–and all the ship’s passengers and crew are accounted for.
5. Towards Zero by Agatha Christie
Rainy days are always good days for reading an Agatha Christie mystery! Honestly, any Christie you have to hand will do! However, if you’re looking for a less well known Christie that’s also one of her better ones, see if you can get your hands on a copy of Towards Zero. It features Superintendent Battle in the detective role, and it’s unusual in the fact that the murder occurs later in the book. The murder is the “zero point” that all the events and characters are converging towards, which helps build anticipation as you read.
6. The House on the Strand by Daphne du Maurier
I remember quite a bit of weather and water in The House on the Strand, which takes place in Cornwall. The narrator, Dick Young, takes a hallucinogenic drug that transports him back in time to the 14th century, where he is able to witness events but not engage in them himself. Fascinated, Dick takes more drug “trips” into the past, but as he does his two worlds became increasingly more entangled in his mind. This story has just the right pitch of psychological suspense you’d expect from a du Maurier novel, with a sinister undercurrent that keeps you turning pages well past your bedtime.
7. Out of the Silent Planet by C. S. Lewis
I love how Lewis’s sci-fi classic begins: Elwin Ransom is on a walking tour of the English countryside, and seeks shelter one stormy night in a remote estate. Once inside, he is drugged by two unscrupulous men who have been using the house for their scientific experiments. He awakes to find himself abducted and en route to Mars, where he will serve as a sacrifice to the creatures who live there. This book is the first in a trilogy, which is alternately disturbing, fantastical, beautiful, and thought-provoking. It’s a series that begs for multiple readings, which is quite appropriate since its author was a firm believer in re-reading books.
8. Jazz by Toni Morrison
I love listening to the cadence of the rain, whether it’s a tempest or a drizzle or a sudden shift from one to the other. For a book that matches, to my mind, rain’s unpredictable rhythms, Morrison’s lyrical novel Jazz is a perfect pick. It tells the story of an unhappily married, middle-aged couple living in Harlem in the 1920s. While the setting is of course famous for its contribution to jazz music, the story isn’t about musicians. Rather, the narrative structure itself is a tribute to the musical style, with improvisations, stylistic “themes” for each character’s perspective, and variations on the themes as they weave in and out of the story. Honestly, it’s kind of hard to explain…but when you read it, you feel it.
9. Washington Square by Henry James
Henry James is an eloquent writer, and sitting down with one of his books is like partaking in a delicious meal you want to savor. Washington Square is one of his short novels–you could read the bulk of it in one rain-smattered afternoon. It’s a drawing-room drama, set in 1840’s New York. The events and characters revolve around 21-year-old Catherine Sloper, a Fanny Price type heroine who must [seemingly] choose between her overbearing father and a suitor who may or may not be after her fortune.
10. Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster
This comfortable rainy day read follows the story of Judy, an orphan who receives a college scholarship from a mysterious benefactor. One condition of Judy’s scholarship is that she must write letters to her benefactor, whom she addresses by the nickname of “Daddy Long Legs.” This epistolary novel is Judy’s letters, which are vivid and funny and give you a piece-by-piece unfolding of Judy’s character and growth. Judy’s college life reminds me a bit of Anne Shirley’s time at Queen’s Academy and at Redmond College.
11. Mr. Bliss by J. R. R. Tolkien
This is not actually a novel, but a very long picture book that Tolkien wrote and illustrated for his children! It’s a zany tale about a man who acquires a new car, drives it recklessly, and falls into many misadventures as a result. For this one, make some popcorn and read it to your kids when the rain keeps you stuck indoors.
Stormy night? Tuck yourself into bed with a few classic fairy tales. Grimm’s are odd and silly and magical and certainly a bit grim at times, too. If you get a complete volume (with over 200 tales) you’ll find plenty of familiar stories, as well as ones you forgot or never knew existed.
What do you think is the best book for a rainy day?