Overflowing beds of sweet peas, marigolds, and cornflowers. Cans of peaches, jams, and chutneys. Fresh pies in the oven and bread on the kitchen counter. A self-sufficient vegetable garden and a handmade wardrobe of linens and embroidered fabrics.
Self-sufficiency has long been idealised, but cottagecore (thank the internet for the name) has ascended during covid-19 as more of us have turned to sourdough, craft projects, and container vegetable planting during months at home.
Here are some of my favourite books to imagine a slow-paced, romanticised life close to nature with an abundance of simple pleasures. With both fiction and non-fiction, fill your reading list with books to inspire your cottagecore life and make more of it a reality.
The cottagecore reading list
One book that’s been included in the wonderful Puffin in Bloom series is the cherished classic featuring everyone’s favourite red-headed orphan.
I read How to Be a Good Creature a few years ago and loved it. It’s a wholesome look at the joy and companionship that animals bring us, in all shapes and sizes.
There’s plenty of memoirs surging up bestseller lists by writers who have found their way through grief by hiking, gardening, or the like. But mushroom foraging? That’s a new one to me.
When Long Litt Woon loses her husband of 32 years to an unexpected death, she is utterly bereft. As an immigrant in her country, she feels lost and disoriented before she wanders off deep into the woods with mushroom hunters and is taught how to see clearly what is all around her, make distinctions, take educated risks, and truly pay attention to nature. The Way Through The Woods shares her story of returning to life and to living through foraging.
For an even deeper exploration of mushrooms, read Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds & Shape Our Futures by Merlin Sheldrake.
Before this year, the last time I picked up a needle for anything more than repairing clothes was textiles class at school. But I’ve returned to the quiet joy of making things with needle and thread via a small embroidery project – and now I’m looking for any excuse to embroider rows of wild flowers on pillowcases and any other innocent piece of fabric lying around.
As inspiration, Kazuko Aoki’s books caught my eye – as a textile artist and avid gardener, she shares stunningly delicate patterns of wildflowers in Embroidered Wild Flowers. In another book, The Embroidered Garden, she shares home garden favourites.
Like The Wild in the Willows and Beatrix Potter, I grew up reading Brambly Hedge – one of the archetypal English children’s books.
Since the first books were published in 1980, the ethos of Brambly Hedge’s community spirit, seasonal cooking, and sustainability is perhaps more relevant in today’s world than ever before. Here’s the complete edition to peruse Jill Barklem’s wonderful illustrations and stories of life in the hedgerow.
6. Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer
Robin Wall Kimmerer is one of the most magical nature writers I’ve read in the last few years. Described as “a hymn of love to the world” by Elizabeth Gilbert, Braiding Sweetgrass is her celebration of indigenous wisdom and the beauty of nature.
Robin Wall Kimmerer’s earlier book, Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses, is also stunning.
Heading out into nature and hearing the chatter of birds, noticing the rustle of a deer in the forest, or observing a tree shaped by the wind is balm for the soul. But what does it all mean? Tristan Gooley is my go-to recommendation for reading the signs and secrets of the natural world.
9. Eat What You Grow: How to Have an Undemanding Edible Garden That Is Both Beautiful and Productive by Alys Fowler
Last summer in quarantine at my Dad’s house in England was my year for growing tomatoes, lettuce, and aubergine. Now in Copenhagen, I’m getting more creative. My pea seedlings are shooting up, my spinach is nearly ready for thinning, and I have carrot seedlings and radishes joyfully cohabiting.
As a guide to nurturing a productive and beautiful garden, Alys Fowler released this helpful guide in Spring 2021. For other vegetable gardening books that are both knowledgeable and a joy to read, turn to James Wong’s Homegrown Revolution or The Urban Vegetable Patch: A Modern Guide to Growing Sustainably, Whatever Your Space by Grace Paul.
From Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Louise Glück, The Wild Iris is a stunningly beautiful collection of poems that encompasses the natural, human, and spiritual realms.
The Wind in the Willows has perfect cottagecore vibes – quaint cottages, talking frogs and badgers, and a summer in bloom. I love Robert Ingpen’s illustrations in the popular Sterling Illustrated Classics series.
The bestselling novel about a young girl’s journey towards healing and the transforming power of love, from the author of The Invention of Wings.
I wanted to add a graphic novel to this list, and Pilu of the Woods earned its place. It’s the gentle story of Willow, who loves the woods near her house.
Unlike her turbulent emotions which she tries to keep locked away, the woods are calm and quiet and provide a sanctuary that one day becomes all too tempting to run away into. There, she meets Pilu, a lost tree spirit who can’t find her way back home. What follows is a growing friendship and shared mission through their natural surroundings.
The Enchanted April is one of the books I recommend most on the blog, but Elizabeth and Her German Garden also makes for a great read with relaxing summer garden vibes.
Make your clothes last with Make Thrift Mend. Slow fashion guru Katrina Rodabaugh follows her bestselling book, Mending Matters, with a comprehensive guide to building and keeping a sustainable wardrobe you love.
Featuring homesteaders and co-stars of Discovery’s Alaska: The Last Frontier, this cookbook and self-reliance guide by Eve and Eivin Kilcher offers appealing recipes for anyone looking to live more sustainably and enjoy a healthy diet, regardless of where and what they call home.
As soon as I came across the cover of Botanicum from Big Picture Press’s Welcome to the Museum series, I fell in love with the stunning illustrations by Katie Scott. Offering a feast of botanical knowledge, it’s a spellbinding book to browse while learning something new about our beautiful world.
To fuel your self-sufficiency dreams, Batch by Joel MacCharles and Dana Harrison offers more than 200 recipes, tips, and techniques for a well-preserved kitchen. From fermenting to canning, dehydration, and smoking, learn how to make your food last.
If you want to tell your chamomile from your St. John’s Wort, add a copy of The Modern Herbal Dispensatory to your household library. It’s the perfect companion to books about foraging and growing your own garden, whether beside a cottage, on several acres, or in a window box.
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