Hygge and Bookshops by Louisa Thomsen Brits
Hygge is found in the places where we feel most at home. So many of us take comfort in the pleasures of a good book shop, particularly those in our neighbourhoods – somewhere that is neither home nor work, where we are known by name, where we relax and discover commonality and companionable ease.
We leave our cares at the threshold when we step into a bookshop and experience a sense of abundance and contentment - a taste of hygge, a feeling of engagement and relatedness, of belonging to the moment and to each other. Hygge is the mutuality, almost complicity, that we experience with the strangers around us, who are sitting close by, or standing at a nearby shelf, enjoying an occasional exchange and then quietly returning their attention to the pages of the books in their hands.
Like hygge, a good bookshop is a temporary refuge from the pressures of daily life, an opportunity for a brief restorative pause. There we can slip into a state of pleasant wellbeing, open to the enjoyment of the pleasures and possibilities arranged on the shelves before us, held by the scent of ink and ideas, knowledge, paper, binding and glue. And, if we’re lucky, decent coffee. The books almost hum and ask us to slow down, to listen, to engage with opinions and stories that are not our own. Shelves create a frame around us, lending us both privacy and prospect and the possibility of savouring the present moment undisturbed.
On Civilised Saturday (26th November), bookshops across the country will heighten the hygge, offering tea and homemade cakes, deep armchairs, maybe a glass of sparkling wine, carols, book signings, mince pies and a respite from the jostling and noise on the street after the chaos of Black Friday. Small shops can’t compete with extreme discounts but they can invite tranquility and community and encourage us to slow down, be thoughtful and help us find the perfect gift. Or just offer the prospect of being curled up in a corner with a well-loved book.
Reading and hygge are both an experience of sanctuary that takes shape in passing moments and makes us feel at home wherever we are. For many of us, our quiet, most contented hours are spent with books. They are unhurried experiences that we savour and share, carrying and giving books like talismans, objects of unshakeable stability, potency and possibility.
For Carl Sagan, books were, ‘proof that humans are capable of working magic.’ There’s an element of enchantment when we open a book or step into a hyggeligt atmosphere. The promise of Christmas comes a little closer. When we settle ourselves to read, we create an enclosing circle of warmth, a moment of hygge that can be shared with our children or partners and friends in the messy reality of our lives. Books and hygge contain the language of love and intimacy.
Rilke advised, in his letter to nineteen-year-old Franz Xaver Kappus that, on reading, ‘A world will come over you, the happiness and abundance, the incomprehensible immensity of a world. Live a while in these books, learn from them what seems to you worth learning, but above all love them. This love will be repaid you a thousand and a thousand times,..’
You can purchase Louisa's new book The Book of Hygge (Ebury Press) from your local bookshop.