The Gregorian Institute Shield, composed of the crossed gold and silver keys of the Papal Insignia, an open book with the words 'Via Veritas Vita' ('The Way, the Truth, and the Life') written on its pages, three golden six-sided stars on a red banner, and a Germanic cross.

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Fireplace Reads: 3 Novels for Fall/Winter

Did you know that reading fiction is good for you? It’s actually good for your brain because it promotes “deep reading,” which which is different from scanning articles and news headlines online, as most of us do these days. Reading a novel is also good for your mental health; it helps you become more empathetic and even fosters problem-solving skills.

But most importantly, a good story is just that: a good story. Human beings have been telling stories from the beginning of time, to entertain others and make sense of how the world works. No matter our age or stage of life, a great book of fiction is just what the doctor ordered to help you unwind on a chilly night.

Here are three tried-and-true novels that will keep you so entertained, you won’t even realize you’re doing your brain a favor.


All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot

The outline of this book is simple: a young British veterinarian moves to the countryside to open his practice. But that simple story is where the charm of this book is found. You follow James from one visit to a sick farm animal to another visit to a different sick farm animal.

But for everything you may learn secondhand about calf delivery and tuberculosis, you learn twice as much about the people in the community. Each farmer is so different, and you follow James as he gets to know the different families. He’s surprised to find that he discovers his home and place in the community; something he had never encountered in the city. This book is a winner for all ages, and I’ve found that people who love to read and have read extensively enjoy it as much as those who claim to hate reading.

Death In The Clouds by Agatha Christie

I chose this book of hers to highlight, but truly, any of her mysteries would be great. This particular mystery highlights the prowess of Belgian detective Hercule Poirot as he solves a murder that happened on an airplane while in flight. But some of my favorite mysteries feature the shrewd old lady Miss Marple as the detective, like A Caribbean MysteryChristie’s characters are interesting and varied and the murders and the cases are fascinating. They keep you on your toes without being too graphic. Whether it’s Miss Marple’s insight into human nature, or Hercule Poirot’s powers of observation combined with his fastidiousness, I’ve come to love reading (and re-reading) these epic whodunits.

Joy in the Morning by P.G. Wodehouse

If you’re not familiar with Jeeves and Wooster — the dynamic duo comprised of the wise, witty, and problem-solving butler and his shallow rich employer who runs into trouble with his love interests and friends — you need to be. Wooster’s narration of the events that happen in his life is hilarious, and the scrapes that he gets himself into are often only slightly crazier than the way Jeeves gets him out of them.

These are great to listen to on audio book as well, I highly recommend the narrator Jonathan Cecil. Or read them aloud to someone in the best British accent you can muster. Laugh out loud as the stubborn and very opinionated Aunt Agatha, Wooster’s intimidating literary ex Florence Cray, the policeman Stilton Cheesewright, the lovesick Nobby and the disapproving Percival entertain you for a few evenings — and as Jeeves sorts it all out in the end.

Whether you need a heartwarming slice-of-life novel, a good mystery, or some comic relief, check out some of these books from your local library, your audible library, or grab a copy online. Happy reading!

This appeared at Aleteia.

Image: Hot Buttered Rum by Dennis Wilkinson, Flickr

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Cecilia Pigg

Cecilia Pigg, who graduated from Benedictine College in 2015 as a Gregorian Fellow, is editor at Catholic Match Institute. She lives in Denver, Colorado.