The best of the best cottagecore books out there to give you all the cozy, pastoral vibes you could wish for.
If you’re familiar with the term cottagecore, chances are you’re on the youngish side – maybe in your teens, twenties, or thirties. (But if not, welcome!) You dream of a sweet little cottage in the countryside where you’ll tend chickens and bees and a bountiful vegetable garden. You’ll wear sustainably sourced linen dresses and grow cheery flowers and make your own cheese. The world will take on a rosy tinge.
But unfortunately, you’re on the youngish-side, which means that owning that kind of property may currently seem impossible in this
dystopian, capitalist hellscape created by exploitative baby boomers *ahem* stage of life.
Well, I’m here to help. If you want to dive right into the cottagecore lifestyle, housing circumstances be damned, you’re in just the right place. Each week I share guidance on apartment gardening, homestyle cooking, and old-fashioned living. You don’t need a cottage to live a cottagecore life.
But dreaming is lovely too. No matter where you are in life, these cottagecore books will transport you to that old-fashioned life you imagine.
And before we begin, just a note that enjoying these books means leaving some of their old-fashioned values behind. I want you to make an informed reading choice. So whenever there are racist or otherwise problematic parts I try to mention them. It’s been a while since I’ve read some of these books, so please remind me in the comments of any issues I’ve failed to mention. And beyond that, as a collection of classics, this is a very white reading list. If you have any diverse suggestions, I’d love to add them too. I’ll be covering more recent cottagecore books next week.
And with that, I hope you enjoy these cottagecore classics.
Classic Children’s Cottagecore Books
After the death of her parents, Mary Lennox moves into her uncle’s enormous house in England. Neglected and lonely, Mary seeks refuge outdoors. Inside the walls of a hidden garden, she finds friendship and meaning. It’s the cottagecore philosophy come to life.
The book unfortunately includes several horribly racist passages, particularly in describing India and Indian
Since most cottagecore fans started out as horse girls, chances are good that you read this as a child, along with The Black Stallion and everything Marguerite Henry had to offer. It’s the “autobiographical” story of a horse, beginning with his idyllic early years on a farm, through years of abuse in London, and back once more to the English countryside. Like many 19th century bestsellers, this book helped inspire social and political change, in this case supporting animal welfare.
This children’s novel, first published in 1908, tells the story of friends Mole, Mr. Toad, Rat, and Badger. The animals have adventures rowing boats on the River Thames, exploring the Wild Wood, and driving motorcars in the English countryside. It’s an idyllic, pastoral, anthropomorphized version of England, and it’s utterly charming.
* There’s no outright racism in these stories, but there is some arguably racist coded language.
Published by Swiss author Johanna Spyri in 1881, Heidi tells the story of a young girl who lives with her kindly but reclusive grandfather in the Swiss Alps. It was one of my earliest introductions to cottagecore books. It also convinced me as a child that goat’s milk must be the most delicious drink imaginable.
I read several of the Little House books at random as a child, and my most vivid memories of them are the descriptions of traditional work – boiling lye soap over a fire, making molasses candy in the snow, and putting every part of a butchered animal to use. I’ve been rereading them this year, and those descriptions are still the most fascinating part.
* The Little House has received scrutiny in recent years for its overtly racist language. Many characters, especially Ma, express racism, both casual and violent, toward Native Americans. And Little House on the Prairie even includes the line “The only good Indian is a dead Indian.”
It’s worth noting too that later in the series with Alonzo and Laura start courting, he’s 25 and she’s 15, which weirds me out even in a historical context.
Classic Young Adult Cottagecore Books
An absolute classic that I’m sure appears on every list of cottagecore books. The Cuthbert siblings, stern Marilla and shy Matthew, accidentally adopt 12-year-old orphan Anne Shirley. Anne’s vivid imagination and her passionate love for nature’s beauties quickly win over the Cuthberts. And they’ll win you over too. There are eight lovely books in this series, so don’t stop after number 3!
I’ve been rereading the entire series this year, and it’s been such a refuge from the darkness of 2020.
Little Women gets a lot of love, as it should – it’s my favorite book, after all! But I’ve made it my personal mission to introduce more people to this lesser-known Alcott classic. Polly Milton visits her wealthy friends in the city, who tease her for her old-fashioned country ways. Polly stands her ground, though, making cottagecore cool long before anyone had heard of it.
Better yet, this book as the perfect love story for anyone who thinks Jo should have married Laurie.
It’s the early 1900s, and Elnora Comstock is about to start her freshman year of high school. Her wealthy classmates tease her; her coldhearted mother rejects her; but Elnora keeps working, learning, and collecting rare insects in the Limberlost wilds around her home. Gene Stratton-Porter wrote the series partly in protest of the logging, oil extraction, and swamp draining that were permanently altering Indiana’s natural landscape at the time. Her descriptions of nature are wonderful.
Though I don’t find the writing in this series as strong as the Green Gables series, anyone who loves Anne is likely to enjoy The Girl of the Limberlost, along with its companions, Freckles and Laddie.
Seventeen-year-old Cassandra Mortmain, lives with her family in a crumbling English castle in the 1930s. Her father is a formerly acclaimed novelist dealing with his twelfth year of writer’s block, while Cassandra dreams of writing a novel of her own. She fills notebooks with funny and insightful journal entries, which are a delight to read.
Little Women has been my favorite book since I first read it at age 12. It’s funny in some ways that this feels like a cottagecore novel, since it’s set in the city of Concord Massachusetts, just 20 miles from Boston. But Little Women preaches cottagecore values of hard work, feminism, simple living, kindness, and always having kittens around. And the 2020 film adaptation perfectly captures cottagecore aesthetics. The knitwear! The flower crowns! The candlesticks!
Adult Classic Cottagecore Books
Life is looking up for Gabriel Oak, who has just leased a farm when beautiful neighbor Bathsheba Everdene moves in. But Bathsheba’s lack of enthusiasm for Gabriel, coupled with a dog’s excessive enthusiasm for herding sheep, bring Gabriel’s hopes crashing down. Bathsheba, meanwhile, inherits an extensive farm of her own and runs it with a proficiency that shock her Victorian neighbors. There’s love, lust, broken hearts, abusive relationships, worthless men, and tragedy along the way (it’s a Thomas Hardy novel, after all), and the only thing outshining Bathsheba and Gabriel as characters is the English countryside.
Molly Gibson is the only daughter of a widowed small town doctor in 1830s England. This is a long, but lovely book. However, you need to go into it knowing Elizabeth Gaskell died shortly before finishing it. So you’ll end up deeply unsatisfied until you watch the BBC miniseries.
Anne of Green Gables fans, if you haven’t read The Blue Castle yet, it’s probably the first cottagecore book on this list you should read. 29-nine year-old Valancy Stirling, an “old maid,” endures lifes with her cruel extended family. After a shocking medical diagnosis, she decides she’s had enough with being respectable. It’s sweet and romantic in that endearing Lucy Maud Montgomery style.
Next week I’ll be back with more great cottagecore books, focusing on more recent reads. And be on the lookout for an upcoming list on the best cottage witch novels!