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Let’s start with asking “What’s a vibe?” — and with a disclaimer that this is how I see it, but everyone else in the entire world might disagree.
We often recommend or talk about books according to their set genre, but sometimes a story has a certain emotional arc or descriptive sensibility which creates a definite atmosphere. You know the moment, when you’re really in a story and you realise you can just about feel the texture of woollen scarves as characters walk down a snow-encrusted country lane — and you can even feel the bite of the chill in the air?
For me at least, that’s a winter-time vibe and I just love it. So here are some book recommendations based solely on the vibe of the book, where genre takes a back seat.
Rainy Liminal Vibes
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel GarcÍa Marquez
The multi-generational tale of the Buendía family in Macondo, One Hundred Years of Solitude is an international classic, featuring a lengthy period of rain which is fundamental to the story. But it’s also much more than that, an interrogation of reality and magic, a consideration on how fluid time can be — and a commentary on permanence.
Dreamy Ethereal Vibes
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Le Cirque des Rêves awaits. Appearing without warning and leaving without notice, the enigmas of the circus are many. Two powerful magicians groom their proteges Celia and Marco for a dark competition. The whole story moves along with the same dreamy quality and the reader floats through the colourful surrealism.
Opulent Elegance Vibes
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
Count Alexander Rostov is deemed an unapologetic aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal in 1922, and sentences to house arrest in the Metropol, a luxury hotel near the Kremlin. Intelligent and inimitable, Rostov takes up residence in an attic room and watches as history happens to the world outside. Inside the hotel, the reader feels the finely apportioned rooms and restaurant splendour falling to the background as Rostov expands his life into one of perfect purpose.
Haunted House Vibes
White is for Witching by Helen Oyeymi
Eerie from start to finish, the book features a haunted house, but the vibe comes from the fact that the house is one of the characters and even narrates part of the story. Because the reader gets to hear from the house, we comprehend it more, leading to a deeply felt mood. I’ve read tons of books featuring haunted houses, but nothing quite like this.
The Vegetarian by Han Kang
Yeong-hye is a South Korean woman, married to Mr Cheong. She is ordinary, until she starts to have dreams about butchered animals and decides to give up eating meat, to the chagrin of her family. A disturbing, suffocating metamorphosis follows, and as Yeong-hye’s mental state disintegrates, the reader feels a growing horror.
Creepy Unnatural Vibes
Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
I read Annihilation in one night. It’s the first in a trilogy; I read the second on night two, and the third on night three, and then I couldn’t right myself until the following Monday. Deeply evocative and disturbing, Annihilation follows a team of four unnamed women into Area X, a coastal region abandoned for some three decades. In the night, an unknown animal moans. They find a staircase and begin the ascent down, finding words written in plant matter on the walls. What follows is a wide ride through profound uncertainty and weirdness.