Books: The Little Book of Hygge, as reviewed by Amy Kellestine

Grab a blanket, a piece of cake, a cup of warm cocoa and bring this book to a window seat with some candles, and you’ll be ready to hygge.

The Danish concept of “hygge” is having a moment in the spotlight; the Collins English Dictionary named hygge the runner-up (after Brexit) as word of the year in 2016. But what is it really all about? Well, to be honest, it’s a pretty basic concept. You light candles. You indulge in decadent cakes and nurse warm drinks. You hunker down in your home, out of the dark and cold, with friends and family, with warm blankets and good books. You embrace simple pleasures and appreciate things that take time to make well.

All of the above is celebrated in the small but beautiful book, The Little Book of Hygge, by Meik Wiking, which is hygge in its own right. Wiking is the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen, Denmark. The Danes always score extremely high on various international happiness scales and Wiking attributes it in equal parts to their social welfare state and to hygge. This book is his offering to the rest of the world on how you too can be happy like the Danes.

But what exactly is “hygge”, you ask, apart from candles, cakes, books, blankets, and cuddling with loved ones? It has no direct English translation, although cosy might come close. It originates from a Norwegian word meaning “well-being” and is a combination of company, surroundings, and activities that create feelings of love, comfort, and safety. It could be having friends over for a homemade (candle-lit dinner) with a fire glowing in the fireplace. Or, it could be sitting in a window seat that’s overflowing with pillows, looking out over the city as you drink tea and enjoy a good book. Chances are, if the thing or activity has any element of nurturing yourself, especially while in the presence of loved ones, it is hygge.

My favourite part of the book was, without a doubt, the hygge dictionary. Hygge can be used as a noun or a verb and can also be used as a pre- and suffix. And come on, you have to admit that words like “Fredagshygge” (curling up on the couch with your family on a Friday night after a long week) and “Hyggebukser” (the pair of pants that are so comfortable but embarrassingly worn out so you only wear them around the house) make you “Hyggehjornet” (in the mood for hygge).

Otherwise, the 288 pages read like a long magazine article and it constantly left me feeling like I wanted more substance. There are a number of lists; if you are looking for recipes for hygge dishes, how to hygge in the summer, or hygge-friendly activities, you are in luck.

If you do decide to buy or read it, make sure you get the physical book and not an electronic version. Having read the electronic version, I happened upon a physical copy in the bookstore today and can say, with certainty, that it is much more hygge.

Amy Kellestine headshotAmy Kellestine is an educator, engineer, Arati life coach and entrepreneur living in Edmonton, Alberta. She spends her free time camping, gardening, and volunteering for causes such as Cystic Fibrosis and nature conservation. She is a devoted mother, who is passionate about helping others and writing.

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