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Canadian readers cozy up to ‘hygge’

HyggeIt’s understandable that the Danish concept hygge has become so popular, given the current political environment. While the word doesn’t have a direct English translation, it is essentially the act of creating a cozy atmosphere of comfort and warmth, often involving fireplaces, chunky sweaters, friends, family, and mulled wine or cocoa.

The origins of the word can be traced back to Old Norse, but hygge’s history as an exportable product is recent, thanks in part to the British publishing industry, which released 10 titles on the subject in rapid succession last year. In an interview with The Guardian last November (which refers to the trend as a “conspiracy”), Caroline Sanderson of The Bookseller said, “It is the most striking publishing trend I can remember, in terms of the sheer number of titles published at the same time.”

Hygge didn’t take off immediately in North America – and certainly isn’t selling the volume adult colouring books did in 2015 – but demand is increasing. Trish Bunnett, a publicity manager at Penguin Random House, says mentions of hygge began online (it’s a favourite on Pinterest), where it was picked up by North American home, food, and lifestyle media outlets. Indigo Books & Music carries more than 15 related titles, as well as hygge-branded candles. This week, Meik Wiking’s The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well (Penguin Life) was rated the fourth bestselling self-improvement title on BookNet Canada’s national sales tracking service.

“It does seem like Canadians are embracing this way of life,” says Bunnett. “And we are the perfect country to look to hygge to help us get through the winter.”

Wiking’s The Little Book of Hygge is in demand at stores like Words Worth Books in Waterloo, Ontario. Words Worth co-owner Mandy Brouse compares its popularity to another “little-book” bestseller, Neil Pasricha’s 2011 The Little Book of Awesome, and says it’s been challenging keeping copies in the store. Words Worth’s distributor, North 49 Books, initially did not order a large volume of the title when it was first released in September because of a lack of demand. North 49 co-owner Catherine Slavin – who became aware of the title’s popularity from indie booksellers – says that has now changed, with more than 100 copies sold since December.

Although hygge is most often associated with the winter months, Bunnett says PRH currently is working with its U.K. contacts for more stock heading into the spring season. And there are two more PRH titles on the way: The Book of Hygge (Plume) by Danish-British author Louisa Thomsen Brits went on sale this week, and The Hygge Life (Ten-Speed Press), by Gunnar Karl Gíslason and Jody Eddy, comes out in October.