Pretty early on in the pandemic, I decided that the easiest and best way I could keep my anxiety at bay was by making a very impulsive purchase: a Nintendo Switch and Animal Crossing: New Horizons, even though the last handheld game I played was on a Game Boy.
I had seen the countdowns and memes, the concept art and play-throughs for the latest Animal Crossing game—though for some unfathomable reason, I never connected the name Tom Nook with the dubious looking raccoon. I had never played any of the iterations but I was pretty sure—as much to justify the cost than anything—that it was the perfect distraction I was looking for. It also looked like the best manifestation of my cottage core dreams, plus adorable animals and instant gratification in the form of easily attainable goals.
It wasn’t long before I was island hopping with friends, getting up early on Sunday morning to buy turnips from an endearing, if not snotty, pig and spending every free moment on the game.
I craved the comfort that the game provided. Every time I turned on my Switch, I felt a bit like an ASMR video made me feel—happy and tingly and at ease.
If you too felt this type of happy feeling—and maybe you’re still building up your island and making bells—then maybe you’d like to read some books that are like this too! Books with endearing characters and charming settings, books that make readers feel like they’ve found their happy place, just like the game made me feel when I first started playing.
Read on for a fantastic list to get you started and feel free to share any books that remind you of Animal Crossing too!
The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune
Like many of the Goodreads reviews will attest—this book really is like a warm hug. The happy, calm feelings I encountered while reading about Marsyas and its residents are the same I first felt while playing this game. You’ll find in this book characters who have the same sense of adventure that you’ll need when you embark on starting your island in New Horizons!
Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker and Wendy Xu
Another delightfully wonderful book, the graphic novel Mooncakes is such a beautifully illustrated and written book that its on par with the comfy sweet graphics that you can find in Animal Crossing.
Lalani of the Distant Sea by Erin Entrada Kelly
Maybe it’s the idea of a quest or the island setting that made me think of Lalani of the Distant Sea when I was putting together this list. Maybe it was Lalani’s resilience and her kind heart that stayed with me, making me feel the type of warmth that the game made me and other players feel.
The Tea Dragon Tapestry by Katie O’Neill
If you’ve ever read any of Katie O’Neill’s adorable Tea Dragon series, you’ll know that the sweet tea dragons are the same type of adorable desperately-need-to-hug as a lot of the animals in the game. I mean, there’s a reason why some island residents are so highly coveted.
Check, Please! 2: Sticks and Scones by Ngozi Ukazu
I never grinned like I did when I had sold my substantial turnip hoard for over 500 bells after I finished Check, Please! 2. It was sweet and fun. If you haven’t read the first, please get on with it. Just make sure you have some pie handy. You’ll thank me later.
Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend
This entire series is full of wonder and adventure and warm feelings. The whimsy of the book is definitely familiar to the whimsy of the game and Morrigan’s grit and strength and inspiring for readers and players alike.
My Life In Plants: Flowers I’ve Loved, Herbs I’ve Grown and Houseplants I’ve Killed Along the Way by Katie Vaz
Around the same time I started playing New Horizons, I started a garden. I had cucumbers, basil, and grape tomatoes in my little community plot and strawberries, mint, and cilantro on my patio. I think the simplicity of the tasks in the game—growing flowers and harvesting fruit—made me want something as tactile and soothing in real life. Plus, like sourdough starters, it seemed like everyone and their sister was doing it. With that being said, My Life In Plants felt like a good choice for the list as I watched my herbs, fruit, and veg flourish and die by the end of the summer. Not as simple as the game made it look.
Bob by Rebecca Stead and Wendy Mass
A story of friendship and magic with an endearing little creature, I feel like the similarities between Bob and Animal Crossing aren’t hard to grasp. The cute illustrations are also sweet like Raymond or Merengue.
The Lonely Heart of Maybelle Lane by Kate O’Shaughnessy
When I set out to write this list, I also wanted to include books that made me feel warm and fuzzy, like New Horizons made me feel. The Lonely Heart of Maybelle Lane, though a bit melancholy at times, fit this feeling perfectly. The friendship, the journey, and the quest to be a better you and overcoming your fears was like a ray of much needed sunshine on cloudy pandemic days.
Coo by Kaela Noel
I never thought I would love pigeons, but after reading this delightful book about Coo, I realized I should never say never. I also didn’t think I would come to care more about little video game animals, turnips, collecting fossils for an owl, or watching a meteor shower in a video game. Coo, the titular character of this captivating middle-grade novel, would adore this game. She was raised by pigeons after being abandoned as a baby and can speak to the birds she calls her family.