10 of the Best Cozy Fantasy and Science Fiction Reads That Will Help You Escape the World

These books are complex and engaging while offering a fantastical escape from a busy, overwhelming world.

A collage of book covers
Reading these sci-fi and fantasy novels is like getting a warm hug. Courtesy the publishers

Now more than ever readers need stress relief, and as a result, there’s a growing demand for cozy fantasy and science fiction novels. The cozy fantasy genre burst onto the scene with hits like The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune and Legends & Lattes by Travis Baldree, and now science fiction is catching up with its own cozy hits. While cozy fantasy as a genre has become popular in the last few years, authors like Diana Wynne Jones, Mercedes Lackey, Patricia Wrede, Robin McKinley and William Golding were all writing heartwarming fantasy novels long before the trend became a trend.

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‘Cozy’ is best defined as a genre that feels like a warm hug, though that doesn’t mean authors avoid tough topics. Many cozy reads portray characters recovering from trauma and finding new people and paths that validate them. These ten cozy fantasy and science fiction novels include books about surviving abuse and war, but hopeful themes win out. Most importantly, they’re magical, transportive and guaranteed to make you smile.

A Letter to the Luminous Deep by Sylvie Cathrall

A book cover featuring undersea plants
A Letter to the Luminous Deep by Sylvie Cathrall. Hachette Book Group

This lovely cozy fantasy novel is told entirely through letters and miscellaneous documents exchanged between E., Scholar Henerey and their siblings. It’s set in a world mostly covered by water. E. lives in the only underwater house, the Deep House, which her eccentric (and deceased) scholar mother designed. After seeing a strange marine animal, she writes to Scholar Henerey, a renowned marine naturalist, for his thoughts. The two start a delightful exchange of letters that leads to deeper feelings. Meanwhile, in the future, their siblings believe the two to be dead and begin exchanging their own letters to try to better understand what happened. It’s a heartwarming, beautifully written debut and the first in a planned series.

The Mimicking of Known Successes by Malka Ann Older

A book cover featuring the silhouettes of two people walking in a futuristic land
The Mimicking of Known Successes by Malka Ann Older.

Malka Ann Older sets this fun, cozy murder mystery on Jupiter. Researcher Pleiti studies classic literature as part of an academic discipline attempting to recreate ecosystems to possibly rehabilitate Earth. Then her former flame Mossa, now a detective, appears on her doorstep asking for her help in a murder investigation. The two characters are so adorable together! Another novella in the series has recently been released, The Imposition of Unnecessary Obstacles, and it’s just as good as the first, with the bonus of more romance.

SEE ALSO: 10 Must-Read Retellings of the Best Classic Books

Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries by Heather Fawcett

A book cover featuring tendrils of vines
Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries by Heather Fawcett. Random House Worlds

This delightful historical fantasy with fae is pure escapism. It takes place in a fictional version of the early 1900s where fae are real. Emily Wilde is an immensely practical Cambridge scholar of the fae currently compiling research with the hopes of publishing an encyclopedia. She journeys to a remote Scandinavian village to research their fae, which have never been studied before and are rumored to be dangerous. She keeps a journal of her findings, and the novel is written as a series of journal entries. Soon, her ridiculously charming and handsome fellow fae scholar and rival, Bambleby, joins her. Everyone fawns over Bambleby, but she can’t stand him. Right? Right!? The second book in the series, Emily Wilde’s Map of the Otherlands, is just as much fun as the first.

A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers

A book cover featuring a winding path
A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers. Macmillan Publishers

Becky Chambers is best known for her hugely popular Wayfarers space opera series, but equally good is this quiet, beautiful novella—the first book in a completed duology—which brims with hope. It takes place in a future where humanity actually does the right thing. When Sibling Dex, a nonbinary tea-mixing monk, decides to travel to the wilderness, they encounter a wild-built robot named Mosscap. The two quickly become friends, and on their journey through the forest, they discuss philosophy, consciousness, death, happiness and the meaning of life. It’s a moving and heartwarming meditation on the connection between nature and humanity.

The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna

A book cover featuring a witch in a yellow dress riding a broomstick at night
The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna. Penguin Random House

This is a charming fantasy romance with secretive witches, cranky librarians, adorable witch children and found family. England’s covert witch society is small, and Mika Moon chooses an unusual way to mask her identity—in plain sight. She runs a popular social media account where she pretends to be a witch while actually being a witch. Then she receives a mysterious job offer from someone who clearly sees through her witch masquerade. The job would require her to live in a remote mansion and train several witch children who are being kept secret from the society. The money is good enough that she agrees. Unexpectedly, she finds the family she wishes she’d always had. This is such a happy read, and I adored the audiobook.

The Spellshop by Sarah Beth Durst

A book cover featuring a beautiful cottage during the golden hour
The Spellshop by Sarah Beth Durst. Pan Macmillan

Disgruntled librarian Kiela is forced to flee the city with her magical talking houseplant Caz when war encroaches. She returns to the island she lived on as a child, where villagers herd merhorses, with a crate of spellbooks she stole from the library before it burned. Her family cottage is in ruins, and it’s clear the town is struggling, too. But Kiela has an idea—she’ll bring magic back to the island under the ruse of making jam. Meanwhile, a handsome neighbor is making her rethink her introverted ways. Sarah Beth Durst is a prolific fantasy author, but this delicious cottagecore fantasy is her coziest book yet. The Spellshop will be on shelves July 9th.

Light from Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki

A book cover featuring a curved koi fish
Light from Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki. Tor Books, St Martin's Press

Just because a story feels cozy doesn’t mean it avoids traumatic topics; this blend of sci-fi and fantasy is a great example. Shizuka Satomi, known as the Queen of Hell in the violin scene, is a famed violin teacher who made a pact with the devil to deliver seven souls. Katrina Nguyen, whose most cherished possession is her violin, leaves her abusive family who refuse to accept her as trans. Lan Tran, an alien Starship Captain, has fled an intergalactic war with her family across space and is now running a donut shop disguised as a human. This is such a magical read with themes of found family, with a touch of romance.

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison

A book cover featuring a spacey landscape
The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison. Tor Books

Like Light from Uncommon Stars, The Goblin Emperor manages to feel cozy while addressing traumatic events. Maia is the fourth son of the elfish emperor and the only son of the emperor’s goblin wife. Due to the emperor’s hatred of his goblin wife, who died when Maia was eight, Maia lived his first eighteen years isolated from the emperor and society, raised by an abusive mentor. When the emperor and his eldest three sons die in an airship explosion, Maia becomes emperor, the first half-goblin to do so. This is one of my favorite fantasy novels. Maia is such a sweet and thoughtful character. Addison has set another cozy series in this same universe—The Cemeteries of Amalo—though they don’t directly relate to the events in The Goblin Emperor.

The Magician’s Daughter by H.G. Parry

A book cover featuring a large silhouette of a woman with flapping blackbirds in front of it
The Magician’s Daughter by H.G. Parry. Hachette Book Group

H.G. Parry pairs gorgeous writing with rich characters and folklore in this stand-alone historical fantasy full of adventure and heart set in an alternative version of 1912 Ireland. Biddy has been raised by a magician and his rabbit familiar on the magical island of Hy-Brasil and has never ventured off the island. When her adoptive father is put at risk, she leaves the island for the first time to rescue not only him but magic itself. It’s a beautiful novel, and the audiobook is wonderfully narrated.

Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho

A book cover featuring red dragons
Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho. Pan Macmillan

This entertaining historical fantasy offers up a heavy dose of romance. Prunella is a spunky sorceress of mixed Indian and British heritage who isn’t about to let men tell her she can’t practice magic. With magic becoming scarce in Regency-era England, the country needs her, even if they’re not ready to admit it. When Black sorcerer Zacharias meets her for the first time, he immediately decides to take Prunella on as a student. But Zacharias’ cautious nature is no match for Prunella’s exuberance, and soon his pupil is outpacing him as she battles dark forces crossing over from fairyland. Book two in the series, The True Queen, is almost as fun to read as this first one.

10 of the Best Cozy Fantasy and Science Fiction Reads That Will Help You Escape the World