OWN

2 Bewitching Books For A Winter Weekend

These exquisitely written novels will delight you on any night -- but offer an especially fitting escape for a quiet Sunday afternoon under a down comforter.

An extraordinary chain of events is set in motion by the purchase of an old painting in a London thrift shop, which an aspiring chef named Annie intends to give to her boyfriend for Valentine's Day. Although it's covered in dust, there's something compelling about the shimmering image of a dancer being regarded by an admiring man. Could this neglected artwork possibly be a long-lost masterpiece by Jean-Antoine Watteau? Not everyone who wants to know has good intentions. Rothschild takes us into the wild world of big-money art auctions and introduces us to the oligarchs, sheiks philanthropists and, sometimes, unsavory dealers desperate to get their hands on a work of enduring beauty. The novel masterfully orchestrates a huge cast of characters, including none more endearing than Annie, who is unprepared for the scheming machinations of her new acquaintances. But the most indelible personality belongs to the painting itself. Several chapters are narrated from its point of view: "Imagine being stuffed away in a bric-a-brac shop in the company of a lot of rattan furniture, cheap china and reproduction pictures. I would not call myself a snob but there are limits. I will not converse with pisspots or faux pearl necklaces. Non!" Interweaving humor, suspense, social commentary, moral treachery and art history, Rothschild manages to land her thrilling caper with improbable grace. A captivating romp for those who like their entertainment saucy and smart.

This Danish literary sensation—Helle Helle's first novel to be translated into English is as addictive as reality TV because it feels well, real. Twenty-year-old Dorte is adrift. She moves into a tiny, barely furnished rental house across from the train station while pretending to her family that she is commuting to college. Instead, she wanders around Copenhagen, recalls her first love and falls into casual liaisons. On occasion, her wonderfully kind but troubled aunt, also named Dorte, comes to visit, bearing furniture, food and practical advice. It's not the plot that makes this slim novel impossible to put down, but rather the writing: so spare and precise that each moment evokes a world of emotion. Describing life across from the station—and its constant reminder that other people have someplace real to go and friends with whom to go—Dorte notes, "A train arrived, brakes squealing as it drew to a halt. Then silence for a moment, and the doors opened... A single voice laughed. The blast of a whistle, doors slamming shut, creaking coaches as the engine pulled heavily away. I nearly said cast off." Somehow, we have all been there, in that moment of yearning. By perfectly capturing Dorte's wistfulness and her search for purposeful connection, Helle Helle makes us feel less alone. Plus, there's a very neat twist on the final page. You'll think you should've seen it coming, but there was no way you could've... Hold on.

Also on HuffPost: 

PHOTO GALLERY
40 Books To Read Before Turning 40
CONVERSATIONS