It’s late enough in the evening that my kids are in bed, but early enough that I can relax for a couple of hours before my own bedtime. The house is relatively clean—dishes are done, laundry is tumbling in the dryer—and I just put on my coziest pair of pajamas. It has been a long day. I need to relax! But how?
I think I’ll read a favorite novel.
Comfort reading is as real as comfort eating. And far better for you, unless you comfort read and eat at the same time, like I do.
What I read for comfort depends on my mood, but generally I’m looking to be absorbed into a novel. I want to become Harry Potter or Wendy Moira Angela Darling. I want to live in Avonlea, though the wilds of Yorkshire would suit me, too. I want, for a moment, to be transported through space and time and the boundaries of reality into wonderful fiction.
A few weeks ago, I asked my facebook friends to give me the titles of their favorite Comfort Reads. Jane Austen novels were listed, and that made me very happy, because I also turn to her books for comfort, which makes sense, since Jane’s nearly perpetual happy endings also bring comfort to the characters women love and often relate to—characters like Elizabeth Bennett and Fanny Price. But classic novels weren’t the only favorite Comfort Reads to be named. Here’s the complete list (classics included):
The Anne Shirley novels (the first is Anne of Green Gables)
The Hunger Games (trilogy)
The Mitford novels (the first is At Home in Mitford)
I Capture the Castle (Have you all read this one yet? We’ll keep pushing it on you until you do! It’s so wonderful!)
The Harry Potter novels (the first is Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone—or Philosopher’s Stone, if you’ve got a British version)
The His Dark Materials trilogy (the first is The Golden Compass)
Emma (here come the Jane novels)
My facebook friends’ favorite genres included:
Not vampire romance (hee hee)
I haven’t read many of the books that my friends listed, so I’m excited to give them a try the next time I’m looking for a Comfort Read.
Here are a few of my personal favorite Comfort titles:
Terry Pratchett’s THE WEE FREE MEN. This is the first title in a four-part (so far) series that is best consumed in indulgent succession. Tiffany Aching’s story is about witchcraft in a world that might have been...but wasn’t. Read it if you’re in the mood to giggle and puzzle your way through thick Scottish accents (or if you like Gerard Butler). Give Terry’s NATION a try, too. It’s one of those books that absorbs you but also gets you thinking about your own life at the same time. Amazing.
Diana Wynne Jones’s HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE. This is also the first novel in a series. A witty, wonderful, sometimes (at the perfect times) romantic series. Let’s just say I have a literary crush on a self-absorbed wizard who likes to dye his hair. Read this if you like strong heroines and creative, fairytale (but also solidly English) settings.
Frances Hodgson Burnett’s THE SECRET GARDEN. A lovely, timeless story about Mary Lennox, an orphan who leaves India to be raised in the home of a sorrowing uncle on the moors in northern England. Read it if you crave simplicity, a shiver or two, characters worthy of adoration, or if you have a bit of spring fever (Me! Me!).
Megan Whalen Turner’s THE THIEF. This is the first book in a four part series that will blow you away with its complexities. Read the whole series, because each book builds upon the last until you think your head is going to explode. In a good way. Read it if you like adventure and political intrigue. I also have a literary crush on Eugenides, the series’ main character (basically), who is a bit of a coward. But wouldn’t you be a coward too if you knew you were a pawn of the gods?
Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer’s THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY. This lovely, quick read is written entirely in letters. Read it if you enjoy historical fiction and getting to know many characters, all of whom are richly drawn, and most of whom are truly heroic. Only one is a footman posing as a lord.
Shannon Hale’s AUSTENLAND. I will sing Shannon Hale’s praises until the day I die or until she produces a bad book, the latter of which will never happen. This woman can write. She can also make any woman (any woman, I say!) laugh. And wish she had an eccentric and understanding great-aunt who would bequeath her a trip to Pembroke Park—an English Austen-intensive vacation site—where she could suffocate her yearnings for her own, modern Mr. Darcy in high-waisted dresses and kisses from an undergardner. Read it if you love Austen but aren’t in the mood to wade through the language of Regency-period writing. Give Shannon’s Bayern series a try, too. Start with THE GOOSE GIRL, and prepare to fall in love with gorgeous young adult fiction.
J.M. Barrie’s PETER PAN. Admittedly creepy (what with a flying boy with pearly-white gnashers that kidnaps kids and all), this novel thrills me through and through. What isn’t there to love about a classic children’s (gulp) tale filled with pirate battles, jealous fairies, and nannies that bark? Mr. Barrie knew what would grab children’s attention (or just grab children) and keep it for over a hundred years. Read it if you want to think about the glories of childhood. Or if you want to have nightmares.
Here on Bookshop Talk we love to share book recommendations! So tell us, please—what are YOUR favorite Comfort Reads?