In which we’re chatting about comfort reading

Comfort reading comes in many forms. There are almost as many varieties of comfort books as there are readers, and no one has the claim on perfect comfort reading. Except me. No, REALLY! I think books we read for comfort ought to be easy. There shouldn’t be thorny thickets of prose to hack your way through. If you’re looking for comfort reading, you want something familiar with a promise of a happy ending without too much suffering before. (This is why PRIDE AND PREJUDICE is comfort reading but PERSUASION is not. Poor Anne Elliot. I WEEP for her.) All favorite books from childhood count towards comfort reading–for me this means classics like THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES, LITTLE WOMEN, and some Laura Ingalls Wilder. (Alright, really just the first one, but so many of you are Wilder fans I thought I’d get stoned if I didn’t throw one in there.)

Other favorite books or authors for comfort reading are:

E. M. Delafield: the Country Lady series. Domestic, funny, and very quick reading.

Elizabeth von Arnim: THE ENCHANTED APRIL. I was recently horrified to realize I’d never read von Arnim, so I trotted off to the library and read this and was then bitter to realize my friends have read her and never held me down and forced me to do so. I ranted about this on twitter and pal Kaite’s response was, “But I just assumed you would have read her!” Many of von Arnim’s other novels have been converted to free ebooks, so I’ve downloaded them all in a fit of greed.

Beverley Nichols: a man and his garden. But what a man! Nichols had a superb eye for detail and a lovely way with words. He can describe a tulip and make it sound like the most interesting thing you’ve ever heard. He also tells horrifyingly delicious stories about the villagers he encountered. Think COLD COMFORT FARM crossed with CRANFORD–two other excellent comfort reads, now that I think of it.

Dodie Smith: aside from her best known book about Dalmatians, Smith is known for I CAPTURE THE CASTLE. I recently discovered some reissues of novels I never even knew she’d written. I haven’t had a chance to read them yet, but I am comforted just knowing they are there.

Doreen Tovey: I have no idea who recommended these books, and I don’t even like cats, but Tovey’s books about her Siamese are hilarious. And her claims about their vocalizations forced me to YouTube what Siamese cats actually sound like. My eardrums will never be the same, but the books–about Tovey’s experiences with her cats living in a small English village–are charming.

Angela Thirkell: I haven’t read hers yet, but I have at least one stashed in my TBR pile because I am not sure an Anglophile can get away with never having read her. My fear is that I will get sucked into her series and never come out again…

What about you, chickens? All of my comfort reading seems to involve small English villages and animals. What soothes you?

13 thoughts on “In which we’re chatting about comfort reading”

  1. Comfort reading, for me, tends to be about children’s lit. Most notably: Frances Hodgson Burnett’s A Little Princess. It’s been equal parts storybook and handbook for me since early childhood. When I’m too tired/weary for even that much reading, I go with The Maggie B. for pure, sweet soothing. (Can’t remember the name of the author right at the moment, but do Google it — you won’t be sorry.)

  2. Jeff Abbott says:

    Right now I’m having a comfort read of Madeleine L’Engle’s Time Quintet (A Wrinkle In Time, A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Many Waters, and An Acceptable Time). A Wrinkle in Time is the book I read as a child that made me want to be an author, and I reread it once a year. I haven’t read the other books in a really long time, though. What I love is that the books are aimed at kids but L’Engle never, ever talks down to her audience.

  3. Jaye says:

    My comfort reading tends toward eclectic. I read, over and over, A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute, a variety of Rosamunde Pilcher’s novels, especially The Shell Seekers, September and the fabulous FABULOUS Coming Home. I am also partial to the Anne of Green Gables books. The language of Loved Walked in and Belong to Me by Marisa de los Santos makes me swoon. American Heiress is another book I would read over and over.

    It seems like I may get to the point where I can’t read all of my favorites every year. We’ll see.

    1. Sarah Neville says:

      Since nearly all of my comfort reads are ones that you have mentioned, I looked up the American Heiress. So I have to ask, the Diana Bold book or Daisy Goodwin?
      And thank you Ms. Raybourn on your mention of the free Enchanted April. I feel like a fool not even thinking of checking which of my favorite titles are available for free or next to nothing for my ereader.

  4. Mary Balogh’s early traditional regencies. I own almost all of them, having bought them at the small Waldenbooks in the mall where I worked in high school. Some of them, I’ve probably read twenty times. The Signet Regency Christmas Anthologies are another comfort read. All of these books are the Velveteen Rabbit of my book collection. They are loved and they have been made real. 🙂

  5. Christina says:

    See, Persuasion *is* a comfort read for me. As is Jane Eyre. I guess I like my heroine to go through a little bit of suffering and come out stronger on the other side. It’s especially helpful after a rough day. More comfort reads are The Scarlet Pimpernel (duh) and most of Jennifer Crusie’s books, especially Bet Me.

    1. Christine says:

      Christina, you must be my soul-sister! Thanks for championing three great (fictional) gals who aren’t flawlessly perfect, but who are such likeable heroines: Jane Eyre, Anne Elliot, and Min Dobbs of “Bet Me”! Always nice to be reminded that the good girls can WIN!

  6. Paige says:

    Laurie Colwin’s “Home Cooking” and “More Home Cooking” have a permanent home in my nightstand. They are both short (under 200 pages) so I read them about every 3-4 months. Ms. Colwin had such a wit and combined with her writing style and love of cooking and food they make the ultimate comfort read to me. I even travel with one or both since the Kindle version isn’t out yet. I treasure John Mortimer’s “Summer Lease” and read it every August when the characters in the book take their vacation. If I pull some from childhood then it has to be any Nancy Drew and the first book from the Boxcar Children Series. Last, but not least, a new book from a series is comforting since the characters are old friends. Tracy Grant, Elizabeth Peters, and Deanna Raybourn are the authors I look forward to the most.

  7. Elizabeth says:

    My comfort reads include some mentioned by others like Jane Austen, Frances Hodgson Burnett, but some of my particular favorites in clude, L.M. Montgomery’s Emily of New Moon series, (I like Anne, but Emily gives me greater comfort), Can You Keep a Secret by Sophie Kinsella, the Joy of Cooking, when I’m in a bad book reading recipes for tasty food is very soothing.

  8. Linda says:

    Georgette Heyer is my ultimate comfort read. Any of her titles but particularly Venetia or Frederica.

  9. Julie says:

    The Beany Malone books by Lenora Mattingly Weber. Also her Katie Rose and Stacy Belford books, but mostly Beany. And I never get tired of Walter Farley’s Black Stallion books.

  10. Cece says:

    Thirkell benefits from being read in order because her characters are so entwined and they do grow wonderfully-I spent years combing through used book barns (pre ABEBooks) to build a complete Thirkell set. About 6 months after I completed it…they began reissuing! But they did not do the whole series, and they did them in paperbacks, so I am still feeling smug. Now it would take 20 minutes.
    I reread Thirkell, Christie, Sayers, Ngaio Marsh, Stout’s Nero Wolfe, Rumer Godden’s IN THIS HOUSE OF BREDE and Helen Hooven Santmyer’s …AND LADIES OF THE CLUB. Looking at this list, I am not sure how I have time to read anything new.

  11. Moira says:

    Thirkell is WONDERFUL! I just discovered her a few months ago and I could disappear into her world for ages. I’m attempting to track more down as we speak. Many of my comfort reads are ones that have already been mentioned (Venetia by Heyer is a particular favorite) but I will always slip back into Elizabeth Peter’s old mystery series. Just finished The Seventh Sinner this weekend and it was like visiting with an old friend!

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