In which we’re discussing comfort reading

Been pondering a post on comfort reading and dug through the archives only to find I’ve already written one!

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?

Having reread this, I’d add Gerald Durrell’s books about his family, Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce series, and Nigella Lawson’s cookbooks.


5 thoughts on “In which we’re discussing comfort reading”

  1. Kate F says:

    You’re so right about P&P vs. Persuasion. I adore both, of course, but P&P is the comfort read. For me:

    Everything by the wonderful Elizabeth Enright, especially the first books in the Melendy Quartet, and Return to Gone Away.

    Dorothy Sayers, especially some of the short stories and Busman’s Honeymoon.

    A Little Princess (depending on how much comfort I need, I skip straight to The Magic).

    An assortment of other juvenile fiction (C.S. Lewis, Edward Eager, Rumer Godden, Little House in the Big Woods and Little Town on the Prairie but primarily Farmer Boy (the LIW where bad stuff doesn’t happen), Howl’s Moving Castle, The Enchanted Forest Chronicles…)

  2. Carol says:

    For me, comfort=familiarity and characters I can care about.

    I reread Little Women, Eight Cousins and Rose in Bloom once a year near Christmas, to commemorate receiving my first Alcotts when I was in grade 3.
    Beverley Nichols
    Angela Thirkell: It took me several years to acquire a complete Bartsetshire series . . . and then ABE Books appeared on the internet, and then several were reissued in paperback. Ah well, I love my WW II vintage copies with their onion-skin thin pages.
    The Golden Age Girls: Christie-Marsh-Sayers-Heyer (mysteries)
    Elizabeth Peters: her Emerson-Peabody series
    …and Ladies of the Club by Helen Hooven Santmyer
    In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden

  3. Brigitte says:

    One of my faves is a writer friend of yours – Susanna Kearsley! I’ve re-read “Marianna” and “Sophia’s Secret” more times than I can count. I also have to thank Susanna for recommending your books, which are also on my re-read list.

  4. Meg says:

    You all have said many of my favorites! Rose in Bloom. Secret Garden and Little Princess. P&P. Robin McKinley’s The Blue Sword, which I keep meaning to buy an ebook of so I can have it on my phone. When the couples get together in Little Women (skipping over the deaths). Lord Peter stories (as above mostly the short stories and Busman’s Honeymoon). For all of them I’m likely to skip around and read only my favorite parts/the happiest parts.

  5. Betty Strohecker says:

    Anything by Mary Balogh would be a comfort read for me – through all of the twists and turns in her novels, I can be assured of a heartwarming resolution by the end of her books.

    Little Women as a child, and Pride and Prejudice later on were both comfort reads for me.

    I agree with Brigitte above for a new author – have read three of Susanna Kearsley’s and she did not disappoint.

    And of course, Deanna, Nicholas and Julia are always comfort reads for me – just wish there were more full length books!

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