Comfort reading is a ritual, like worry beads or a nice hot cup of cocoa at bedtime. It relies on repetition and familiarity. It makes unbearable times bearable.
Here’s a round-up of what I’ve enjoyed and shared this week on comfort reading. Find out about the comfort books people read and reread, and why!
Anyone else had a tough week and feeling in need of some comfort reading? I’m not sure if it’s Mercury Retrograde, the Eclipse Season, the Balsamic Moon, or a combination of all three right now, but it feels a perfect time to hunker down with a good book.
All this energy made the words ‘comfort reading’ come to me – that revisiting of the books we love and that special genre or author that just makes us go ‘ahhhh’ and rest up, all cosy, hot chocolate or cup of tea in hand.
So here are some links and thoughts on comfort reading including my favourite comfort reads as we head into the weekend with all this fairly intense energy. So if you’re feeling unwell or just in need of some rest and respite, here is some inspiration for reading, comfort style.
I hope you find some time to rest and read. Would love to hear about your comfort reading preferences and practices too!
Podcast on comfort reading
A podcast that features and praises comfort reading is:
There’s a great list of books on the show notes plus thoughts on what makes a comfort book. The hosts reinforce that there are different categories of comfort books: ones that put things in order eg. Georgette Heyer books; episodic books that don’t require so much effort; books for when you are sad and books that represent ‘wholesome olden times’! They include one of my comfort book authors, Rumer Godden. It’s a fun listen and a great list! It reinforces that comfort reads are contextual and different for everyone, though there may be common themes and authors that reappear.
There were surprisingly few podcasts on this important issue!
Another option is to let the guys on The Casual Academic do the reading for you and read along when you can or just learn from them. I really enjoy this podcast when I just want to listen and learn about literary fiction but I’m finding it hard to do as much reading as I would like in the genre. Always interesting and educational, as well as fun, I’m sure having a laugh is important in this type of reading.
Books and reading notes
My reading week
In line with my recent post on reading more productively and the accountability here, I finished David Whyte’s Crossing the Unknown Sea: Work as a Pilgrimage of Identity. This was a very special read that will stay with me for a long time. There’s so much richness on work life and our identity as we express it through work and how we can be lost and found there. It’s a book I will continue to revisit and explore.
I’ve started reading Sharon Blackie’s If Women Rose Rooted: The Journey to Authenticity and Belonging in hard copy and also Spitting Blood: The History of Tuberculosis by Helen Bynum as an ebook. Both very different reads, but fascinating in their own way.
I’ve also been really hard at work reading my own ebook ’36 Books that Shaped my Story: Reading as Creative Influence’ as I prepare to send it out into the world to Quiet Writing subscribers!
Book and blog notes on this week’s theme of comfort reading
It was fun to explore what other people have said about comfort reading and their suggestions. But first, my favourite comfort reads.
I love a book that I can just curl up inside, a setting that I love, a love story or psychological engagement, something that takes me into people’s lives as I watch the events and relationships unfold. I like the warmth of people connecting or a narrative that takes me into a place where I can just be or watch, especially engaging with character and place.
So here are my comfort reads and authors:
A long-time love, there’s just something so cosy about curling up with a Maeve Binchy book. They are all wonderful; the ones that come to mind are: Tara Road, Quentins, Circle of Friends, Evening Class and A Week in Winter. I love how the characters often reappear as familiar faces across different novels. They’re grounded in a spirit of realism as well, as Maeve Binchy explains:
I don’t have ugly ducklings turning into swans in my stories. I have ugly ducklings turning into confident ducks.
Jojo Moyes has become more famous with Me Before You which came out as a movie. This is fabulous as she is an excellent writer and I love stepping into the world of her books. All her narratives have that sense of comfort in story and love engagements but in various settings and environments. Enjoy any or all of: The Ship of Brides, Silver Bay, Peacock Emporium, Foreign Fruits, Silver Bay, Night Music, The Girl You Left Behind and The Last Letter Your Lover.
I’ve shared my love of Daphne Du Maurier and especially my favourite novel, Rebecca. My Cousin Rachel is a great read too and enjoying attention due to the recent film adaptation. But also really engaging are The House on the Strand, Don’t Look Now and other Stories and The Birds and other Stories. Du Maurier’s short stories are especially good reads when you just want a shorter bite.
Being a great lover of Cornwall, Liz Fenwick’s novels are often my first choice when I’m looking for a holiday read or just want a relaxing chill-out read. I love books that take me to special places and Fenwick’s novels are enjoyable and engaging reads with a mix of love, family history, intrigue and Cornish landscape. I’ve enjoyed: The Cornish House, A Cornish Affair, A Cornish Stranger and Under a Cornish Sky.
Rumer Godden is another special author whose books I seek out when I’m needing comfort. My preferred stories seem to be ones like The Black Narcissus and In This House of Brede that involve nuns and the drama and personality of cloistered communities. They are books I reread and enjoy, often at times of illness and bedrest!
Blog/Twitter/Instagram posts and interactions:
For thoughts on comfort reading, here are some excellent posts:
Booksellers share their best comfort reads and tips, via Readings a fabulous Aussie bookshop, including fantasy, Agatha Christie, Harry Potter, poetry and Anne of Green Gables (a recurrent recommended comfort read!)
In The appeal of comfort reading, Psychologies Magazine explores what makes a comfort read we return to:
‘I can read it over and over again,’ people said, and perhaps that is the most important thing of all. Like prayers, our comfort reading becomes a ritual. I may find something new in the Anne [of Green Gables] books every time, but the words themselves never change. Our comfort reads are talismans, touchstones, that will never let us down.
In The Irish TImes, The Guyliner postulates on why he reads the same books over and over again:
They’re not cerebral, they’re not impressive, but they wrap themselves around me every moment, even when I’m not reading.
Rebecca is one of the books he returns to, with such a beautiful response to it:
Gloomy and glamorous and beautifully written, I always come back to Rebecca. I never want it to end, and always wish we could find out what happens next. With each reading, I will the second Mrs de Winter to tell Mrs Danvers to sod off, to speak up and be confident, to enjoy her time as the lady of Manderley. But, of course, she never does – she can only be herself.
In Turning Pages: The authors you read when you need a bit of comfort, Jane Sullivan says that comfort reading is a ritual and notes the authors who pop up consistently: Raymond Chandler and L M Montgomery (of Anne of Green Gables fame). Of Raymond Chandler, she says:
It worked because I knew that voice. I’d read the book before, I’d seen the movie, I knew what was going to happen. And the voice took me into a familiar world: guns, hooch, faded glamour, treacherous dames in seamed stockings, telephones on the wall, guys wearing hats and trenchcoats in the warm California rain.
Sarah Bessey shares 10 books she reads over and over. It’s a fabulous list and includes Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead, Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible and Kate Morton’s The Forgotten Garden.
In Comfort Books. Is this even a thing? The Bloggess queries why her comfort books are “full of murder and angst and bizarreness and are not really what anyone in the world would consider to be a happy or relaxing read.”
It seems we revisit books for all kinds of reasons and different ways of sourcing comfort. Do share your thoughts on your comfort reads in the comments or on Instagram or Facebook – would love to hear!
On Quiet Writing and Tarot Narratives
On Quiet Writing this week, we explored the art of efficient blog post writing in a guest post by Benjamin Brandall, How to write a blog post when you have almost no time. It’s been really well-received, providing practical strategies for being organised with blog posts and getting the actual writing done.
My Tarot Narratives on Instagram have continued to be a rich source of inspiration and insight for my creative journey. Thanks for all the interactions! Twyla Tharp’s reminder today, from The Creative Habit, was around working environments and habit:
In the end, there is no one ideal condition for creativity. What works for one person is useless for another. The only criterion is this: Make it easy on yourself. Find a working environment where the prospect of wrestling with your muse doesn’t scare you, doesn’t shut you down. It should make you want to be there, and once you find it, stick with it. To get the creative habit, you need a working environment that’s habit forming. (p17)
Have a fabulous creative weekend!
Creative and Connected is a regular post each Friday and the previous posts are below. I hope you enjoy it. I would love any feedback via social media or comments and let me know what you are enjoying too.
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