Last Friday, I re-posted an old post, from 2014, with some musings on comfort reading. In that post, I told you that there were three main categories of comfort reading for me – gentle reads (which includes childhood favorites, all of which were pretty gentle in my case); funny books; and cozy mysteries (knowing that everything will come out right in the end is key). Since 2014, I’ve definitely needed to dip into comfort reading occasionally – I’ve battled homesickness that increased daily until I actually moved home, dealt with a lot of stress at work, lost family members, sold a home and spent six months living in a really blah apartment. Life has been far from a parade of horribles, but there’ve been ups and downs in my last few years, as is true for anyone. I’ve definitely dipped into all three categories, and I have some recommendations.
Mid-century British middlebrow; beloved old classics; childhood favorites. It’s rare that a month goes by in which I don’t read one of these. Some new favorites from the past two years:
- The Little White Horse, by Elizabeth Goudge – on my list for ages, and a delight from the first sentence to the last.
- The Making of a Marchioness, by Frances Hodgson Burnett – who knew that FHB wrote adult novels?
- Visits to Barsetshire – both Anthony Trollope’s version and Angela Thirkell’s version. (I jumped out of my seat when Guy and Phoebe drove to Plumstead Episcopi in Pomfret Towers.)
- Speaking of visits, visits to the Fairyland of Catherynne M. Valente’s imagination.
- E.M. Delafield’s Diary of a Provincial Lady – I still haven’t read the sequels, but have no doubt I will soon; the Provincial Lady is a hoot.
- A month spent in Italy with the ladies of The Enchanted April.
- Jane Austen’s Love and Freindship – read it and weep (with laughter) at her poor spelling and the fact that most of her characters are drunk most of the time.
- Henrietta’s War and Henrietta Sees it Through, two epistolary novels that I absolutely adored and keep recommending to people, because more people need to be acquainted with the charming Henrietta and her delightful friends.
- Celebrity funnylady memoirs – my mom gives me one every Christmas. She’s gifted me with – and I’ve enjoyed the heck out of – Mindy Kaling’s Why Not Me? and Amy Poehler’s Yes Please.
- All-ages comics that are packed with smart jokes – like Lumberjanes – and one-volume graphic novels like The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage (the madcap George Eliot chapter is not to be missed).
- William Shakespeare’s Star Wars – how can you possibly go wrong with a series that mashes up Star Wars with Shakespeare? I’ve only read Volume IV, “Verily, a New Hope,” but more are on my list.
I’ve kept up with my favorite sleuths – Maisie Dobbs, Precious Ramotswe, etc. – as new adventures come out, but I’ve also met some wonderful new-to-me characters in the past few years. In no particular order:
- Maggie Hope, who I just met in January and already adore. I have Princess Elizabeth’s Spy on my library stack and will be getting back to Maggie and her friends soon.
- Lady Georgianna Rannoch! I had just met her, and left her out of my list, when I originally published “Comfort Reading.” We’re great friends now.
- Amelia Peabody, Egyptologist and all-around badass Victorian lady. I wrote about falling in love with Amelia and then discovering that my grandmama was a fan here.
Looking at my list above, it seems I have more to suggest in the “gentle reading” category than elsewhere – which makes sense, because that’s where I usually go first when I need a pick-me-up. There simply isn’t anything like curling up with a cup of tea, a soft blanket, and a book that makes you feel wrapped in peace. While laughing until your sides hurt certainly has a place, and there’s much to be said for hanging on every page of a mystery in the secure knowledge that – unlike real life – things are guaranteed to come out right and be neatly wrapped up in the end, for me at least, those calming gentle reads are the best medicine. Expect to see plenty more of them around these parts in the next few years – I have a feeling that I’ll be plunging into Barsetshire quite a lot.
What’s your comfort reading?