“I’d like for the young people, and older ones, too, who don’t count themselves as readers, to know the joy of reading and what it does to enrich your life in so many ways.” – Katherine Paterson
I’ve been going through my list of books read this year and noticed and interesting fact: I’ve been doing a lot of comfort reading of late.
Some of that is not surprising. When Jo Beverley passed away in May, I re-read a number of her novels, reminding myself not only what a talent she was, but how helpful and encouraging she could be to others. At that moment, it was natural to turn to those books and hold that memory of her close.
But beyond that, I’ve noticed I’m virtually inhaling books I’ve read before, most especially Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar books. As of this writing, I’ve gone through 13 and will be through 14 by the end of the weekend. I first read Arrows of the Queen when it was released in 1987 and still have that old paperback. I’ll do a re-read, drift away, come back a year or two later and discover there are new books out. At this point, I’m adding hardcovers to the carefully collected paperbacks because these are books I’ve picked up repeatedly and I know I’ll pick up again after this round. They’ve earned their place on my shelves.
What is it that makes us pick up a book again and again? Some of it is the comfort of the familiar. We know where the story is going, we know the world. We take a bit of a nostalgic trip “home,” covering territory we’ve covered before. If we’re under stress or the world feels difficult, the idea of losing ourselves in our “keepers” is an attractive one because they will not disappoint. It’s a very individual thing for each of us, what calls when we need that retreat. Lackey’s books have always been one because her world very much speaks to me in some important ways, so I like to visit when I feel down. This despite the fairly high body count; it has been said of those books that a Herald’s uniform is the equivalent of wearing a sign that says “Look at me! I’m a target!” Or a red shirt in Starfleet.
These aren’t the only books I’m reading. Since I’ve moved to hardcovers, the pace has slowed as I read in the evening before bed. Aside from any issue of weight, those copies are not ones I bought to cart around. So there are other books on my Kindle which keep me company in those odd moments during the day when I find time for a few pages. I love discovering new authors and stories, exploring vistas I haven’t seen before. It’s why I read. I’m starting to feel myself itch a little, turning to other items in the digital TBR pile because there are books I want to read now, slowly pushing aside the urge to re-read.
But along with the new, there’s always a place for the old and familiar, the ones we read because we want to visit that world again, even if only for a little while.
What are your favorite comfort reads? I’d love to hear some recommendations.