fooz and I were talking yesterday about certain books we just go back to and re-read, and I called them “comfort books.” There are a few of mine, mostly dating back to my childhood, things like the “Dark Is Rising” series, Narnia, a couple Andre Nortons, and the “Wrinkle in Time” series, all of which I’ve read multiple times; books from later in life like (this is slightly embarrassing now) the Dragonrider books and the first Thomas Covenant books (I have been told that the plot and prose are basically trite, but I still love the world-building and the character arc, about coming back from despair, and I read those when I was like thirteen, if you can believe it, right in the formative sweet spot), Sherlock Holmes, “The Circus of Dr. Lao,” and Greg Bear’s “Songs of Earth and Power”; and, most recently, the Harry Potter books.
The Harry Potter books I first read prior to the fourth one coming out, and thereafter I either read through or listened to the audio of the entire series prior to each book release. I listened to the entire series again prior to the release of the last two movies. I don’t think there is another book in the last ten years that I have read more than once, definitely not more than twice. A lot of those old “comfort books” date from a time when I didn’t have stacks of books to read, when my little library of twenty or thirty books was all there was, and when I’d read through the books in it, I would pick the ones that made me want to revisit them over and over and I would read them again.
Now I have recently finished two books, and I have three on my Kindle/iPad to read, and I have a stack of eight physical books on the bedside table and a stack of twelve BEHIND that stack and a wish list that if you typed out all the books on it in twelve-point font would probably reach from here to L.A., and at the same time I am trying to write my own books and read the short fiction being released and all. And when I do read, it’s to discover exciting things and see what people are doing now, or to discover an old classic I never had time for (Anna Karenina, y’all–go read it before the movie), or to follow one of my favorite contemporary authors’ new releases (Ishiguro and Mitchell, most prominently). The comfort books sit on the shelf waiting for the time when I will be working less, or too tired to put in the work to read something new.
But I can still look at them and feel the feelings they inspired in me. I can still remember what it’s like to read them, because I lived in their worlds for so long. So it’s nice to have them around. I’ll have time for them again, one day.
What are your comfort books?