GENREALITY

Archive for November 19th, 2010



Friday, November 19th, 2010 by Rosemary
Comfort Reads

Here is what Wikipedia told me about “Comfort Food”: Food that brings some sense of well-being. May be simple or familiar, warm and filling, or basically pleasing, such as sweets or desserts.

Yesterday I wandered into the kitchen thinking I’d have “a bite” of bread before I took an aspirin (I’ve had a rough week) and suddenly found myself staring at the butter-stained bottom of the Cotton Patch take home bag, wondering where all three dinner rolls had gone. (On the plus side, my headache was gone.)

I have comfort reads, too. Different from “keepers,” comfort books are novels I pick up when I need distraction or a sense of well-being. I think that, like comfort foods, they’re highly individual choices, but they tend to fall into similar categories.

Nostalgia:  Like my dad’s pancakes, there are some books that take me to a happy time and place. Like Barbara Michael’s gothic mysteries. Mom gave them to me as a kid, and in addition to being deliciously spooky (but not too horrific) and gently romantic, they take me back to summer vacations with my family, reading in the pop-up camper, lying in front of the screen window, trying to catch a breeze. (Because I was NOT going outside where the bugs were.)

Sweet Nibblets: Some days, nothing makes you feel better like a huge stack of Romance and a big pot of tea. Cue the endorphins, and who needs chocolate. For me, these aren’t re-reads, but authors who reliably take me away from my problems with a guaranteed happily ever after.  (Bonus points if I laugh AND cry along the way. Susan Elizabeth Phillips, I’m talking to you.)

The Perfect Blend:  Some books are the cheesy mashed potatoes of literature. A little more staying power than the delicious pure sugar of the sweet category, meant to be lingered over rather than gulped down.

Most of my books in this category fall into the YA book genre, even though I read some of them as an adult. I think that’s because YA, for me, hits the perfect chord of substance plus comfort.  Stories, character, theme–all resonate with me deeply and stick to my bones like a hearty meal, but there’s a eloquent simplicity about them that makes the words slide effortlessly into my brain, as if the author and I are sharing the same dream. (Simple eloquence never gets enough credit. It’s hard to make something look easy.)

In that “sweet spot” are: Madeleine L’Engle’s Time Quartet (plus “An Acceptable Time”).  Susan Cooper’s Dark is Rising series (so much better than the movie!). Just about anything by Robin McKinley, but in particular “Beauty” and “Sunshine.”

What are your “Comfort Reads”?   And what is it, for you, that turns a book from a keeper into a comforter?