When I need a comfort book I don't reach for a breezy beach read with minimal conflict (although I'm sure that is a popular choice for many). Instead I hunker down into a tale of adventure, laden with strife. I can channel my own stress through the main character's struggles and experience relief when everything ends as it should. Since I know the stories practically by heart, I can read for the emotional journey and not for the plot line.
My collection of favorites has not been whittled down as I have aged, but has grown over time to include books that I loved in elementary school all the way through those published in the last couple years. The common thread that bind them all is my desire to return to them and relive their magic. When I am feeling low and need a sure pick-me-up, Garth Nix's Abhorsentrilogy, consisting of Sabriel, Lireal, and Abhorsen, is one of the first options I reach for. On the surface it does not seem like an uplifting tale, full of death, the undead, and very little hope for the survival of our heroine. But that is precisely why its happy ending, not cheapened by deux ex machina, is so satisfying. If Sabriel can come out on the other side, bruised a bit in body and in spirit, but generally okay, then any real world problems feel somewhat more manageable.
So when someone asks me what my favorite book is, I can't narrow it down to one, but there is a trait that is universal to all of the stories I return to over and over: they all have strong characters who can overcome bad odds while still being someone you wouldn't mind sharing a pot of tea with. Basically books are our friends that have incredibly interesting lives.
For those looking for a satisfying and exciting read, the other books shown in the photo are:
Foundation, by Isaac Asimov
Nightbirds on Nantucket, by Joan Aiken
Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, by Robin Sloan
Redwall, by Brian Jacques
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, by J.K. Rowling.
What books do you turn to when you need to read something comforting and familiar? Leave your recommendations in the comments!
Emily (05/05/2014 1:07pm): "Artemis Fowl" is always on stand by for me, as is "Once a Runner." They don't really have anything in common other than I know both of them nearly by heart and are completely engrossing (to the point that I end up having crackers for dinner).
Jane (05/09/2014 6:29am): Mysteries are my favorite books, and Dorothy Sayers my favorite author. No matter how many times I re-read one of her Peter Wimsey stories, there are interesting details that I had not noticed before.