Our best comfort reads

Booksellers share their favourite books and best advice for comfort reading.


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Nina Kenwood recommends seriously good fantasy.

I don’t think you can go past a good fantasy series for comfort – a nice long read set in a world that isn’t yours can do wonders to take your mind off of your problems. The Harry Potter series are an obvious example. They contain many crucial elements that give me great comfort – boarding school, Englishness, descriptions of food, and the conquering of enemies. Another fantasy series I have returned to again and again over my life is the Obernewtyn series. The first three books in particular, I must have read many times over, and I know Elspeth’s journey in soothing detail. The characters feel like old friends.


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Isobel Moore has a system in place.

Whenever I’m going through a period of change in my life or moving countries (it happens more often than you’d expect – I’m a wanderer!), I read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Favourite childhood reads about stressed, frightened and surprisingly hairy creatures hailing from a place called The Shire going on a long trip? Of course I relate! And if Bilbo can not just survive but really, flourish, then so can I.

Whenever I’m sad I read Agatha Christie mysteries. Don’t get me wrong, I read these when I’m happy too, but there’s something so reassuring about the formulaic set out, and the knowledge that the murderer will be revealed before the end that keeps me plodding on.

Whenever I’m sick, I don’t read. My brain hurts to much. Instead I watch Singin’ In the Rain, because the music is great, the design is beautiful and cheerful, the jokes are ON form and Gene Kelly is very easy on the eyes.

And whenever I want to feel snug and cosy, perhaps when I’m wanting to hygge, I read big, chunky world building novels. A couple that I’ve enjoyed this year have been Jay Kristoff’s Nevernight and Libba Bray’s The Diviners. Perfect for big cups of tea and more chocolate than I want to admit to consuming in public.


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Chris Gordon turns to poetry when she’s in need of comfort.

I read poetry for comfort. For example, on dark days I like to recall the imagery of ‘The Red Wheelbarrow’ by William Carlos Williams:

so much depends
upon

a red wheel
barrow

glazed with rain
water

beside the white
chickens

How can those simple words not give you hope for peace and beauty? Perfect reading and romancing for dark gloomy days.

My favourite collection of poems to turn to is Break, Blow, Burn. In this book, famed feminist and commentator Camille Paglia presents a poem alongside an essay – it’s a wonderful assemblage.


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Lian Hingee is a devoted rereader.

I’m a devoted rereader. I love to revisit old friends within the pages of a book, and I always find that I never really read the same book twice – the narrative changes as I do, with different themes and characters catching my attention depending on what’s happening in my own life. One comfort read that I’ve returned to enough times that my now two-decade old paperback editions are yellowed and dog-eared is L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables series.

I read them for the first time when I was the same age as Anne – as romantically-minded and prone to getting carried away with my own imagination as the titular character – and recognised a kindred spirit (as Anne herself would say).

I read them again when I was in my early twenties and recognised myself in the Anne from Anne of the Island and Anne of Windy Willows: living away from home for the first time, excited by a promising future but melancholy about leaving behind an uncomplicated and carefree childhood.

Reading them again in my thirties I bonded with the Anne from Anne’s House of Dreams and Anne of Ingelside: still hopeful, still prone to dreams, but more grounded and with a greater depth of character carved out by the tragedies and disappointments that accompany even the happiest of lives.

I haven’t visited Anne for a few years now – perhaps it’s time…


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Bronte Coates recommends Nora Ephron.

Nora Ephron’s Heartburn is my go-to novel to recommend friends going through a tough time – though really, any of her writing will do. She’s smart, frank, funny, full of snark, and utterly, completely delightful. Her novel is especially brilliant because it so perfectly proves that being funny is the best revenge. Plus, it’s full of descriptions of cooking and food, as well as recipes, and I always find food to be a great comfort in times of strife.

I’m also a big reader of YA fiction and if you’re ever after a fast-paced story with a good dash of heightened drama to match your own heightened feelings – paired with a strong sense that things are more hopeful than they seem – you often can’t do better! Most recently, I read Cath Crowley’s Words in Deep Blue and absolutely loved it.

For something escapist and fluffy with a sharp sense of humour, Julia Quinn’s romance novels are very, very good. For a biting page-turner about contemporary life, you should definitely pick up a Liane Moriarty. For something addictive that will transport you out of your own world and into one that is far more terrifying, try The Call. (The latter may not comfort you exactly – except for reminding you that things could definitely be worse.)

And my personal comfort read – the books I’ve reread more than any other, the books I still turn to in difficult moments more than 10 years after I read the first one – are the Harry Potter series. Like many other readers on this list, I find myself deeply comforted by returning to these much-loved characters from my childhood, and I get something new from them every time.

Heartburn

Heartburn

Nora Ephron

$25.95Buy now

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