Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Comfort Books

There is something about the month of January that makes me want to curl up into a ball under my blankets and wait for spring.  If you're a warm weather person like me, you probably feel the same way.  Possibly you find yourself sighing more than usual this month, or feeling slightly desperate when you look out your window and see nothing but grey for the eighteenth morning in a row.  Or maybe you start to wonder whether green grass and blue sky ever actually existed at all.

It's times like these I start to crave my comfort books.

Some people solve the January blues with comfort foods, comfort sweat pants, comfort music, or comfort movies.  But personally, I find the best antidote to January to be a supply of well-loved books.  These are more like old friends than they are stacks of bound paper.  For example: 

Last week, I saw one of mine on a shelf at an antique mall (it was Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) and I had an actual moment of confusion in which I stopped with my mouth open, ready to smile and say hello, before I realized it was a book and not a person.  A second dilemma developed at this point, in which I had to fight the impulse to buy the book on the grounds of it being inhumane to leave my friend-book sitting beside a rusty kettle on the shelf like an ordinary item.  I wanted to march up to the shop owner in outrage, cradling Harry Potter to my bosom and shouting that this was not just any book she had sitting on her shelf like some kind of common antique!  This was my friend!  Thankfully, I recovered my common sense and walked on without causing a scene, but not without experiencing a pang of regret for Harry.

That is what I mean about comfort books.  When you run into them at book stores and thrift stores--and antique malls--you feel a stab of fierce ownership for them, and sometimes feel compelled to buy them even when you own at least one copy already.  This is because, like any dear friend, they loyally offer you comfort every single time you pick them up.  Here are some of mine; some of the books I reach for when the world turns into endless, iron winter and I just need a friend-book:

I suppose Harry Potter goes without saying.

Also, Ella Enchanted

Peter Pan

The Chronicles of Narnia

The Lord of the Rings

Pride & Prejudice

Anne of Green Gables


The Princess Academy

Goodnight Moon (before bed, of course)

What about you?  Do you find yourself craving familiarity and comfort books during the long weeks of January?  What are some of yours?  


  1. Hannah, you've listed so many of my favorites, too! My list would also have A Little Princess and Persuasion.

  2. Oh we are reading Ella Enchanted for the first time in our homeschool and I've never heard of Princess Academy but that sounds great. P&P is definitely on my list as are Little Women, the How to Ruin series by Simone Elkeles, Stepping Heavenward, The Season by Sarah MacLean, and a few others.. wow I need my caffeine. But thanks for this post, I am going to be reflecting today on what makes them so comforting and making sure I apply those techniques to my own writing :-)

  3. Little Women. I read it last year at around this time and had to fight the urge to read it again at the same time. I'm not sure why I fought it... I shouldn't have.

    And Harry Potter for sure. I read them all at the beginning of last year and towards the end, I was like - hrm. I haven't read those in a while. If I didn't show some restraint on these, I'm pretty sure I'd just keep reading them in a continuous loop.

  4. What is Princess Academy? I'm intrigued.

    But I love winter. I don't need the comfort books, but it is fun to curl up under blankets with coffee in the winter to read.

  5. I love a lot of the books you listed! And I can relate to the "comfort" book idea. It's nice to sit down and read something familiar that brings back warm memories.

  6. Sarah: I love both of those, too! Persuasion is such a gem... Austen's secret gem.

    Rachel: Great idea. It's such a fabulous technique to examine the books you love and try to incorporate those things into your own writing. I'm so glad you're reading Ella! It is truly my favorite non-series book of all time.

    Nicole: I am so with you on the restraint thing. Harry is the hardest thing for me to resist. I could definitely keep reading those books over and over all the time... but yes, we must exercise self-control! Broadening horizons, and all that... :)

    Amie: You MUST read Princess Academy. It's my favorite of Shannon Hale's books. And I'd say it's a good thing you love winter... it seems pretty snowy over there in Germany!

    Giles: I think you've hit the nail on the head: warm memories. Maybe that's why comfort books are so good for winter, because they truly warm you up inside. Great point.

  7. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is my number one comfort book. I think I read it about every three months (whereas I only read the whole series twice a year--I'm kind of pathetic that way). I can't remember what my life was like before this book was a part of it. Despite the fact that I read it for the first time when I was 17.

    I actually made a similar post on my blog a few weeks ago. I think we matched up on at least three books. :)

  8. Definitely Harry Potter, and I love The Hobbit. I used to begin every summer break by reading The Hobbit.