Holidays & the Joy of the Comfort Read
Although I will read new books on my holidays—and my post on What I Read Over The Holidays is testament—for me holidays are also about the comfort read: those books that are like old friends. I can just pick them up, put my feet up and enjoy. I know I am going to be entertained—I have, after all, known and loved these particular friends for many years—and there is something deeply relaxing about spending time in company with a story like that. Sure, a new release or new-to-me book may be just as good. But then again, it may not. And when you’re on holiday, relaxation is an important part of the deal.
The other great thing about the comfort read is that, like any other old friend, it does not demand time and energy in the way that new books often do. Too often, the new book insists on being read, into the wee small hours if need be—and to the exclusion of looming deadlines, meals, family commitments … The comfort read, on the other hand, is happy to be worked in around the rest of the schedule and be called on only as more pressing commitments permit.
So what are some of my comfort reads, those books that restore and sustain? Just about anything by Georgette Heyer has to be right up there. I find her often absurd—but dashing—heroes, madcap heroines and their humorous entanglements in Georgian England enduringly entertaining. I tend to like the adventurous stories best, in part because of the adventure but also because they are often the most romantic stories as well. I’m talking These Old Shades, The Masqueraders, The Talisman Ring—although some of the more madcap tales, like The Grand Sophy, Friday’s Child and Cotillion are also longstanding favorites.
In the Fantasy realm, books such as Robin McKinley’s Beauty, and The Blue Sword, as well as Patricia McKillip’s The Riddlemaster of Hed trilogy or The Changeling Sea have all stood the test of time. Their characters are interesting, the magical landscapes absorbing, there’s also adventure and romance to be found within the pages—and with both these writers I find a gentleness, intelligence and beauty to the story that draws me back again and again. And every time I find something new within the pages.
These are only a small sample of the works that reside on my comfort read shelf, but all the books thereon share two ingredients (besides being fine, entertaining stories and well told) that I suspect are essential for any comfort read. They all end (more or less, but mostly more) happily ever after—and when the reader comes to the final line, the world of the tale is left “as it should be.”
So how about you,? Do you have favourite reads you reach for when you’re ready to put your feet up and seriously relax?