We are entering month two of quarantine and social distancing for us at the Library Ladies, and it’s hard to deny that it’s wearing us down. It’s hard not to be able to see dear friends and family in person, and it’s hard to deal with uncertainty as to what the future holds with this pandemic. But we will do our best to persevere in difficult times, and one of the best ways we know how is to revisit books that bring us comfort. Here are our list of personal comfort reads that bring us joy and a little bit of hope.
Book: “Beauty: A Retelling of the story of Beauty and the Beast” by Robin McKinley
I know I’ve highlighted this book before in other lists, and we even read it as a bookclub book at one point, but this wouldn’t be an honest representation of my comfort read books without including it. This is one of those feel-good books where practically nothing bad happens at all, and even the few things that seem bad turn out happy in the end. It’s my all-time favorite fairytale retelling made all the better for being a reworking of my all-time favorite fairytale. I literally have zero complaints about this book and whenever I’m feeling down, it’s one of the first that comes to mind for a quick pick-me-up. The romance is everything I like, there’s a library, there’s a horse. Really, I couldn’t ask for more. If by some bizarre chance you haven’t read this book, do yourself a huge favor and do it now!
Book/s: “Harry Potter” series by J.K. Rowling
Unlike “Beauty,” I’ve mostly resisted listing “Harry Potter” on any lists. I mean, there’s no way someone hasn’t heard of these books, and many of our lists are formed around the goal of introducing books to our readers that we think they may not have come across before. Never going to happen with this. But, again, a true comfort read lists for me wouldn’t be complete without this series. Unlike “Beauty,” these books do get dark, but the tears they bring on are of the cathartic type for me, and sometimes you just need a good cry. And, of course, Rowling is a master and never leaves you down long before the adventure, fantasy, humor, and, best of all, superb characters sweep you back up.
Book: “Bridget Jones’s Diary” by Helen Fielding
So, we’ve had romance, we’ve had fantasy with some needed tears, and now it’s time for the comedy. There’s not another book out there that makes me laugh so consistently at this one does. I re-read it just this last year and was literally cackling outloud next to my husband in bed. I think he thought I was a mad woman. It so perfectly hits on the inner workings of so many women’s minds, and Bridget Jones herself has to be one of the most endearing heroines ever. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that it’s loosely based on “Pride and Prejudice.” In fact, this list is aptly timed as my Jane Austen re-read is coming up on my review of the movie adaptation of this book. It differs in a few big ways, but I love that it, too, is hilarious and a comfort watch as well. Look for that movie review this Friday!
Book/s: “The Lord of the Rings” Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien
I grew up on “The Lord of the Rings”. My parents are both huge nerds, and introduced me to this world vis a vis the Bakshi animated film. They would also read me excerpts from the books and indulge me in make believe games in which I was a hobbit. I’ve read the full trilogy about five times, and have only not revisited it in full more because of other books on my pile. So whenever I am feeling low, I will undoubtedly return to Middle Earth to see a brave hobbit and his friends and allies defeat the ultimate evil. “The Lord of the Rings” is absolutely my favorite book series of all time, and the themes of triumph over darkness, hope, and friendship will always bring me joy. It especially feels all the more relevant right now, not necessarily because of fighting against an evil being (I mean, that’s a whole OTHER issue our country is facing right now), but because of the heaviness and weight of this moment. But like Gandalf says, ‘all we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us’. Aaaand I’m tearing up just thinking about the beauty of this story and how much it means to me.
Book: “The Neverending Story” by Michael Ende
Perhaps it’s strange that as someone who is constantly talking about how she doesn’t like fantasy, I have two fantasy epics on my comfort list. But I really had to include “The Neverending Story” here, because it is one that always makes me feel a bit more at peace after I’ve read it. The story of Fantastica and Bastian Balthazar Bux is one about the power of storytelling, of imagination, and the influence that we can have on the world, be it for good or bad. What better way to escape reality than by jumping into a book where luck dragons, racing snails, and Childlike Empresses exist? This was a tween years favorite of mine, and my love for it hasn’t diminished over the years.
Book: “Anne of Green Gables” by Lucy Maude Montgomery
Anne Shirley is up there with Eowyn of Rohan and Jane Eyre for favorite literary heroines. The adventures of this imaginative and charming orphan as she finds her new home on Prince Edward Island are so sweet and fun, and the first book in the series continues to be my favorite. Anne is plucky and lovable, and even with all of her faults (I mean, they aren’t HUGE faults, but her temper is pretty bad) she is a relatable and endearing main character who has inspired me in so many ways. Her journey from orphan to well loved member of her own family and community is lovely, and it shows the power of love and family and taking a chance on people that you never expected to have in your life. Plus, she’s laugh out loud hysterical a lot of the time, and has overcome a lot of strife to become a confident and clever person who finds a place for herself. What could be more comforting than that?
What books do you turn to during difficult times? Let us know in the comments!