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Comfort Books

A friend just shared an image with me (via FB, of course!) that resonated with me in a way many static images don’t. It was a quote by author Anne McCaffrey (she was the first woman to win the Hugo Award for science fiction – in 1968!):

“I have a shelf of comfort books, which I read when the world closes in on me or something untoward happens.”

I have comfort books. I bet most people who consider themselves to be avid readers do, as well. My shelf of comfort books mostly resides on my Kindle, these days (one of the sacrifices of living in a small house is I don’t have the huge library of books that I always envisioned I would have. Thank goodness I volunteer at an actual library! It’s almost the same… 😊 )

When I think of my comfort books, the first one I think of is “There’s No Such Place as Far Away” by Richard Bach. Which I realize I’ve already written about on this blog (“Books I Love”) – and the reason I love this book is that it IS my number one comfort book. I read it when I’m lonely, or sad, or missing a loved one…

“Rae! Thank you for inviting me to your birthday party! Your house is a thousand miles from mine and I travel only for the best of reasons. A party for Rae is the best and I am eager to be with you. I began my journey in the heart of the hummingbird you and I met long ago. He was friendly as ever, yet when I told him that little Rae was growing and that I was going to her birthday party with a present, he was puzzled. We flew for a long while in silence and at last he said “I understand very little of what you say, but least of all do I understand that you are going to the party.” “Of course, I am going to the party, “I said. What is so hard to understand about that?” He was quiet, and when we arrived at the owl’s home, he said, “Can miles truly separate us from friends? If you want to be with Rae, aren’t you already there?”

I’m not sure when I was introduced to this book – I had read my one of my older sister’s copy of “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” when I was in middle school, I think – so it’s possible that I just started reading other books by Richard Bach. But I took “There’s No Such Place as Far Away” with me when I went to college and would read it when I was homesick. And I read it after my father passed, and a couple of dozen other times when I wanted a particular kind of comfort – the kind of comfort I need when I’m missing someone.

We are still in the midst of a global pandemic, and while a lot of things in NYS are starting to feel a little better, a little more open, we still have restrictions. If you have family who live in one of the “travel ban” states, you might not be able to see them (not many people can afford to quarantine for 2 weeks after already taking a vacation!). If you have a loved one in a nursing home, you might still be visiting via Skype or Zoom, or through a window. Hugs don’t really exist in my life right now, and man, do I miss hugging.

I miss my friends, and my “other” older sister (not the one who read Richard Bach, but a different older sister… Since I’m the youngest of 6 kids, I have more than one “older” sibling) who has some underlying health factors that make it really risky for her to travel or for us to go visit her. I find myself seeking comfort in lots of naps, lots of ice cream, lots of mindless screen time and hours of reading. (I even bought a face mask that says “Eat, Sleep, Read” because if I’m going to have to wear a face mask, why not make a statement, as well?)

While writing this post, I searched for “comfort books” and I found an amazing list on the BookRiot web-site. I don’t know the author of this list, but the books she has chosen are pretty amazing. There are some that have been on my “gonna read someday”, but most are ones I haven’t heard of. Out of list of 28 books, there are probably at least 14 that have gone automatically to my “will read” list.

Here are a couple of particular stand-outs for me (that I already put on my library wish list before resuming writing this):

“The Martian” by Andy Weir

I watched the movie (Matt Damon is stranded on Mars), and it’s one of those movies that I will re-watch any time it’s on TV. I’ve heard this is one of those instances where the book and movie are both good. I’m excited to move this one to my “will read” list.

“A Closed and Common Orbit” by Becky Chambers

I haven’t heard of the author, but everything about this science fiction book sounds interesting to me (and I am not an avid science fiction reader by any means).

“Think of England” by KJ Charles

This one is possibly not a “safe for all ages” read, and not for everyone, but a historical romance that is also a murder mystery with “a lot of sneaking around in the library, there is blackmail, there is stumbling around in the dark, there is poetry, there is a happily ever after.” It’s a must read for me.

And last (for this post, I mean, not last one of the list that’s on my “will read” list) is

“A Gentleman in Moscow”, by Amos Towles

This had actually been recommended to me by a friend a while ago, but I had forgotten about it, to be honest. But after reading “I don’t think I can come up with a character who is kinder or more generous than the protagonist of this novel” has me saying “yes, please”.

Reading, naps, and ice cream – not a bad way to spend my days. What’s on your comfort book list?

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