Books Magazine

Reading What Makes You Feel Good: What Are Your Comfort Reads?

By Curlygeek04 @curlygeek04

Last week I finally had my sinus procedure, and while it went well, it hasn’t been as quick a recovery as I expected.  I’ll spare you the details, but the pressure in my head has left me grumpy and unable to concentrate on much (my husband has been very patient).  After finishing one book, I realized two things: 1) I have about ten library books that will be due in the next few weeks and I’m going to have to scramble to read them; and 2) they’re all heavy, award-winner types like Milkman, The Idiot, Gilead, and I’ll Be Gone in the Dark.

None of which are sounding good right now.  Irritable plus can’t breathe equals not feeling like reading a Booker Prize winner or a book about death.

My husband gets a little frustrated with all my reading challenges and my insistence on taking a lot of the fun out of reading.  On a good day, I call it challenging myself, and I often find that my favorite books are the challenging ones, where the lighter ones aren’t even memorable.

But, this being a not-so-good day, he asked me this question: what could I read that would make me happy?

Not having a simple answer to that question, I started thinking about what books would “spark joy” for me (to borrow the words of Marie Kondo).  I came up with a few possibilities: a romance novel, a vintage mystery, a re-read of Harry Potter, or one of the many fantasy series I’m in the middle of.  I wanted something fast-paced that wouldn’t take a lot of concentration. But I also wanted something new and different.

The trouble is, I always feel I have to put my library books first because they have due dates, and I can’t control when they come to me because they’re all wait-listed. But I told myself, I can just send those library books back.

I picked up Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse.  It’s a new-ish fantasy novel I’ve heard great things about, and it’s by a Native American author and focuses on Native American culture. It may be your standard-issue fantasy series about a bad-ass heroine with magical powers –but at least it’s coming at the genre from a new perspective. Plus one of the characters is Coyote, so it reminds me of my favorite Patricia Briggs series (and is maybe more authentic).

So far, it’s a win on all counts.  It takes place in a post-apocalyptic but still recognizable Southwest, on what was the Navajo reservation (the rest of the country is underwater).  It’s violent and creepy but in a good way — that might not sound comforting but it works for me.  It’s also cheesy enough that I don’t need to take it too seriously.

I often think about whether I read too many books I’ve “assigned myself” rather than reading what I want, but I do feel good about reading challenging books, and I do get more out of them. The world of book blogging makes me constantly want to read more, and better, books.  But I may have gone a bit overboard, with my two library accounts and my long list of challenges (despite saying at the beginning of the year I wasn’t going to do that).  The Read Harder challenge in particular has me scouring Goodreads to find really obscure titles.  And right now, that’s too much for this swollen head of mine.

We all have times we need comfort reads, right?  Just like we need comfort food, our favorite sweater, a warm kitty, a day by the beach, or whatever gets you through a rough patch.

What are the books you turn to?  Is it something funny, or romantic, or a favorite childhood re-read?  Or do you need to put the books down altogether and do something else?

It’ll be spring soon, I’ll be feeling better, and I can get back to my power-reading.  But I also need to get better at reading for comfort when I need it.

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