Friday, 21 March 2014

On Comfort Reading

I'm going to get straight to the point and say that this week has been shit. I made the transition from my old role to the new one and that has caused a whole host of problems and a ridiculously strong sense of isolation. It really is not fun in my office at the moment. There have been other factors that have made this week stressful, namely that I have a new house mate and I always find it testing living with a complete stranger. You know the phrase 'shit storm'? Yes, that pretty much sums up my week. 

As a food lover, I have a ridiculous tendency to drown my sorrows in a bag of mini eggs or a rather large bowl of my Dad's chilli. But as the need for comfort has been surfacing with an unusual frequency in recent weeks, I've been thinking about other ways of getting a calorie free warm and fuzzy 'it'll be ok' feeling from other sources. Running still works a treat and since I've started running home from work I've been out a lot more. I've been enjoying leaving work and pounding out my frustration before I even get home. 

Then there's the written word. I've been turning to books even more than usual to achieve that sense of calm that usually comes over me as I read. My reading this week has consisted of the feminist novel Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman and Dracula by Bram Stoker, both of which have been just what the doctor ordered. Usually when I start comfort reading I head straight for The Woman in White, Great Expectations or an old favourite from my battered collection of very well-loved teen reads. This time, though, it has been refreshing to dive into two novels that I've not read before, and that are also pretty different to anything I've read before. 

Books have always been an escape for me (excuse the cliche), but I had forgotten quite how comforting they could be when, to put it bluntly, shit got real. It's nice to immerse yourself in other people's worlds and, by comparison, my week hasn't been as bad as Lucy Westernra's. I know Dracula is not going to come and start sucking my blood nightly (I mean, I really hope not), but it is good to put your own worries and stresses into perspective. I can find excitement, distraction, happiness, and even hope in the pages of a good book. Yes, books often make me sad and we all know I'm a sobber, but even those books can still be comforting. And sometimes all you need is a good cry, so why not turn to Birdsong or The Universe Versus Alex Woods for a little extra help. 

Until this job situation settles down and the flat situation settles down then I'm going to continue with my schedule of comfort reading. I have some very tempting looking books waving at me from my shelves so I'm going to sit down with them later and decide which looks to be the most comfort inducing. In fact, I have a whole evening of bookish delights in store for me as I'm planning on re-organising (by which I mean alphabetising) my shelves. Here's to comfort reading, not comfort eating.

Do you comfort eat or comfort read? Which book would be your choice for the ultimate feeling of comfort? 



  1. When I've had a long day, or week, and want to curl up with an old friend, I have several battered paperbacks I like to choose from. The first and third Harry Potter books are among them, as are a few Star Trek books, and, for some reason, "The Geography of Nowhere". (Because nothing says 'relaxing' like a hilarious diatribe aimed against sprawl.)

    Short stories are really good for de-stressing, which is why I have so many Isaac Asimov collections. He's known for science fiction, but has quite a few contemporary mysteries (the Black Widower series, for instance).

  2. Comfort reading is sometimes a necessity. I'm sorry to hear you've had such a crappy week, I hope things start looking up soon!

  3. I comfort-eat and comfort-read. Probably the best books for me are anything by Neil Gaiman, Anne of Green Gables, Lord of the Rings, the Harry Potter books or some of the Chronicles of Narnia. Sorry you've had a bad week - hope you can relax over the weekend and things settle down with your new housemate as you figure out each other's quirks and annoyances.

  4. I love this post. Until a few years ago I didn't really reread books. I thought I would run out of time to read new books : ) Since I started rereadign my favorites it has been such a treat. I love sinking into a familar story and getting to visit your favorite characters.

  5. Oh man, I'm sorry you've had a shitty week. YAY to running home from work though, those endorphins have got to be doing some good!

    I don't know that I comfort read as in go back to old favourites (well, I do do that, but just because I can't bear to not be reading them anymore *looks lovingly at To Kill A Mockingbird*) but after my nan died (when I got back to the 'being able to concentrate on shit' stage again) I realised I was craving some Stephen King- not because he's at all comforting, but just because I'm really really used to his writing and his sentences and everything now. Ah, Stephen King love.

    A final note: Mini Eggs are always good for drowning sorrows. If there's a Lidl anywhere near you, they're doing GIANT bags for £2.99 which I highly recommend!

  6. I don't re-read often. But I will revisit a Nancy Drew book or an old Madeline L'Engle book on a rough day.

    I hope the reading and reorganizing make things a little better until your work situation improves!

  7. So many books, so little time. No time for much re-reading I'm afraid. About the only set of books I've read more than once (not counting Lords of the Rings) is Phillip Pullman's Dark Materials trilogy - three times now.... I think that's a personal record.

  8. I definitely comfort read and comfort eat :) For a comfort read, I like to pick up something I'm sure will be happy or something from a series I've enjoyed so I can be pretty sure I'll like it.

  9. Amen to comfort reads. I do find that something Victorian or neo-Victorian (hello, Sarah Waters) can really help me unwind. I've been itching to read these types of books lately.

  10. I comfort eat and comfort read - the two go so well together! Books about books are always good comfort reads for me, and children's classics like The Secret Garden. In terms of new books, I tend to go for something like a YA contemporary romance (Anna and the French Kiss definitely put a smile on my face a month or two back!). Something light and easy to read, but lovely, basically. And if those light, easy to read and lovely books happen to be accompanied by an early Easter egg, a slice of cake or a chocolate croissant, some fruit and a giant mug of something hot and caffeinated... well, so much the better. :)

    (I should add that this reading/eating comfort combo has definitely put me a few pounds on of late, so good for you on the running thing. Oh well. As people keep telling me, I've got more important things to worry about right now than my waistline!)

  11. Comfort reading whilst stuffing comfort food into my mouth is the best. Although I can't read anything that has anything vaguely related to what's stressing me in the story line. That just makes my brain latch on to it and start worrying again.

    I hope next week is better for you. I don't think I could go back to house sharing again, there always seemed to be *something*.


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