Yesterday, I was in the car with Thomas and a friend, Toni, and she mentioned that she was re-reading all the Harry Potter books again. Apparently, that's one of her regular re-reads; I call books like that my comfort reads. When I need a particular something: comfort, encouragement, a certain type of reading pleasure, there are certain books I re-visit again and again.
Sometimes I read the whole book, or the whole series. Other times I dive right in at my favorite parts. There must be something about February, because while Toni was reading Harry Potter 1-7 for the nth time, I was working my way through Lois McMaster Bujold's Sharing Knife books, all four of them.
I know that everyone doesn't do this, Thomas said that he has almost never read a book more than once. I've had people tell me, quite forcefully, that there are too many wonderful books to read to re-read anything, no matter how good it was. I accept that, why re-read something if you wouldn't enjoy it? But for me, there's something lovely about revisiting a wonderfully written book, one that I know won't disappoint. It's not just the story, it's the actual words, certain turns of phrases, humor, and drama, and they way the book makes me feel.
Certain books even take me back to certain parts of my life, even if I have read them dozens of times. The first time I read J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings cycle I was 11 and in sixth grade. My Mom gave them to me for Christmas after I read (and loved) The Hobbit. Once I opened the package on Christmas morning, reading that series was all I did for the rest of the vacation. It was like I opened the books, fell in, and didn't come up for air until sometime near New Year's. It's hard to tell how I felt about them, it sounds so juvenile, but I desperately wished that I lived in a world where even though I was small and insignificant, I could go on a great adventure, mix with the mighty and powerful, and in the end, save the world. I loved Tom Bombadil and the Ents. Sauron and Saruman scared the pants off of me. I wanted to grow up and marry Faramir and Eowyn, they were so romantic (in a restrained sort of way). I wanted to be Eowyn and ride ou to slay the king of the Black Riders. In the end I wanted to go back to the Shire and live in a neat and tidy hole with a homely round door. I wanted to be every single character in the book. Okay, not an Orc, but all the good characters!
Even though I've probably read the series upwards of a dozen times in the 30+ years since then, and probably understand it more than I did in that first reading, in some way it takes me back to the thrilled, breathless, blown-away 11 year old I was that Christmas season.
Some of my other favorites to read again and again are:
The Witch World books by Andre Norton
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Handling Sin by Michael Malone
The Earthsea books by Ursula K. LeGuin
David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
The Revenants by Sheri S. Tepper
Pretty much anything by Agatha Christie
Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
I would love to know if you have any comfort books and if so, what they are.