It has been a stress-filled time of late, and when bad things happen, or sad news comes, or times are difficult, I turn to comfort reading to help me through.
Comfort reading, for me, means reliable authors, favorite books, fairly easygoing plots and at least some likable characters. I don’t want it too dark, or noir, gritty, or grim. I don’t want horror, or true crime or serial killers. If there’s a bad guy, I want him to get his just desserts. I don’t want to read about a dystopia.
That doesn’t mean it all has to be Farmer McFriendly of Happy Valley, but I like to have had a positive feeling upon reading the last page.
Some of the things I turn to for comfort reading are short stories, and my first go-to is Sherlock Holmes. They can be, often are, the canon – the stories written by Conan Doyle – but I’m fine with good pastiches as well. For other mystery comfort reading, I think of two things: softer mysteries and hard-boiled. For the former, I turn to Christie, Patricia Moyes, Peter Robinson, W.J. Burley (Wycliffe novels), Ian Rankin. For the latter I like Bill Pronzini, Jonathan Valin, Joe Gores, Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe books, and both Ross Macdonald and John D. McDonald. Then of course there are the Mike Shayne books, and the ones featuring Shell Scott and Gardner’s Perry Mason novels. Somewhere between are favorite authors Louise Penny and William Kent Krueger. I find Krieger especially good for re-reading.
But as much as I like comfort mystery reading, it’s to science fiction and fantasy that I most frequently turn. As often as not I want old-fashioned science fiction stories by Arthur C. Clarke, Poul Anderson, Christopher Anvil and other favorites. If I’m reading novels, I like easy going such as Heinlein’s juveniles, and the Rolling Stones books, or something by Hal Clement or Isaac Asimov. I have to admit, though, that my first instinct, when I want to crawl inside a book and escape the world is to pick up one of the Pern book by Anne McCaffrey. I’ve read all the books several times, but never get tired of rejoining the characters and situations in them.
As for fantasy, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings can’t be beat, but I also am very fond of other fantasy series, including The Belgariad by David Eddings, the Redwall novels by Brian Jacques, the Fafhrd & The Gray Mouser books by Fritz Leiber, the Conan stories by Robert Howard, the Books of Swords by Fred Saberhagen, as well as his Empire of the East.
Last but certainly not least when it comes to comfort reading are some books that may be consider YA or young reader books. I gladly pick up Wind in the Willows, Duncton Wood by William Horwood, Tailchaser’s Song by Tad Williams and a host of others.
Right now? I’m reading some Sherlock Holmes stories, pastiches, and letting myself drift back to London in the mid 1890s. Ahhh.
How about you? What are your “comfort read” books and authors?