Thursday, April 22, 2010

Question: What is so comforting about comfort reads?

I love comfort reads. And whenever my life feels turbulent - in a good way or bad way - it's what I go for. With all the exciting and new things happening in my life lately, I've been going for a lot of comfort reads. And it's made me think about comfort reads in general.

What is it about comfort reads that is so comforting and attractive?
One of my central comfort reads is Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series. I have also gotten into Suzanne Enoch's Samantha Jellicoe cat burglar series. (thanks, Chris!!) Sometimes, I will go for a Regency historical, too.

I have been trying to think why books like this are so cozy, but I don't think I have the answer. A few ideas:

1. Is it the world of the book/series? The world plays such a big part in both the series I've named, and when people long for comfort, I think they long for stability. Home. Janet's mother's cooking. Palm Beach and the glittering mansions. Places that don't change. This is true with Regency historicals, too. The world tends to feel stable and dependable. Is that it?

2. Is it the dependability of characters? I'm only 3 books into Enoch, and I do sense the characters growing, but they are also comfortingly who they are. In Evanovich, too. Ranger is always this guy playing the edge, Joe Morelli is a macho Jersey guy. Stephanie trying to make her way in the world. When you read a comfort book, is it the people you coming home to? Is that it?

3. Is it the consistent struggle? Sometimes people are comforted and relaxed by normalcy. For example, I don't like my morning routine to be altered. Are the characters in a kind of routine, too? Not that the plots are the same, but the central struggles? Sam being lured by her old life, Rick exploring who he is with Samantha and trying to protect her while not smother her. The routine of Joe Morelli scowling about Ranger. The routine of Stephanie doing something crazy.

4. Other? When you go to a bookshelf and pick up a comfort read, what are you picking up? The people? the world? the ongoing struggle? Something else? Or is it the way all the parts work together?


Blodeuedd said...

Hm, I do think fantasy is my comfort reads, books I know I will love, there is even the book I haev underlined something it cos I just loved the quote so much!

Yup fantasy, but why, well dunno, I mean there is always an evil god, wars and more, but then good always do triumph

Kati said...

My comfort read are almost uniformly one of four things:

1- Sweet/redemptive love story: Virgin River by Robyn Carr, Smooth Talking Stranger by Lisa Kleypas, Sugar Daddy by Lisa Kleypas, Morning Glory by LaVyrle Spencer, Chesapeake Blue by Nora Roberts and Fallen from Grace by Laura Leone to name a few.

2- Epic worldbuilding: I adore the Warlords of the Plains trilogy by Elizabeth Vaughan. I dive into them at least once a year. The world building is superb and the love story is fantastically woven throughout without taking an ounce away from a fascinating story.

3- Old School: A Kingdom of Dreams by McNaught, The Windflower by Tom and Sharon Curtis, All Through the Night by Connie Brockway, Shades of Twilight by Linda Howard. I love the slightly overwrought prose and the flowery descriptions, the autocratic heroes and Mary Sue heroines. I started reading them in my childhood and they're like a fuzzy blanket.

4- Heroines I adore: To Die For by Linda Howard is one of my all time favorite re-reads. Mostly because I love spending time with Blair Mallory. Same goes for Julie James' heroines. They're smart, sassy and take no prisoners. Sometimes you need that.

Carolyn Crane said...

Bldd: I didn't think about rereads, with all the underlining created on previous reads. That's wonderful. You go for fantasy!

Kati: A woman of many comfort reads! I love this angle of the redemptive love story. Redemption is comforting. To me, anyway. I'm surprised by the worldbuilding being comforting, but not old school. Yay Brockway! And Julie James, right! Ooh, you have pumped up my reading list.

Chris said...

You're very welcome!

I definitely have comfort rereads. They tend to not be hugely angsty (so, they're sort of light reads). And they're often humorous.

Alas, I'm now thinking "please finish the damn series, Ms Evanovich" because the magic is gone there...

Carolyn Crane said...

So sad there are only five!!

KT Grant said...

I have so many comfort reads. It comes down to the characters, the words and the connection the H/H have with one another.

Almost every old school Julie Garwood and Sandra Brown are comfort reads for me.

ElaineG said...

Suzanne Brockmann's books are my comfort reads. Sam, Alyssa and Jules (one of the first main stream gay characters I ever read about) from her Troubleshooter series are some of my all-time favorite characters ever. I sometimes read only certain pages of each book in the series just for that feel good moment. There are several m/m authors that I also consider comfort reads too: Carol Lynne, Sean Michael, Cameron Dane, Amber Kell, TA Chase to name only a few (seriously only a few cause there are like 40 m/m authors I read constantly and I consider them comfort reads too. Mostly to take me outside my dull, boring life *grins*) Come to think of it, my comfort reads tend to be series, because I love the story-building, and I love to revisit characters from previous books.

Jessica said...

When I want comfort, I usually go for Anne Bishop's Dark Jewels books or Lora Leigh's Breed series. In both, good writing, great characters that are easy to care about, tension, and great endings. For awhile someone else is having a harder time in life than I am, and yet they still come out OK and on top. I think to myself, if they can, I can.

Carolyn Crane said...

KB: what a great insight...the connection. That's interesting.

Elaine: Thanks for this. I love that you reread the feel good moments. It makes me want to do that more often. Also, for reminding me I need to GETON the Troubleshooters!!!

Jessica: That is so funny you go for the Dark Jewels. That read didn't comfort me much, but so many people LOVE it! Funny about the Breed series. I love that about reading people who are having worse problems! LOL.

Bev(QB) said...

Hands down, my #1 comfort reread (or relisten in the case of the audio book) is Stephanie Lauren's Devil's Bride. It's an escape to another time and place, where the setting is idyllic, the romance is magical, and the HEA is guaranteed to bring a smile and a sigh. It's the book I turn to when I need comforting the most.

When I need a guaranteed escape, I usually turn to either Madelynne Ellis' A Gentleman's Wager or if I need escape AND to work out some aggression, I'll immerse myself in LKH's Anita Blake series from the beginning.

The one thing that all the above have in common is that I can take a complete break from the real world and exist, at least mentally, in the world the authors have created for me.

Sullivan McPig said...

For me it's certain books that have the combination of a good story and are well written. I love to lose myself in the flow of the sentences, just enjoying the rythm and pace of the text.

Anne said...

My comfort reads are Laurell K. Hamiltons -Guilty Pleasures and Iris Johansen's Loveswepts (I have all). They really take me back to a more innocent time in my life. Crazy comforts but they work.

SciFiGuy said...

For me my comfort reads are a combination of all of the things you mention. I like to dive into great thick fantasy re-reads such as Carey's Kushiel or GRRMM's Ice and Fire. I like to re-read LKH's Anita Blake (the early novels), the Sookie books and Harrison's The Hollows series.

Tracy said...

Great post CJ! I think for me the comfort reads are books that I KNOW I can go to and get exactly what I'm looking for. Everything in that book, whichever one it is, is damned near perfect for me and it just gives me that uber-wonderful life is good feeling.

Carolyn Crane said...

Bev: OMG! I have A gentleman's wager way way deep in my TBR!! Thanks, Bev!

Sully: So true! I think losing onesself is highly underrated!

Anne: I love the idea of going back to books for the era that you read them in!

SCIFIGUY: Great choices. Those are books that have such strong worlds.

Tracy: That's something I love, too. The known. Maybe that's what links all this.

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