BOOK & BLOG
September 16, 2007
Books of the Week: Comfort Reading
There have been several discussions on this board about comfort reading. Comfort reading is like comfort food; instead of reading (eating) something good for you, you want to read (eat) something that will not be demanding, that will simply make you feel better. If you can also relax and escape to another place, thats an added bonus.
By their very nature, comfort books are books youve already read, and most often read when you were much younger. That can supply an extra layer of happiness; maybe you temporarily feel younger when youre reading the book!
Sidebar: I have found that when Im traveling, I often want to take a book Ive read before. I have a terrible tendency to get so wrapped up in a new book that I ignore vital information like, Your gate has changed from 88 to 74, or This plane is now boarding. Im a little more aware of my surroundings when Ive got a familiar novel.
A list of my favorite reads in the mystery field would be headed by the works of Mary Roberts Rinehart. Who doesnt like to imagine a time when people had summer homes, brave young women were rewarded with true love, and families had devoted retainers? Of course, most of the aristocratic families in Rineharts books have been terribly affected by the stock market crash and income taxes. Her stand-alones are great, and so are her Miss Pinkerton books. Sometimes I read an Agatha Christie just to observe the clockwork plotting. Christie pretty much presented the same characters in most of her books (the bluff colonel, the sour old maid, the hysterical servant), but the originality of her plots energized the mystery world. For more modern comfort, Ive read Robert Parkers Spenser books several times. I learned a lot about dialogue from Parker. And Lee Childs Jack Reacher books are favorites of mine, too. Reachers resourcefulness and logic are absolutely compelling.
If I need a paranormal or science fiction comfort read and who doesnt, from time to time? I go to the early Anita Blake books by Laurell K. Hamilton. The energy and sheer chutzpah of the writing, the this is my world, believe it attitude, just cant be beat. Im also very fond of Connie Williss DOOMSDAY BOOK and Barbara Hamblys THOSE WHO HUNT THE NIGHT. I think I learned some valuable lessons in writing from both those books. Both Willis and Hambly have written numerous other great works, but theyre not comfort reads for me.
Romance comfort reads are a little fewer and farther between, for me. Linda Howards Open Season heads this short list. Its one of the funniest romances Ive read, and I love the characters. The thread of danger is convincing, too.
I dont feel a bit embarrassed about being in love with books, especially these books. They dont break down and have to be repaired, they dont have calories, and you only have to buy them once no planned obsolescence. Of course, your copy may fall apart, but its contents will stay with you forever.
I had a wonderful time at the signing in Dallas and at Coppercon in Phoenix. The con organizers made a huge effort to check with me to make sure I was happy, that my panels were going well, that my room was adequate, that I knew where to find everything I needed. You really couldnt ask for a more hospitable group. The Dallas event was a lot of fun, and I had dinner afterward with Pat Elrod, Rachel Caine, and Rachels husband, who is an artist. We had a lot of fun. I think the people who came to the signing had a good time, too. They asked a lot of questions, and I hope we answered them all.
This past week Ive been catching up with my life. My daughters volleyball games, a church meeting (which I missed but had to prepare for), getting the oil in my car changed, buying and mailing gifts for friends, getting the house sprayed for bugs . . . the thousand and one things that distract a stay-at-home worker. Were in the middle of kitchen renovations, and I have to say that NOT ONE of the people scheduled to show up actually arrived. Clean sweep!
I have a couple of goals for this week. I have to send in a story for an HWA anthology, and its almost ready; thanks to my friend Tonis editing eye, I see I have a few more tweaks to go. And I have to finish the story for the next anthology Toni and I are editing, tentatively titled MOONLIGHT AND MISTLETOE (werewolf stories set at Christmastime).
Another item on my plate for later this week is getting ready to go to Houston (for the debut of AN ICE COLD GRAVE) and then to Alaska for Bouchercon, the world mystery convention. Its going to be quite a bit colder in Alaska, so packing will be a challenge. Im cleaning out my closet this weekend so I can see what I actually have, a way-overdue project.
Happy reading during the coming week, and I hope you all enjoy AN ICE COLD GRAVE. The Harper books dont make as big a splash as the Sookie books, but I am really happy with the way AICG turned out. Maybe you will be, too.
© 2009 Charlaine Harris