There’s something about reading a favourite book. It makes you feel warm and comfortable and peaceful. It’s the intellectual equivalent to a cup of tea, or sliding between newly washed sheets, or cuddling up in front of the fire on a rainy night.
It’s that feeling of contentment. Whether it’s the story, characters, writing style, or a combination of all three, there are just some books that are long time favourite comfort reads. They touch us on an emotional level; and that, like favourite memories linked to smells and tastes, brings back the delight we first felt when reading them again. Out of all the fiction I own (and I own a couple thousand – pysical – books) I have one that I re-read more than any other. That’s my all time favourite comfort read. I do have nine runners-up, though. Maybe you’ll see some of your own comfort reads on the list.
10.Steven Brust’s Dragon. Odd to equate a comfort read to something that contains so much death and killing and slaughtering and mayhem and death and- well, you get the picture. But I love the structure, story, and characters. I can read this one again and again.
9. Diana Wynne Jones’ Hexwood, Howl’s Moving Castle, and Year of the Gryphon. I adore Diana Wynne Jones’ books. I have so many favourites of her books. Hexwood is a glorious confusion that doesn’t quite make sense until the end, but keeps you hooked anyway, Howl’s Moving Castle is a delightful fairytale of a shy girl who makes magic hats and is turned into an old woman by a nasty witch (and is a lot less shy as an old woman), and Year of the Gryphon is one of the best ‘school stories’ I have ever read. Think tiny assassins, gryphon crushes, and schoolmates who are as likely to use orange peel as bat’s teeth in a spell.
8.C.S. Lewis’ Narnia Series. These were one of the first fantasy series I read. I read them over and over again, particularly The Horse and His Boy. So much adventure! Such a new world! And delightful, old-fashioned characters who spoke in old-fashioned ways. These are still a huge favourite with me, along with Lewis’ Perelandra trilogy, which I can also read over and over.
7. Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain Series. This is a series following the adventures of Taran, Assistant Pig Keeper, and his friends Fflewdder Fflam and Princess Eilonwy. They are simply wonderful. The Chronicles of Prydain were the first fantasy books that taught me there could be depth to character, that not all bad guys are completely bad, and that not all the good guys stay good. Taran, with his striving to be a hero and his journey to wisdom, is one of my favourite book characters.
6. Antonia Forest’s Entire Marlow Series. In fact, everything by Antonia Forest. I can’t say enough good things about Antonia Forest. Ostensibly, most of her books are school stories. Don’t let that deceive you, and don’t think Enid Blyton. The range and scope of Antonia Forest’s books is far beyond that. Her characters are real, believeable, and entirely loveable. There are the twins, Nicola and Laurie, the older sisters Kay, Rowan, and Ginty, and brothers Peter and Giles. Then there is the next door neighbour Patrick . . . At school or at home, these are some of the best books you’ll read.
5. Kate Stradling’s Kingdom of Ruses. A deceptively simple fantasy. Viola’s family have been serving the Eternal Prince of Lenore for generations. A buffer between the Prince and the people, they basically run the country. There’s only one problem- the Prince doesn’t exist. So what happens when a Prince turns up? Fun and danger and romance, of course, with a good dash of hilarious dialogue. This is a quiet, delightful story with entirely loveable characters that I can read again and again.
4. Frances Hardinge’s Twilight Robbery. Every time I read a book by Frances Hardinge, I’m convinced that it’s my favourite. Twilight Robbery and Mosca Mye, however, I keep going back to read. Mosca Mye and Eponymous Clent almost defy description, but I’m so glad they exist. I will gobble up any and every book about them as they come out, but I believe Twilight Robbery will always be my favourite. I’ve already read it a few times since buying it, and I’m certain I’ll read it many more times.
3. JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit (and LOTR, but especially The Hobbit). The moral of the story is, of course, never set out on an adventure without your pocket handkerchief. I’m very much distressed with the rather dreadful job Peter Jackson made with the movies of The Hobbit, but I’ll always be glad to sit down and re-read it with a cuppa tea and a plate of good things. I made sure I bought the lovely big version with beautiful colour illustrations for that very reason.
2. Patricia Wrede’s The Raven Ring. I love Patricia Wrede’s writing. Her books were the first fantasy I read in which it was perfectly obvious that princesses and other females actually could save the day. All her books are favourites. However, The Raven Ring is the one I read again and again for its simplicity, amazing world-building, and wonderful characters. It’s a setting in which I feel immediately comfortable.
My all-time favourite at #1? That would be (fanfare, please!):
1. Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice All of the others are interchangeable as regards their place on the list. P&P is not. It’s the one book I go to again and again. I’ve read it more than ten times since I first read it at the age of nine or ten. That’s about once every two years. I love the feel of the book. I love the dialogue. I love how fallible and prickly and teachable Lizzy is. I love that she can hold her own against the clever Mr. Darcy. I love that she can see the foibles and failings not just of her family, but of herself. She’s a beautifully well-rounded character for any age. I love all of Austen’s books, and I adore her Juvenalia, but P&P is the book I consistently read over and over again.
What about you guys? What are some of your favourite fiction comfort reads? It’s okay if you have some of the same as mine. I’ll share. Just don’t try to read my copy.