In honor of today’s National Read a Book Day, I hope you take some time to honor this holiday by curling up with your favorite book. Books provide comfort in so many ways. But what exactly makes a book a “comfort book?” The truth is, it depends on the person and their current circumstances or mood. A comfort book could be something that allows you to escape into a new world for a little while or a book that makes you laugh. For some people, comfort books are novels that whisk them away into a fictional world, while others prefer to delve into a memoir for real-life inspiration. If you are unsure of what book to grab for your next comfort read or today’s National Read a Book Day, consider a few of these options.
Re-reading an old favorite is a great place to start. Since you have already read the book, you’ll be familiar with the characters and the plot, and familiarity is always a good thing to look for when you are in need of comfort. Re-reading also gives you a chance to experience the book in a new way, and makes it possible for a book that you didn’t previously consider a “comfort book” to become one. This BBC article points out that there is actually a science behind the comfort of re-reading:
“Scientists have weighed in, too, citing the mental health benefits of re-reading. Research conducted with readers in the US and New Zealand found that on our first reading, we are preoccupied by the ‘what?’ and the ‘why?’. Second time round, we’re able to better savour the emotions that the plot continues to ignite. As researcher Cristel Russell of the American University explained of re-readers in an article published in the Journal of Consumer Research, returning to a book “brings new or renewed appreciation of both the object of consumption and their self.””
Allow yourself to get reacquainted with characters you love or a page-turner you tore through the first time. Try re-reading a series like Harry Potter or revisiting a classic such as Little Women. You can even head back to your childhood with favorites such as A Wrinkle in Time or Matilda.
Inspirational nonfiction books
Inspirational reads make great comfort books. Many people find that reading nonfiction helps them take a step back from their own life to see the world through someone else’s experiences and struggles. Stories of overcoming obstacles and survival could give you a new perspective on your current struggles. Self-help books and stories of big life changes can bring you a sense of calm and motivate you to improve your own life. Inspirational books become comfort books when the reader finds a story they need to hear.
Emotional rollercoaster fiction
Books that focus on tragedy, stressful situations, or dark topics may not seem like obvious choices for comfort books, but for many people, the gritty, dark stories are exactly what they need, especially when the books are fictional. Author Kameron Hurley discussed why when she feels overwhelmed by real-life problems, she turns to fictional books full of stressful, anxiety-inducing issues,
“But a fictional problem?
Somebody else is dealing with that. You’re just along for the ride.
It means you get to spend the whole ride actually feeling things, instead of buttoning it all back up so you can live.”
She goes onto say,
“Reading tragedies, I realized, connecting with characters who persevered in the face of grim odds, and certain ends – were actually comfort reading for me. They put me into high-stress situations with no personal stakes, so I could actually feel the fear and discomfort and rage and horror without having any skin in the game.”
Many people feel the same way as Hurley. For many, knowing that the book is fictional and will have to have some form of resolve is incredibly comforting. Escaping through a fictional tragedy can bring a strong sense of comfort and calm.
Find your comfort books
There is no set definition for a comfort book. It is simply a book that works for you at a particular time when you read it. When on the hunt for a good comfort read, consider what you want to get out of the book and what sort of story might be helpful for you in the moment. Let yourself get lost in a great book today and celebrate this wonderful holiday!