Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Comfort Reads

We all have them--those books we can't live without. The ones we reach for when we've had a rough day, and we don't have the energy to take a chance on something new.

These are the books that we would grab first if the ship was going down, with water reaching the bottom edge of our hammocks. We'd use these books to keep us afloat in the ocean while waiting for the Coast Guard hunks to rescue us.

What is it that provides such comfort? After all, these are books we've read so many times already we practically have them memorized. But just try to remove them from the keeper vault, and you'll have a wild-eyed woman threatening to pin you to the deck with an ice pick.

There's familiarity with these stories, but the kind that breeds content, not contempt. They also represent what we value the most in characters. They reflect our goals and aspirations, as well as our hopes and dreams. They may have even inspired us to write, or consoled us when we felt like writing was beyond our reach.

I've mentioned some of my comfort reads before, so there aren't any surprises here. I just thought it might be fun to see what everyone else has, as well as the reasons for including them on their own personal "Til Death Us Do Part" list.

  1. Beauvallet by Georgette Heyer – He's a pirate, which of course endears him to me. But I've loved this character, and this story, for a zillion years. I've got several copies of it around, and I can re-read it at least once a year and still be surprised by something I'd forgotten. He's witty, and charming, and adores the heroine in ways that make me wish for such a devoted swain. This book makes me smile just thinking of how much enjoyment it's brought me throughout the years.

  2. Heaven, Texas by Susan Elizabeth Phillips – It's hard to limit myself to just one SEP, and if I had to strike a bargain with the devil, before he swept all my keepers into hellfire, I would try to persuade him that I needed her entire oeuvre to sustain me. But I always come back to this one. I love Bobby Tom. I've loved him several times, and I know there's still plenty of loving him in the future.  

  3. Gone Too Far by Suzanne Brockmann – Again, the devil and I would have to go through some arbitration on this one, but I'm confident I could get the whole Troubleshooters series included, since my boy Sam Starrett DOES appear in every book of the series. I guess I can't help myself when it comes to Texas boys (guess those two years I grew up there left more of an impact than I realized). He loves hard, he learns his lessons (eventually), he's freakin' hot when he rescues people, and his devotion to doing the right thing even though it breaks his heart—well, I can't get enough of him or his story. I should probably laminate the pages of the book before they have a chance to fall apart. Or maybe now I'll finally have a great excuse to get an e-reader. . .

So it's your turn. What are your comfort reads? What is it about them that comforts you, and brings you to back to read and re-read and re-read? Do you find any of these themes showing up in the stories you write?



2nd Chance said...

I re-read to little anymore! I do have authors and genres I go back to for a comfort read. With mysteries, anything that offers tidbit information. Scrapbooking, herbal lore, fashion, teashops, coffee shops...I've read mysteries featuring fishing, bookbinding, gardening, cooking, the renfaire...

But specific books? Uh...Well, if I need a real offbeat hero story, I might pick up the Vorkosigan saga by Lois McMaster Bujold. It's about losing myself in a clever hero who looks nothing like modern concepts of a hero...

Man, I got to thinks about this... I mean, for me it's always been things like re-reading Sherlock Holmes or Robin Hood...

Elizabeth Arthur wrote a wondrous book called Binding Spell years ago that I used to read at least once a year for the everyday magical prose...


Quantum said...

I think that you can learn a lot about people from the books they read. Same is true of music.

I often listen to 'Desert Island disks' on the radio where a celebrity is interviewed about his life loves and likes and reveals the eleven records that he would take with him when cast away on a desert island.

I think discussing the eleven books he would take could be even more revealing.

I rarely re-read books as there are so many fabulous titles still waiting for me. Like Chance though, I do have favourite authors that I would grab as the boat goes down. Kleypas, Ballogh, Carr ....

This is probably not playing the game but one of my favourite after dinner excesses is to sit in a favourite arm chair with a favourite scotch or brandy and re-read one of my own works ..... the supreme form of indulgence!

Donna, If you ever get cast away on a desert island I would love to come as well and help read your favourite books .... especially if you take one of yours! *smile*

Donna said...

Chance, I don't re-read much anymore either. I'm lucky to have time to read something new. :) When I have done some re-reading, it's been for my Heroes and Heartbreakers blog posts--and it made me think of the books I would always want to read again, even though I know all the details. (Of course, *remembering* them is the new challenge. LOL I'll probably have to do a lot more re-reading in the future!)

I have some agency-mates with new cozy mysteries like you describe--one is just out, and two are coming out soon--I can give you the details in case you need to add those to your "comfort list".

I liked your list -- it has that adventurous, otherwordly aspect that I associate with your stories. :)

Donna said...

Q, I agree that you can tell a lot about a person by their favorite books, and music. I've also learned a lot about different music because it was a person's favorite.

The other day a song came on the radio and I thought, "That is one of my top 5 songs". Now I have to think if I could come up with 11 records (or CDs, or downloads, or whatever the crazy kids are calling it these days. LOL)

I have boxes of books that I consider keepers, and some of them are so old, they're out of print, or they're likely to become available in e-books soon. And when I look at the covers, I remember so much of the story, I probably don't need to keep the books anymore. But I think I'm holding on to them as some sort of talisman. LOL

And I love re-reading my own work! It's a wonderful treat. We spend so much time being critical of our work, and our efforts, that we forget it can be magical too. After all, we fell in love with these characters for a reason, and it's nice to revisit them.

If I'm ever cast away on a desert island, I'll definitely have ALL my books with me. . .on CD, DVD, geek stick, external hard drive. . .maybe even hard copy. LOL So I'll be happy to share! I may even have to write some new ones, so we don't get tired of re-reading the ones I've got. LOL

hal said...

Awesome choices, Donna!

Let's see:

1. It Had to be You - SEP

2. When He Was Wicked - Julia Quinn

3. McKettrick's Heart - Linda Lael Miller

Now what's really fascinating is that I've read each of these books over and over again. At least five times, start to finish, each. Yet for two of them, I had to google the character names to find the title. I could recite whole sections of each book, but couldn't remember the freakin title. How funny is that?

Anyway, I still bawl my eyes out in every one of these, no matter how many times I've read it. They're chalk full of angst. They're also all stories of redemption. #1 and #2 are stories where something tragic and terrible happened, and the protag had to come to terms with it and find their own redemption and worth. #3, Molly made a terrible choice, and had to find her own redemption and forgiveness for that.

Hmmmm......guess it's not surprising that I write books that are angst-filled stories of redemption, huh? lol

I also find it interesting that each of the books I listed has flaws, and some of them major. I don't care. They do nothing to detract from the *story*, and they are stories that I could read over and over again, that do warm and wonderful things to my heart (after I mop up my tears, of course!)

Donna said...

Hal, I can NEVER remember character names. Maybe once in a thousand reads, and it's always a fluke. LOL Everyone else refers to a character by name, and I have to stop them and have them tell me the STORY, so I can figure it out. LOL

And titles. . .well, there's a lot more of them to remember, so it's no wonder we can't remember those!

It wasn't until I was done writing this post that I realized how our comfort reads might reflect what we write. (I don't figure out a lot of stuff until I write it down. LOL) Maybe this will help us when we get stuck in our WIPs? Going to the comfort reads for inspiration?

I love love LOVE your last point -- about the books having flaws but they're still great reads. YES! This needs to be said more often. I think writers have been beaten over the head to come up with a perfect story and are inadvertently taking out all the good juicy emotional stuff that captivates us. I want the emotional experience, and that is what I'm going to remember when the book is done--and will move the book to the "keeper vault".

Hellion said...

Wonderful blog, Donna!!

Okay, technically speaking, the entire set of Harry Potter is on my list. If I had to pick just one, it's be the Deathly Hallows one. Why? Death, love, and friendship are constant themes; and I love how Rowling addresses each of them.

I'd have to take one of Teresa Medeiros' books: I believe Whisper of Roses. The hero is Scottish, and he's so fine. And the theme of what love really is, if we're really worthy, is there ever anything that would make you stop loving someone--I think that's addressed nicely in this book. Morgan is quite the hero.

I'd try to negotiate for Sophie Kinsella's books--esp Undomesticated Goddess. I'm not sure what the theme is. I'm usually laughing too hard to really think about it. Maybe it's that life is too short to be that miserable in your job; and you can do anything you put your mind to.

Marnee Bailey said...

Oh, there are many. And the older I get, the more there are.

Lover Awakened by JR Ward. This story, for me, is the epitome of a tortured hero and has a heroine who does a lot of saving. And Ward is at her best here. I'd say the other Ward on this list is Lover Eternal.

The entire HP series. I won't give up even one of them. Ok, maybe the first if I had to choose. But I'd rather keep them all.

Sweet Liar by Jude Deveraux. And A Knight in Shining Armor. And pretty much all her historicals.

Oh, the Gift by Julie Garwood.

There are more. I can keep going if you'd like....

Hellion said...

I'm going to sit in Marnee's corner. She's got a great book selection. *LOL* We have the same keepers. *LOL*

And I love The Gift. Nathan is such a hero. *sighs*

Donna said...

Hellion, I haven't read the HP series--YET. I will, one day. So I'm not sure which book in the series that one is.

I have many Teresa Medeiros books in my keeper vault, because I enjoyed them thoroughly when I read them. I have to admit, though, I can't remember the details of the stories anymore. LOL I just know that I loved them and won't part with them. I need to do some re-reading. (Wish I could accomplish that in the hours when I'm sleeping, so I'd have a chance to get it all done!)

You've mentioned the Sophie Kinsella books before, and I seriously need to read them. I love anything that makes me laugh, so I know these are a necessity. :)

hal said...

Ohhh, Lover Awakened. There's another one I'd have to add to my list. I've read that several times too. Ahh, the angst!

Donna said...

Marn, I've just started the BDB series, and I love it. I've finished the first two books, and so far the second is my favorite. Not that I can remember the title! *runs to do a Google search* Okay, it's LOVER ETERNAL, and it looks like the next one is your other fave. Now I can't wait.

I remember reading A KNIGHT IN SHINING ARMOR a billion years ago, and I loved it so much, but I haven't re-read it -- maybe because it's still so strong in my mind? And I'm not sure if it can compete with my memory of it? Who knows. LOL I think I'll just be brave and re-read it.

I also have Julie Garwood's books in the keeper section. I re-read one last year and it didn't hold up as well, but I still kept it. LOL

Donna said...

Looks like we're gonna have to build a bigger ship, and that's just for all the keepers Marn is suggesting! LOL

Or we can just toss some of these rum casks overboard.


Janga said...

I do reread constantly--often a complete book but sometimes particular passages. For me, a keeper is a book I expect to reread, and I have a couple of thousand keepers. LOL I've had some of them since I was a child. Except for those added within the past year, I've reread them all at least once.

Mary Balogh, Jo Beverley, Loretta Chase, Anne Gracie, Eloisa James, Carla Kelly, Julie Anne Long, and Mary Jo Putney are all comfort authors for me. I'd be hard pressed to choose just one from their books. The same holds true for Marsha Moyer, SEP, Nora Roberts, and Kathleen Gilles Seidel. And I'd have to have Austen and Heyer on any desert island.

I agree with Hellie on the Harry Potter books. I want them all, but if forced to choose one, I'd take the last one.

There are mystery writers whose books I'd need too: Nancy Atherton, Julia Spencer-Fleming, Margaret Maron.

And I'd need a Bible, of course, and the poems of Emily Dickinson and John Donne and Shakespeare's plays and sonnets.

I'd probably need a ship of my own to get all my must-have books to that island.

Donna said...

Janga, I hadn't thought about re-reading PARTS of a keeper. That's a great idea. I wonder if it would be like when I'm trying to organize stuff though -- I get sucked in and start reading, and forget what the original task was!

And forget having your own ship. You need your own ISLAND. LOL But we're all coming over to visit. You've got some great books on that list of yours. :)

hal said...


*Hal struggling to get both of Donna's wrists into zip-tie cuffs*

She's stealing the rum, girls!

Hellion said...

I'd have to bring some Jill Barnett books with me too. I forgot. Sorry. *LOL* I wasn't thinking. *LOL*

But then I remembered the scene about the heroine who wants to brew beer...and one of the batches she makes makes all the drinkers rhyme.

hal said...

I've tried to re-read passages of a favorite. There's one particularly emotional seen in McKettrick's Heart where the hero comes to the conclusion that he's going to have to marry the heroine, but doesn't say that - you see it in his sigh, hear it in his tone. It was awesome. So once, I thought "I'm going to look at that scene and see how LLM accomplished that."

Yeah, five hours later, guess who had read the whole book again?

Donna said...

Hellion, that's okay -- I figured the lists were going to be rather flexible. LOL That's the great part about a virtual ship. It can expand to fit our imaginations. :)

Donna said...

*Hal struggling to get both of Donna’s wrists into zip-tie cuffs*

Hey! I'm not that kind of girl!

And the casks were empty, waiting for Chance to take them back for a refill. Or a refund. One of those ref words. LOL

I think I'll have to set aside a good chunk of time for re-reading a "passage" of a book. Since it's clear there will be passage of time happening!

Bosun said...

Don't worry about the rum. Kracky will throw the barrels back on ship. Chance has trained him well.

This is the conversation in which I cannot partake. *sigh* I'm not a re-reader. Never have been. Which is silly because I've been a book hoarder for years. "Why do I keep them?" you ask. Because I love them!!

The way I see it, since most of the details have already oozed from my memory banks, my retirement years are going to be filled with reading these books again...for the first time. Island or no island, I shall be content.

But y'all are creating some great lists here. This island is going to have the BEST LIBRARY EVER!

Donna said...

Terri, you are so right about the RWR Island Library. We may have to set up some kind of system, though, since we may all want to re-read some of the books at the same time.


What if we have the Hotties re-enact some of the books for us? That ought to help keep things organized. :) Or disorganized. Both. Neither. LOL

I'm with you about keeping books I may never re-read. I can't even bear to think about not having the chance to read them if I decided I wanted to!

Bosun said...

I still have my McNaughts and Woodiwisses from the late 80s. Those books got me through those angsty teenage years. How could I part with them?! (Though they are totally falling apart. Could never reread them in this condition...)

Donna said...

I have my McNaughts, and I think they're in decent shape so far. LOL I read Woodiwiss, but never elevated the books to keeper status. Not sure why.

Do you have them in e-book format now?

Bosun said...

I don't have anything old in e-format. Not even sure that's an option yet. But then I have a few years before retirement for those to be reissued in the digital format.


2nd Chance said...

Krakey will save the rum, or collect the empties fer me ta recycle...

Lords, I read what ya have all read and think...I don't read at'all! Course I do, just not the same stuff!

Me sis, Last Chance, she reads the entire Lord of the Rings several times a year... I used ta do that. I likes ta read some a' the classic scifi now and then... Authors, not titles. Clifford D. Simak, AE VanVogt, Arthur Clark... Or Ray Bradbury... But fer me, it's mysteries or adventures.

Could be why me romantic writin' struggles ta keep up wit' me adventure writin'...

Great blog, crew... I gots me a day off and will check in now and then!

Irisheyes said...

I do more of what you would call a series re-read. Most of my keepers are from series and once I start one book I want to read the rest.

I would never be able to pick just 3. I would and then I'd be re-posting all day adding others! LOL

You and Hal have one of my tops, though, Donna.

SEP - It Had to Be You, Heaven Texas, This Heart of Mine and Match Me If You Can
Balogh - the Slightly Series; Dark Angel & Lord Carew
Kleypas - Then Came You, Dreaming of You; The Wallflowers
Jo Beverley - An Arranged Marriage, An Unwilling Bride, Christmas Angel, Forbidden
Robyn Carr - Virgin River, Shelter Mountain, Whispering Rock
Julia Quinn - the first 4 Bridgerton books
Nora Roberts - the Born In Trilogy; The Gallaghers of Ardmore Trilogy

I read The Admiral's Bride by Brockmann, Donna, and lent it to my sister. She liked it and is now 80% through the Troubleshooters series. She really likes her. I liked TAB and want to dive in too. Excited to have a new author to glom.

Donna said...

Chance, I don't read all of the same things everyone else does either. Although I haven't read any of your faves. LOL Heck, I only recognize a couple of the names!

But we're bound to have different faves when it comes to reading and writing. And it makes it easier to handle RWR Island Library requests. LOL

I've got to run a few errands, so I'll be back later.

Nancy Northcott said...

Donna, a great question! It's so hard to pick. Especially if I'm limited to what I can carry in an emergency. Hmm.

To simplify the choice, I'll limit

Well, The Lord of the Rings (J. R. R. Tolkien), definitely.
To the Hilt, by Dick Francis
Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers
Frederica by Georgette Heyer
The Conqueror by Heyer
To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
Candle in the Window by Christina Dodd
The Chesapeake Trilogy by Nora Roberts
Denim and Lace by Patricia Rice

I think those would all fit in my backpack.

Donna said...

*tackles IrishEyes and gives her a big squishy hug*

I'm so glad to have a Brockmann fan here. Finally! Although, I haven't read The Admiral's Bride yet. I've read a few of the others in the Tall, Dark series, which were Silhouette books, and then she did the Troubleshooters as standalone single titles. I'm glad you got your sister hooked too. :)

And I didn't really say you had to limit it to 3. Because I figured, being pirates, we would make that number be whatever we wanted it to be. LOL Great selections on your list there!

Donna said...

Nancy, it IS a tough choice, isn't it? I can see that's where e-readers would come in handy, because you don't have to limit your choices. But it may be next to impossible to actually READ everything stored on there. LOL

You have a nice blend of mystery and fantasy and romance and classics. That way you can't get tired of any one genre. Great idea. :)

Nancy Northcott said...

Donna, so true about e-readers! I have some comfort reads on my iPad. Lots more will fit there than in a backpack. Unfortunately, the iPad, like all e-readers, needs periodic recharges, so it wouldn't work for long on a desert island.

Glad you like my genre blend. I read pretty much every genre except horror.

Nancy Northcott said...

2nd Chance, I just noticed your comment about the Vorkosigans. I LOVE those books! A highlight of Dragon*Con last year, for me, was getting to meet Lois McMaster Bujold.

I discovered Bujold because I forgot to send the "no, thanks" form back to the Science Fiction Book Club and so received a combined edition of Shards of Honor and Warrior's Apprentice. Geez, talk about getting sucked in with the force of a black hole (only way more fun)!

Have you read Cryoburn?

P. Kirby said...

"There’s familiarity with these stories, but the kind that breeds content, not contempt." <= Love this. Perfect.

Since I'm at work, I'm sure I'll forget some of my darlings....

War for the Oaks, Emma Bull- My favorite romance (that technically isn't romance.)
Wheel of Dreams, Salinda Tyson- 'nother fave (not)romance and a recent rediscovery.
Harry Potter series- Prisoner of Azkaban being my fave.
Memory, Sorrow, Thorn, Tad Williams- epic fantasy with an overarching romance/coming of age theme.
Dramacon (1-3), Svetlana Chmakova- Totally twee, love it anyway.
Fables, Bill Willingham, et al- Snow White, Bigby Wolf, et al., exiles in New York
Outlander, Diana Gabaldon- Just the first book. Never got to reading the rest.
The Iron Dragon's Daughter, Michael Swanwick- Utterly miserable tale, don't know why I love this one.
The Hunger Games trilogy, Suzanne Collins- proving my comfort reads aren't always comfortable.

I rarely reread a book all the way through. Instead, I just pick up a favorite and start reading a random page. The experience is like visiting an old friend. Quite often, it's muse fuel.

Nancy Northcott said...

p. kirby, War for the Oaks is great! It has been on my keeper shelf for years now.

Scapegoat said...

ACK - accidently closed the window while I was writing. Here's the short version of what I wrote before...

Getting Over It & Running In Heels by Anna Maxted - Read these both more times than I can count.

Hot Dish by Connie Brockway - Not sure why I insanely love this book.

Married by Morning by Lisa Kleypas- Sigh. I love this book.

Start Me Up by Victoria Dahl - If ever there was a book I connected with completely this is it for me.

I'm sure there are a million more but I'll keep it short. :)

Scapegoat said...

A non-romance book I adore and have read a million times is The Alienist by Caleb Carr. So not a romance - very dark and yet amazingly written and a wonderful story/characters.

Donna said...

Nancy, you're right about the recharging of the e-reader. I guess since we're fantasizing, we might as well dream up an e-reader that doesn't need any electricity or batteries! LOL I don't read horror either. Life is scary enough without it. :(

Jeanette Grey said...

My re-reads are angsty romance stories that end well. There's something strangely comforting to me about seeing all that pain and knowing they're going to get through it somehow.

Donna said...

P. Kirby, I had to laugh at "sometimes my comfort reads aren't comfortable". That's true. But there's something that keeps us coming back to experience it again.

And I definitely love "muse fuel". I have a theory that you need to refill the words that you spilled out via the writing wordcount, so reading things that you love is the best way of doing that.

Donna said...

Scape, I've done that before, closing the window so I could look at something else. Ack! Hate when that happens.

I've only read HOT DISH once, but it cracked me up! Everybody kept messing things up for everybody else with that dang butter head. LOL

I didn't finish START ME UP, but I loved TALK ME DOWN. I may have to give it another try. Maybe I wasn't in the right mood or something. :)

Donna said...

Jeanette, I can only handle the angst if I know from the beginning that it's going to end well. Otherwise I'd be crying more than the characters. LOL

Plus I like to see how the author gets them out of that black pit of despair when it looks like there is no way out. I usually get so caught up in the emotion I forget to see what they did. LOL

Scapegoat said...

wow - typos ahoy! I'm sure you get the gist of what I meant though.

Scapegoat said...

Donna - most like Talk me Down more. I have to admit that the heroine in Start Me Up could have been a carbon copy of my life. That's why it connects with me so much.

I had that map on my wall with all the places I wanted to travel to (still do!). I have to leave college to take care of sick parents (you later passed away, but I did go back to college), etc. etc. So many personal parts of my life are right there on the page it's scary. But so comforting. :)

Donna said...

Scape, I can definitely see why you connected with the heroine so much, and it would definitely be comforting to see that story played out. I don't remember connecting with the HERO very much, but maybe I didn't give him enough of a chance. I'll give him a second try. :)

2nd Chance said...

Nancy...I've only read the Vorkosigan stuff. But LMB is on list of books to get to. Love to FINALLY have some one on board who won't look at me funny when I mention the authors I read!

Come back and visit...OFTEN! ;-)

2nd Chance said...

BTW, the world I created for the Kraken's Caribbean Trilogy...? I 'invented' a way for all our electrical devices to stay charged! Aren't I brilliant!?

Bosun said...

I never recognized 90% of the authors Chance mentions. But it'll be fun next weekend to get her and Nancy a booth at the bar and let them talk sci-fi for hours! LOL!

2nd Chance said...

OMG! A fellow scifi freak? At an RWA con? Whoohoo!

Enid Wilson said...

For me, of course, it's Pride and Prejudice. But I will shut up about P&P, for a minute.

Hmm, another comfort read I love is Acting on Impulse by Vicki Lewis Thompson. Hot and funny!

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