True Confessions: Long-Term Love Affairs With Books

What are your comfort books?

I’m not asking you to list your all-time favorite books. I don’t want to know which books changed your view of the world or the people around you. (Well, I do, actually, but not right now.) I don’t care which books you consider “great” literature. BO-RING. I do not want you to tell me that if you were trapped on an island, the only book you’d need is the Bible, even if that’s true for you. And if you list Little Women, I will throw up, but, hey, that’s just me. If Louisa pots your plant, list her book, sister.

I want to know the titles of books you return to again and again over time—for whatever reason. Tell me your reading touchstones—not like Pat Conroy does in his book—but in a list format, so I can write them down and buy them.

When I speak to groups, I am almost always asked what I like to read. I always tell the truth, and I’m a startlingly eclectic reader. It always surprises people. I don’t know why. (Do I look boring?) I’m well educated, so I’ve read the classics, but I enjoy almost every genre if the writing is good. I’m a fast reader, and I need to read every single day to be happy. In fact, immersing myself in a book is my favorite way to beat the blues. I recommend this strategy to all of you. It works; it’s also cheap, quiet, portable, and doesn’t require participation by others.

Post your comfort list in “comments” to this blog post or on my Facebook fan page: Facebook.com/MelindaRaineyThompson.  If you’re really ashamed of them, email me. I want the unvarnished truth. I am curious about the stacks on your night table. I want the REAL list—not the books you feel compelled to read for whatever reason. I promise not to poke fun. Much. Read my list. I’m obviously sharing the unedited truth. No need to hide your titles on your Kindle home page!

I’ll go first: 

  1. Beach Music by Pat Conroy. Conroy is THE MAN for me for novels about the South. I think this is the best “brother” book I’ve ever read. I re-read it every couple of years. It’s my favorite Conroy novel.
  2. Nicholas and Alexandra by Robert K. Massie. Weird, huh? I was temporarily obsessed with the demise of the Russian royal family in high school. I still like to read about them. Massie taught a history class at Tulane while I was there. I also like books about genetics. We all have our little quirks. I’ll be nice about yours if you’re nice about mine. I have a friend whose IQ is off the charts, and her secret pleasure is reality television which gives me a migraine. Who am I to judge?
  3. Favorite mystery writer: Mike Stewart. Sins of the Brother, Dog Island, A Clean Kill. Mike writes about my part of the country, and his prose is sharp, clean, and powerful. I am in love with his hero, Tom McInnis, the perfect Southern man. I wish Mike would quit practicing law and write more books. We have plenty of lawyers. Just my opinion, of course, but I’m right.
  4. Favorite mystery series: The Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne series by Julia Spencer-Fleming. What can I say? I’m a good Episcopalian, and the heroine is an Episcopal priest.
  5. Best beach/bubble bath books: Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse novels. Fair warning: You have to love vampire lit. I do. So sue me. Add a bag of Reese’s peanut butter cups to that, and I’m one happy reader.
  6. A Discovery of Witches, by Deborah Harkness. Witches and vampires for smart people who love history. Written by a professor who managed to achieve commercial success without screwing up her tenure. Amazing.
  7. Sullivan’s Island by Dorothea Benton Frank. I’m a bit of a Frank groupie. She’s the author I’d most like to eat dinner with. I’ve signed in the same bookstores, and everybody loves her, as far as I can tell.
  8. Non-fiction: The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion. Depressing but worth it.
  9. Kiddie lit.: All the Harry Potter books and the Twilight series. Pure escapism and beautiful prose.

ImageNow: Tell the truth about what YOU love to read. I’m taking suggestions! And before you ask, let me just go ahead and confess: Yes, indeed, I read Fifty Shades of Grey—the entire trilogy, in fact, like every other woman in the United States and abroad. I read all three books in TWO DAYS. Oh, my. . . .

 

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13 Comments

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13 responses to “True Confessions: Long-Term Love Affairs With Books

  1. I never go back to books I’ve read, unless it’s one that was too difficult to understand the first time through… and that’s the opposite of t a “comfort book.”

    For me, “comfort books” are generally long anthology collections of short stories. Recently, I read the book “The Best American Noir of the Century” and am still working through the complete short stories of J. G. Ballard.

    Cool idea, thanks for sharing.

  2. I think your response is common with smart people–after all, there are only so many hours in the day, right? I’m not often content with SS collections, and I have a friend who writes those and calls me ugly names. I always want “more,” even when they’re perfect little gems. Each to his or her own, I say.

  3. Zen

    I like novels by Sophie Kinsella. They’re my book versions of comfort food, and I always feel relaxed and happy while reading them, if only because I know everything will turn out okay in the end.
    Harry Potter books, definitely, and I also like a book titled Things My Girlfriend and I Argued About by Mil Millington – it will definitely earn a laugh from you. There’s The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz, Terry Pratchett books, and hmmm…
    I recently bought a book titled The City of Dreaming Books by Walter Moers, and I have a feeling it’s going to become one of my favourites.

  4. Melinda – sorry to leave this comment here but I can’t seem to find another way to get in touch with you. I am interested in what your fee is to speak for a group. I am in Nashville, TN. Can you contact me? eboulware@ourcoop.com Thanks!

    • Great! I was actually worried about this new book–that maybe people without kids wouldn’t read it! Luckily, people seem to remember those days rather vividly! I have lots of “newly married” chapters in other books. Give one of them a try. How about “I Love You–Now Hush.” That has the male/female perspective. My friend writes the male view of a topic, say housekeeping, budgeting, fixing things, whatever . . .then I write the CORRECT version of the same topic. Ha!

  5. Anything Rick Bragg ever wrote. I also loved Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden and Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt, and Wally Lamb’s writing is incredible–The Hour I First Believed and I Know This Much is True–Oh, wow! I don’t consider these comfort books, because they are deep-down, sometimes uncomfortable looks into lives quite unlike my own, but they are all really good reads. Add Susan Howatch’s Wheel of Fortune and Sins of the Fathers and Penmarric. Then for a different kind of trip, Bill Bryson’s humor makes me laugh out loud, and I appreciate that in a writer.

  6. gapgrad

    Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot mysteries. I love Poirot. I am bitterly disappointed that I am have pretty much read my way through every Poirot mystery Christie ever wrote. To be honest, I’m just not quite sure about Miss Marple…
    Funny now that I think about it, but most of my comfort books are mysteries…the Cat Who series (weird; I don’t even LIKE cats…YOU PROMISED NOT TO JUDGE!)…Daniel Silva’s Gabriel Allon series…
    I also return, though, to Jane Eyre, Their Eyes Were Watching God, and The Help.
    PS Just found your blog and I love it! 🙂

    • No judging here! I think I’ve only ever read “Murder on the Orient Express.” I do love a Masterpiece television series based on some mysteries that sound like the Poirot series you mentioned. Will try one of those. I’ve only gotten into mysteries in the last few years, and now I love them. I love the series by Julia Spencer Fleming. Look forward to each one. Glad to have a new reader! You are four books behind–ha! I’m fairly new to blogging. It seems like “extra chapters” to me. I’m always working on a new book. Thanks for visiting!

  7. gapgrad

    PS what I meant to say is I found you via SITS 🙂

  8. Beach Music at the top of my list. Also Sullivan’s Island. I just prefer southern lit.msshe

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