Life can be rough sometimes.
When I’m stressed, and I mean really, really stressed, I turn to books. Books that have been packed up and moved from apartment to apartment, and that are falling apart and have been mended with so much tape you can barely read the spine labels anymore. Books that I’ve read and reread so many times that I can recite passages from memory. Comfort books that help me escape from the stresses of the everyday and take me back to another time or a place.
I’m sure we all have books that have been there for us through thick and thin, and today I thought I’d share just a couple of my favourite comfort books (this is of course by no means an exhaustive list, and I might return to this topic again some other time).
When I was a child my parents would read to me stories about the river-boating Ratty, the tidy Mole and the hilarious Mr. Toad of Toad Hall. My parents are both originally from England, and so many of the stories they shared with me as a child were also English. There was always something so peaceful, so restful about the English countryside and riverbanks Grahame depicted, and my own copy is illustrated by the incomparable E. H. Shepard, who might be better known for his original illustration of Winnie the Pooh.
As an awkward, debilitating shy, nerdy teenager with terrible acne, high school wasn’t a highlight of my life. I don’t remember how it happened, but somehow a battered paperback copy of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy entered my world, and changed it completely. When everything else in my melodramatic teenage life seemed miserable, this book actually made me laugh out loud. It was zany, it was mad, it was ludicrous, and I loved every last word of it (though I didn’t realize that a Ford Prefect was actually a car until I was an adult and someone explained the joke to me – it was as if he had named himself Ford Focus). All these and readings years later, it still makes me laugh.
Pretty much any novel by Terry Pratchett will help turn my frown upside down, but this one is a particular favourite. It’s actually the first Terry Pratchett novel I ever read, and it opened up a whole new world of reading possibilities. Reaper Man is one of Pratchett’s most bittersweet novels, and I’ll admit to shedding a few tears while reading this one (but in a good way!) Clever, exciting, hilarious, cutting, endearing and at times bittersweet, a Pratchett novel is almost always a good choice.
What do you think of my therapeutic books? What books do you turn to again and again in times of need?