Friday, 11 June 2010

Comfort reading?

I had an interesting response to my "My reading taste in a picture" post last week.

David Nolan quoted from my post and commented:

" "I like to be reassured and comforted and find the familiar in my reading."
- Some overly intellectual types might sneer at that - I think it's brilliant. "

This made me think quite hard about my reading and my blogging. I have never had any shame in the fact that I read chick lit and children's books, and reread children's books as much as I read the latest literary fiction and the occasional classic fiction. However, it wasn't something that I necessarily spelt out on my blog. Maybe from shyness, maybe also because I felt that these things didn't merit writing about so much or wouldn't interest people (although, I read a number of blogs which do fantastic reviews of the latest chick lit) - I think I have mentioned chick lit just the once here. Then my blog got a little bit overtaken by writing reviews of the books that I had recieved for review, and recently I've been trying to redress the balance somewhat by focussing it more on *me*. Narcissistic possibly, but I'd rather that the blog was a reflection of the things that are most important to me. Also once I started posting lists of the books read each month there is no escaping from the fact that part of the reason I manage to read so much is that quite a large proportion of my reading is re-reading of children's books.

Anyway, as I've mentioned previously, the last few weeks have been fairly stressful and I have been taking comfort in quite a bit of rereading of children's books. Over the last year I have also been collecting more of the children's books which I enjoyed as a child; it's nice to have them available on my shelves should I feel for the need for something reassuring and easy and which I know I will definitely enjoy. I think the key is that they provide escapism into a safe environment.

So to redress the balance and substantiate the statement that David highlighted I thought I'd share pictures of a few of the series that I have recently been building up, from different genres of children's books (important I feel to have a variety), and have on my shelves for such moments.

One of the worst decisions I made as a teenager was to SELL my Enid Blytons. I didn't get very much money for them and I didn't even have a particularly good collection, mainly second hand ones acquired at jumble sales etc. But I have started to buy the odd favourite when I see them, and am particularly looking out for the Famous Five books.
I've already mentioned The babysitters club on the blog - it's a current pleasure to read my way through such undemanding books.

A colleague recently mentioned that she liked horsey books which reminded me of Ruby Ferguson's Jill books. I had several, but have gone on to acquire most of the series (all bar the first one!).

Earlier in the year I started collecting Lorna Hill's ballet books and these are also wonderful comfort reads.

There are many other books that I like to revisit for comfort reading - this list is by no means exclusive. I wonder if other readers have favourite series that they like to turn to for reassurance.


  1. I sold all of my Enid Blyton books too! Big regret of mine!

  2. I've had to let go of so many books over the years due to moving around in England and abroad. Most of my childhood favourites went to children and my grandchildren, but I've still got quite a few of my mother's, including a set of Anne of Green Gables - L.M. Montgomery. This series is my 'comfort' read.
    It's fun looking out for older editions of children's classics in second-hand book places.

  3. I read a lot of picture books to my two boys, but don't re-read the childrens' books that I loved as a child. This is due to the fact that I am scared I won't love them as much now and I don't want to ruin those precious memories. I should perhaps give it a try one day. Perhaps starting with a book I haven't read before.

  4. Hi verity - this is a lovely piece and you have raised an interesting point about comfort reading. I have not read children's books since I was a child and maybe I shoudl start - but my real comfort cake book wise are murder mysteries and inparticular old classics like Agatha Christie - I know who did it but I still love to relax with them...

  5. Not a series, but my all time guaranteed comfort read is Elizabeth Goudge's "The Little White Horse". I've read it so many times I could probably recite it from memory :)

  6. My mother could always tell when my sister and I were worried - we would re-read 'Swish of the Curtain'. As an adult? I think I comfort read magazines or Miss Pettigrew. Good post.

  7. How pleasing to have been a source of inspiration!

    Personally I wasn't a great fan of books written for children when I was a child. I didn't really become a literary addict until I started my English A levels. For me, therefore, the series that I return to for comfort reading are books written for adults, albeit with significant elements of almost childlike cosiness, in particular Alexander McCall Smith's Scotland Street and Sunday Philosophy Club serials.

  8. I recently picked up the Flambards books by K.M. Peyton, which were a joy to me as a child. I have also started to collect the Green Knowe books too.

  9. Lots of wonderful responses to my post - thank you!

    Dot - I'm relieved to know I'm not the only one. Hope you got more money for yours than I did for mine.

    Linda - it sounds like your books at least went to a good home and you might be able to borrow them back if you needed to!

    Jackie - maybe when your boys are older you will read some of your favourite children's books with then? It might be less disappointing potentially if you see them through their eyes?

    Hannah - I'd be interested to know what it felt like rereading a children's book for the first time as an adult.

    Alison - of course, it had to be a horse book!

    Joan - I am a big fan of Pamela Brown too - did you ever read any of the sequels?

    David - interesting to hear about a different experience - I suppose it was because I read so much as a child that I find children's books so comforting now.

    Vivienne - I love KM Peyton and have quite a lot of her books - should have another look at those too I think.

  10. My parents weren't readers so the books which I gobbled up voraciously were on loan and had to go back. But the sight of any Judy Blume at the checkout counter at work reminds me of bubble gum! I must have spent many happy hours flipping pages and blowing bubbles.

  11. I think comfort reading is an essential part of our reading experience and I support your plans to redress the balance on your blog. Ultimately our blogs are about us and our reading and shouldn't be dictated by books that we feel bound to review.

    Losing the majority of my childhood books when my family moved house meant that I only have a few that I actually read remaining but I have replaced some and have built up a small collection (I have a children's lit shelf); I would love to replace them all some day -including the Famous Five and Sadlers Wells series- but space is limited.

  12. I always turn to the Provincial Lady books for comfort - they always work!

  13. I feel this! Whenever I'm away from my home, the worst thing is being far away from all my comfort books, like Edward Eager and Noel Streatfeild. I have loads of books from when I was a little girl, and I reread them allll the time.

  14. I think the series factor has to be important in comfort reading of children's books because the characters seem like old friends. So for me it has to be the Chalet School books especially the early ones.

  15. I really like this post, and envy your copy of Island of Adventure, I loved that book. Georgette Heyer is my ultimate comfort reading, she's seen me through 24 years of ups and downs and I can't imagine not turning to her for a bit of good old fashioned romance when I want cheering up.

  16. My comfort reading is almost always Enid Blyton (normally the Malory Towers' series). I also love The Naughtiest Girl (love Elizabeth), Famous Five (Five Fall Into Adventure and Five Run Away Together being my favourites), The Secret Series (Spiggy Hole, Killimooin, Moon Castle etc) and the Adventure Series (with Ship of Adventure kicking of a life-long obsession with collecting ships in bottles). Oh, and I almost forgot the Mystery Series with Snubby and Barney! My mother wanted to sell my Enid Blytons when I was about fifteen, but I just flat out refused to let her do so. Said it's the only thing that's a constant in my life. Still agree with that sentiment.

    So we've established that I'm almost addicted to Blyton's writing. I also do enjoy Roald Dahl's children's books when I want to lose myself in a feel-good story.

    And I must admit, I've been known to seek out the odd Nancy Drew casefile, every now and again as well...

    Boy, this post/comment's been a trip down memory lane. :))

  17. Why we read and what we read is such an interesting topic Verity and David Nolan. I would like to give three huge cheers for comfort reading - this mode of reading has been a refuge for me in my new rollercoaster journey of Motherhood and I feel quite...weary shall we say, when coming across proselytising and politicising about what we should read. The joy of a hobby/passion is to entirely indulge ourselves.

  18. Why not read for comfort? We eat and sleep and dress for comfort, our books from time-to-time should be comforting as well. I am an avid reader, but those who know me know that if they give me a children's book they will be a friend forever.

    We had a hard winter here in the midwestern states and out came Laura Ingalls Wilder's The Long Winter from what is known here as the Little House books. I suggest them to all as a wonderful children's series and a portrait in words of the settling of the prairie.

    You may enjoy the Boxcar Children series and for the male readers Gary Paulson tells tales of dogsledding and being stranded and building monuments in a way no other author does - especially for young boys.

    Of course, Louisa May Alcott and Little Women and all they rest. I have read Little Women over and over again at different stages in my life and it brings joy and meaning each time.

    Judy Blume always cheers me up and A Tale of a Fourth Grade Nothing is a must for anyone who keeps a diary - or a blog - even though it is meant for children.

    I'm new to your post and enjoy it so very much. The books and the cooking and this provocative post. Thank you.

  19. Even more wonderful responses here - I'm going to write a follow up post to it next week to share your ideas.

  20. I'm looking forward to reading your follow-up post. Personally, I'd love to read any kind of reviews about the childrens books you read. I recently discovered and went a bit bonkers reading Angela Brazil, and after a twitter frenzy with some of my UK-based friends, I've now become obsessed with Antonia Forest, Enid Blyton, Lorna Hill's Sadler Wells books, and anything published by Girls Gone By. For an American like me, it's a treasure trove of incredible books to discover, some of which are really hard to get ahold of on this side of the Atlantic, so it would be brilliant to read your reviews.

  21. When I was younger, I did re-read the early Anne books in L.M. Montgomery's series, beginning with Anne of Green Gables, whenever I was having a stressful time. But more often than not, my favourite re-reads were standalone novels (e.g. LMM's Jane of Lantern Hill and Magic for Marigold, Enid Blyton's The Secret Island and The Children of Willow Farm, Noel Streatfeild's Ballet Shoes). I re-read a lot of them earlier this year as part of the Shelf Discovery Reading Challenge (Lizzie Skurnick's book is great fun) and enjoyed it thoroughly.

  22. Children's books are perfect comfort reading! I haven't got any of my childhood favourites left - various house moves and lack of space prevented me from keeping them, but I am enjoying re-purchasing many of my favourites in lovely old editions now I'm older! I very much enjoyed old fashioned books as a child - Victorian classics like The Secret Garden, A Little Princess, The Railway Children, Five Children and It, Peter Pan, traditional fairy tales, etc, and then slightly less old stuff such as The Children from One End Street, Enid Blyton, particularly The Magic Faraway Tree series and The Famous Five, Swallows and Amazons - oh, so many marvellous books! I read them to escape from the boredom of growing up in a London suburb - I longed to spend my summers roaming the countryside and going sailing and having picnics - the nearest I got to that was going to the local park and it wasn't nearly as adventurous or romantic for my liking! As an adult I love the comfort of revisiting familiar stories, and also the certainty of knowing everything will be alright in the end. Sometimes you just need to read something that wraps you up like a warm blanket of comfort and reassurance!

  23. Hmm... my comfort reads are somewhat varied. I love my Harry Potter books, but I also enjoy a good, cheesy mystery novel, with titles like "Last Breath" and such.

  24. I also gave away most of my books because we moved around so much, but I've kept a few behind such as the Anne of Green Gables series, Little Lord Fauntleroy, Ballet Shoes, Wolves of Willoughby Chase and loads of Japanese manga which I always go back too when I need a bit of comforting. And Terry Pratchett!

    I've also still got some Ladybird books such as The Lives of the Artists and Great Composers which I used to read obsessively. My only regret is giving away my Ladybird copy of Cinderella which had some beautiful illustrations (1970s edition, I think).


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