Comfort Reading

Comfort reading is a very broad concept to me. I never realised this. Last year (I cannot believe it has been almost a year already!) when I was in Sweden, alone and homesick those first few weeks, I read YA book after YA book, until I became so fed up with them that I never bothered to review them all. Young Adults books can be real pleasures, but reading too many at a time can have them become predictable, especially if, like I did, you concentrate on only vampire-ish fiction.

After that, I became slightly obsessed with Jane Eyre. I guess that mood lasted. I cannot help but feel lately that all I wish to do is reread Jane Eyre. But this is the thing with blogging, it makes you keep track of your reading. And ever since I started writing about what I read, I want to keep doing that – even if I am rereading a book. But can I really reread Jane Eyre when it has been only eight months since I read it twice, or wait a minute, three times in a row?

Lately I am reading many many books at a time. This has several reasons: I listen to one while running, I am reading for the Feminist Classics project, I read on the couch at night but prefer my ereader in bed, etcetera. There is no clear pattern and there are few books that truly seem to engage me. Like Ana mentioned in a blog post of hers last week, if I read a book I really really like, I usually wait to long to write about it and I forget too much to actually make a proper post. I was never big on note-taking while reading and most of the time I simply remembered enough to write about the books, but now I feel like I may as well review the books I never got around to last year, since they are about as fresh in my mind.

Back to comfort reading. The only books that I feel are safe enough to explore at the moment – I often feel some books are too complicated, or perhaps too harsh and bitter and angry and sad – are those I at this moment consider my true comfort reads: Books in line of Henrietta’s War (Bloomsbury Group books), or Virago Modern Classics (Elizabeth and her German Garden was simply wonderful), or Persephone’s or well.. you’ll understand what I mean. They are gentle. I think gentle is the perfect word for them. They do contain problems, bitterness even, but the characters are often so easy to feel compassionate with, to identify with, and their settings never get cruel in a black-and-white thriller & horror movie manner.

Oh, and anything Jane Austen related. Rewrites if they are good enough, books about her life and work. But the problem with Jane Austen’s original works at this moment is that I know them too well, and sometimes familiarity can be a problem. I am longing for that passionate feeling, that feeling of “oh wow, Mr. Darcy” or even just “oh wow, I cannot possibly put this novel down in the upcoming three hours.” I love my comfort reads, but a lot of them are comfort reads at this moment when I have little time for reading because they are also okay to put down for a while. I would like to be caught up in a book once again, feel I need to read it NOW. But perhaps this will have to wait for more quiet times.

What I am currently reading:

Ashes, Ashes by Jo Treggiari
I am listening to this while running. It was on offer for free a few weeks ago from here. I thought it would be nice to listen to a Young Adult book while running, nothing too complicated. But ugh, those scenes about the pox and the turtle that refuses to be killed make me feel sick to my stomach.

The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir
I am reading this for the Feminist Classics Project. I was supposed to host the discussion on this in July, but only one person managed to finish the book in time. I am not sure I will finish it by the end of August. It is interesting. Simone de Beauvoir is clearly a very smart person. But she is also very hard to follow at times. Plus, and I’m sorry to say it, this book is loooong.

Between the Woods and the Water by Patrick Leigh Fermor
This book is a gem. I am forever grateful to Danielle for making me aware of this author. His travels in Eastern Europe on the brink of the Second World War – fascinating. It is not a fast read though, it needs time and dedication. Almost feels a little like meditation.

Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan
I wanted YA with dept. I think that is what I am finding here, if this is even YA, does anyone know? The writing style is beautiful. But I am a little scared for the scene. You know, that scene, that everyone talks about when they review this book. I really need to start reading this again. Writing about it makes me feel I neglected it this past week.

Why Jane Austen? by Rachel Brownstein
When I saw Teresa was reading this on goodreads, I hurried over to netgalley to request my own copy. Teresa has recently reviewed it. I just started reading (have read 30 pages) and find it very interesting. But also a slow read, lots of literary theory so far.

Consequences by E.M. Delafield
Last night when I was still awake at 3 am, I did not really feel like continuing in “Why Jane Austen”, so I reached for a Persephone. Ah – these books are true wonders. I am only 15 pages in, but I feel like I just know I am going to love this. I know it will be bitter. It is the setting and period I love. Lately, novels set in 1900-1920 seem the thing for me. I never really understood people’s obsession with the period, now I cannot get enough.

See my problem here? I am reading too much at a time. Some of these books I am enjoying too little, but most of them I really like. But for those I cannot find the time they truly merit.

What are you reading this Sunday?

34 thoughts on “Comfort Reading

  1. Teresa

    I have a hard time reading more than 3 or 4 books at a time, and the ones I read all have to be different formats/experiences (first-time read, reread, audio, book group/religion). I’ve tried to experiment with adding another first-time read on my e-reader while I have another book in print (Why Jane Austen? was actually the book I tried this with), and it didn’t work at all. I think because I don’t have huge blocks of time for reading, except on weekends, I can’t switch around much.

    As for rereading Jane Eyre, I say if that’s what you’re in the mood for, do that. I’m a big believer in not letting my blog drive what I read. Whenever I do let it affect my choices, I end up irritated.

    1. Iris Post author

      You always read a book you have read before together with other books? I like the idea of that. I don’t think I reread enough.

      I read a separate book on my ereader because it allows me to use the small light that goes with my reader instead of the bigger lamplight when I am awake at night. That way, I don’t disturb my boyfriend too much.

      1. Teresa

        I don’t always have a reread on the go, but I did it all last year and happen to have one going now. Usually, I keep the reread at my office to read over lunch. It works really well because I already know the story and don’t get too bothered if the lunchroom is noisy and breaks my concentration or if I have several days in a row when I can’t take my full lunch break. I also like rereading on audio, but I haven’t done it in a while.

  2. Jenny

    Of course you can reread Jane Eyre some more! Every time I read Jane Eyre, I get in a headspace where I don’t even want to look at another book because it’s impossible that that book will live up to Jane Eyre. So I end up rereading it a few times. It happens.

  3. Ellen Rhudy

    Nothing wrong with rereading a book that many times in such a short span of time. Like Teresa said: read what you want to read. For me this means I’ve been doing a lot of comfort reading lately – I haven’t hit the ya yet (that’s where I usually go, but I exhausted by supply over the winter and am not quite ready for rereads) but I am reading a lot of stupid-ish memoirs and books of essays. Every once in a while I take a look at some of the books I’ve had around for months (house of leaves, murakami, roberto bolano, italo calvino, nabokov), realize I can’t read any of it, and go back to the easy stuff.

    1. Iris Post author

      That last line sounds like me. I keep looking at these books I have had for a while, that I was desperate to read, but just cannot face at the moment.

  4. amymckie

    Great books! I know what you mean about just wanting to read certain books and having trouble writing posts quickly enough for books that you’ve loved. I have yet to review a book I loved from January! Eecks. I can’t wait to hear your thoughts on Tender Morsels!

    1. Iris Post author

      I think apart from the scene, the fact that I will have to write a review that makes sense of Tender Morsels, with emotions running so high over the book, is a little daunting to me too.

  5. Sasha

    I just came home from a cafe to read [bec. otherwise, I’d only be sleeping away this Sunday]–and I know the people around me were looking my way and the stack of books crowded on my table. Are those required reading? Is she studying for something? Is she crazy?

    Yeah, I almost always read books simultaneously. Sure, some get finished first–I just finished reading a great short story collection in that cafe–but, essentially, four or five books are my go-to on any given day. Sigh. This might call for some discipline in me, but I’m a very moody reader, I’ve found. I set out to appease myself, haha.

    I went on a comfort reading binge the past several weeks, and, well, it was a matter of time, before I launched myself into a systematic demolition of my To-Be-Read Mountain Range [the simultaneous reading helps!]. It feels really good, actually, to exert myself with the encounters and the examinations with text that demand more from me. I’m actually eager to blog again, time willing, because I’ve got something to say besides, “Ugh, good book, Sasha’s insides all melty.”

    I’ve got Tender Morsels in my shelves, and I think I’ll add that to the pile. Just to share the experience, haha. And, actually, I’m excited about getting to THAT scene. Maybe because I’ve got this contrarian streak in me, and I really want to not be uneasy about THAT scene [or, well, uneasy in the right way? per the author’s intentions?].

    [Also, I have to point out that you are one of my enablers in my urge to reread and reread and reread Jane Eyre, haha.]

    1. Iris Post author

      And you are one of my enablers, hah.

      ,Hm.. It would be interesting to read your thoughts at the same time. Yours will probably be way more intelligent. Also, I sort of want to not feel uncomfortable about the scene either – but right now I’m just at a loss of how I will react at all.

      I like that you’re eager to blog again. I’m waiting for that feeling to hit me, but I’m trying. My posts are basically “I liked this book”, “I loved this book”, “I did not particularly like this book” lately.

      Ooh, I love the image of you in the cafe surrounded by books!

  6. Sandy

    I think I am too much of a scatter brain to read so many books. I usually only have an audio and a print book. I am listening to East of Eden (wonderful!) and reading The Taker by Alma Katsu. Both are very entertaining, but I’ve got too much going on in my life now to concentrate. I think I need a comfort read! Jane Austen would work, or a murder mystery, or a good love story. Would you believe I’ve never read Jane Eyre? I need to get right on that.

  7. Kim (Sophisticated Dorkiness)

    I’ve been in the process of a move for the last few weeks, and the only books I wanted to read was the Harry Potter series. Unfortunately, I had some scheduled review books to read, so I didn’t get to indulge that as much as I wanted to. And like you said, taking time away from new books to keep up the blog somehow feels indulgent. But at the moment, when I think comfort reads, I think HP.

    1. Iris Post author

      HP has been my best-friend lately – I feel I need not be ashamed to admit that in the company of fellow book bloggers. I usually listen to Harry Potter on audio, I went to the new movie twice in a row and cannot wait to see it again. I think I should switch from Ashes, Ashes to another HP audio for running – it worked much better.

  8. stujallen

    my comfort reads tend to be english comic classics ,wodehouse, Jerome ,Saki and Waugh books I loved in my teens and still do ,other than that something really exotic from somewhere I ve not read a book from before ,I tend to read just one or at most two books at time ,reading all the lights by Clemen Meyer at moment should be finished today a new short story collection due out next month from a new small publisher in uk ,all the best stu

  9. Charlie

    Although I set myself a limit of 2 books – one fiction and one non-fiction, right now I want to add another, having not read any books for 2 weeks I’ve got this craving to finish a lot of books quickly. Though I’m happily reading North and South – I’d definitely say classics are my comfort reading. Regarding re-reading, I spent about 3 months wanting to reread Jane Eyre after I finished and then it slowly faded, I think reading lots of books afterward stops you from reminiscing too much.

    Incidentally, about it being a year since you went to Sweden, that’s scary, because it doesn’t seem like it was very long ago at all!

    1. Iris Post author

      Classics are comfort reading to me too. And North and South is one of my major comfort reads. I hope you’re enjoying it!

      I know, it doesn’t feel like a year at all😦 I am getting old – time is passing too fast. I often feel I’d like to go back and do it all over again.

  10. Zee

    I completely understand your need for comfort reading. That’s kinda where I am at right now too.

    I’ve come off a hell of a summer job and jumped straight into the fire with a first week at the teaching job that we shall call “not fun” and leave it at that, so I am re-reading a J.D. Robb book. I need the mental comfort of a book that does not require me to think. I am also listening to Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand for my drive home from work and when I am doing things around the house.

  11. Jillian ♣

    I so sympathize, Iris! I took on way too much recently and became overwhelmed, so I backed off, claiming I needed a break from blogging. Turned out I just needed to return to reading whatever pleased me in the moment — which led me to Sense & Sensibility, which I have never read. Sometimes it’s just necessary to sweep all our plans off the table and go for whatever book is calling. And Jane Eyre? My goodness — read it again and again, and continue to discuss it! I feel that a book is new, and better, with every read. There’s always something new to be discovered, in our favorite works.🙂

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  13. Justine

    I can relate! For me the comfort reading feeling waxes and wanes and I try not to read too many books at the same time. If you follow my blog, you will recall that I had some problems with this issue a while ago and it was most distressing!! (I confess that some of the books I mentioned in that post – – I am still reading). Fortunately, I am a relatively fast reader and if the book doesn’t grab me I put it away for another time when my brain might be functioning on a different bandwidth and the book might seem more exciting … sometimes this happens and if it doesn’t then there is always tomorrow!

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  15. Melissa

    I think comfort reading is an important part of the reading experience. I used to feel like I was “wasting” my time when I re-read books, but I’ve learned that it deepens your relationship with the book and it’s different every time you read it because you’re different.

  16. Emily Jane

    Ugh, yeah. I’m reading a few books right now too…sometimes I like to balance dense non-fiction with shorter or lighter fiction, but mostly I like to focus on one at a time. It’s been frustrating recently, but I’m also into all of what I’m reading so I’m willing to push through it for now. The Second Sex, which I agree, is interesting but LONG, The Woman Warrior for this months’ Feminist Classics read, and The Girls Who Went Away, about women who gave babies up for adoption in the 60’s before abortion was legalized in the U.S. All worthwhile and good…but looking forward to reading something COMPLETELY different when I’m done with these three!

  17. sakura

    Oh, I meant to join you in reading The Second Sex but my July was so busy. I think I’d still like to and will come back to read your posts on it. I tend to drift towards mysteries and humour (including fantasy although my recent forays into fantasy have been dark and complex). I always read 2 or 3 books together but then I try and concentrate on 1 so that I can actually finish and feel I’ve accomplished something (i.e. bringing my tbr pile down) ;P And now your post has made me want to re-read Jane Eyre again!

  18. Caroline

    Like you I’m reading afew books in parallel at the time and realize i don’t really like it. I need to concentrate one book.
    I’m not much of a re-reader, thinking that you read jane Eyre three times in a row and might even re-read it now is someho fascinating. It makes me wonder what it was that touched or moved you so much in that book. hhIlike something a great deal it becomes sort of sacred an I can’t re-read it.


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