Comfort reading

The best cure for getting a little bit tired of reading is, of course, a trip to the bookstore. Hobgoblin and I went on Friday night and I didn’t find anything I liked, being a bit too tired to enjoy myself, but today we checked out one of the used bookstores in town and I had better luck.

The problem with the books that I have on hand, I’ve recently realized, is that I tend to collect books in an optimistic and ambitious frame of mind, thinking that I’ll always have the energy and the interest to read long novels, difficult novels, experimental novels, classics, dense nonfiction, difficult poetry, philosophical treatises, etc. What I neglect to collect is the lighter, comfort read. But of course, I do need lighter, easier books now and then, as most people do, I think.

I’m in the middle of David Markson’s Wittgenstein’s Mistress, which I think you could call an experimental novel, and I’m liking it quite a bit and will be sure to post on it later, but I’m not finding it quite what I want to spend hours and hours with. I prefer it in shorter chunks. So yesterday I picked up one of the books I have on hand that did strike me as something I could spend hours with: Nancy Mitford’s The Pursuit of Love, and, if I like it well enough, I can go on to read Love in a Cold Climate, which is published in the same volume. I’m about halfway through and enjoying it immensely; it’s satire of the English gentry from between the world wars, complete with blustering squires and hunting and balls and class conflict. It’s fun.

And today at the bookstore I picked up two new books that looked good: Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s Lady Audley’s Secret, which I remember hearing good things about on blogs somewhere, although I can’t remember where, and a Virago book, Antonia White’s Frost in May. I don’t know much about White, but I trust the books published by Virago, and the description sounded good:

The Convent of the Five Wounds, where Nanda Grey is sent when she is nine, is on the edge of London — but in 1908 it is a world unto itself. For the young girls receiving a Catholic education behind its walls, religion is a nationality, conformity an entire way of life. In this intense, trouble atmosphere — caught to perfection by a superb writer — passionate friendships are the only deviation. Nanda is thirteen, a normal, quick-witted, spirited girl, when, catastrophically, she breaks the rules and pays too large a price for her transgression.

Interesting, yes? Maybe I should make it a habit to pick up “comfort reads” more often, to balance out my collection a bit. Not a bad excuse to buy more books, is it?

11 Comments

Filed under Books, Reading

11 responses to “Comfort reading

  1. I’m all for comfort reads! As a matter of fact I sometimes think I choose more comfort reads than challenging books–so maybe I need to balance in a different way. I have the same edition of the Mitford book. I read the first novel but never got around to reading the second one–now I think I will have to go back and reread. She’s very good, isn’t she. I also want to read Mary Elizabeth Braddon–I think she sounds like great fun, and I have the Virago edition of Frost in May (not yet read of course). Great choices, Dorothy. Definitely books you can lose yourself in.

  2. Like you, I’ve needed comfort reading lately. Could it be something to do with summer? Two recent reads have been What Came Before He Shot Her – the latest from Elizabeth George, but a wonderful departure from her usual style – and One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson. Both have done the trick for me, and now I’m onto something a little more challenging, a memoir by Vikram Seth.

  3. Yay for comfort reading! The Virago book sounds very interesting. I think I can figure out the nature of the transgression but I am curious to hear about it anyway. Enjoy your new books.

  4. hepzibah

    What’s a better way to spend the day than to go to used books stores? :) I am so glad that you picked up a few comfort reads!!! They are a staple in my collection and I think this summer I have been chosing comfort reads all the time (though I really planned on reading Moby Dick), though I mix other authors in there as well — African American mostly, but then I think what constitues “good literature” anyway?

  5. Oh yes, comfort reads are my weakness! I have Nancy Mitford’s book too and it’s waiting patiently for me. Hope you are enjoy your comfort reads.

  6. I agree with the need for comfort reading! I’m looking forward to your take on Lady Audley’s Secret, as that has been burning a hole on my shelf lately. I find mysteries to be my favorite books to turn to when I’m a little tired of reading. They’re like a refreshing swim on a hot day: they’re usually quick reads with lots o’ plot, and allow me to escape from the world for a few hours.

  7. YOur comfort reading is often more elegant than my regular reading! I think you need to tackle a good Janet Evanovich mystery or something :-)
    Okay, in all seriousness, I noticed in your earlier post you apologized for writing about illness – and you should never apologize for what you write. You have such a balanced,lyrical approach to your writing, and this is your BlOG, and we care about whatever you write, whether its riding or illness or whether you prefer pepsi or coke. So no more apologizing, and keep us up to date on your progress and treatment, okay?

  8. LK

    Oh, I read Frost in May — it was very interesting. I have the second book in the cycle, but of course, have gotten distracted by other things.

    Dorothy W., your blog posts are so wonderful — I’m with Courtney; don’t apologize for writing what you feel. Writing can be very therapeutic, if all else fails.

  9. Oh, Nancy Mitford is wonderful comfort reading. And I’m jealous. I wish I were reading The Pursuit of Love for the first time (maybe time for a re-read soon).

  10. Danielle — I’m really enjoying Mitford! I thought of you when I was in the bookstore, as they had several Viragos, including quite a few Antonia White’s. Just say the word if you’d like me to pick some up for you.

    Charlotte — both Atkinson and Elizabeth George sound quite interesting. I’ll have to pick them up one of these days when I need something comforting again …

    Thank you Stefanie, I will :)

    Good question Hepzibah, about what constitutes “good literature” — there are so many ways to answer that! I think it sounds good for you to read a bunch of comfort reads this summer — you work so hard during the school year, after all.

    Iliana — I’m quite sure you’ll enjoy the Mitford novel when you get there — she’s so much fun.

    Sarah — mysteries are so good for difficult times, aren’t they? I should really read more of them.

    Courtney — a good Evanovich novel might not be a bad idea :) And thank you so much for your encouragement about my writing! I really appreciate it. It’s funny how on a blog, of all things, I can still get self-conscious about writing about myself :)

    LK, and thank you too! I appreciate your encouragement so much.

    Emily — I can see that Mitford might be someone to re-read now and then.

  11. I loved Nancy Mitford with a deep, abiding passion. And it’s ok, she’s class, not exactly a supermarket read, so you can comfort yourself that you are covering all bases at once!

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