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What Is a Comfort Book To Me?

“There was a boy in her room.”

First line in Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

This post has been inspired by a number of different things, but especially by a tweet I saw a while ago now (I forgot to like it so it’s gone now, sorry). It was a response to the growing opinion that after the cursed years of 2020 and 2021, we need more happy and uplifting books to comfort us. Now, the tweet in question made the very excellent point that what is a comfort book for one person, doesn’t need to be a comfort book for someone else. Those feel-good books aren’t necessarily what some readers connect with comfort. And I’m one of those readers. For a book to bring me comfort, it needs to be depressing and hard-hitting. Of course, I started to wonder why.

I have come to the conclusion that my own life plays a huge part in this question. I suffer from depression and social anxiety, so those happy books can often be a reminder of what I don’t have and probably can’t ever have. For example, I see a character having a loving relationship with their parents and automatically I can’t connect with that character. Yes, I’m super jealous, but there’s also a part of me that finds it unrealistic. Logically, I know it isn’t, but because it is so unrealistic in my world, I think I have some subconscious aversion to it in books.

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What I consider to be a comfort book is one that makes me feel less alone in my struggles. One that shows characters having a hard time and finding ways to deal with it or not deal with it. It’s not even that I take inspiration from them, although that has happened in a few rare cases, but it’s more that I relate to life not being easy. And I can often remind myself that at least my life isn’t that bad. At least I’m not Jude from A Little Life or Fitz from The Farseer Trilogy. That is what I connect with a comfort book. Seeing characters being strong or even giving up because of hardships that are harder than my own makes me forget about my own problems and makes it much easier for me to connect with the characters.

All of this of course begs the question: do I hate happy endings then? Short answer: no. BUT they do need to be earned. Characters need to go through something, and that something needs to leave some kind of scar whether physical or mental. A lot of the feel-good books I’ve read seems to have invented a problem for their character just because it’s a book and it needs conflict. That’s rarely good enough for me because it never gets deep enough. I’m just waiting for that happy ending I know is going to come. Maybe that’s why I read so much fantasy where authors can properly make their characters suffer (I’m horrible, I know). High school drama or romance drama just doesn’t do it for me, although there are hard-hitting books set in school out there. Here I’m thinking of books such as We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson, The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephan Chbosky and A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness.

I also feel that I should clarify that I do read and enjoy less hard-hitting books from time to time, but they just aren’t what I consider comfort books. They serve a different purpose. However, there is one great exception that I need to mention: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell is probably my ultimate comfort book, but I wouldn’t go ahead and label that as hard-hitting or inherently depressing. But it’s about social anxiety, so we’re back to that thing about feeling less alone. Still, if a feel-good book isn’t specifically about social anxiety, then it isn’t a comfort book to me.

I didn’t mean for this to get so personal when I started writing but here we are. I hope you found it interesting or maybe relatable. Please let me know what you think of as a comfort book. What kind of book do you turn to when you feel a bit down? Do you even have comfort books or are you in the I-will-reread-all-my-childhood-favorites-right-this-second category?

14 thoughts on “What Is a Comfort Book To Me?

  1. This is such a good post! I agree, everyone does have their own set of comfort books!
    Also, Fangirl’s my ultimate comfort book as well, I simply love it!
    Also, to be honest, I always turn to books with happily ever afters whenever I am down!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Okay wow, this was an awesome discussion! I could relate to you so much!! I mean, for reasons I don’t really know, I think sad-ish books are my comfort zones too! I read lots of contemporary but usually never relate to it. My comfort genre is more of sad historical fiction or scifi dystopian. I like reading books where the characters are going through a lot, especially in different times than ours.
    Also I don’t like happy endings that much…I prefer hopeful ones over happy ones. Like the characters having suffered a lot but coming out at the end in a better side of life.
    Great post!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I didn’t think that many people would relate to the post so hearing this makes me very happy! And yes, those hopeful endings are much more impactful to me as well. I’m glad you liked the post! 😁

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ll go ahead and add this post to my list of favorite ones you’ve ever written because it’s so relatable! I mean, I don’t know whether I’d necessarily reach for something as dark as A Little Life when I’m already feeling down, but those fluffy contemporary romances probably rank even lower πŸ˜… Like you, I often get the feeling that the characters in them have these perfect lives and relationships that just don’t match with what is going on in my own life, so they often make me feel even worse… Plus, they’re often just so bland! I like them as mindless reading material during exam time, but not when I’m sad and need cheering up – then I want a book with lots of depth to it that will make me feel the full spectrum of emotions. I agree, happy endings are nice, but only when the characters have to face hardships to earn them!
    That being said, though, my ultimate comfort reads are probably still my childhood favorites, like Harry Potter πŸ₯° Having something familiar to immerse yourself in when you’re feeling down is so helpful! And I do also like books that have strong family relationships – I’m very lucky in that regard, so I always love seeing my own bonds with my siblings and parents reflected in books. It just makes them really cozy somehow 😊 But there needs to be lots of sadness and heartbreak as well so that I can have a good cry that will make me feel better!

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    1. Aww, thank you! πŸ₯° And yes, I know I used Jude as an example but I’m also a bit hesitant about calling A Little Life a big comfort book because I definitely felt awful after reading that πŸ˜… But like you say, rather that than a fluffy romance.
      And I’m really glad someone relates to that thing about feeling worse when reading about characters with easier lives. I haven’t heard anyone voice an issue like that before so I wondered whether it was just my depression making me mean πŸ˜… I also relate so much to what you said about feeling the full spectrum of emotions. That’s just so important in a book!

      I do use rereads for comfort as well, but not so much as I used to. I like that surprising comfort read I stumble upon once in a while that teaches me something new or makes me think differently about my own life. But then again, nothing really beats rereading Harry Potter or Fangirl πŸ˜„

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well, Fangirl is one of my favorites as well, so I definitely relate! 😊
        And as to whether other people also feel worse when they’re already feeling down and then have to read about fictional characters’ perfect lives, I actually don’t know… I’d never really put much thought into it, but I guess I’d assumed that was normal πŸ˜… I’m definitely going to have to go around asking people about this now! πŸ€”

        Liked by 1 person

  4. This is a very interesting and a thought-provoking post. To be honest, I don’t have a comfort book. Usually, I don’t read a book twice. But I love reading middle-grade books. Like, Rick Riordan’s series about Percy Jackson. Maybe, I miss that sense of wonder. I don’t know… I consider THE HOUSE IN THE CERULEAN SEA by T. J. Klune a comfort book because it makes me happier when I’m sad, because it gives me hope that everything will be alright. To be honest, I don’t like reading books that make me sad. I need humor rather than angst.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s interesting that we seem to be complete opposites. I specifically didn’t find comfort in The House in the Cerulean Sea, but I know I’m definitely in the minority there, and I still understand why people need humor rather than angst as you say to make them feel better.

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      1. I guess some people need the reminder that it could be worse while some need the reminder that it could be better. πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

  5. You made some great points in this, Line. I feel like what you define as comfort book makes a lot of sense, because why would I want to read about someone having a perfect life when I’m having a hard time? Then again, whenever the topic of comfort book rises, I have a hard time actually saying what my comfort books are (probably some happy ones and some sad ones but I really don’t know). Sidenote, I’m in the middle of reading A Little Life (slowly, as uni got in the way), and I’m absolutely adoring it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Maria! I actually recognize not really knowing what my comfort books are because I had to spend a lot of time thinking about it when I wanted to write this post. All I knew was that it wasn’t those easy and up-lifting ones I had seen so many others claim as their comfort book. Also, I’m so excited to hear you’re reading A Little Life! It’s one of my absolute favorite books so I’m happy to hear that it’s going great so far. Can’t wait for your final thoughts ☺️

      Liked by 1 person

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