7 Reasons Why Comfort Reads Are So Important

Comfort Read (noun) - An old favourite book which is re-read when a person needs something familiar which makes them feel ... um, well, comforted. Known for consumption along with warm beverages while in pyjamas and possibly yelling at parents to go fetch some chocolate.


Shush - it's a technical definition, you know.

I am a huge, huge fan of comfort reading. It makes me so freaking happy - because who doesn't want to meet a bunch of old friends between the pages of a paperback while things are getting all topsy-turvey IRL? Who doesn't have those moments when you just need to step back into the lovely veneer of memories and familiar stretches of the imagination?

But - you cry - what exactly is it that makes these comfort reads so important? (And if you haven't been crying that ... again, shush. You're ruining my great introduction.) Well, allow me to enlighten you:

#1 ~ You Know You're in for a Good Read

You know the deal. The feeling. You open a book that you absolutely can't wait for - maybe you've been waiting for it for ages, maybe the blurb looks like the plot was made for you, maybe it's a book from your favourite author that you only just found out about.

And after about a chapter or two, your heart sinks. Because, sure, it's okay. But man, you wanted more.

The one type of book which doesn't have that problem is (you guessed it) a comfort read, And I suppose you could say that lack of jeopardy makes things dull, but I'm definitely not going to. I mean A GOOD READ, GUARANTEED, PEOPLE.


Huh. That kind of rhymed.

#2 ~ The Memories

MEMMMORIEEEEES! ALLLLL ALLOOONNNNE IN THE MOOOOONNNLIIGHT!

No! Er, hold on a second *turns around in a desperate effort to get musical theatre Lara inside her box*

*modulated wailing from inside the box*

Sorry about that. Anyway, yes. I was talking about memories. If you were to pick one of my comfort reads off the shelf in my bedroom, I could probably flick to a random chapter and take you back to the first time I read it. I could point to a particular food stain and tell you whether it was chocolate or chorizo or barbecue crisps. In one particular case, I can even sniff a page and explain that this is the section of the book that got vomited on.

(By the way, I still feel really, really terrible about that. I was in hospital at the time though, so ... blame the morphine.)

My point? Comfort reads are like time machines you can hold. And I just love that kind of real-life magic.

#3 ~ Sometimes it's nice to know how things end

I do not deal well with suspense. None of you have ever seen me watch a remotely scary movie, but it really isn't pretty - I jump at anything resembling a loud noise, and local dogs have been known to mistake me as one of their own thanks to the whimpering.

So sometimes it's nice not to be shredding myself apart as the book reaches a climax, is all.

#4 ~ You can skip the dull bits with no shame

It's okay, Agnes, listen! I said there was no shame!

There are some people who skip boring sections of a book the first time round with no worries whatsoever, but unfortunately I do not have the confidence or the devil-may-care attitude to do this. Which is probably why I end up reading so much more slowly than everyone else.

But what I like about a comfort read is that know it absolutely inside out. Not only could I read it literally from back to front and still know what was going on, but I can even open it to my favourite chapters without looking at page numbers. My oldest copies often just unfold themselves to the page or paragraph I've read the most.

It's a beautiful feeling to be able to find that exact part of a book that complements the emotions tumbling through your skull. Sometimes, I think it's the only thing that keeps me from becoming even more unhinged than I already am.

#5 ~ The details seem endless

So, you know when I just said that I know my comfort reads absolutely inside out?

Well, it turns out that I also discover something new each and every time I read them. Because CONTRADICTIONS, FOLKS!

I will be honest, in that I'm semi-exclusively talking about Harry Potter here; I don't think I'm ever going to get my head round the absolutely mind-boggling level of worldbuilding with a whole lifetime of re-reads, so there's no way I could have taken in even half the detail the first time.

Maybe I was lying about the exclusivity, because that kind of applies to every re-read I do. I'm always finding out new things about characters, discovering hidden corners of settings ... and guess what.

I love it.

#6 ~ No danger of getting attached to dead characters

You know the drill. A favourite character equals a dead character more often than it doesn't ... and this is ridiculously frustrating. I almost get disappointed when I identify with a character super-strongly, because I just know that means they're dead. But then - of course - there's still hope they might survive.

And this is why I get attached.

With re-reads, I know all. I'm like a psychic with a very limited crystal ball, and I use that power. It tends to go a lot like this:
Remus Lupin: Hey, so I'm an awesome father-figure character and I'm really kind and courageous and -
Me: No
Remus Lupin: ... but I refuse to marry the woman I love because I don't want to hold her back!
Me: No.
Remus Lupin: ... but I'm afraid to have a child in case I pass on my lycanthropy!
Me: You can be as sympathetic and morally perfect as you like. I'm not getting attached, okay?
Remus Lupin: *puppy dog eyes*

As you can see, this Vulcan strategy doesn't always - or indeed ever - work. But it's nice to be able to try?

#7 ~ Life Changes ... They Don't

What if I don't want to change, Mr. Obama? I mean, you're an amazing president and human being - can't you do all the changing for us?

Okay, fine. The world needs to change. We need social progress and developing opinions and debate. We need to embrace the future. But we've all experienced the not-so-great kind of change, the kind that drags us away from what we know and love in a direction that we never wanted to go. And in those times, we need a little reminder of the way things use to be, if nothing else.

That's the real key to comfort reading. The real reason it's so important.

A book that we still manage to love year after year, read after read, and page after page ... it reminds us who we are. It has been a key in our lives sometimes for decades, and that means that tiny pieces of our personality get trapped within each word, They hide between the lines waiting to be rediscovered; we take them out, treasure them and put them back into place, ever so carefully. Ever so gently, so we can have them next time.

After I finish one of my comfort reads for approximately the seventeenth time, I feel more whole. More balanced.

More me.

***
In the comments: What are your favourite comfort reads, my humans? What makes them so comforting? And why do you think they are so important?
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8 comments:

  1. I need more of your wacky posts! I have missed all the funny! ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You have no idea how much this comment made me smile, Cee. Thank you.

      Delete
  2. Never shove musical theatre Lara inside her box. Belt those showtunes, friend.

    It will come as no surprise to you that Harry Potter is my number one comfort read. I listen to the audiobooks every night as I'm falling asleep because it's the best bedtime story there is. There's nothing quite like listening to Jim Dale as Hagrid talk about his pet dragon or Hermione stressing over exams.

    Hahahahahahahaha . . . I never learn. I always get attached to the dead characters. And then act surprised when they die all over again.

    As much as I love comfort reads, I have a problem with allowing myself to reread something. It might have something to do with my TBR shelf glaring at me from the corner, doubling in size every hour. xD

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Really, Kate? I thought you valued your eardrums!

      I think I have to agree with you on Harry Potter - although I'm sure you'll be rightfully shocked that I've never listened to the audiobooks. I think my experience would be different anyway, since in the UK we have Stephen Fry narrating. I'll have to give them a try at some point.

      Wait - they die?! AGAIN? Come on, that's what happened last time!

      You go ahead and comfort read, my friend. I'll glare back at your TBR until it decides to shrink ;-)

      Delete
  3. Yes to all of this! I love rereading books because the familiarity is comforting to me. Especially Harry Potter, which I have read only a gazillion times, is the ultimate comfort read, and characters become friends, and the world becomes a second home, and and and. There's just so much feelgood in rereading. <3

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oooh, yes. I really wish I could live at Hogwarts - sometimes I think it'd be a lot more familiar to me than most of the real life places where I end up.

      And you're right. There's no joy quite like a reread.

      Delete
  4. My comfort reads: Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta, anything Stephanie Perkins, Queen's Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner... and basically any well written YA romance. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well ... other than Lola and the Boy Next Door (which of course I love with all my heart and soul) I've honestly not read any of these books. Bad Lara *slaps wrist*

      Delete

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