I love to read to stretch myself, sure. I love to read new books, challenging books, books that wreck me or make me think or change me. But sometimes, a woman just needs to read good, familiar, comfort books for the good of her own soul.
I don’t purchase a book these days unless I’ve already read it, and know that I love it. Libraries are for my one-shot wonders. So almost every book in my house has been read multiple times. But these are the ten books that I have read literally dozens of times. I take them to coffee shops, I have passages memorized, I take them to the beach, on car trips, to the backyard, to bed and then I stay up too late reading a book that I’ve already read a hundred times – go figure.
They are so supremely satisfying, I never tire of them.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë. I’ve worn out three copies now. I never tire of this book. It is intense, sweeping, and consuming.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. This was the first American novel that really captured my heart. I read it in Grade 10 English class, stole my copy from Mr. Hoff’s classroom, and then wore it out with re-reading. I still love it, I never tire of it, its unforgettable, compelling, brilliant. And Brian had to really go to the mats with me because I was determined to name our son Atticus which he thought was unreasonable. Piffle.
Persuasion by Jane Austen. This lesser-known novel of Jane Austen’s is one of my two favourites of hers. Anne is a wonderful character, the story is comic, genius, mellow, simply superb. And the climax, in particular the letter from Captain Wentworth, well. SWOON.
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. Another Austen but it can’t be help. The book spine doesn’t line. This book is the definition of felicity, and I will never cease loving the Dashwood sisters. Drat that Willoughby.
The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery. Almost the entire catalogue of L.M. Montgomery books should be here, they are my ultimate comfort books, I’ve worn out every paperback, but I chose just this one. The characters are an absolute delight, and it’s just a plain happy-ending satisfying read. It’s also quite funny.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. The Jazz Age, restless, ferocious, unrequited love. And don’t even get me started about the writing. (If you’re unconvinced, check out Megan Tietz’s love letter to Gatsby….”In order to understand Gatsby, you have to have had your heart broken.”) And did you hear? A movie!
The Reading Group: A Novel by Elizabeth Noble. I have a weakness, and her name is British chick-lit. Elizabeth Noble is one of my favourites in that maligned genre, and this is my favourite one. It follows a group of women in a book club (books! more books! English characters talking about books!). It’s funny, more insightful and complicated than you’d guess by the cover. It’s a great book for a glass of white wine on a summer evening.
The Poisonwood Bible: A Novel by Barbara Kingsolver tells the story of a ferocious, god-in-my-own-image missionary, his wife, and their four daughters. They travel to the Congo in 1959, and every single thing they brought with them is woefully ill-suited for life in Africa. The book tells the story of the family’s undoing, tragic, slow, relentless against the backdrop of colonialism and revolution. I actually missed Ada when the book ended, she was such an interesting narrator. The setting, the tragedy, the writing, the story itself, I find something new almost every time I read it.
The Forgotten Garden: A Novel by Kate Morton. I love a good mystery. And this is a good mystery. You might not want to start this one if you want to get anything done for the next day or two.
Gilead: A Novel by Marilynne Robinson. This book is absolutely exquisite. I can’t barrel through it, like the others, but I re-read it often. It’s is simply a beautiful, flawless books, a hymn of praise to ordinary things and ordinary passions, it’s a psalm and a poem.
Honourable mention: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. I love, love, loved this book. So delightful, interesting. I missed the characters when it ended, actually missed them. And of course, Harry Potter series. I re-read the entire series every year or so. The problem with that is that once I pick up the first one, just as a little treat, a quick snack, i don’t get anything done for the next two weeks while I obsessively read all seven books, cover to cover, once again.
Your turn: What books have battered spines in your house? What books do you read over and over, for comfort?
We’re talking about 10 Books a Day for a Week. Share your own favourites on your blog, and post your link in the comments, or just let me know what you think or recommend. I love to snoop bookshelves, and this is my excuse – and yours – to talk books.
Sunday: 10 books that changed my faith
Thursday: 10 books I read over and over (and over)
Friday: 10 spiritual memoirs
Saturday: My daily books + 10 books of poetry
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