If in doubt, read.

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reading cartoonFor as long as I can remember I have had a book in my hand. I got into trouble at my first school (which I left when I was seven) for refusing to come inside after break time because I was adamant that the book I was reading was more beneficial than the lesson to which I was being sent. (I agree, what a precocious little shit I sound!)

So I moved school and the wonderful Mr Maxwell agreed that books probably superseded the requirement for another felt-covered calendar and homemade pompom. I remember us reading 101 Dalmatians in class and my adoration was established.

I would class reading as my first love and it is my enduring solace to this day. I have read for work and pleasure, racking up mountainous bills in book shops along the way. A friend of mine recently suggested that I become the founding member of ‘Book-buyers anonymous,’ such is the seriousness of my habit. I admit, I have probably only read two thirds of the books I own. What a dreadful admission but I see a book and worry that if I don’t buy it to read in the future I’ll forget it and perhaps never come across it again and my life would be much the worse for it.

I do use the library, but the librarians in my local one are so grim and grumpy I can’t bear it. Even when they are issuing me with a stonking great fine they don’t so much as smirk. I don’t understand it, if I was surrounded by books all day I don’t think I could help but be happy and they mope around as it the world is ending and all the visitors are simply a nuisance.

We moved house recently. It has taken weeks and weeks for us to get even half sorted out. My feelings when getting back after being out were apathetic verging on the downright miserable. So I unpacked some books. I feel better just for walking into the room and seeing them there. Knowing escape is possible. I find whatever else might be happening, if I am in need of succour, laughter or just plain and simple distraction, I will find it on my shelves – or for now the floor, but who cares where they are kept, just so long as they are there.

My best comfort reads – not all are necessarily happy, warm or fuzzy but all of these have the ability to utterly absorb me, which is what I deem as comfort from books.

  • The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Burrows (just the most uplifting and gorgeously pitched book, love love love)
  • The Shell Seekers by Rosamond Pilcher (If I tell my mum I am re-reading this she asks what’s happened…)
  • The Dust that Falls from Dreams – Louis de Bernieres (longing for the next in the series, such characters)
  • How to break your own Heart – Maggie Alderson (just for the wonderful friend Amelia makes when she goes it alone)
  • The Lord of the Rings & The Hobbit – J R R Tolkein (if you want to escape you can’t beat this journey)
  • The Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck (near perfect writing, near perfect characterisation, devastating story)
  • Atonement – Ian McEwen (ditto)
  • The Hand that First Held Mine – Maggie O’Farrell (I love O’Farrell, her characters are just so so real)
  • A Little Princess – Frances Hodgson Burnett (one of my earliest favourites)
  • Goodnight Mister Tom – Michelle Magorian (possibly favourite children’s book, I could read this 100 times and still enjoy it)
  • Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte (oh that scene with the window….)
  • The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins (engrosses me every time even though I know the twists and turns)
  • Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy (nothing like reading about someone whose life really is utterly doomed to make you feel a bit better!
  • Inspector Rebus books – Ian Rankin (though these can have the opposite effect in eliciting homesickness)

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