Comfort Reading: Found in 1930s Yorkshire

I’ve been thinking about book lists a lot lately, probably because I’m far from done with what I should have already read this summer. That is one of the problems of being an English grad student — during the year, it is a mad race to try to finish every book for both your own classes and the ones you are TAing. At one point, I decided to average the number of pages I was reading weekly and it came out to 800.

Yes. 800 pages of reading weekly. This of course did not include any newspapers or websites or magazine articles I read to take a break from the slough of literariness. And that’s not to say that I don’t enjoy reading. In fact, I’m in a field where I get to read more than I could ever imagine, but like anything, one does get a little burned out.

So this summer, I’ve been trying to read for both my thesis and to take in some of the books I know the next semesters won’t allow me to really enjoy. I’ll post some of those lists later.

However, I also stumbled upon a post from the blog, What I Cooked Last Night, in which the author discusses the idea of comfort reading. I had to think about what my comfort reading would be. Of course there were the books I read over and over as a child (mostly the Anne of Green Gables series and Madeleine L’Engle books), but there was one I always turned to when I needed something uplifting and yet not completely asinine. James Herriot.

Of course, I originally had heard All Creatures Great and Small when I was about 7. My parents had bought audio cassettes for a roadtrip to Tuscon. Then came the two books one Christmas: James Herriot’s Dog Stories and James Herriot’s Cat Stories. Every time I stayed home from school sick, I pulled out those books and read them over and over.

By junior high, I had dug out my parents’ mass market paperbacks from the early 80s and read them over and over during each bout of flu and colds. Even now, I will occasionally go back to them when I need something restorative that is both thoughtful and gentle and the perfect removal from my world to 1930s and 40s Yorkshire.

I’d be curious to know what other people read for comfort and why. Is it a process of removal? Or as it is for me, prose that is somehow restorative?


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