Discussion: What Makes a Comfort Read?

Lately I’ve been craving my favourite comfort reads. For me, comfort reads are those books that bring a contented smile to my face, and most importantly, stand up to multiple re-reads. Usually they’re also low on angst, but I do enjoy some comfort reads that punch you right in the feels — because having read them before, I know how everything’s going to work out. And when things are a bit up in the air in reality, it’s nice to have some certainty with fiction!

My comfort reads almost always feature wily women, snappy dialogue, and an immersive setting; they’re the kinds of stories that transport you away and delights with their cleverness. But I don’t limit my comfort reads to fluff — I find that thrills and chills can pull me away from the trials and tribulations of life just as well. So long as none of my favourite characters die, of course…but that’s where the beauty of the re-read comes in! There’s no way I could consider a book a comfort read without having read it before, because the memory of a happy reading experience is key to determining whether a book can make the cut.

From traditional fantasy to historical mysteries, paranormal romance to thrillers, here are some of my all-time favourite comfort reads:

Trickster’s Choice by Tamora Pierce

Wannabe spy Aly is tasked with protecting two politically important mixed-race noblewomen in return for her freedom. Spies, magic, and a crow dude.

Nice Girls Don’t Have Fangs by Molly Harper

Former children’s librarian gets turned into a vampire in small-town Kentucky. Need I say more?

City of the Lost by Kelley Armstrong

Detective with a dark past moves to off-the-grid town in the stark Canadian wilderness. Grisly murders, amazing atmosphere, and a hot local sheriff.

Soulless by Gail Carriger

Lady without soul meets werewolf without manners. Several people are beaten with a parasol.

A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn

Veronica Speedwell studies butterflies, tropical climates, and the male form. Teams up with a hunky taxidermist to solve Victorian-era crime.

Act Like It by Lucy Parker

For two actors, it’s hate at first sight until “dating” becomes a PR necessity. British humour, swoons.

Having listed out all my favourites, I’m actually surprised to see how many of them I read before I started blogging. Clearly I need to do some more re-reading in 2018, because I believe in a steady rotation of new-to-me comfort reads!

Are you a comfort reader? What types of stories do you reach for when you’re feeling under the weather — or when it’s simply too cold to function? I have to know! Is it just me, or are there certain characteristics that a book must possess for it to be considered a comfort read? Or are you the sort of reader who prefers to discover new stories rather than re-read? I’d love to discuss with you!

Let me know how you choose comfort reads and what some of your favourite comfort reads are in the comments!

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  • I usually tend to associate comfort reads with contemporary romances or historical romances. I don’t find fantasy to be all that comforting, even though I really enjoy reading them. I think that’s because those tend to be more intense and brutal. I’m usually looking for something to cheer me up and leave me swoony, which is why contemporary and historical romance are the books for me. Act Like It and Pretty Face are totally comfort reads for me as well. Also anything my Lisa Kleypas and Tessa Dare! *swoon*

  • Honestly, my favourite comfort reads are mostly books that I really enjoyed growing up: the Redwall series, Santa Paws (lol), and Ender’s Game/Shadow. I guess I just like the nostalgia element!

    I definitely agree that comfort reads should be old favourites that you’ve read many a time.

  • Greg Hill

    Yes! Sometimes it’s nice just to jump back in to a favorite world or series. It’s amazing how much books can affect us- and how special bookish memories can be. πŸ™‚

    City of the Lost- I can see that being a total comfort read. The off the grid Yukon setting, just the remoteness and the prickly relationship between the two leads that slowly evolves- good stuff.

    I think for me some comfort reads would be stuff like Long Way to A Small Angry Planet, the Blue by Lucy Clarke, maybe even Lord of the Rings. Big Little Lies possibly. I guess just books that have affected me in some way.

  • I only have one series I really call a comfort read, which is the Thieves series by Lexi Blake (big surprise lol), but it actually has quite a bit of angst and emotion and hits me in the feels every time, but that’s why I love it. But like you said, books don’t have the same *tension* when you reread them and know what will happen, so you don’t have that feeling of uncertainty. But actually, there are some other series I might kind of call comfort reads even when I haven’t read the book yet since I know generally what the series is like. And therefore, even though there’s uncertainty, I already love the characters and can easily sink into a world I’m familiar with, and that’s comforting to me.

  • My comfort reads these days are mystery-thrillers, especially in audio. City of the Lost is actually a great example! They’re fast-paced and entertaining, I don’t have to think much, and I just know there’s a good chance I’ll enjoy it even just an average thriller plot.

  • I think for me a comfort read is an old favorite that I’ve read many times, and I already know what’s going to happen so I don’t stress about whether I’m going to like it or not.

  • You have two of my favorite authors on this list: Gail Carriger and Lucy Parker. I think you nailed what I love about them so much – the “willy women, snappy dialog”. When I am feeling life too much, I like a lighter read, which makes me laugh, and those books definitely fit in that space.

  • Karen

    Mostly romance and anything funny. Any book that helps you settle in and smile. It’s like revisiting old friends.
    I haven’t re-read my favorites in sooooo long and that’ something I really want to do this year. I had several that I read a few times per week! I am a little nervous though because what if I don’t like them now lol

    <a href="http://http://www.fwiwreviews.net/

  • I love rereading books so i agree about your definition of comfort books. For me they just make me smole despite my mood and they give me that butterfly feeling even though I already know what happens.

  • MaddalenaSpaceandSorcery

    You can never go wrong with Carriger, indeed! πŸ™‚ Her novels are the perfect choice when our spirits need uplifting, especially because she manages that with intelligent humor.
    Recently I’ve found that Elizabeth’s Moon “Vatta’s War” series falls into that category: space opera with a feisty protagonist who overcomes many difficulties (including her misleading young age) while facing an organization of space pirates. Guaranteed to take you far, far away from everyday’s… dark clouds πŸ˜‰

  • My comfort reads are The Dark is Rising series and to be honest, anything out my collection of Star Trek books and they haven’t changed in years. I chose them because I always feel at peace when I read them, and uplifted too. When I first discovered the ST books existed, i went to town collecting as many possible. I’ve recently started unpacking boxes I haven’t opened in ages and found them in there much to my delight. Out of that collection, I do have a couple that I always gravitate too, but I can’t do without original Spock and Kirk πŸ™‚

  • The books I reread most often are beautiful romances with a good sense of humour. A good combination of love, some witty scenes, likeable characters and beautiful emotions are what makes me go back to a book. I reread books regularly, always have and always will.

  • I don’t usually re-read. I am making some exceptions lately. I did re-read The Vampire Lestat last year and I just re-read It by Stephen King. I didn’t have reviews for those beloved books on my blog and I felt the need to re-read them with my reviewer eyes. (wow, that sounds so stupid) I wouldn’t classify either of those books as “comfort” reads since they are both full of angst and in the horror category. Great post!

  • I’m going to be honest – I’ve been reading a lot of comfort books lately too. I’m not sure what it is, but I’m stuck! I’ve been rereading a lot of adult romance fantasy novels. Rereading my favorite romance novels is always a favorite thing to do when I’m in a reading slump. Hopefully you and I drag ourselves out of whatever funk we’re in. πŸ’—πŸ’—

    Have a wonderful weekend, Danya! =)

    Alyssa @ The Eater of Books!

  • Lynn Williams

    Your description of Soulless gave me a giggle. I think my comfort reads tended (I speak in the past because I rarely reread these days) to be books from my earlier reading period. Classics that were on the shelves back home. I enjoyed Pride and Prejudice, in fact I like all of Austens. I loved Jane Eyre but I think my favourite book, that I could always return to is Rebecca. I just love that book.
    Lynn

  • I don’t re-read but I really enjoy chick lit sometimes, as just entertaining fun. I do re-read comics before starting a new volume so I understand falling back in line with a world you know.