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We have no contributing diarist this week, so we'll have an open forum instead. Those of you who have read a book that changed your life and would like to contribute a diary, please kosmail me. I have a template that makes it very easy to write a diary!  You need only write three paragraphs and the template tells you exactly what to put in each one.  Just think--contribute a diary and you may find yourself on the "Rec" list!

We’ve all experienced reading a book that is so gritty or downright gloomy that we need the equivalent of brain bleach to cleanse our minds. You know what I’m talking about—the kind of book that leaves you with the mental equivalent of a nasty taste in your mouth.

The cure for this is to retreat to a comfort zone in which all is always well, a place we’ve been to before, a place where we know we’ll find balm for our bruised spirit.

For me, the work of James Herriot is such a comfort zone. Reading about the everyday joys of a country vet’s life, his occasional heartbreaking cases, and the ups and downs of his family is pure escapist bliss for me. And his descriptions of the Yorkshire dales bring tears of nostalgia to my eyes: I’ve been to the north of England and seen some of the places he talks about. For me, a thousand words is often worth a picture.

Another comfort zone is Pride and Prejudice.  Somehow, an orderly world in which certain events are always conducted in the same way is very soothing. If one is in Bath, one must be seen in the Pump Room; young gentlemen must be presented to young ladies before the latter will consent to dance with them; visitors never burst rudely into one’s house but are announced by servants. Good manners are practiced by both gentry and aristocracy, and certain proprieties strictly observed.

Of course I’m not so naïve is to believe that real life in those Yorkshire dales of the 1940s and 1950s was idyllic: there were probably no women vets or vets of color, and if there were gay veterinarians they were most likely closeted. There were probably plenty of people who had serious objections to that society in that time and place.  The same is true of Austen’s England:  the people who made the good manners of their “betters” possible, the servants who got up at oh-dark-thirty to clean out the ashes in the fireplaces and light new fires, who lugged hot water and tea trays up the stairs to their employers, or who labored in the kitchen to provide those lavish meals, probably didn’t find the situation comforting at all—just a lot of endless hard work.

But for soul-cleansing, these escapist comfort zones do exactly what I want them to do.  They restore my faith in human nature and make me feel a hell of a lot better.

Enough about me.  What’s YOUR comfort zone?  What book or books do you regard as an antidote to novels of utter hopelessness and anomie? What soothes your soul, delights your leisure hours, comforts you like a pair of soft, well-worn slippers?

Come, the brandy is poured, the fire stoked; the cat purrs on our knee, the dog snores on the hearthrug.  Tell us about your comfort reading!

Poll

How often do you need "comfort reading"?

22%7 votes
25%8 votes
16%5 votes
6%2 votes
19%6 votes
9%3 votes

| 31 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  I have books I read if I need a laugh (9+ / 0-)

    Sex Toys of the Gods by Christian McLaughlin is one of the funniest books I have ever read. He also wrote Glamourpuss which is also hilarious. He's a TV and movie screenwriter so both books actually have behind the scenes looks at both industries. The main characters in both books are young gay men trying to come out and that adds to the humor. Written in the 90's he cultural references are a bit dated now, nut when I need a laugh - they will deliver.

    The Spice must Flow!

    by Texdude50 on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 05:07:41 AM PST

  •  It's been excoriated over the years (8+ / 0-)

    for it's sexism, provincialism, cruelty, and anti-intellectualism, but I still read Kingsley Amis's "Lucky Jim" when it's time to take a break.

    Thanks for this open forum.

    Governed by biscuits, cake, and the rod.

    by Ivan Shaver on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 05:16:43 AM PST

  •  In my old life I was a line cook (13+ / 0-)

    That job provided me with some of the best times of my life. Now I have a boring desk job. Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain, is an old friend. I probably have read it once every two months for the past five years. Mr. Bourdain has gotten, in my opinion, mean in the ensuing years, his later books and tv programs show it, but Kitchen Confidential was a gem. It was the first memoir that I could actually relate to.

    As far as comfort fiction, I would have to go with The Grandmaster by Warren Murphy and Molly Cochran. Pure escapism. My dad gave me a copy when I was in eight grade, and I bet, over the next twenty years, I have read it at least once a year. Justin Gilead and Alexander Zharkov, the classic good versus evil.

  •  P.G. Wodehouse... (8+ / 0-)

    ...Donald Westlake, Dick Francis, Robert Parker, and Sue Grafton are some of my favorite comfort reading.

    But I also return to some less likely books:

    Chernoff's "African Rhythm and African Sensibility," "The Roaring Silence" (a biography of John Cage), B.R. Deodhar's "Pillars of Hindustani Music," and, oddly, my collection of vintage Horatio Alger Jr. novels.

    I think I must be weird.

    Freedom isn't "on the march." Freedom dances.

    by WarrenS on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 05:21:02 AM PST

  •  Pride and Prejudice is one of my favorite (11+ / 0-)

    "comfort" books. Sharp, witty, funny and somewhat cynical, yet still with a dash of idealized romance.

    I have quite a few comfort books I return to again and again:
    Lucky Jim is one (although I don't care for anything else Kingsley Amis ever produced in his prolific literary career, that one is a gem of brilliance). Just the right mix of anti-hero for me.

    The Moviegoer is another, although it has been a  decade or two since I last read it, it was a favorite in my angsty 20's. Why a 20-something woman in the 1980s would find kinship with a white Southern man in the 50s is odd to me, but it just resonated.

    I love a good detective story, and while I don't generally re-read them, I can read all of Sayers' oeuvre again and again. The "who done it" isn't why you read them. They get better and better, with Gaudy Night taking on some very interesting "feminist" issues.

    My real trash reading is Angela Thirkell. Everything about them is wrong wrong wrong but I still love those books. Landed gentry between the wars in rural England. In the early books in particular, characters are drawn in a lovingly problematic way. Quite formulaic but delightful. Summer Half, August Folly, Before Lunch and Wild Strawberries are a delight if you can get beyond the problematics of them.

  •  A lot, I guess (6+ / 0-)

    Anything by Jim Butcher or Lois McMaster Bujold or Bruce Sterling.

    The novels Bridget Jones' Diary and its sequel, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason.

    Lately I have come to enjoy the works of Larry Correia as well.    He's politically conservative and hates Obama, but fortunately that does not detract from his excellence as an author.

    •  Bujold is good. nt (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dotalbon, old wobbly

      Freedom isn't "on the march." Freedom dances.

      by WarrenS on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 05:32:00 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  What does Larry Correia write? Thrillers? (0+ / 0-)

      "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

      by Diana in NoVa on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 07:11:46 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Very action-packed fantasy novels slash gun porn (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Diana in NoVa

        I really like Grimnoir Chronicles, about an alternate history during which people started to get superpowers starting at around the American Civil War.    Famous historical figures feature.  

        I like his Monster Hunter series to a lesser degree, but it's still pretty good.   It's about a private company called Monster Hunters International that hunters monsters.   Lots of talk about firearms.  

        The nice thing about Correia is that he does not put too much of his politics into his fiction.   There's still a lot of pro-private industry and anti-federal government feeling, but it's not nearly as heavy-handed as that of some of his fellow travelers.

        •  Thanks (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          steamed rice

          just added this to my wish list/to read list. Amazon doesn't have it in e-book, but the Baen website does, for $6. I'm reading the online first chapter now :) looks interesting.

          "Madness! Total and complete madness! This never would've happened if the humans hadn't started fighting one another!" Londo Mollari

          by FloridaSNMOM on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 09:55:16 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Badscience, thanks for this interesting comment (5+ / 0-)

    I'll have to investigate Angela Thirkell.  Sounds like my kinda woman--pure escapist fiction in a world that probably never was, but still interesting, for all that.

    "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

    by Diana in NoVa on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 05:37:13 AM PST

    •  They are escapism, and the early ones (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Aunt Pat, Knockbally

      are well-written too. They get pretty formulaic towards the end. They are also fun since they are set in "Barchester" so there are a lot of allusions to Trollope's world.

      More sharply written are Elizabeth von Arnim's book. My favorite is The Caravaners. Wicked and funny and trenchant.

  •  Have to leave for a while--must drive (6+ / 0-)

    Princess Pink Cheeks to preschool.  Back later!

    Jeez, it was late at night when I uploaded this diary--kinda forgot that we don't drink brandy first thing in the morning!

    "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

    by Diana in NoVa on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 05:38:06 AM PST

  •  The Forever War (6+ / 0-)

    I used to read that about once a year. Nowadays, I'll more likely reread some or all of the Honor Harrington canon.

    Got a serious thing for military SF.

  •  Comfort reading... (10+ / 0-)

    For me it's almost always something I've read before, because most of my comfort reading isn't as much cleaning my mental palate from a bad book. Rather it's for those days when I'm brain fogged or in pain and need a distraction I can follow despite the above.

    Usually that means Patricia Briggs (either one of the Alpha and Omega Series or  Mercy Thompson novel), Stephen King, "Who's Afraid of Beowulf" by Tom Holt, or Hitchhiker's Guide. Mercy has helped me beat my claustrophobia during medical tests in the past, my kindle reading aloud to me from a nearby chair.

    Often if I need a mental palate cleanse it's because I've been reading too many comments on Yahoo or CNN boards, and then my comfort reading is coming back here!

    "Madness! Total and complete madness! This never would've happened if the humans hadn't started fighting one another!" Londo Mollari

    by FloridaSNMOM on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 05:50:43 AM PST

  •  I'm not really looking for (9+ / 0-)

    comfort when I read, but I do like some good comedy, like Roy Blount or David Sedaris.  Amusing essays.

    And I did love the Herriott books, too.  And anything by Douglas Adams.

  •  The Lensmen--caution, not for all tastes (6+ / 0-)

    I have gone back over "Doc" Smith's sci-fi "Lensmen" series of books dozens of times.

    I first read them at 13, and loved them notwithstanding the anachronisms and the truly purple and even godawful prose.

    The basic set up is that the Arisians, a benevolent race of beings who can project their minds through all of space, confront the Eddorians, a planet of Neitzschian authoritarians with similar capabilities--think Karl Rove with telepathy--and they battle things out over millennia using humans and other species as their proxies.

    On the good side, there is an opposition to authoritarianism, mind-blowing sf, good high adventure, and an "all-sentients-are-brothers" feel to the work.

    On the other than, I realized re-reading the books in my 20s that the characters were also essentially anti-feminist, militarist, genocidal and  borderline fascist.  

    Sort of like a Bond film--don't think too hard about the underlying stuff or you won't enjoy it.

    So, if you didn't read the books when you were a 13-year-old boy, I don't think you should start now.

     

  •  Anything in my fiction collection. (10+ / 0-)

    I have seven bookcases full of keepers, many of them novels in assorted genres (actually, the more thoroughly mixed the better), and when I need something I don't have to think about, I just poke through what I own and pick something which has stood up to multiple re-readings already.

    Strength and dignity are her clothing, she rejoices at the days to come; She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the law of kindness is on her tongue.

    by loggersbrat on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 06:13:15 AM PST

    •  Have a feeling you and I would get along very (4+ / 0-)

      well, Loggersbrat.  There are so many "keepers," aren't there?

      I'm just bizarre enough to like Mary Stolz, an out-of-fashion writer who wrote beautifully about 1950s teenaged angst. The writing in her books is so good that I reread some of them occasionally just for that, even though the whole "getting a boyfriend is the most serious thing in my entire life" thing is deader than a post.  My favorites of hers are Second Nature, Pray Love, Remember, and The Seagulls Woke Me.

      "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

      by Diana in NoVa on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 07:21:32 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Stuart Woods (5+ / 0-)

    The author openly admits that only his first novel has any literary value, but his books are always a fun romp. With his stable of recurring characters, you don't have to expend any effort in trying to figure out Holly Baker or Will Lee. You already know them.

    For me there is something comforting about the open scene in Elaine's that starts every Stone Barrington novel

    It is possible to read the history of this country as one long struggle to extend the liberties established in our Constitution to everyone in America. - Molly Ivins

    by se portland on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 06:19:00 AM PST

    •  H'mm--does Woods write mysteries or...? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      se portland

      "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

      by Diana in NoVa on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 07:22:19 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Theses diaries always get posted (0+ / 0-)

        right as I am leaving for work, so I apologize for the late reply.

        Yes, many would be what I would characterize as mysteries. But not always. Often, as in the Will Lee series, the novel tells part of the story form the point of view of the 'bad guy' (although sometimes you find myself routing for a few of his 'bad guy'). These novels are more like a James Bond story where the hero has to catch the 'master mind'. Not all of them are that way, most are more straight forward mysteries.

        After Atwood's After The Flood or Emma Donoghue's Room, Woods is a nice break.

        It is possible to read the history of this country as one long struggle to extend the liberties established in our Constitution to everyone in America. - Molly Ivins

        by se portland on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 06:48:48 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  There's comfort, and then there's bubblegum (8+ / 0-)

    For bubblegum, there's James Patterson.  Can usually pick up a Patterson hardback at the thrift store for a quarter.  Requires no real thought, and the writing, while not great, is at least not so bad as to annoy me beyond its purpose.

    For comfort/humor, there is Bill Bryson.  One of the few writers who can make me laugh out loud, in public.

    For comfort/nostalgia, there is Lord of the Rings, which I first read over spring vacation at eight years old.  Although, lately, I have preferred the audiobook edition narrated by Rob Inglis, which I listen to while driving long distances.

    For comfort/escape, there is travel writing.  Royal Road to Romance by Halliburton, Travels with a Donkey by Stevenson, Tales of the Alhambra by Irving are three oldies but goodies.  Among more contemporary writers, I like Chatwin, Morris & O'Hanlon, to name a few.

    Old copies of Granta are always good in a pinch.

    Ancora Impara--Michelangelo

    by aravir on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 06:20:09 AM PST

    •  I also read LotR early (about 10) and re-read (8+ / 0-)

      it twenty or thirty times. I got the Inglis tapes and pretty much wore them out driving.

      On a similar level, I re-read the Fafhrd and Grey Mouser stories by Fritz Leiber regularly.

      For humor, I also like P. G. Wodehouse. I also like Tom Sharpe (not very easy to find in the US). It takes true talent to make stories about murderous psychopaths funny.

    •  Travels With A Donkey... (8+ / 0-)

      ...is an old favourite and I actually walked the same route through The Cévennes, following in RLS and Modestine's tracks.

      O'Hanlon's Into The Heart of Borneo is one of the funniest travel books ever written; when O'Hanlon was planning the Amazon journey that resulted in In Trouble Again (another wonderful book) he called on the poet James Fenton, his companion in Borneo, to ask him if he'd accompany him to the Amazon. Fenton said:

      "Are you listening carefully, Redmond? Are you sure? Then hear this: I would not go on a bus journey to Milton Keynes with you."

      Jan Morris is always excellent.

      Chatwin was a bit hit-and-miss (his self-mythologizing got on my nerves) but when he was good, he was very good.

      Have you read Robert Byron's The Road To Oxiana? A wonderful book that I can't recommend highly enough.

      And News From Tartary by Peter Fleming (Ian Fleming's older brother) is great fun and records a journey from Peking to India in the 1930s.

      Also all of Colin Thubron's travel work; a superb writer.

      Lightly Seared On The Reality Grill

      by Retroactive Genius on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 06:49:47 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Hi, Aravir, thanks for your comment! (4+ / 0-)

      I rather like Bill Bryson myself, although his book on England irritated me somewhat.  It sounded as though he was snarkily criticizing everything the English say or do.  Goddess knows they're not perfect, but I married one, so I'm a little sensitive on the subject.  ;)

      I'll have to give Patterson a try.  Have avoided him for fear he might be too violent.  If he doesn't go in for blood and guts, I could read him.

      "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

      by Diana in NoVa on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 07:25:35 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Bill Bryson (3+ / 0-)

        is hugely popular in the UK. He was one of the first authors recommended to me when I moved over here, and has been prominent in the fight to protect the countryside from Tory development plans. I even noticed he had his own set of audio tags when we took our tourist friends around the Roman baths in Bath yesterday.
        I personally think criticism was a bit shallow, but evidently the English think he's a laugh riot.

        "There's a crack in everything; that's how the light gets in". Leonard Cohen

        by northsylvania on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 09:03:41 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  If I'm in need of comfort or reassurance (9+ / 0-)

    you'll find me with Lord of the Rings, my old friend and companion through travail.

    Otherwise it'll be The Name of the Rose to remind myself that, yes, I can still read Latin, or more recently, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrel.  If you haven't read it, think Jane Austen meets Faerie.  In its own way, a lovely manners novel.

    "I speak the truth, not as much as I would, but as much as I dare, and I dare a little the more, as I grow older." --Montaigne

    by DrLori on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 06:23:40 AM PST

  •  Any book by Carl Sagan (6+ / 0-)

    or Stephen Jay Gould.  Titanically gifted science writers,  who eagerly confronted anti-intellectualism throughout their careers.   I've read and re-read their essays since the 1970's;  they never fail to challenge and inspire me.  Both are gone, and terribly missed.  

    If I had to pick a single book, it would be  Sagan's A Demon-Haunted World. When the crazies REALLY get to me, I pick it up and plunge gratefully back into reality!      

    I can't understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I'm frightened of the old ones. (John Cage)

    by dotalbon on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 06:31:24 AM PST

  •  Humor and books about food (9+ / 0-)

    Robert Benchley> Don Marquis's Archy and Mehitabel series. John Steinbeck later works (especially The Short Reign of Pippin IV.

    And M.F.K. Fisher, Elizabeth David, cookbooks, and books on the history of how we look at what we eat.

    I think I've just described what interests me when I want to escape reading on topic for a while! Sometimes, it has to NOT be history qua history.

    -7.75, -8.10; All it takes is security in your own civil rights to make you complacent.

    by Dave in Northridge on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 06:40:28 AM PST

  •  I keep thinking of more. (6+ / 0-)

    Gerald Durrell's Corfu books (sort of memoir, sort of fiction, sort of natural history, it's all there!) are wonderful. Some of his writing verges on purple prose (well, look at Lawrence Durrell!) but I put up with it because the stories are so funny.

  •  Seamus Heaney & Don DeLillo (5+ / 0-)

    At the time, I actually blamed Heaney's Death of a Naturalist for my decision to drop out of college. [Turns out it really wasn't his fault!] For years I kept a battered copy with me during my travels. I drank up North and Stations and (much later) The Spirit Level. I still go to him in moments of sorrow and happiness--his respect for language, his earthy and natural rhythms, his humble imagery, impressed me and made me want to be not just a better reader, but a better person (yes, I know, weird that a book can change its reader).

    My stumbling onto Heaney coincided with my first encounters with Don DeLillo's work. I was given Americana by a friend whose recommendation was, basically, "I couldn't finish it, maybe you will have more luck." Loved it. Ran down End Zone and Great Jones Street and then started looking forward to his next book. I won't go into Underground only because I tired of defending that book when it came out; but I still believe it is a masterful and beautiful work.

    You mentioned Austen, and I will have to agree with you. I recently reread her work (it had been 25 years between helpings) and would readily agree that she is a guilty pleasure.

    Thanks again for a stimulating topic. I look forward to Fridays just to read this diary and its comments.

  •  Mystery books, travel books (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Diana in NoVa, Larin, old wobbly

    For comfort, I tend toward the well-written formulaic.  I love the entire Cadfael series by Ellis Peters.  I know pretty much what's going to happen, but how it happens will differ.  Plus, the author does such a great job of bringing the Middle Ages to life.

    I also read and re-read one of my favorite books ever, The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis.  It's sci-fi, and also set in the Middle Ages via the 21st century.  Young Oxford student goes to the 1300s as part of her studies in history.

    Reading about other peoples' adventures while I sit on the couch with a comforter and a cat is very enjoyable.  I love crazy Gary Paulson, and his account of running the Itidarod in Winterdance is funny, amazing, beautiful, and sometimes jaw-dropping.  That guy has a tolerance for pain I cannot imagine.  I'd never be tough enough to run that race, but love reading about someone who was.

    Austen and Wodehouse's books are also great comfort reads.

    The last word in ignorance is the man who says of an animal or plant: 'What good is it?” - Aldo Leopold

    by Knockbally on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 07:27:18 AM PST

    •  Knockbally, love the mental image of you (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Knockbally, old wobbly

      sitting on the sofa with comforter and the cat.  You've piqued my curiosity by mentioning The Doomsday Book.  I also like to find out how people lived in those days.

      "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

      by Diana in NoVa on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 07:35:53 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I wish I were (3+ / 0-)

        on the sofa with the purring lap-warmer!  ;-)

        Connie Willis apparently became quite obsessed with the Middle ages when writing The Doomsday Book, and includes things like how the language would sound to our ears (the student has a kind of Babelfish thing in her ear that doesn't work at first) how people lived during that time, how they saw the world, and what the plague was like.

        It's terribly sad at times, and really moving as well.  Living in the Middle Ages isn't romanticized, but neither is it deplored.  The girl comes to care about the people in the little community where she ends up.  

        I think the book was written in the 1980s, so the 21st century is imagined, and there's an adventure going on in modern Oxford as well.  Less interesting, but still enjoyable.

        The last word in ignorance is the man who says of an animal or plant: 'What good is it?” - Aldo Leopold

        by Knockbally on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 07:46:17 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  That sounds really good. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Knockbally

          Added to bookmarks. Thanks.

          "There's a crack in everything; that's how the light gets in". Leonard Cohen

          by northsylvania on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 09:14:51 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  there's a scene in the doomsday book (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Knockbally, Larin

          that just about crushed me---when rosemary drops the apple? You know the one?

          I had to put the book down because I started crying, and I almost never cry at anything.

          But it is a rewarding read (a bit anacrohnistic in the segments that take place in 2050, but that wasn't that bad.)

          pseudoscience can kill

          by terrypinder on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 11:22:35 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I know exactly the one, terry! (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            terrypinder

            It is so moving, so surprising (I thought rosemary was okay!) and devastating.  I rarely cry reading books, and I welled up at that.  Actually, I well up every time I read it.

            And I love every scene with little Agnes.  She's so perfectly drawn.

            The last word in ignorance is the man who says of an animal or plant: 'What good is it?” - Aldo Leopold

            by Knockbally on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 11:32:34 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  For Comfort I'm re-reading either (4+ / 0-)

    Possession by AS Byatt or the short story volume Solitudes by Goffredo Parise.

    The former captures my brain with the dual narrative dual time period structure and the latter is great for a good cry.  And it has many personal associations for me.

    Words can sometimes, in moments of grace, attain the quality of deeds. --Elie Wiesel

    by a gilas girl on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 07:38:25 AM PST

    •  What is "Solitudes" about, Gilas girl? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      a gilas girl

      "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

      by Diana in NoVa on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 08:56:06 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  It's a series of short stories (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Diana in NoVa, Knockbally, Larin

        each one of which is titled with a single emotion.  

        My favorite is "Melancholy" about the granddaughter of a rich man who sponsors a camp for poor children and he sends his granddaughter to attend.  Of course, she's treated differently, special by the nuns and by the children and she feels like an outsider.  When the grandfather asks the nun how she behaved one day the nun used a word the granddaughter didn't understand.  So on the way home, riding on her grandfather's bike she asked him what "melancholy" meant.  The grandfather struggles for a definition the child can understand and explains it as "the feeling of wanting to cry but not knowing why".  Then he asks her if she ever felt that way at camp.

        She looks to the horizon and says, "sometimes".

        And then the story ends.   Most of the stories are set in WWII era Italy (a couple a bit earlier or later) but they are all as simple but precisely honed, which I find beautiful.

        Words can sometimes, in moments of grace, attain the quality of deeds. --Elie Wiesel

        by a gilas girl on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 09:01:24 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Lonesome Dove (4+ / 0-)

    does it for me in times of stress, but on any cold dark autumn evening, I curl up with Ursula K. LeGuin. I'm about to wear out Left Hand of Darkness.

    "There's a crack in everything; that's how the light gets in". Leonard Cohen

    by northsylvania on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 09:05:36 AM PST

  •  Years ago, while enduring a (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Knockbally, Diana in NoVa, old wobbly

    high risk pregnancy, I read all of G. Heyer's Regency romances, every single one.  It was an escape from a really difficult time and those books kept me sane.  All are good but Venetia is the best.  Pure escape into a structured social code, with handsome men and lovely, witty women.  

    •  Larin, I hear and applaud (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      old wobbly

      When my beloved mother died, I read all 80 of Anne Weale's romances.  It was brain-candy and occupying my eyes like that dulled the pain for six months.  After that I was able to cope.

      So I know exactly what you mean!  Hope all is well now.

      "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

      by Diana in NoVa on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 02:45:33 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Lake Wobegon Days (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Diana in NoVa

    By Garrison Keillor

    "I'm six-four...it takes a lot to get over my top." --Alan Grayson

    by chicating on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 01:55:33 PM PST

  •  Dave Barry (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    old wobbly

    Cracks me up.  

    Austen is a comfort zone?  I once heard a really nasty divorce lawyer say "Yeah, my wife made me read some Austen. Jesus. I thought I was fucking cynical."

    •  archer, you either love Jane Austen or hate her (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      old wobbly

      There doesn't seem to be an in-between.  From the age of nine until I was 14, I couldn't stand Jane Austen.  Then I picked up Northanger Abbey, laughed my head off, and went on to read all of her books.  My least favorites are Mansfield Park and Sense and Sensibility.

      Mark Twain couldn't stand Jane Austen either, so you're in good company.

      "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

      by Diana in NoVa on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 05:20:35 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Barbara Kingsolver, fiction and non (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Diana in NoVa

    My favorite comfort book from her is The Bean Trees, which fortunately has a sequel, Pigs in Heaven. Love the essays in High Tide in Tuscon. Favorite overall book of hers is the steamy Prodigal Summer.

    Glad to meet so many Wodehouse fans here. My favorite, which has surprising depth on class and gender issues, is Jill the Reckless. The chapter told in first person by a parrot is one of the funniest passages ever.

    What is a food system but a multitude of bites? Visit Cook for Good and vote with your fork!

    by Cook for Good on Fri Nov 16, 2012 at 05:29:08 AM PST

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