In times of distress, uncertainty, or hardship, there’s nothing more comforting than that beloved book whose pages you’ve thumbed through time and time again. Despite re-reading its story dozens of times over, the message is never lost. Here are our favorite books that we turn to when the world has got us down.
Life Got You Down? Pick Up These 8 Comfort Reads
Holly’s Pick #1: This book is a fan favorite for a reason. Marie-Laurie is a blind French girl whose father works in the Musuem of Natural History. But when Nazis invade France, she and her father are forced to flee, bringing with them the museum's most valuable jewel. Back in Germany, Werner Pfennig is left as an orphan with his younger sister. As he grows, Werner becomes infatuated with a radio, and soon learns how to fix and manipulate the hardware. Becoming an expert in radios, Werner is enlisted to track down the resistance. ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE beautifully intertwines these two complex characters’ lives. If you are a fan of historical fiction and looking for a great book to hunker down with, look no further than this story.
Already beloved by millions of readers, this novel follows a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as they both try to survive the devastation of World War II. The breakout hit of 2014, this beautiful novel was a finalist for the National Book Award and it just won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. If you haven't read it yet, this one should be at the top of your spring reading list.
Holly’s Pick #2: I couldn’t think of a better comfort novel then this all-time favorite of mine. THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER follows Charlie as he awkwardly navigates his transition between adolescence and adulthood. Between starting high school, fitting into new friends, trying drugs, and ultimately fumbling through it all, Charlie reminds us how coming-of-age is quite the roller coaster that no one has masterfully completed. When I’m in the mood for a good cry, a deep laugh, and a dose of nostalgia, THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER is most definitely my go-to.
Erin’s Pick: Barbara Kingsolver's THE BEAN TREES is my favorite comfort read. Yes, it is heartbreaking, and yes, the main characters do face significant hardships, but every character in this book is the ultimate picture of resilience. The narrator, Taylor Greer, grew up poor in rural Kentucky with two goals: to avoid pregnancy and get out. So, she buys an old Volkswagen and hits the road. On her way, she finds herself the sudden guardian of an orphaned Native American toddler and ends up broken down in a tire shop in Tucson, Arizona that serves as a sanctuary for Central American refugees. To say the least, the characters in this book face almost impossible struggles, but they still manage to persevere and enjoy simple things like the smell of the desert after it rains. I'll definitely be re-reading this book this week.
Erin’s Fictional Dinner Party Guest: Estevan
I’d like to have dinner with Estevan from Barbara Kingsolver’s THE BEAN TREES. I would probably be intimidated by his vast knowledge and life experiences, as he was once an English teacher in Guatemala before fleeing his home country as a refugee, but considering I thought hearing about his experiences in the book was both fascinating and heartbreaking, having dinner with him and getting to hear more would also be wonderful.
Sarah Jane’s Pick: When I'm feeling low, I like to take a trip to the shire for this beloved, familiar story about the unassuming, homebody of a hobbit who embarked on an adventure and discovered there was so much more to him than he ever imagined. Through battling giant spiders, riding eagles, discovering a mysterious ring, and engaging in a battle of wits with a dragon, Bilbo becomes the hero he never expected to be. It always makes me smile.
The enchanted adventure tale of Middle Earth, Bilbo Baggins, Gandalf, Smaug the Magnificent and, of course, the Ring. The classic that has thrilled millions and launched two film franchises. Who but Mr. Cumberbatch could have voiced that dragon?
Taryn’s Pick: My favorite comfort book is ONE TRUE LOVES by Taylor Jenkins Reid. We follow Emma who is caught between the two loves of her life -- Sam, her childhood friend who is now her fiancé, and Jesse, the man she married who disappeared on their first anniversary, only to return years later. The story is gorgeously written while still being accessible. The characters feel real and raw -- they are flawed but empathetic, and as a reader it's impossible not to adopt their pain, joy, and love as your own.
Kerry’s Pick: There's comfort in familiarity, and Jane Austen's masterpiece is a novel that I am (and all the women in my family are) quite familiar with. Whenever I need a pick-me-up, I go back to Longbourn, Netherfield Park, and Pemberley, and enjoy the miscommunication, slow burn flirting, and clever quips of Elizabeth Bennet, Mr. Darcy, and their witty families. If all else fails, I always have the 1995 miniseries starring Colin Firth.
In a remote Hertfordshire village, far off the good coach roads of George III's England, a country squire of no great means must marry off his five vivacious daughters. At the heart of this all-consuming enterprise are his headstrong second daughter Elizabeth Bennet and her aristocratic suitor Fitzwilliam Darcy — two lovers whose pride must be humbled and prejudices dissolved before the novel can come to its splendid conclusion.
Sarah’s Pick: David Sedaris is the king of clever humor, and Calypso’s essay format means you can wander through at a leisurely pace, locating the topic and tone you need in a particular moment. With titles like “Why Aren’t You Laughing?,” “I’m Still Standing,” and “ The Silent Treatment,” Sedaris pivots through family relationships, TV-watching while signing book tip-ins, falling asleep at key moments, all with the sense that you’re sitting across from a good friend who has gone on a wonderfully unexpected tangent. Sedaris shows us that no matter the circumstance, life can be laughed at and mused upon, swung out and approached from various angles until it’s not the situation that’s important, but the way you handle yourself.
Hannah’s Pick: When I need a little pick-me-up, whether because of a bad day or the state of a world, I think about this book. It’s set in London during World War II and the Blitz, and the main character Emmy, keeps her head up and keeps plugging forward with an irresistible positivity and charm. “Plucky” really is the best word to describe her. And there’s something about her ability to find the good in people, and her desire to help others feel better through letters, that makes me feel like my heart is getting a hug. And on the days I need a hug, this book always delivers.
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