7 Reasons Why Comfort Reads Are So Important

Comfort Read (noun) - An old favourite book which is re-read when a person needs something familiar which makes them feel ... um, well, comforted. Known for consumption along with warm beverages while in pyjamas and possibly yelling at parents to go fetch some chocolate.


Shush - it's a technical definition, you know.

I am a huge, huge fan of comfort reading. It makes me so freaking happy - because who doesn't want to meet a bunch of old friends between the pages of a paperback while things are getting all topsy-turvey IRL? Who doesn't have those moments when you just need to step back into the lovely veneer of memories and familiar stretches of the imagination?

But - you cry - what exactly is it that makes these comfort reads so important? (And if you haven't been crying that ... again, shush. You're ruining my great introduction.) Well, allow me to enlighten you:

#1 ~ You Know You're in for a Good Read

You know the deal. The feeling. You open a book that you absolutely can't wait for - maybe you've been waiting for it for ages, maybe the blurb looks like the plot was made for you, maybe it's a book from your favourite author that you only just found out about.

And after about a chapter or two, your heart sinks. Because, sure, it's okay. But man, you wanted more.

The one type of book which doesn't have that problem is (you guessed it) a comfort read, And I suppose you could say that lack of jeopardy makes things dull, but I'm definitely not going to. I mean A GOOD READ, GUARANTEED, PEOPLE.


Huh. That kind of rhymed.

#2 ~ The Memories

MEMMMORIEEEEES! ALLLLL ALLOOONNNNE IN THE MOOOOONNNLIIGHT!

No! Er, hold on a second *turns around in a desperate effort to get musical theatre Lara inside her box*

*modulated wailing from inside the box*

Sorry about that. Anyway, yes. I was talking about memories. If you were to pick one of my comfort reads off the shelf in my bedroom, I could probably flick to a random chapter and take you back to the first time I read it. I could point to a particular food stain and tell you whether it was chocolate or chorizo or barbecue crisps. In one particular case, I can even sniff a page and explain that this is the section of the book that got vomited on.

(By the way, I still feel really, really terrible about that. I was in hospital at the time though, so ... blame the morphine.)

My point? Comfort reads are like time machines you can hold. And I just love that kind of real-life magic.

#3 ~ Sometimes it's nice to know how things end

I do not deal well with suspense. None of you have ever seen me watch a remotely scary movie, but it really isn't pretty - I jump at anything resembling a loud noise, and local dogs have been known to mistake me as one of their own thanks to the whimpering.

So sometimes it's nice not to be shredding myself apart as the book reaches a climax, is all.

#4 ~ You can skip the dull bits with no shame

It's okay, Agnes, listen! I said there was no shame!

There are some people who skip boring sections of a book the first time round with no worries whatsoever, but unfortunately I do not have the confidence or the devil-may-care attitude to do this. Which is probably why I end up reading so much more slowly than everyone else.

But what I like about a comfort read is that know it absolutely inside out. Not only could I read it literally from back to front and still know what was going on, but I can even open it to my favourite chapters without looking at page numbers. My oldest copies often just unfold themselves to the page or paragraph I've read the most.

It's a beautiful feeling to be able to find that exact part of a book that complements the emotions tumbling through your skull. Sometimes, I think it's the only thing that keeps me from becoming even more unhinged than I already am.

#5 ~ The details seem endless

So, you know when I just said that I know my comfort reads absolutely inside out?

Well, it turns out that I also discover something new each and every time I read them. Because CONTRADICTIONS, FOLKS!

I will be honest, in that I'm semi-exclusively talking about Harry Potter here; I don't think I'm ever going to get my head round the absolutely mind-boggling level of worldbuilding with a whole lifetime of re-reads, so there's no way I could have taken in even half the detail the first time.

Maybe I was lying about the exclusivity, because that kind of applies to every re-read I do. I'm always finding out new things about characters, discovering hidden corners of settings ... and guess what.

I love it.

#6 ~ No danger of getting attached to dead characters

You know the drill. A favourite character equals a dead character more often than it doesn't ... and this is ridiculously frustrating. I almost get disappointed when I identify with a character super-strongly, because I just know that means they're dead. But then - of course - there's still hope they might survive.

And this is why I get attached.

With re-reads, I know all. I'm like a psychic with a very limited crystal ball, and I use that power. It tends to go a lot like this:
Remus Lupin: Hey, so I'm an awesome father-figure character and I'm really kind and courageous and -
Me: No
Remus Lupin: ... but I refuse to marry the woman I love because I don't want to hold her back!
Me: No.
Remus Lupin: ... but I'm afraid to have a child in case I pass on my lycanthropy!
Me: You can be as sympathetic and morally perfect as you like. I'm not getting attached, okay?
Remus Lupin: *puppy dog eyes*

As you can see, this Vulcan strategy doesn't always - or indeed ever - work. But it's nice to be able to try?

#7 ~ Life Changes ... They Don't

What if I don't want to change, Mr. Obama? I mean, you're an amazing president and human being - can't you do all the changing for us?

Okay, fine. The world needs to change. We need social progress and developing opinions and debate. We need to embrace the future. But we've all experienced the not-so-great kind of change, the kind that drags us away from what we know and love in a direction that we never wanted to go. And in those times, we need a little reminder of the way things use to be, if nothing else.

That's the real key to comfort reading. The real reason it's so important.

A book that we still manage to love year after year, read after read, and page after page ... it reminds us who we are. It has been a key in our lives sometimes for decades, and that means that tiny pieces of our personality get trapped within each word, They hide between the lines waiting to be rediscovered; we take them out, treasure them and put them back into place, ever so carefully. Ever so gently, so we can have them next time.

After I finish one of my comfort reads for approximately the seventeenth time, I feel more whole. More balanced.

More me.

***
In the comments: What are your favourite comfort reads, my humans? What makes them so comforting? And why do you think they are so important?
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9 Ways to Make an Author's Day ... for Free!

So ... hello again, internet. 

I'm not dead, I swear, I just managed to seriously get out of the habit of blogging in the last couple of months. I've missed it every day, honestly, it's just that stuff got crazy and then when it finished being crazy my brain seemed to have forgotten how to open a new post without having Pinterest available on another tab for procrastination.

I AM trying to fix this. Promise. Maybe a regular posting schedule will happen again at some point.

Anyway, the post. Introductions. Geez, I'm out of practice. Today, I've decided to have a chat with you guys about authors. Because, well, we all know they are the rockstars of the bookworm universe, and since we are unable to buy concert tickets for many reasons (only one of which is their general lack of existence) I figured it might be nice to suggest some ways you can support the artists you love with no budget because you've already spent all your money on books

There are nine, but make of this what you will - you could do a week and a bit of supporting different authors in a different way every day, have a day of incredible kindness doing all nine at once, or just pick and choose as you like. Don't forget to comment or tweet me when you do stuff, either!

Recommend their work to your friends

This sounds obvious, I know. If you're reading this, you're probably a book blogger, and spend what seems like every second of every day shoving books into people's faces. But if you do that, then you know how important trusted recommendations can be to sales. If you know someone who you really think is going to like a book you love, then waste no time forcing them to devour it.

In the terrible case your friends aren't bookwormy enough to throw paperbacks at (or you've run out of people who are willing to read it), then there are other ways to drum up support. For instance ...

Write a review

It can be scary if you've never written a review before, but once you sit down to write about a book you adore it will just pour out of you - probably not coherently, but as long as people can get a general sense of how awesome it is then that's okay.

Go to your local bookshop - suggest it to people who can't decide what to buy

Yes, this sounds absolutely bonkers, but it can be brilliant fun if you're sensible about it. Don't be rude or freak anyone out - and definitely don't put yourself in a situation where you feel unsafe or uncomfortable - but even just sneakily rearranging the shelves so your favourite is facing out can encourage people to pick it up.

Failing that, you could always just go and buy more books.

Send them links to your nice reviews

Only your nice ones, mind. In the not-so-rare event that I write a review which is 100% positive (or incredibly close) then I do tweet them about it. It's up to them whether they want to read it or not, of course, but I want to make my appreciation known.

(If you're struggling to establish whether a review qualifies as "nice" or not, then I find this post from Amber @ The Mile Long Bookshelf to be very helpful.)

Cross post! Cross post it all!

As I type this right now, the next thing on my to-do list is to copy-paste a bunch of my Goodreads reviews and transfer them to Amazon. Because, do you know what? That's literally all you have to do. There's no pressure to rewrite for the different audiences or anything - and almost every author I've ever had an in-depth chat with about my reviews has asked if I could cross-post to Amazon. That's how important it is for those who are umming and erring about whether to press the buy button to see a positive opinion.

And, yes, authors aren't just in it for the money. But they still need to, you know, eat? Apparently you're not allowed to pay for food with good intentions anymore?

When you like their book, tweet them about it

No. You're not going to annoy them. You're not going to seem selfish when they just have to take a second or two out of their day to like it or even reply. Unless they're J.K. Rowling, I can absolutely assure you that they're not being sent so many tweets that it becomes a chore.

Put it this way - if you'd written a book, would you want the people who loved it to keep quiet because they fear you, or would you want to have a conversation with them? I mean ... you know how amazing it is to fangirl about other people's books with awesome folks on the internet. Can you imagine how mind-blowing it would be to fangirl about your own?

Ask them how their latest book is going

You'll probably get a lot of pterodactyl screeching and angst, but at least they'll know you care.

Request their book(s) at your local library

Or, you know, all the libraries. ALL THE LIBRARIES IN THE WORLD. 

If a book gets requested at a library and the decision-making librarian likes the sound of it, then it has to be bought (Yay royalties!), either from the publishers or library services. And THEN its presence on the library shelves encourages word of mouth (as well as allowing readers with small book budgets to experience it, which of course is wildly important).

Win win, yes?

UPDATE: The lovely Cee Arr from Diary of a Reading Addict has just informed me that, in countries with a Public Lending Right (PLR) programme (which includes the UK, Ireland, Canada, New Zealand and Australia) authors, authors get paid a small amount for every book of theirs is borrowed from a public library.

If you're an author, you might have to get registered in order to receive these payments; check this page to see a full list of countries with a PLR, and if you're published in any of them make sure you look up what you need to do to register in that country!

Readers, you can be safe in the knowledge that you're not cheating your favourite authors when you borrow instead of buying.

Follow them on social media

This is particularly important for more up-and-coming authors, since nowadays publishing houses like to see prospective authors with big social media followings - if you love their writing and want to see more of it, then this is a great way to support them.

Support campaigns for authors' rights

Remember that thing I said before about noble intentions and devotion to your craft not being exchangeable for food and other life essentials? You know, that money is important for survival?

Yeah. That.

Authors are amazing people. They work incredibly hard at what is not only a dream job but an incredibly difficult (and important) one. It entertains us. And do you know how important entertainment - escape - is in the world we're living in right now? These people deserve proper pay and respect. Sometimes they get it ... sometimes they don't.

So please. Support authors who ask for pay to speak at conferences and fight for their right to be identified as the author of their own work. Being an artist is amazing, but it's hard work and people get taken advantage of, or even just not appreciated. They need those who love their art to have their back.
In the comments: How do you guys like to make an author's day? Have you ever used any of the techniques here? Which ones would make you smile the most?
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