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Certain stories can take us away to a brighter, more secure place, sometimes giving us joy, sometimes helping us grieve. We'd like to know if books have been a source of comfort to you during difficult times, and, if so, what these books are. To share your thoughts on the following questions - send us an email, note which question(s) you are responding to. Many of your favorite authors have already responded to the questions and are sharing their thoughts with you.
Comforting Books reply Are you reading a certain time period or a certain type of book, i.e. Romance, Mystery, or Thriller?
In response to question #1 below, I have been reading Diane Mott Davidson's mystery series about the caterer, Goldy Schultz. In times of stress, I, like Goldy, find comfort in cooking, so I have been identifying with her. Also, I have gone back and reread books that I consider to be "old friends", books such as "My Darling Caroline" and Nora Roberts' books. - Stasia Doster, reader Books are always a form of escape--sometimes intellectual, sometimes emotional. They take us for varying periods of time and to various degrees into a different world. They help release us from the tensions of the everyday world. When we read we are in control. We set the pace of our reading. We can put the book down whenever we wish. We can bring our imaginations and intellects to bear upon the content. Books can be especially soothing during a time of crisis, when we are surrounded by uncertainties and dangers and feelings of helplessness and bewilderment. Fiction in particular gives a comforting shape to experience, even dangerous experience--it has an acceptable beginning, middle, and end. - Mary Balogh, author Books serve a wonderful purpose in times of stress or grief. They allow us, at least for a while, to escape our problems by traveling into another, different world. - Kat Martin, author I think the familiar is comforting during times of crisis -- whether it's a favorite book (or type of book) or a favorite movie, favorite TV show, or even a favorite piece of music. I rented and watched THE PHILADELPHIA STORY, which is one of my all time favorite movies. And I've been spending lots of time listening to Mozart's Requiem. It's an amazing piece of music, one I've loved for years. It seems like a fitting soundtrack to our lives in the aftermath of 9/11. - Suzanne Brockmann, author Well, books provide a respite, a moment alone that is valuable in times of crisis. But there is something else at work, too. To a true reader, books are friends. Undemanding ones whose sole purpose is to give. And they are always there. I've woken in the middle of the night--startled by some fear or chased by a nagging problem--and found a book calms and settles me. Through the characters of a story, I'm reminded life does go on, good truimphants over evil, and there is more to life than bills and laundry. - Cathy Maxwell, author Romance is a feel good genre. It's the message of hope that I can count on in every romance that brings me back to them. Over and over I hear from readers who say that my books gave them hope----hope for the future, hope of finding that special person that everyone is seeking, hope for healing families and healing relationships. - Cheryl St. John, author Books are silent. You read in silence, you sit alone, you sink into the story. The noise and tumult around you recedes as you slip into the pages of a good novel. Romance stories are particularly comforting ...I like to read old favorites in times of crisis, both personal and on a world wide scale. Opening the pages of one of my keepers is like slipping on an old flannel shirt or my faded purple chenille bathrobe when I have a cold. Stories I know and love are comforting as a hot cup of cocoa. With the world in upheaval, it's nice to re-read a book you know well because you are familiar with the plot and characters and can ease into it when focusing is difficult. You know that things will turn out all right for the characters and that they will come through their darkest moments of the storyline and triumph. - Jill Marie Landis, author I think books are comforting because they're like friends. They're familiar, they're constant. Books written by our favorite authors are especially comforting because we often feel we've developed a friendship with the author -- even if we've never met... during this emotional time, we turn to books because the world the author has created can never be destroyed. And there is comfort in knowing that some places, even if they only exist in our imagination, can't be harmed. - Lorraine Heath, author Books have always been, to me, virtual reality. Books require sensory memory, imagination, an involvement in the reading process. For example, if I read a sentence, "The house smelled musty as if the very air needed to be dusted." I'm instantly back in my grandfather's house in Clinton, Missouri. The author offers up a scene, but we furnish it with details from our own experiences. Because books require our participation to make them come alive, unlike radio and television, they take us away from our current circumstances. - Karen Ranney, author I wasn't reading fiction the first week or two after the traumatic events of September 11th. Then a good friend of mine and a multi-published author sent me the manuscript of her upcoming book to read ... a Regency-era historical romance and I found myself savoring every page, staying up into the wee hours reading, smiling, even laughing. That seemed to break the ice for me. Now I'm reading or rereading Amanda Quick, Elizabeth Lowell, Stella Cameron, Susan Elizabeth Phillips and so many others -- all wonderful writers I know I can count on to give me life-affirming, love-affirming stories. - Suzanne Simmons, author Books allow us to take comfort from the message in the books, if it is that kind of book...such as an inspirational novel, or one espousing a particular social message. But sometimes books just allow us to escape for awhile from our everyday lives, such as historical romances or humorous romances. I write humor, and I get hundreds of letters each month from readers who thank me for allowing them to smile amidst the tragedy in their lives, or just escape from the stress of everyday living. Escape...that's what it's all about. - Sandra Hill, author Books allow the reader to dwell in the comforting world of words. They take us on a journey where we can linger, reread a phrase, or think of its meaning, all at our own pace. - Pam Binder, author Ever since the death of my husband, which is almost 25 years, and sleep was hard, someone offered me some books, I first read novels of this era until I read Kathleen Woodiwiss Shanna. I could not put the book down and every since I have all her historical romance books. If I cannot sleep, I pick up a book. It especially helped when I worked, simply to change my train of thought. - Erika, reader I've been doing comfort reading, too. Like everyone else, I'm still stunned by the tragedies. On the morning of the 11th, I was returning home from an overnight trip. When I was about three minutes from my house, I could see the smoke rising from the Pentagon. It was the most chilling thing I've ever seen. - Patsy Miessler, reader
Comforting Books reply Do you find a specific type of story structure especially soothing at this time, such as a richly detailed historical novel? Or are you turning to books with snappy dialogue and sharp wit to give you a lift?
Anyone who enjoys a good historical romance should check out books written by Eugenia Price. I've read all her historical romance books and they were all memorable. Fortunately many of her books are Trilogies or Quartets so you can follow the same characters and families, who you've come to know intimately, through generations. The characters are based on real people and her words breathes new life into them. They become as well known and liked as are friends. Her love of the Southland comes through so strong and her colorful descriptions of the land and the homes fill you with the desire to visit those places. Since most of the characters, homes and buildings are real if you did visit those places you could see some of the buildings and visit the graves of many of the characters. Sadly, Eugenia is no longer with us to bring more new friends to life but gladly the ones she has given us live on through her stories. - Sue, reader When I need an escape, a historical romance does it for me. An old familiar one is like an old friend, and I can slip into the story and become absorbed with the characters who are by now beloved to me. My favorite comfort reads are any of LaVyrle Spencer's early books, such as Hummingbird or The Endearment, or an early Pam Morsi, such as Marrying Miss Hattie. When life is particularly challenging, I don't want the reality of a contemporary, I want the romance of a historical, especially an Americana or a western. They depict the roots of our country and the heroes in our recent past. Good always prevails and love conquors all. - Cheryl St.John, author Books that emphasis the goodness in all of us and the beauty in our world comfort me. It is my belief that a smile is contagious. If I read a book that touches my heart, and lifts my sprits, it brightens my day to the extent that I want to share that feeling with others. - Pam Binder, author I'm not sure until this past month I realized how much reading our favorite authors/ our favorite stories can give us a feeling of hope, of reassurance, of sanity in a world that sometimes seems to have too little of all three. It wouldn't surprise me to discover that many romance readers are gravitating to historicals right now. - Suzanne Simmons, author Books that have moral certainties can be especially comforting to a reader whose world is in turmoil. In books like most Westerns, we can see a definite boundary between good and evil. We are presented with a sort of morality play in which good always triumphs over evil. In romance there is always a happy ending. Love triumphs and the man and woman who belong together end up together. The reader of romance understands this convention and so can relax away from the everyday world. No matter how tortured the hero and heroine are en route to their happily ever after, at least the reader can be certain that they will get there by the end of the book. Real life offers no such certainty. - Mary Balogh, author Genre fiction is my choice of comfort book because of its mythic themes--the "crime doesn't pay" of mystery, the "love conqueors all" of romance, etc. And because I know there will be a nice tidy ending. - Cathy Maxwell, author Romance novels are especially comforting at these times. They immerse us in a world of deep love and passion and we know that no matter how bad things get in that world, the people we care about are going to be blessed with a happy ending. - Kat Martin, author Historical romances are very comforting to me. (Not particularly surprising, since I write them.) I like the blurring of time. I can care about the characters and yet they're in a framework that is essentially known to me. The past holds fewer surprises than the future. Or even the present. - Karen Ranney, author ... I have turned to reading for comfort. It is like going into a dreamscape. I like to read Historical romances. Even though there are war or battles in the stories, there is also a love story! Even though there usually is also a conflict that has to be overcome before the couple lives happily ever after, I know that it will be resolved and that the Good will win and the Bad will lose. I must confess that before I buy a book, I usually read a bit of the story to make sure it all ends well! I don't like to read a story with a sad ending because there are too many of those in real life! - Patricia Benoit, reader
Comforting Books reply Additionally, if you have any recommendations as to especially good reads for times such as these, we'd love for you to briefly share them with other readers.
I read Rachel Gibson's TRUE CONFESSIONS, a comedy that was absolutely hilarious...just the ticket when I see and hear around me is despair. Then I read Patricia Gaffney's AMAZING GRACES, a completely different type of book, very serious, dealing with friendship and cancer. It was wonderful and satisfying in its own way. - Sandra Hill, author Frankly, I haven't been reading at all. I'm supposed to be writing... maybe I should just give myself a break and read one of my favorite Carla Kelly titles. {And a day or so later...} Since I answered your questions, I decided that exactly what I needed right now was to read a great book. So I'm almost finished with WITH THIS RING by Carla Kelly. I would have read LIBBY'S LONDON MERCHANT -- which is my all time favorite of hers, but I just re-read that this past summer. - Suzanne Brockmann, author Currently I'm reading Sandra Brown's Envy and loving it. Linda Francis Lee's The Dove is next on my list. Both are romances, which I know will leave me feeling good at the end. - Kat Martin, author Just now I'm reading an old copy of The Wolf and the Dove by Woodiwiss. It's tattered and taped together. Why do I read it again and again? Because the good guys win! - Jill Marie Landis, author But when I do pick up a book in times of stress it's always one I've read before. Why? There are no surprises. I like strong characters, who aren't perfect, so if I find a book like that, I read it over and over. For example, Jan Cox Speas's My Lord Monleigh has a heroine I adore, simply because she makes a few wrong decisions for very human reasons. - Karen Ranney, author What I'm reading right now is a tough question. The 9/11 bombing was so castrophic, my mind has trouble absorbing all the ramifications. And this is reflected in my reading. Normally, I can't touch another book until I finish one. However, right now, I'm reading two books at a time. I chill with Stephanie Plum in Janet Evanovich's fun HOT SIX and then the next night, I pick up Julia Quinn's AN OFFER FROM A GENTLEMAN. Both are light-hearted, fast paced reading. They've been helping me take the edge off my thoughts. - Cathy Maxwell, author I'm currently reading a Regency, A Lady's Mischief by Barbara Pierce. - Lorraine Heath, author I am currently reading Frank Conroy's BODY AND SOUL, a wonderful post-WWII story of a boy prodigy (he is a piano-paying musician) growing through childhood to manhood in New York. I also read a great deal of books on spiritual themes--I currently have a Deepak Chopra on the go, and I am always rereading Neale Donald Walsch's CONVERSATIONS WITH GOD series. I find wonderfully comforting their ideas on the spiritual nature of all creation, human and non-human alike, and the conclusion that we are all one. Just simply that--we are all one. War is so sad and so unnecessary. When we fight, we fight and hurt only ourselves since all of us are one. - Mary Balogh, author The author who gives me comfort is Anne McCaffrey. She speaks of the power of calm strength, resolve and unity against seemingly insurmountable odds. I am currently rereading The Dragonriders of Pern. - Pam Binder, author ...also some other historical romance authors, like Shirlee Busbee, Catherine Coulter, Shannon Drake, Virginia Henley, Johanna Lindsay, some of Elizabeth Lowell, Amanda Quick are definitely my favourite books and I seem to have hundreds, I have also read them at least twice. - Erika, reader I just went through my three favorite Judith McNaughts: Double Standard, Paradise, and Perfect. Especially Perfect. It's my total favorite. I know there's lots of angst and tears in those three, but the resolutions are so warming. Next, I think I'm going to read my favorite Nora Roberts' sets: The Quinns and the MacKades. It'll be like sitting down with old friends. I always wish the MacKades and Quinns were real so that I might get to know them. - Patsy Miessler, reader Whenever I can lay my hands on a Kay Hooper, a Loretta Chase or Jo Beverley book, I'm instantly comforted. They soothe me but make me laugh, too, and think. If I want to really roar with laughter I'll run to pull any one of Jenny Crusie.'s books. Comforting, you bet. When I want to have my heart pinched and then healed I reach for One Bright Morning by Alice Duncan, With books, I'm comforted 24 hours of every day. - Thea Brady, reader At the moment, I'm reading Mary Higgins Clark's "Moonlight Becomes You". Next I plan to read Linda Howard's "Open Season". I switch back and forth between mystery and romance since those are the two genres I write in. I find a lot of comfort in reading. It's my nightly ritual before bedtime. - Chelle Martin, author I'm currently finishing Carolyn Davidson's A Convenient Wife. I read Deborah Hale's Whitefeather's Woman before that. - Cheryl St.John

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