Reading is something we go back to, when we want to feel alive, soothed or just process our feelings. Everyone's idea of a comfort read may be different. We talked to the readers in our community and they recommended their favourite books they turn to when times are hard.
On any given stormy day, the world outside cannot shatter me because I know I can go back to the comfort of reading Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. More than finding happiness when I feel low, I tend to seek perspective and balance. Jane Eyre has an earthy appeal as a character; she isn’t the most beautiful woman nor endowed with extraordinary abilities but she has the ‘courage’ to stand for herself.
At this moment in time, I feel crime fiction soothes my mind more than most reads. For both my conscious and subconscious, it's a joy to solve a crime along with the protagonist. I also know that, for all the chaos, inequality, crime and cover-ups in the real world, in the world of crime fiction, I get resolution to the gruesome, macabre horrors perpetrated by the antagonists. Particular mention goes to the works of Mark Billingham (the Tom Thorne series) and Mick Herron (the Slough House series), my favourite reads right now.
Harry Potter series remains my favorite. From life lessons to lessons about heartbreak, friendships and so much more, they hold the key to every door you’ve ever encountered. The books will always hold a special place in my heart because they have always picked me up when I have felt my lowest.
Books have been my go-to to escape for a few hours from the harsh realities. I prefer light reads for comfort.
What I do love are romances with more than just fluff. Alisha Rai’s The Right Swipe and Girl Gone Viral fit the bill. And, of course, The Brown Sisters series by Talia Hibbert. (They can be a bit steamy, though).
I also enjoy breezy or heartwarming stories in Indian settings. Books like Bombay Balchao by Jane Borges, Paper Moon by Rehana Munir, and Lallan Sweets by Srishti Chaudhary.
And last but not least are fantasy fiction. My favorites include Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson (a magical library, need I say more?) and Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko. And of course Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo.
The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse by Charles Mackesy is on the surface, a simple story of four characters. With colourful illustrations, the book is a story of hope and courage. Its one-liners are simple yet profound. They give hope and courage to the reader in these bleak times. Reading the book, you feel as if you are floating on a cloud and (it also) makes you crave cake!
The book I love and go back to time and again is Gone With The Wind. Set against the backdrop of civil war, it speaks of different kinds love - between people, love for self, love of land etc. However it is also a story of survival and of taking care of one's family no matter what.
This book is a classic and loved by many. For me, it has been my companion in both good times and bad. Depending on my frame of my when i start reading it, my learning has been different each time.
I discovered that re-reading my old favorites give me solace and it was Eat, Pray & Love by Elizabeth Gilbert that gave me the soothing vibes that I have been craving for. The book depicts events what a woman goes through after a failed relationship and journey she undertakes to find a new meaning of life. This book not only breaks prejudices but also builds new perspectives.
Reading surely helps me during these times. A Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank is so relevant at this time as we all are hiding in our homes avoiding death. And another is Schindler's Ark (Schindler's list) by Thomas Keneally, it's the exact opposite of Anne Frank's diary.
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes is probably the only book that I read thrice. This book touched me in a certain way, and its ending disturbed me. It's about the joy of giving even though you don't have much to offer. It's about inspiring others, making others happy even though you're struggling to stay happy and motivated.
In these difficult times, one book which always motivates me to think positive is The Secret by Rhonda Byrne. The book offers readers a plan for "manifesting" — making dreams a reality.
I am someone who likes to explore genres and authors but at this moment my go-to author is Mitch Albom. I own and love all of his work but it's The Five People You Meet in Heaven which has accompanied me. It's a beautiful story of Eddie and the five people he meets in heaven.
Since I'm a poetry person, I always, always go back to poems and poets. Even as I sit and read Rumi today, it's Mary Oliver, who in her simple yet profound words makes me believe.
'Finally I saw that worrying had come to nothing.
And gave it up. And took my old body
and went out into the morning, and sang.'
As intriguing as the title is, Journey Of Souls is a book that answers profound questions pertaining to life spiritually as well as scientifically. An eye opener of a book that makes you understand life more closely answering all the how's and why's and the aftermaths by recounting real life experiences of people.
There are a couple of books that I go back to when feeling overwhelmed. Alchemist by Paulo Coelho has helped me find meaning and motivates me to continue. I always seem to find comfort and an answer when I read this book. Another book Who Moved My Cheese is a practical look at problems from a different perspective. Also, the wonderful book of Lean In is a great source of comfort when I am looking for a shoulder to lean in. I resonate with the thought of building a strong network of people around us.
A Man called Ove by Fredrick Backman is a deeply touching story of love, loss, family, friendship, grief, and healing. It is not just a book; it’s a fuzzy blanket of emotions. It’s the feeling of a warm hug on cold, lonely nights. It fills one with hope that there is light after the dark.
I go back to reading Ruskin Bond every now and then. His travel stories, children books, horror or other genres, all carry his signature wit and tales of human ingenuity in all circumstances. Currently I am reading his travel stories collection Tales Of The Open Road and living vicariously, on the roads.
Chicken Soup for the Soul by authors Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen is a compilation of extraordinary experiences shared by ordinary people. Two pages or just two paragraphs long, each story is a drop of inspiration. Reading these heartwarming stories rekindles your spirit. I have realised that there can be more than one perspective to a situation and having a balanced attitude is important to tackle challenging situations.
There are especially a couple of books which are my anchor during the hardest times. The first one is Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and the other one is Nora Roberts’ The Witness.
Pride and Prejudice brings back my faith in humanity, in the power of acceptance and in equality. The Witness fills me up with energy, raring to go and willing see past the bad times to the sunshine yonder.
The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom is a book I’ve cried through yet chosen to reread multiple times. This book reminds me to value people close to us, letting go of negativity and considering the consequences of our actions, good or bad. Who knows which five people will show up in our heaven, after all!
The Harry Potter Series is one story that I can always find comfort in during hard times. With friendship, magic and love, it is one tale that always manages to cheer me up, despite the circumstances. A guilty pleasure of mine is to keep the 7 books, the three additional books and the 10 movies and plan a loooong marathon and I come out refreshed, no matter how bad the situation was. Another book that helped me tide over my COVID Recovery was Anuja Chauhan’s latest, Club You To Death and the vibe just helped me kick start the reading process that had gone on the back burner for a while.
The one book that I adored was Little Women by Louisa M Alcott. The March family seemed much like mine and it sparkled with good humour. The icing on the cake is that the story does not end with this book but meanders on to three sequels. In a nutshell, this is a book that has the goodness of chicken soup!
This National Reading Day, pick a book (or more!) from one of the recommendations given by our community. #UnitedWeCan
You can find more book recommendations here. Go ahead and explore!