Comfort books for stressful times

Sept. 23, 2021, 7:00 p.m.

Over the past year and a half, many people, myself included, have turned to various forms of escapism to cope with the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath. 

To me, reading was the greatest, most fanciful — and most educational — form of escapism. I’ve turned to reading during these tense times to take a breather from reality. Exploring alternative realities proves that there is a world beyond every obstacle.  Relatability is sometimes the best form of comfort. Reading is a quality hobby where I can both indulge in my worries and escape them all at once. 

As an avid reader, I have come across quite a few comfort books. I’ve compiled a list of them because sharing comfort is the best gift of all. 

This list is special because it’s also chaotic. I’ve been reading since I was 9, so the selection is wide and you’re sure to find a match below.

“Everything, Everything” by Nicola Yoon

I find myself coming back to this book every summer when school is over and the loneliness starts to creep in along with so much free time to overthink things. This book is a clean-slate. It’s timeless. It’s wonderfully versatile. I’ve re-read this book maybe four times and the meaning changed every time I read it. I genuinely believed that Yoon intended for this book to mean something different to every individual reader. The main character herself, Madeline, talks about how every time she read “The Little Prince,” the meaning changed. 

The incorporation of these details and the author’s possible intention behind the story is a clever trick to engage the reader. Something else I think is special about this book is its journal-written style. It makes the book feel more personal, and Madeline is letting you in on her secrets. 

“Fangirl” by Rainbow Rowell

So cute, so warm. Such a comfort book.

The best thing about this book is its simplicity. It encourages readers to get out of their comfort zone through an approachable and relatable story; a college freshman figuring things out. The sub-plots and main plot flow easily into each other, creating one solid story.  Moreover, the subplots are all creative extensions of the main plot. The more solemn topics still reach the reader without overwhelming them with dramatics. Rowell ensures the story is balanced, without allowing some aspects of the book to overshadow others. This book is compatible with so many demographics, and each character is very individual and fulfill their roles perfectly. I revisit this book before major, out-of-my-comfort-zone events and it helps me realize that I can feel secure and content, even in stressful situations.

“Alice in Wonderland” and “Alice Through the Looking Glass” by Lewis Carroll

“Curiouser and curiouser!” The iconic children’s book is a sure addition to my list. The story was humorous, chaotic, funny and curious. There is no story as twisty and different as Alice in Wonderland and its sequel. The book was a positive part of many people’s childhoods, and an earnest stroll down memory lane every now and then is as enchanting as Wonderland. When my younger sister started reading the story in school,  I was inspired to read the book again. I’ve spent so much time stressing over school that a quick peek into simpler times gifted me with a newfound peace.  

“The Selection Series” (Books 1-3) by Kiera Class

Cheesy romance books were something my close friend and I would always obsess over during lunch in middle school.  Embarrassingly, we also came up with some fanfiction. The series surrounds America Singer, a witty, stubborn red-head and a thrilling love triangle with Singer at the center. This book is best described as a fluffy version of the “Hunger Games,’ or as a royal version of “The Bachelor.” The fictional history in the story is simple and easy to understand, which adds to its “comfort” aspect. 

“Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn

Suburban marriage gone wrong. The book is a thriller-murder mystery about an ambitous Amy Dunne and her revenge plan to frame her cheating husband for her disappearance. The book is a rollercoaster of plot-twists and haunting diary entries and is perfect to swap out with true-crime documentaries. Here’s a refreshing detail: I actually cannot pinpoint why this is a comfort book for me.

“Girl Online Series” by Zoe Sugg (Zoella)

This book is YA paradise. The YouTuber- written series follows the main character — 15-year-old British sweetheart Penny Porter — and her love-story with rockstar Noah Flynn. While Penny navigates her relationship with Noah, she runs her blog, explores her passion for photography, helps out in the family business and has fun with friends. Penny is easy to relate to, and that’s what makes the book so good, never-mind the usual cheesy YA moments. My love for this book stems from the fact that it was the first real book I’ve ever read. It’s easy to go back to during teenage years to find comfort in similar teen-drama or during adult-life to reminisce. 

“Do You Come Here Often?” by Alexandra Potter

This may sound odd, but reading about 30-somethings that don’t have their lives fully together gives me peace. Not everyone needs to follow the traditional timeline to eventually find success in every life aspect. This book was particularly engrossing during my midterm season, when failing every test seemed easier and college seemed so out of reach. The twisted feeling that I was running out of time was eating me alive. I snuck in a few chapters after every study session and felt myself cooling down. 

“Do You Come Here Often?” Taught me to create my own timeline and that real success in life is creating balance between school, career, friends and relationships. Besides helping me realize that not everyone moves at the same pace, this book showed me a new outlook on romantic relationships. Plenty of young adult books do one of two things: romanticize toxic relationships, or oversimplify them. It was definitely refreshing seeing a more realistic and healthy example. I’m glued to this book during every exam season and breakdown over The Future. This book could also be seen as a more mature version of the “Girl Online” Series.

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