Yesterday was the third Thursday of October, and for me, that’s the cue to write about three books I’ve read lately that strike a chord with me. My lovely neighbour (I include the “u” because she’s British) asked me on Saturday if the book I was reading at our two-family, sparsely-attended garage sale was for 3-Book Third Thursday, which took me by surprise. 3-Book Third Thursday is one of my favorite posts to write (and prepare for) each month, and I didn’t even have it on my radar! That awoke me to the reality that I’d been ignoring my own blogging plan to attend to 31 Days of Link-Ups.
This week, I’ve done a significant amount of “comfort reading,” which is to me as “comfort food” is to many people. “Comfort reading” consists of immersing myself in books that I’ve read often and find calming, peaceful, or reassuring.
Comfort reading is also a good sign that something in my life feels out of control and I need the safety of a story I know and love.
Now that I’ve re-seized the reins of my blog, I’m ready to share some of my comfort reading material with you.
First, we journey to Botswana with the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith. This series appeals to me in many ways. First, Honey and I have had an African post on our wish list for a long time, and Botswana is one of several countries I’d love to live in. Second, the pace of conversations in the books calms me down. Repeating and affirming is the gentle pace of the conversations, and eventually continual questions bring the point to light. Third, I love the “traditionally built” detective, Mma Ramotswe. Her belief in human dignity and in seeing the truth come to light reassures me. The mysteries in this series run to less alarming crimes such as embezzlement or trickery, and the solutions present themselves in a life-rhythm way. I feel soothed and interested each time I read one of these books. And that brings me to the fourth reason to include this series: there are 13 of them. You can read yourself through a great deal of trauma with 13 books. (I only reread one of them this week!)
Next, another series of gentle mysteries, the Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear. The title character is a young woman in the years just following WWI, or “The Great War,” in London. She comes from the merchant class, but is given the opportunity to receive education at university, and through her mentor learns to intuit reasons and motivations behind people’s actions. After serving as an army nurse in the war, Maisie returns to London and opens her office, solving cases in an unusual manner. While the cases in this series tend to be more danger-filled than in the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, nothing too gory finds its way into the books. I love Maisie for her resilience, her strength of self, and her deep loyalty. There are 9 books in this series, also handy if you need to read through something bigger than a blogging mistake. I read through the first five or six while we were miserably posted along the U.S./Mexican border and I needed almost constant comfort. They are so good I don’t even associate them with how much I hated it there; I give them credit for providing me some bright moments.
Choosing a third book was tough. I usually default to a classic, like Pride and Prejudice or Anna Karenina, or a collection of short stories, like Stuart McLean’s books about the Vinyl Cafe or my well-worn Selected Stories of Eudora Welty. Every time I read the opening lines of “Why I Live at the P.O.”, I laugh all over again. “I was getting along fine with Mama, Papa-Daddy and Uncle Rondo until my sister Stella-Rondo just separated from her husband and came back home again. Mr. Whitaker!”
But this time, I went with a more seasonal choice: All’s Fair: Love, War, and Running For President, by Mary Matalin and James Carville. Matalin, a Republican political operative, and Carville, a political consultant for the Democrats, dated and fell in love just before they both became highly placed in, respectively, the Bush and Clinton 1992 presidential campaigns.
Since I’ve sworn off fear and antagonism in this election season, my political junkie-ness still screams to be fed, and this book feeds it while still focusing on the ultimate ability of two deeply divided political opponents to date and marry. Sigh. Maybe not a love story for the ages, but definitely one for an electoral cycle.
So there we go. A week of comfort reading. Now, please, will you share some of your most-loved and most-revisited titles with me? I may not need comfort any longer, but it is fall. Cool, rainy days call out for curling up with a good book. What do you recommend?