Comfort Books

Hi Darling Ones,

This week I read Hanif Abdurraqib’s A Little Devil in America again. For the third time. Since October 2021. I love this book because it makes my synapses feel like they’ve been eating Pop Rocks. This is a smart, beautiful book and every time I read it I feel an eensy bit smarter.

It has become one of my comfort books, which is a little bit like my comfort TV shows.

Are you familiar with the concept of people binge-watching the same shows over and over again as a kind of comfort? Allegedly, a lot of people do this because it lessens the anxiety around what’s gonna happen because the watcher already knows. I like to watch the same shows over and over again too, but not for anxiety-reduction reasons. No, I watch the same shows over and over again because I have unimpeachable taste and am also horrible at watching TV. The worst.

When Sister #2 was here in April, she arrived just as I was watching the finale of a Julia Child cooking competition. I restarted the episode three times because I kept getting distracted and never found out who won. Eventually, I just gave up. I still don’t know who won. When I’m really invested in an hour-long show (see: Top Chef, Mad Men, Succession, etc.) I watch every episode twice because I inevitably zone out at about 30 minutes in and don’t tune back in until nearly the end of the episode. I miss a lot if I only watch something once.

So while I do watch the same TV shows on a loop because I already know what happens, it’s more to cater to my attention deficiency regarding watching TV and movies than to reduce anxiety. TV, in general, doesn’t make me anxious. Unless, of course, I’m watching one of those shows that gives you the maximum amount of anxiety for the lowest amount of stakes. I’m talking about Domino Masters and Blown Away. I really get off on competition shows where the everything can be ruined by one teeny, tiny wrong move. It’s the best.

One thing that is great about being bad at paying attention to TV is that even though you’ve seen a show about 84 times you can still catch something new. For instance, I’ve been re-watching Bob’s Burgers. I’ve seen the Halloween episode where Teddy throws the party and (spoiler) Bob kills Francis at least seven times. Probably more. But it was just this week when I realized that letters on Gretchen’s cheerleading costume are STI. It slayed me.

I like my comfort books for much the same reason: impeccable taste + learning something new with each reading. For instance, I re-read Blow Your House Down last month (which is why it’s been on my mind) and only this time did I catch that she wrote about listening to Jason Isbell. It’s a small detail, but it made me love the book even more.

My comfort books are an extra-special category of books because they have a lot of weight to lift. They must soothe my heart while simultaneously agitating my brain. It’s not an easy thing to do. My heart and my brain rarely agree on anything. Aside from Geek Love none of my Top 10 Favorite novels make the comfort book cut. I’ve read most of the Top 10 so often that they easily soothe the heart but they don’t so much agitate the brain anymore, even if I go years and years and years without reading them.

The best thing about my comfort books is that not only can I turn to them when I’m out of sorts, I can turn to them when I hit a reading slump. This is similar to rewatching shows for anxiety reasons. I re-read books because I know what I’m gonna get — something great and not at all boring or stupid.

Here’s my current list of comfort books. I’ve read all of these at least twice. I think I’ve read the Dessa book at least four times. And I cannot even remember how many times I’ve read Geek Love. Maybe every other year or so since the 90s?

  • Little Weirds by Jenny Slate
  • The Witch’s Heart by Genevieve Gornichec
  • Circe by Madeline Miller
  • Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back) by Jeff Tweedy
  • A Little Devil in America by Hanif Abdurraqib
  • The Final Revival of Opal & Nev by Dawnie Walton
  • My Own Devices by Dessa
  • Geek Love by Katherine Dunn
  • Writers & Lovers by Lily King
  • Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
  • Red Comet by Heather Clark
  • The Invisible Life of Addie Larue by V.E. Schwab
  • Shine Bright by Danyel Smith

I thought I’d share since the idea of comfort books has been on my mind.

Happy reading,

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