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The comfort factor of books

Books have a special place in my life and heart. In a year where social contact has been ripped from us, the state has enlarged its reach into our lives, and scientists habitually crush any optimism we may have; we should be forgiven for finding comfort in our favourite books. More importantly than ever, books are solace away from the world. Putting pessimism aside, there are a few things that have kept me going: those closest to me, my hobbies, and falling back to the books that have been cherished favourites for years, bringing some cheer to life.

In particular, one series which has always been a favourite of mine and my go-to comfort read is The Last Dragon Chronicles by Chris d’Lacey. The series was meant to begin focusing on squirrels, but d’Lacey was told it was too childish and so he introduced the clay dragons which would become the story’s focus. From these humble origins the series takes turns you would never expect, becoming a grand fantasy tale with SciFi-esque elements more than worth your read. I love the somewhat convoluted, and sometimes ‘nuts’, as someone once described it, path the story takes, culminating in a satisfying but bittersweet end to my all-time favourite series. Although one friend, a fellow fan, hated the weird turn so much the book got binned. By its conclusion, the story is not for children. Since I was seven or eight, it has been with me and has stayed my go-to comfort read for over a decade.

He makes you appreciate even the everyday tasks of living in his world and his characters’ journey

Another series I turn to nowadays for escapism is L.E. Modesitt Jr.’s Saga of Recluce. I encountered the first volume in the Treasure Chest shop in Felixstowe, and as I read it, I kept returning to hunt down the rest. From there I would end up collecting 11 of the series. Little did I know, the series, which started in 1991, was still going with book 22 and a side-work too. 

A common criticism of the series is that the basic story structure appears to repeat, but this misses the central plot point. The characters within the elaborate timeline and power structures transform and grow from their feeble beginnings to a form of greatness by the end. I love this process, as within the books the process takes years, and the characters are not always that powerful and must deal with what events throw them, alongside the mundane task of living. It is always comforting to dip into the world Modesitt crafts. He makes you appreciate even the everyday tasks of living in his world and his characters’ journey. It is always a joy to read and follow the non-chronological series structure and watch as the world is crafted.

Many of these books have been with me for a very long time, and yet they still hold delight and intrigue for me to this day

Another series I re-read last year was Angie Sage’s Septimus Heap series, Magyk, Flyte, Physik, Queste, Syren, Darke, and Fyre. The older cover art is vastly superior to the awful new covers, but inside still resides the charm from years gone past and is always a pleasure to indulge in. Anything by the fantastic Diana Wynne Jones is also the ultimate comfort reading, especially her Chrestomanci series and Howl’s Moving Castle. Many will probably recognise the latter from the 2004 film made by Studio Ghibli, but however good the anime is, the original untouched story from Jones is always superior to me. She is a sorely missed storytelling master, fantastic at crafting captivating tales. All worthy contenders if you ever need to sit back with a book to whisk you away. 

Many of these books have been with me for a very long time, and yet they still hold delight and intrigue for me to this day. That is the key factor in why I class them as my comfort reads – something familiar to fall back on, a reminder of a more innocent time. The books you cherish are so intimately personal; as such, hearing about what books you go to for comfort during bad times could start an endless conversation.

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