Erotica Readers & Writers Association Blog

Friday, March 28, 2014

Comfort Reads

I came across "comfort reading" while surfing the web. I have done this on numerous occasions, but I didn't know there was a term for it. According to Sarah Wendell at Kirkus Reviews, comfort reads are "a specific type of re-reading. Comfort reads are those books that are the reading equivalent of your favorite pajamas, the most fuzzy blanket, the familiar recipe, warm beverages, and everything that makes your body feel cared for and, well, comforted. Books that inspire that same feeling of being cared for are what I call comfort reads, and each reader's comfort read list is a little different."

I not only comfort read, I comfort watch movies such as "Under The Tuscan Sun", "Sirens", and "Half Light". I used to comfort game but I'm not into gaming anymore. When I did, I most often played the original "The Sims", games in the Myst universe, and Tomb Raider 2. The key was the repetition. I found solace in the familiar.

I comfort read when I've had an especially trying time with life. Within the last two weeks, my computer broke down and the shower wall caved in. I kid you not. It has not been a fun time around here. The shower wall is temporarily fixed but it needs to be permanently replaced. I had to completely wipe my hard drive clean and start over again from scratch. The computer is fine now but I went without quite a bit for a little over a week. So, the time I normally spent online I spent reading and watching movies. There are several books I comfort read over and over again when I just want to sit back and force myself to relax. I usually read dark fiction but there are a few erotic books and romances that I enjoy. They include the following books:

"Thunder Heights" by Phyllis Whitney
"Haunted" by Heather Graham
"The Thorn Birds" by Colleen McCullough
"The Phantom Of The Opera" by Gaston Leroux (mostly the various stage versions)

When I comfort read, I usually read short stories because I have the attention span of a gnat when I'm tense. I enjoy reading collections of erotic short stories by Cleis Press and Xcite Books. I'll read the same books over and over again.

In addition to erotic works and romance, I read darker fiction. In fact, I probably read more dark fiction than anything else. As mentioned earlier, I prefer short stories when I comfort read. My favorite books to comfort read are ghost legends like those found in  "The Screaming Skulls And Other Ghosts" by Elliott O'Donnell and "Ghosts" by Hans Holzer. Yes, many of these stories are frightening, but I feel a cathartic release of tension when I read those kinds of stories. Many are revenge stories such as "Pearlin Jean of Allanbank", which is about a man being haunted by a woman who loved him who died when she was run over by the carriage he occupied. He drove on, ignoring her. She haunted him, making him miserable until the day he died. Such stories are soothing to me because in a sense they follow the Happily Ever After ending in romances. Revenge stories are satisfying because the wronged party is most often vindicated in the end. I've been burned my fair share of times, so I find these stories very gratifying. I love revenge stories.

There are plenty of romances in ghost stories. "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir" is one. "Blithe Spirit" is another. When it comes to movies, of course, there is "Ghost". That pottery scene is a classic.

My husband sometimes comfort reads "John Carter Of Mars" by Edgar Rice Burroughs. A close friend of mine rereads "The Door Into Summer" and "Glory Road" by Robert Heinlein. They've been favorites of his since his youth. My husband has enjoyed Burroughs since his youth. That may also be a key to the popularity of comfort reading. Quite often readers have enjoyed these stories since they were children. I first read the O'Donnell and Holzer books when I was 12 years old. I discovered "Thunder Heights" at about the same time. "The Thorn Birds", "Phantom", and "Blithe Spirit" came later.

Why is comfort reading so popular? I think it's because you are guaranteed the ending you wish since you're already familiar with the story. You get satisfaction that things will turn out the way you want them to. In romances, the Happily Ever After ending is of paramount importance. Even in books that are new to you, you are all but guaranteed the heroine and hero will overcome all obstacles and end up together. The road leading to their togetherness may be fraught with pain and hurdles, but there is satisfaction in knowing that they will overcome. Real life isn't like that. You don't always catch the brass ring. You don't always end up with your true love. You don't always get your vengeance against someone who wronged you. But when it comes to romance, those fantasies are guaranteed. Hence the satisfaction in reading new romances as well as rediscovering old, familiar ones.

I've named a few of my favorite books to read over and over again. What are your comfort reads?

1 comment:

  1. Alice in Wonderland comes to mind- though in fact I haven't read it for a long time.

    I cringed when I heard about your computer and your shower wall, Elizabeth. Talk about a double whammy!


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