Sunday, April 19, 2009

Comfort Reads

Non-readers don't know about and dilettante readers don't understand the idea of comfort reading. This is an activity hardcore readers participant in when they want to feel better or are really busy and stressed and don't have the energy to invest in reading new books. New books can be a risk. There is no guarantee that you will like your newest read--particularly if it is an unknown author. You don't know if you'll get a good emotional payoff at the end of it as you would with a known book. A comfort read is a book you have already read that you love. It could also be a book by an author that you read because their books have a reliable familiarity about them. You know the emotional payoff is what you want. You are going to have your feel good moment at the end. That's why 'real' readers re-read well-loved books.

I'm coming off of an intense period of reading new books, mostly in the paranormal romance genre. I've also been pretty busy lately taking care of Judy and the house (because of her shoulder injury) and this weekend I just wasn't in the mood nor did I have the energy to delve into new new books. So I pulled out my Miles Vorkosigan books by Lois McMaster Bujold and re-read selected bits of Memory, A Civil Campaign, and Diplomatic Immunity. After I finished those, I started re-reads of some of my favorite Joan Wolf's like The Deception, The Gamble, and The Pretenders.

I think I'm ready to start another new new book now and I've pulled out a Mojo Sheepshanks book by Linda Lael Miller, Deadly Gamble. I'm trying to be more disciplined in my reading and a person who buys as many new books as I do really has to be dedicated about reading the new stuff rather than just re-reading old favorites. It's tricky though when I own thousands of books and many of them are my favorites. Hopefully Mojo will be as good as reported to me by Judy and Monica and the two books in the series will end up on my re-read list.

For those who can't imagine this re-reading of a book you've already read I offer up three ideas. First, it's a biological fact that books which end happily (like romances or mysteries) cause the release of endorphins in the brain which can become addictive. Seriously. Secondly, people frequently watch the same movie over and over again without thinking it odd. Judy and I get sucked into Apollo 13 every single time we see it on tv. "Houston, we have a problem." We also can't pass by Fifth Element. Thirdly, I think you can also compare comfort reads to listening to well-loved music over and over--especially music from your youth. Those songs from your teen years that instantly propel you back into that feeling you had on a special date or the first time you were kissed or at the prom dancing a slow dance. I never hear the Commodores, Three Times A Lady without a feeling of intense nostalgia for the summer of '78 and driving through the night in a dark green Triumph Spitfire with the top down. I spent hours as a teen listening to the Carpenters and when I hear Rainy Days and Mondays I am transported to a living room in Terre Haute where I sat in front of the stereo speaker.

Gosh, all this nostalgic talk has made me want to re-read another comfort read. Mojo will have to wait.

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