Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Comfort books

Sometimes a new book is just too much to tackle, so I revert back to ones I already know I like and use them as a security blanket. These last few months I've been slowing consuming some audiobooks. Very slowly because I have limited time for listening and audiobooks just take a really long time to get through, unless you have some huge road trip and hours to burn. Garth Nix's trilogy, Sabriel, Lirael and Abhorsen were a total of 33 CDs and I'm just now finising up the last of them. My kids gripe if I listen to it in the car, even if I turn the sound to come out only at the speaker by my feet and nowhere else. I think they know it means they won't get to listen to their own music and stories. I've had to limit my listening to when I'm at the computer or working in the kitchen, but it has made many a chore go by faster.

Tim Curry reads the books and I have decided that some law needs to get passed so he is the only one allowed to record audiobooks. His reading is absolutely riveting. You ever been to a storytime where the person reading the books has the children's absolute attention? Where not a sound can be heard in a room full of two- and three-year-olds? That's how I feel when I listen to these CDs. I read these books ages ago and hardly remembered any detail about them, but now that I've heard Tim Curry read them, I doubt I'll forget again.

I haven't ventured much into Nix's other book series, but if this is the only one I ever read, it will be worth it. The story is epic, original and sweeps you up into this fantastical world like none other. The characters are immensely likeable and the villains truly evil. The magic is very cool and the system of organizing it fascinating. All around great books, is what I'm saying here. If you haven't indulged yet, give it a whirl. And if you have the hours to spend listening to them, you're in for a treat.

My other comfort books of choice lately have been the Women of Genesis series by Orson Scott Card. He took the biblical account of Sarah, wife of Abraham and Rebekah, wife of Isaac, and Rachel and Leah, wives of Jacob, and turned it into some interesting fiction. He did a lot of research for these novels, but I don't really care too much about how accurate they are. I enjoy his portrayal of these women, their strength and intelligence and their desire to follow God. Card's book are always full of witty and intelligent banter and lots of political manuevering. He makes connections that I would never see without his characters explaining it, which makes me wonder if his characters are too smart for me to be friends with them. Like, they wouldn't want to come over to my house for a barbecue and talk about the latest episode of "Lost".

All of these books are old familiars, but something about an old familiar book feels great to read. Like an old friend that you haven't talked to for years, but when you do, it's like no time ever passed. When I can't find something new to read, I love having comfort books to keep my mind occupied. I have a very long list of comfort books, but I'd like to ask the question of you, dear readers: what are your comfort books?


  1. What a nice post. And from my point of view, no character is going to ever be as smart as you, and if they wouldn't want to come to your house it's because they have gotten snootie and it's their loss.

    That being said, I love to read books again and again as well. I find that only books that have really well developed characters will pass the test. You can't get me to read a Tom Clancy book twice - and I have tried. I actually like 'Gone with the Wind', 'Les Miserables', 'The Count of Monte Cristo', 'The Three Musketeers', 'Desert Solitare' by Edward Abbey, 'Tom Sawyer', 'Huckleberry Finn', 'Puddin'head Wilson', 'The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes', All the Pat McManus stories, 'The Sea Wolf' (Jack London). I guess those are most of my comfort books.

  2. My comfort books are "Beauty" by Robin McKinley, the Angel series by Sharon Shinn, "Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging" and other Georgia books, by Louise Rennison (I will never tire of those books), and of course, "Pride and Prejudice." There are a lot of comfort books that I haven't listed, of course, but those are the ones I always return to.

  3. I'm with Rach on this one - whenever I'm at a loss for a book I head straight for the Georgia books. Or Jane Austen. But my Number One All Time Favorite Comfort Book is The Blue Castle by LM Montgomery.

    And I've had several people recommend the Garth Nix trilogy to me in the last few months. I'm not much of a fantasy reader but I think I'm going to have to put them on my list now.

  4. In case you're interested and haven't ever heard about it, I'm a huge fan of While they don't have all available audio books, they do have a wonderfully large collection (I checked and they have 10 books by Nix including the 3 you mentioned in your review). Not only are their prices usually much cheaper than the equivalent Audio CD version purchased anywhere, but you can buy a subscription that allows you a specified amount of monthly credits that you can use to "buy" books. My subscription gives me 2 credits per month for about $23 and most books are 1 credit so it works out to be just over $10/book.

    The second wonderful thing about this service is that I can usually fit a whole unabriged book on my iPod for between 100MB and 350MB of space which for 25 hours of near CD quality audio is amazingly compact! If you're of the type to buy CDs, rip them to MP3 files and synch them to your iPod, you would most likely need about 2.5GB of space for the same quality/length of book.

    What's even better, I don't have to tote around 25 CDs, change them every hour, or find a place on my bookshelves to store them all. I just carry my compact iPod and a set of headphones with me and I'm set with a whole library of available content, both new material and "comfort books" so I can listen to whatever suits me wherever I am. And, if you're of the mindset and you have an iPod or anther MP3 player with a similar feature, you can listen at "faster" speed to plow through books at greater speed, but the narration doesn't go "chipmunk." It pitch/tone of the narration remains the same, just faster.

    Anyway, not exactly on topic with your request for good comfort books, but something I thought I would point out as I can't say enough good about Audible! As for me, the first comfort series that comes to mind is the Odd Thomas series by Dean Koontz. The combination of the character Odd (and friends) and Koontz's fantastic writing are a treat not to be missed!

  5. I got my husband an Audible subscription for his birthday and it is quite awesome. Sabriel by Garth Nix is one of the books he chose to download one month so that shows you how incredible those recordings are. I didn't know about the faster speed option on an Ipod. Something to try.

    Caren and I both love Odd Thomas, if you read our October co-review of the first book. Caren finished up the series at the end of the year, but I haven't indulged in the rest of the books yet. Putting it on my list...

    Rachel, can you believe I've never read The Blue Castle? I keep hearing it recommended and it was on our list for a book group I belonged to once, but nobody could find the book. Is it rare and out of print or something? Another book for the list...

  6. I'm a big audio book fan myself. In fact, that's just about all I have time for—mostly because I have 2+ hours of commuting to slog through per day.

    I really like the idea of, but I find that the advertised "CD quality" isn't really that. I prefer to rent from the library and rip to my iPod.

    full disclosure: I've only tried a couple of books—the last two of the Mistborn series. The sound is ok, but it's a far cry from CD quality.