My apartment is one big To Be Read pile. There are very few books there that I have read before; when I finish reading a book I place it in a basket by the front door to be donated to the library.
Still, I do save some books. If I’m given a book as a gift, I keep that book. If the author has signed the book (either in front of me or I just happened to buy it that way), I keep that book.
And if I deeply loved the book, if it were to somehow make it to my list to read again someday to soothe me, then that book gets to stay, too. I don’t have a whole lot of time to re-read books, but when I do, here are the books I’ll sometimes pull out and read around in for comfort:
- In the Distance, by Hernan Diaz: I discovered this book last year in my book club, and the isolation that the primary character experiences created such a connection for me that I come back to it when I feel misunderstood.
- A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith: I read this book for years, through high school, college, and various moves whenever I felt emotionally off or physically under the weather as well.
- Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen: Like Kathleen Kelly in You’ve Got Mail, I find myself lost in the language and on pins and needles about the precarious nature of whether Lizzie and D’Arcy will get together. (On a related note, I have also been known to watch the cinematic versions of this book over and over again to soothe myself–both the Colin Firth version and the Keira Knightley versions.)
- Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott: Hey, my middle name (and pseudonym) is Jo, so what better place to pull my writing and reading strength from?
- The Enchanted April, by Elizabeth Von Arnim: This book is a timely comfort; I read it every April, as though airing out the linens in my soul.
- Books on writing by writers: Some of my favorites here are Still Writing by Dani Shapiro, Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg, The Deer On a Bicycle by Patrick McManus, On Writing by Stephen King (it’s the only Stephen King I’ve ever read…don’t kill me), Draft No.4 by John McPhee, When Women Were Birds by Terry Tempest Williams, and Letters to a Young Artist by Anna Deavere Smith (even though I’m not that young anymore). These books remind me of the struggles ALL writers have and teach me as much technique and empathy as a novel does.
- The Velveteen Rabbit, by Margery Williams: This book has been soothing me about being different and overly sensitive and about love for nearly 40 years. Without it I would be beyond jaded.
Writing up this list takes me to that safe place that these books create; I think it is time to crawl back into one of them for a little while.