The best comfort books to escape into

Who am I?

Life has its ups and downs for everyone and we all find ways of coping. Ever since childhood I have dealt with the downs by disappearing into a good book, or making up stories in my head. Time out gives the brain a break from confronting the inevitable bumps in the road, whether simply adapting to a new school or job or facing life’s more serious challenges. Nothing is more consoling than a familiar book with characters you already know. Words on a page paint a picture or kindle an emotion or give a moment’s pause for thought. Connecting to other worlds helps put your own into context, resetting the balances. 

I wrote...

Women of the Dunes

By Sarah Maine,

Book cover of Women of the Dunes

What is my book about?

As an archaeologist myself, I spend a lot of time in the past. As a writer, it became just too tempting to use a story to strip back the layers and expose past misdeeds and long-buried truths. Where better to start, I thought, than with a body discovered in a much more ancient grave mound. And who better to go seeking answers than someone personally invested in the past. The protagonist, Libby Snow, is a young archaeologist who comes to the dramatic west coast of Scotland bringing her field school students, and questions of her own. 

But as Libby peels back the layers of sand and secrets hidden in a Viking’s grave, she uncovers a great more than she had bargained for.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Far from the Madding Crowd

Why did I love this book?

Comfort books for me are those you can dive into when you need to take time out from the world. I could have chosen almost any of Thomas Hardy’s books for this purpose but I love Far From the Madding Crowd with its strong, determined, but flawed, protagonist, Bathsheba Everdene. The men who court her are also finely drawn characters, each ridden by their own devils, but the one who wins her is the one who definitely deserves to triumph. Hardy uses the Wessex landscape to provide an idyllic backdrop to his dark story of love and betrayal with its many twists and turns. I remain in awe of Hardy’s skill in building plot and character while exploring timeless themes.  

By Thomas Hardy,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Far from the Madding Crowd as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

HarperCollins is proud to present its new range of best-loved, essential classics. Here is one of Thomas Hardy's most popular novels, soon to be released as a major motion picture in May 2015.

'I shall do one thing in this life - one thing certain - that is, love you, and long for you, and keep wanting you till I die'

Independent and spirited, Bathsheba Everdene owns the hearts of three men. Striving to win her love in different ways, their relationships with Bathsheba complicate her life in bucolic Wessex - and cast shadows over their own. With the morals…

Cold Comfort Farm

By Stella Gibbons,

Book cover of Cold Comfort Farm

Why did I love this book?

We are all guilty of taking ourselves too seriously sometimes and Cold Comfort Farm never fails to make me smile. Flora Poste is an unusual and engaging heroine who finds herself in rather desperate personal circumstances but who rises to the occasion magnificently. It is in her nature to straighten out and tidy up messy situations which she does with a breezy, unflappable assurance, seeing straight into the hearts of Cold Comfort Farm’s very mixed and conflicted inhabitants. The book always conveys to me a sense of great optimism and the author’s light touch is wholly admirable. We all need a bit more of Flora Poste in us.

By Stella Gibbons,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Cold Comfort Farm as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When the sukebind was in bud, the orphaned Flora Poste, expensively, athletically and lengthily educated, descended on her relatives at Cold Comfort Farm, which she rightly imagines will be awful in an interesting way. She takes it on herself to bring order into chaos.

Pride and Prejudice

By Jane Austen,

Book cover of Pride and Prejudice

Why did I love this book?

I also could have chosen any of Jane Austen’s works; I’ve read all of them more times than I can count, and always wished there had been more. Everything that can be said of this remarkable woman’s writing has been said, and when the world needs shutting out for a while they are for me the ultimate comfort books. Pride and Prejudice is such a simple plot but is populated by a range of compelling and believable characters so perfectly drawn that the book will remain near to the top of the nation’s favorites, as it is mine. Elizabeth Bennet is a young woman of her times but her spirit is timeless.  

By Jane Austen,

Why should I read it?

24 authors picked Pride and Prejudice as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of BBC's 100 Novels That Shaped Our World.

Jane Austen's best-loved novel is an unforgettable story about the inaccuracy of first impressions, the power of reason, and above all the strange dynamics of human relationships and emotions.

Part of the Macmillan Collector's Library; a series of stunning, clothbound, pocket sized classics with gold foiled edges and ribbon markers. These beautiful books make perfect gifts or a treat for any book lover. This edition is illustrated by Hugh Thomson and features an afterword by author and critic, Henry Hitchings.

A tour de force of wit and sparkling dialogue, Pride and…

Book cover of Mothering Sunday: A Romance

Why did I love this book?

Sometimes you just need a slow-paced and exquisitely written book to disappear into and admire, and Mothering Sunday is one of those for me. Every word has been carefully chosen, every moment perfectly honed to its purpose, and the dawning realization of where the story is heading is packed full of the anguish and deep sorrow of its time (immediately post WW1). It is a beautiful book and a sad book, but it is not without hope and conveys perfectly to me a sense of acceptance and the need for resilience.

By Graham Swift,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Mothering Sunday as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Now a major film starring Olivia Colman, Colin Firth, Odessa Young and Josh O'Connor (The Crown), scripted by Alice Birch (Normal People)

'Exquisite . . . Mothering Sunday shows love, lust and ordinary decency straining against the bars of an unjust English caste system' Kazuo Ishiguro
It is March 30th 1924. It is Mothering Sunday.

How will Jane Fairchild, orphan and housemaid, occupy her time when she has no mother to visit? How, shaped by the events of this never to be forgotten day, will her future unfold?

Beginning with an intimate assignation and opening to embrace decades, Mothering Sunday…

Frenchman's Creek

By Daphne du Maurier,

Book cover of Frenchman's Creek

Why did I love this book?

I grew up reading Daphne du Maurier’s books and loving them. Rebecca is, of course, her triumph but I started with Jamaica Inn and Frenchman’s Creek. Frenchman’s Creek has to be the perfect escape book. Who, after all, would not wish to be Dona St Columb and make such a courageous bolt for freedom onto the high seas, with a handsome pirate beside her and the wind whipping through her hair? It is much more than an improbable romance, of course, as du Maurier was expressing in this rollicking tale a need we all feel from time to time to break all the rules, taste freedom, and the tang of saltwater on our lips. We might not all manage it as superbly as Dona, but we all can dream.  

By Daphne du Maurier,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Frenchman's Creek as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the author of Rebecca comes the story of a woman who craves love, freedom, and adventure-but it might cost her everything.
"Highly personalized adventure, ultra-romantic mood, and skillful storytelling." -New York Times
A lost classic from master of gothic romance and author of Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier, Frenchman's Creek is an electrifying tale of love and scandal on the high seas.
Jaded by the numbing politeness of London in the late 1600s, Lady Dona St. Columb revolts against high society. She rides into the countryside, guided only by her restlessness and her longing to escape.
But when chance leads…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Pirates, romantic love, and farms?

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