Comfort Reading in Times of Stress

Last week, I was reading a book by a new-to-me author when the scene shifted to the point of view of a character who isn’t entirely likable. That day, I decided that my level of anxiety was too high for me to continue reading his scene.

So I decided to try a new novella by an author that I love. But even that was too stressful for me. I realized that I’d had my fill of new experiences for the day and needed the comfort of a familiar book. So I gave myself permission to switch to reading Heart of Obsidian by Nalini Singh.

I love this story about a strong heroine who emerges from captivity and not only puts her life back together, but pulls the hero closer to the light.

My comfort reads these days tend to share several characteristics. They all have a strong female protagonist. The heroines are smart, capable, and extremely loyal to the people in their lives. Some of these characters started out as loners, but they soon developed a strong social network forming an extended, or in some cases substitute, family.

Another common aspect of these books is that the protagonists see each other’s faults and offer unconditional love no matter how much darkness is inside the other person. It’s a hopeful message that we all can achieve acceptance in a world that so often seems determined to break us apart.

In tough times such as the COVID-19 pandemic, the hope for a strong, supportive community is particularly alluring. Since we’re being told to keep ourselves apart from many of the people we love and rely on for support, escaping into a book provides another way to find acceptance and the reassurance that things will get better.

Despite how hard things seem now, eventually, we will move beyond this. We’ll come out stronger on the other side. That’s another message I get from my comfort reads. We are stronger than we think. We will survive. And we’ll thrive. It might take a while, but as long as we hang in there and work together, there’s hope.

I’ll leave you with an anthem of hope. I first heard Andra Day’s song Rise Up when it was used in the Doctor Who episode Rosa from October 2018. That episode revolved around Rosa Parks and her decision not to give up her seat on the bus to a white woman, with the song playing in the background at critical moments to underscore the theme of courage, strength, and hope for better days.  

That’s what I wish for each of you. Courage. The strength to face our challenges with grace. Hope to keep us from giving up.

So rise up. Embrace hope. Read comforting books.

We’ll get through this. Together.

With love and hope,

Vanessa