I’m drafting this post while keeping one eye on my Twitter feed: a stream of baffled, angry, scared, furious tweets from some of the smartest women I know who are going half insane trying to make sense of what’s happening with the Supreme Court right now.
Around 5 pm, the conversation shifts. Call-to-action quotes, exclamations about male privilege and cries of pain give way to the topic of healing, or at least of soothing. People start sharing photos of the comfort food they’re eating for dinner, talking about the baths they’re planning, the fuzzy blankets they’re unfolding.
Books that make me feel better
The world is hard and it’s important to stay informed about what’s going on, but when the news is painful and upsetting you need a way to help yourself feel normal again afterwards. I’m not talking about burying your head in the sand, but having a way to recover so that you can do things like sleep and not cry or punch strangers is essential.
Here are some books that make me feel better. It’s a mix of fantasy, sexy sexy romance, heartfelt YA, books I loved when I was younger, and several that are a mix of these categories. Maybe they’ll make you feel better, too.
Everything Tamora Pierce has written, especially the Tortall books
When I do a TP reread, I start with Alanna the Lioness and read straight through: always Alanna and Daine, sometimes Kel and the newer series too, although I’m much less attached to the later characters. I also love the Circle of Magic books and some of that series sequels, although I don’t love them all equally.
Once upon a time, I was being interviewed for a prestigious position in a Fiction MFA program. The interview was going well until they asked me to name my favorite book and I said Ella Enchanted. I stand by my pick. Ella Enchanted is a creative, highly empowering, feminist interpretation of a classic fairy tale and I’m so glad that I found it when I was a child (and I still love reading it today.)
If you already know and love Ella, I recommend giving Summers at Castle Auburn a chance too.
Good Omens is a collaboration between Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, and if you’re familiar with those two authors I bet that description was enough to get this on your library hold list. It is a strangely comforting, utterly absorbing, and frequently entertaining tale of the apocalypse. You can read my full review here.
This book is a series now, but the first novel is the one I love the most. I usually just reread the first book and then pretend that the sequels still haven’t come out yet. This is a story that is ostensibly about dragons, but is really about self-acceptance and it resonates deeply with something inside me.
Luck in the Shadows
This is an utterly fantastic little fantasy series that doesn’t get nearly enough attention. The series goes on for a bit now, but it’s the first three books that I find myself reading over and over again. Glorious world-building, engaging story, and a squee-worthy m/m romance.
If you like this, you should also read the author’s other series, The Bone Doll’s Twin. It’s creepier but just as good.
Fangirl and Carry On
Eleanor & Park is the Rainbow Rowell book that’s gotten the most buzz. I liked E&P but it didn’t punch me directly in my heart (with love and understanding) the way that Fangirl did.
Fangirl is a coming of age story about two sisters, from the point of view of Cath, the anxious, shy, fanfiction-writing sister who is having a harder time adapting to college. Carry On is Fangirl’s companion piece: it’s the fanfiction opus that Cath writes during Fangirl.
When I heard that Rainbow Rowell was going to publish her character’s book as a standalone novel, I thought it sounded stupid. But I was completely wrong. Carry On is glorious both in its own right and as an addendum to the Fangirl story. I actually may need to reread them both this weekend after thinking about them this much. They’re just so good.
Kirsten Cashore’s Graceling Realm
I love the three companion books of Kristen Cashore’s Graceling realm. They’re not strictly sequential, but if you want to keep things chronological you should start with Graceling, then read Fire, and finish with Bitterblue. You can read my full review of Fire here.
Three books, three very different strong heroines, three thrilling and inspiring adventures. I actually don’t know how I’m gong to choose which book to read after I finish writing this post.
Enchanted Forest Chronicles
This is another childhood favorite. I recently rediscovered the Enchanted Forest series after a many year hiatus, and the preponderance of uppity princesses and bossy witches in here really explains a lot about my adult personality and values. I’d rather be a Cimorene or a Morwen than a Carrie or a Samantha any day.
If I need to explain this one to you, then you’ve probably already missed the Potter boat and you should read something else on my list instead.
This final section is Romance novels!! To be clear, I’m capitalizing Romance here for a reason. These are well-written, empowering, engaging love stories, and they include the sex parts of those love stories. They’re great books and I bet you might like them, but if you’re not interested in reading about sex, these books are not for you.
My favorite romance novels tend to be historicals, often with the central plotline of “a woman who has always been well-behaved discovers her rebellious side and becomes happy” (how’s that for revealing?). Sarah MacLean is a master of this kind of character.
My favorite Sarah MacLean series is Love by the Numbers, which starts with 9 Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake. I also love the slightly darker and widely adored Rule of Scoundrels series.
Scoundrel & Scandal and the new Bareknuckle Bastards series are also delightful. You really can’t go wrong with Sarah Maclean.
Eloisa James is the queen who created the legendary Desperate Duchesses series. Legendary. It’s 8 books and it tells the story of two generations. It sounds weird to follow the love lives of a group of parents and then the same for the children, but it’s actually delightful. Tell the Duke of Villers hello for me.
Also delightful: Eloisa James’ Fairytale series, and her new Wildes of Lindlow Castle is very promising.
I’ve only recently discovered Alyssa Cole, but her contemporary romance is rocking my world. Highly recommend A Princess in Theory and A Duke by Default.
Castles Ever After and Spindle Cove. You won’t be sorry, trust me.
Read The Wedding Date and then read The Proposal. You’re welcome.
There you have it: my list of Books that Make Me Feel Better. They’re especially effective when paired with hot chocolate, tea, fuzzy blankets, scented candles, or hot baths. I hope that they help.
What are your favorite comfort reads, my darlings? Do any of you love the same books as I do?
PS: This post is dedicated to Liliastreasures, one of my fave Instagram buddies, who asked me for happy book recommendations yesterday!
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I read Ella Enchanted this year for the first time at age 43 and I loved it. I’d seen the movie and thought it was cute, so I had some idea what to expect but the book was so different and so good and so empowering.
Also, Good Omens is probably in my top 5 books of all time.
Yes!!! Such good ones. I love Ella Enchanted now at 32 as much as I did when I was 8. It’s a classic.