I think these days more than ever, with a pandemic ravaging every corner of the world, I understand more keenly how absolutely necessary it is to find the escape hatch in reality, to seek out a pleasant corner and while away the hours inside a story. Inside a comfort read.
So what does a comfort slash feel good read mean for me?
It means… the kind of stories you want to nestle into like a well-worn sweater. The kind with a talismanic power, that deaden the harshness of the world and take the sting from any barb. The kind you finish reading and feel such a weightless joy, the feeling that that moment, that hour, that universe could not possibly be improved upon. The kind that, for the space of a few hundred pages, drown out the noise inside your head, and simply make you feel… well, good.
So, without further ado, here are some of my favorite comfort reads slash feel good books!
McLemore’s books are perfect for those who want to ignore the less poetic reality of the outside world and lose themselves in the sheer, unfettered beauty of storytelling. Their books read like centuries-old fairytales that villagers with a restless imagination would spin around a fire. I have a strong suspicion that they reside on a separate plane of existence and only decides to step on our realm, every now and then, to bless us with their presence and books, only to immediately retreat into the moors of her homelands to dance with the Old Gods. Every single one of these books is soul-healing, trust me.
➳ Foolish Hearts by Emma Mills
This book was like a face mask for my soul. Girls loving girls, platonic displays of affection between boys, siblings bonding over their shared love for video games, boy bands and Shakespeare plays, a game of fuck, marry, kill where Voldemort surprisingly doesn’t get killed….. and a wholesome romance that made me painfully aware of the lack of cuddling I’m experiencing right now.
➳ Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
A slow burn rivals-to-“we’re forced to work together to save our countries’ reputations and we’re both extremely pissed about it”-to-lovers story between the prince of England and the first son of the US. So good. The kind of story that warms in the cold & tastes sweet when the world runs sour. It’s genuinely one of the best romance novels that I’ve ever read. I know I keep saying love is fake, but reading this book melted my cold dead heart. I’m a believer again! And you know what, although I have always been incapable of choosing a “favorite book,” I now know that if I had to be stuck on a desert island, with only one book to bring with me, it would definitely be this one.
➳ With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo
I floated through this story as if set adrift in a lifeboat on a gently rocking sea. Delight sluiced through me, and I tingled with the giddy buoyancy of reading a book that made my heart feel like it had grown too large for the confines of my ribs. With the Fire on High is an immensely warm-hearted treat that boldly gives voice to young women whose stories are often dismissed as cautionary tales. It’s a unique, hearty story that you can easily breeze through over a weekend. Trust me, I binge read most of this book and it was the best therapy session that I’ve ever had!
➳ Winternight Trilogy by Katherine Arden
I am unabashedly in love with this series. Every books brings back with it the remembered joy of giving yourself up to a story, the equivalent of a whispered “oh,” husky and astonished and awakened. Hours slip by unseen when I’m reading it, as though a shimmering veil of reverie is drawn over me. I don’t even register the ending happening because the whole moment seems to occur outside the scope of reality. It’s perfect. If there’s any series, at all, that you would pick up upon my recommendation, let it be this one.
➳ A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
A novel about a count who is accused of writing a counterrevolutionary poem and sentenced to life confinement in Moscow’s Metropol hotel might sound out of place on this list. There is so much tragedy at the heart of this novel, after all… but there is also unimaginable tenderness—and it’s what follows you off the page. The presence of this story was like a warm stone cupped in my hands, and I relished reading the count’s story, and the link he’s forged over the years between him and several residents of the hotel—the chefs, the doormen, the bartenders, the seamstresses—creating a door that he can knock at and count on being opened at any time. The feeling that their solitudes had joined together. A found family, however unlikely it seems.
➳ The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow
To read this book is to fill your whole life with it. Those minutes—hours—that my gaze was connected to the page, were the only moments in my day that I felt anything at all. It’s…. almost less a novel than an experience: never have I felt more like I was part of things, moved by the same current, like my soul had disconnected from my body and drifted among fictional souls in a mist somewhere between fantasy and reality. It seemed hardly credible when I finished reading that I couldn’t follow the words back to a world where this wasn’t mere fiction.
If you ever wondered how it would feel to stand on the threshold of a living dream, I promise this book is your key.
➳ The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune
This book is a nonstop pleasure. It’s a gay fantasy novel about an uptight governmental agent tasked with reporting on orphanages for magical children finding clarity, love and a found family. A story flooded every corner of my mind with delight and warmth and made me feel reassured and nourished in channels of my heart which had stood scraped dry for weeks. It’s a feeling I wish I could put in a bottle to carry it with me through the dark.
➳ Love From A to Z by S.K. Ali
This book resonated in chambers of my heart I’d never known existed. There is still an expansiveness in my chest that reminds me of how important voices like these are, for readers like us. This feeling is a language all its own: to reach and find, to be reached for and found, to belong to a mutual certainty. Adam and Zayneb’s love story is so warm, and I loved how their personal, separate struggles in the world (Zayneb as a Hijabi Muslim and Adam grappling with the loss of his mother and his recent diagnosis with multiple sclerosis) do not change their moments together, the comfort they contain, or the fixed point they represent on the tangled structure of their lives. Their story left me with hope in the place of…everything else.
➳ Jack of Hearts (and Other Parts) by Lev A.C. Rosen
I fucking love this book. When I finished it, the whole world around me went soft and fuzzy and comfortable like a swallow of warm honey down a sore throat. This isn’t your average, young-adult coming-of-age story, and it’s all the better for it. L.C. Rosen as a writer is daring. His interrogation is refreshingly rigorous, as sharp as breaking sticks, and his provocations—about sex, sexuality and gender identity—resonate through to the last page, like the breathtaking reciprocity of a reflection. I am so glad I found my way to this story.
➳ Signs of Love Series by Anyta Sunday
I think, at the end of the day, we’re all just looking for that one person we can be completely, unabashedly, profoundly stupid with and not feel judged or embarrassed, and Anyta Sunday just gets it. And that’s why her books will always have space on my shelves (and a soft spot in my heart). So please do pick up this series whenever you need to feel uncommonly good about the world.
And that’s it! I hope this post introduces you to a new fave. Let me know if you’ve read or plan to read any of these books!
P.S. As I was making this list, it got too unwieldy, so I decided to break it up into two blog posts, which meeeeans there’s another blog post with even MORE comfort reads coming your way soon!