The best comfort reading: Your top recommendations of stories to help you escape

Published on: 12 December 2019 Author: Catriona Wightman

We asked you for your favourite comfort reads, and you came up with some fantastic suggestions. Here are some of our favourites...

A boy sitting in a chair reading

Illustration: Erika Meza

Whether it's what's going on in the news or the stresses of a busy family life, it's easy to feel a bit overwhelmed sometimes. But fear not, because books are always there waiting to whisk you away on a magical adventure!

Stories can offer such a brilliant escape, so we asked you on social media to share some of your favourite comfort reads.

You gave us some fantastic recommendations (it looks like you might want to start with Little Women and The Secret Garden - they came up a lot!) Below, we share some of our other favourite suggestions...

Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild

The front cover of Ballet Shoes

Illustration: Jo Goodberry

This classic tale about three sisters and their attempts to make it on the stage was suggested by author Stephanie Burgis, who was backed up by @msemmalyon ('Ballet Shoes is the BEST') and @WoolfeAngela: 'I have literally no idea how many times I read Ballet Shoes as a child. Just read it with my daughter and it's no less magical than I remember.' A solid recommendation!

Read our review of Ballet Shoes

Classic fantasy books

We lost count of the number of times books like JRR Tolkien's The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, Ursula K. Le Guin's A Wizard of Earthsea, Diana Wynne Jones's Howl's Moving Castle and Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising were namechecked – @w_rolls was the first to mention most of them, but they were hugely popular all round. There's something about escaping into another, magical world...

If you like those, maybe also try @GabbysDrawing's suggestion of The Hounds of the Morrigan by Pat O'Shea: 'So good and beautifully written and funny.'

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis

Is it any surprise that at this time of year, lots of you recommended escaping into the snowy wonderlands of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe? @GabbysDrawing was first to suggest it, but again, we lost count of the number of recommendations for this classic, magical tale.

In a similar, wintry vein, a few of you proposed John Masefield's brilliant The Box of Delights – take @miadaisyc, who said: 'It's so perfect for this time of year. It satisfies my inner child and my thirst for adventure that is lacking in my adult life. It also blocks out the negative issues for a while.'

The front  cover of The Box of Delights

Illustration: Quentin Blake

When Marnie Was There by Joan G Robinson

'I never tire of it,' explained @AHSchoolLibrary. 'It hugs like a warm blanket and a hot chocolate.' We couldn't possibly ignore a recommendation like that.

The Harry Potter books by JK Rowling

@UNDERYOURABAYA  was the first to mention this magical series, but certainly not the last! We particularly loved this message from @Nickitypicks: 'Despite only discovering Harry Potter in early adulthood, it's my choice for comfort reading and the delicious tones of Stephen Fry reading those books brought me comfort when away from loved ones on the other side of the world.'

The Moomins books by Tove Jansson

Scandinavia seems like the perfect destination at this time of year, so it's not surprising that lots of you namechecked the Moomins! @KMcCaughrain was first, recommending Moominvalley in November (accompanied by one of its beautiful illustrations, instantly making us feel heaps cosier). Meanwhile, @MandGill24 said: 'Anything Moomins. Gorgeous little creatures, solving anything with their innate beliefs of goodness, and strength of family.' Ideal!

The front cover of Moominvalley in November

Illustration: Tove Jansson

Emil and the Detectives by Erich Kästner

This one was recommended by super author Fleur Hitchcock, who explained: 'It came from happier times, pre-war, boys acting in a gang to bring down a rotten no good chappie. Lots of heart, and adventure. And you can read the whole thing in one sitting.' Sounds perfect, right?

And Fleur was backed up by another awesome author, Helena Pielichaty, who said: 'I read Emil for the first time earlier this year and so agree with you. Loved the friendships between the boys.' Settle in for a treat!

Read our review of Emil and the Detectives

Roald Dahl's books

No surprise that lots of us end up returning to Roald Dahl in a tight spot! For example, @Eleanorbirdy said: 'I just re-read Danny, the Champion of the World. Really different read as a parent to when I was a child but still good.' @DancingPhoenix still has that one in their 'grown-up bookcase', while for @beeing_sophie, it's all about The BFG!

Heidi by Johanna Spyri

The front cover of Heidi

Illustration: Briony May Smith

Another classic that still has that magic touch! @minervamoan said: 'We are currently re-reading Heidi in this household, and despite the trauma of Heidi's homesickness, the reunion with her grandfather, and the literal breath of fresh air from the mountain setting is truly escapist.' We can practically breathe it in now!

Brilliant bears

How could you refuse @wheeler_writing when they asked for 'Winnie-the-Pooh and Paddington Bear, please!' We have to agree that the duo are perfect for cheering us up, and it seems we're not alone - @w_rolls said: 'Winnie-the-Pooh is definitely my daughter's pick, but only if it's me reading it!'

Perhaps true comfort reading is having someone else tell you a story? After all, @woowoo6401 told us: 'I would love someone to read The Wind in the Willows to me. I would happily take that as my Christmas present!'

But while we're on the subject of Winnie-the-Pooh, @maggie_mumford recommended A. A. Milne's poetry: 'My dad has lovely hardback editions from his childhood and I spent hours reading them as a child. As soon as I got pregnant, I bought a collection of his books. A. A. Milne and E.H. Shepard created something magical together!'

An illustration of Winnie-the-Pooh and Christopher Robin

Illustration: EH Shepard

Personal favourites

Some books were very popular... but others were very personally nostalgic choices! For example, @MsLenith said she always returns to 'a book based on a random TV show called The 10th Kingdom and another called Harry and the Wrinklies – they're both books I've read so much they are falling to pieces!'

Meanwhile, @debmarson shared a love of Black Hunting Whip from Monica Edwards' Punchbowl Farm series, joking: 'I bet no-one has mentioned that!'

Brilliantly, this sparked some very happy memories for @JudithParker2, who'd been trying to remember what they were called 'forever': 'I loved them when I was young and now hopefully I'll be able to find some copies somewhere.' Frankly, just reading that exchange has made us feel all gooey and warm!

Just... being around books

We'll leave you with this lovely little thought from @Kim_A_Howard: 'I don't necessarily have to even read them to get comfort from them. I just go to the shelves, run my fingers along the books and get all the feels flooding back as I stroke their spines.' Bliss!

What's your favourite comfort read? Let us know by leaving your comments below or tweeting us @BookTrust!

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