Thursday, April 10, 2008

Comfort Books

When I was in high school (or was it middle school?), I discovered the book "Clan of the Cave Bear." The book and the sequels that followed chronicle a young girl growing up in "caveman" days who is separated from her family by an earthquake and is taken in by a different, older species of human. She grows up in a world that should have been completely foreign to her and doesn't understand why she is so different. There is so much detail in these books on how early man made tools, kept fire, hunted game, used herbal medicine, and how he may have evolved into different species. It sounds utterly boring reading about it here, but the book is fiction and is written well enough that you forget how much history/archeology may actually be embedded in the story.

There is a fantasy element to the books, but I think what most appealed to me was the heroine, Ayla. She defies all odds over and over again and becomes this extraordinarily strong, amazing, independent woman who discovers flint can make fire, tames a wild horse (and then a lion cub and a wolf), and teaches so many lessons to those around her. But she is also very human, making mistakes, falling in love and suffering such devastating losses. For my 18th birthday, my parents gave me hardbacks of the series and they are still one of my most prized possessions. So much so that even though I read the books over and over again, I read the paperbacks so that I don't damage the hardbacks.

The other series that speaks to me in the same way is the Outlander series. There's definitely a lot of fantasy in these books in addition to steamy sex scenes (come to think of it, the Clan series has that too), but at it's core, it is a love and destiny story. The love and destiny of a wife, lover, and then a mother. And the underlying theme throughout of family. There is another strong heroine in this series, Claire, who is just written so real she seems to jump off the page at you. You feel like you know her, or that you are her in a way.

There is something about both of these series of books that speaks to me and I can read them over and over again without getting sick of the stories. They have become something of a security blanket for me-comfort books. When I feel lost or disconnected from myself, I go back to these books and lose myself in Ayla and Claire's stories again. It is like an old friend who reminds me of who I am.

Since we moved into our new house almost a year and a half ago, we haven't bought bookshelves and my old friends, the books, have remained packed away in boxes in the basement, untouched. I think it might be time for me to dig them out and pay them a visit.

What books are your "comfort books?"


AF arrived today. She was quite the congenial visitor for a change, with very little flow and very minor cramping. I go in tomorrow morning for my suppression check (U/S and BW).


Lori said...

I loved Ayla. That series of books has really stayed with me.

I remember she lost her son, Durk. Was that his name?

Glad your guest is behaving.yb

HeidiM said...

Hi Denise, I'll have to add those to my list of books to read.

My comfort books are Jane Austen's, those are my only leather bound treasure books. I've read them all over and over. I just love how, although I have this misguided belief that women in the past were all innocent, washboard-using, submissive personalities, the women in these books are honest and petty and love-struck and catty and witty and competitive and insecure and feel all the feelings we feel today. And the writing is so brilliant and perfect and beautiful, it brings me such joy to revisit them.

Almost all of our books are still in (an embarassingly high number of) boxes in the garage, waiting for us to move into a long-term house. I miss my books too!

Duck said...

Denise, Thanks for the comment, it's always good to hear from a fellow fucked up uterus person (I hope you don't mind me cursing on your blog).
Yes, he actually thinks I may have an IUD up there, without me knowing about it. Apparently he has seen it before, from women from South America and Mexico. I know all my surgeries were done in Newfoundland, but, I hope we aren't that backwards. Who knows?
I'm almost hoping that they find an IUD, so we can take it out, and my uterus can go back to being a normal fun loving big fat uterus.

Okay, now for your topic of the day,comfort books, Well, i think as a kid, The weedle on the needle was one of my favs, and now, I like reading any of Stewart Mclean's The Vinyl Cafe books (very very funny CBC radio host stories). So funny, like pee yourself funny.

Glad AF is being friendly. Sorry for the long comment.

chicklet said...

Could you tell my AF to f*g show up? Grrrr, glad you're on your way, and jealous I'm still waiting. Good luck tomorrow.

Rhonda said...

i have yet to find a good series (outside of LOTR and Harry Potter) or an author (except for the Grisham law books) that I am consistent at reading. BUT i did recently find this author - Meg Cabot - she is funny and pretty real.

really...i go to the book store and look for a cover that seems interesting to my mood of the day and, for all practical purposes, i have had success.

beautycourage said...

OH, I love this stuff. As a child my comfort books were the Cynthia Voigt books - my favorite being "Dicey's Song"- and The Secret Garden. I still try to read the Secret Garden once a year. Right now my current comfort book is Wallace Stegner's Angle of Repose. Also Ana Karenina by Tolstoy is a favorite. Recently I have been really into new fiction, and had forgotten how satisfying it is to re-read a favorite book until recently. It's like meeting an old friend unexpectedly on the street on a cold rainy day...

annacyclopedia said...

What an awesome question, Denise! I've never thought about my favorite books as being "comfort books" but that is exactly what they are.

For me I'd have to say "The Girl's Guide to Hunting and Fishing" by Melissa Bank - it is my life. And I've read "Infinite Jest" by David Foster Wallace three times I think - it's such a monster that it's not one I can revisit annually, but it is amazing - the characters are so human and I just love them so much. It's so funny and so real and so fantastic all at the same time.

Books from my childhood are still pretty powerful, too - "Sylvester and the Magic Pebble" is a huge one for me. I still get weepy when I read it, especially when I'm reading it out loud.

Amy said...

Denise - Haven't read Clan...I've always wanted to, but never got around to it. When I was a kid I LOVED The Babysitter's Club books...I had all of them up until I stopped I had about 100. Now, I love The Nerd Series by Vicki Lewis Thompson and books by Lisa Gardner and Lisa Jackson.

shinejil said...

I haven't read the Outlander books (though I have a close friend whose taste I trust who's absolutely smitten with them), but as a young woman, Clan of the Cave Bear series blew me away, in part thanks to the steamy bits. It was nice to have passion portrayed in a way that seemed very, well, fun for the woman involved.

Tolkien is my secret indulgence. I love the attention to language and linguistic detail, and his love affair with landscape.

Jane Smiley's The Greenlanders, about Viking settlers on Greenland, is also amazing, just beautifully written. The His Dark Materials trilogy is also engrossing...

Get those books out! We need good stories when times are tough. Real, epic tales.

Waiting said...

I love biographies of any kind. I'll read about anyone. A few that I really enjoyed- Katherine Graham's "Personal History," "I Love You, Ronnie (Reagans)," "Get Happy (Judy Garland)" and "America's Queen (Jackie)."

Thanks for the great ideas for new reads. Once pool time rolls around, I'll be ready for lots of reading.

Alison said...

Hmm, I might just have to check out that book. I saw the movie ages ago but did not realize it had other books! My comfort books is a new series but Harry Potter. I loved every second of the series and I am so sad it's over but I could read those over and over. BTW, my books are still boxes too and we've lived in our house over 2 years. :(

So glad that AF is on her best behavior!

Spicy Sister said...

Yay for AF!!! We are totally close in our dates!

I remember that series but never read it - I may have to go check it out now, sounds really intriguing actually!

My comfort books are The Chronicles of Narnia - I am working my way back through them right now in fact. They are a taste of the good parts of my childhood, of magic, adventure, and hope - I love reading them.

Anonymous said...

I hope your U/S and blood will be fine so you are clear to go forward! Oh, like Heidi, I like Jane Austen. I just finished reading pride and prejudice for second time.

Melanie said...

What a great question. Let's see. My girly comfort book is Memoirs of a Geisha. I've read it four times. To Kill a Mockingbird is equally powerful on the 6th read. Oh, and I love crime thrillers, like Lee Child's the Jack Reacher series and Michael Connelly's the Harry Bosch series.

I know exactly what you mean about boxes of books. We don't have enough bookshelves so I've got boxes upon boxes of books. I'm sure they house mouse condos now.