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Comfort Reads While Social Distancing

Savannah Dorsett
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Cozy Reads

Get some ideas of "comfort reads" while we're spending time at home these days. Savannah Dorsett from Houston Public Library shares some classic reads, heartwarming tales and more. 

Okay, let’s address the obvious. These are scary times. Watching the news is panic-inducing. Restaurants, gyms, movie theaters and malls are closed. Many are working from home. Or are, sadly, stuck at home not able to work at all.

Believe it or not, there’s only so much television you can watch. So, in this uncertainty, here are some ideal comfort reads. But wait, you may say. Libraries are also closed. Fear not! Many of these titles are available electronically and can be accessed from your own home through services such as Overdrive, Axis360 and RBDigital. For a limited time, Houston Public Library has even brought back the ability to check out e-books and audiobooks from Hoopla, with no holds or waitlists. So settle in, stay safe and remember to wash your hands!

Now is a really great time to dive into a cozy mystery or two. Cozies, or mysteries with no explicit violence or sexual content and often set in a close knit community, are ideal in times of stress. Sure, there’s a dead body or two but you know things are going to work out in the end and justice will be done. Plus, as an added cozy bonus, there are many series that feature cute animals, recipes or knitting patterns. Some great cozy series include Alexander McCall Smith's No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency featuring the sensible and warmhearted Precious Ramotswe, the Mrs. Murphy series by Rita Mae Brown (attention, animal lovers - Mrs. Murphy is a cat and Brown’s "co-author" is her cat Sneaky Pie) and Joanne Fluke’s bakery-themed Hannah Swensen series with hunger-inducing titles such as The Double Fudge Brownie Murder. In Axis360, also you’ll also find many e-books and e-audiobooks of titles from the 1930s and '40’s Golden Age of Mystery. Just search for British Library Crime Classics and see what strikes your fancy. Many of them have been republished for the first time in decades so you may just rediscover a lost treasure.

Perhaps you’ll want to reach back to the past for some comfort reads from childhood, or even share them with a new generation. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, with its themes of hope, renewal and the power of nature is a lovely distraction while stuck inside. Reread - or discover for the first time - some of the Newbery Award winners (think the Pulitzer of children’s books) such as A Wrinkle in Time, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH or Bridge to Terabithia. Beverly Cleary, a multiple Newbery honoree, is a particular favorite. Her various series starring Ralph S. Mouse, Henry Huggins and Beezus and Ramona Quimby have been popular since the 1950s! Additionally, the emphasis on imagination and creative play versus screen time may be a helpful model for cooped up children. A recent "relisten" to the Ramona Quimby books was an utter delight. Stockard Channing as the narrator completely nails Ramona’s irrepressible spirit and the changes to her voice as Ramona grows and matures is amazing. Check them out via Overdrive!

Or maybe now is the time to tackle one of those classic works you always said you’d get around to reading? A sprawling work with dozens of characters like Dickens’ David Copperfield or Great Expectations, a swashbuckling adventure such as Dumas’ Three Musketeers, maybe Tolstoy’s War and Peace for the truly motivated? You may not get to see the newest movie adaption of Emma but perhaps check out the original source material or any of Jane Austen’s other delightful comedy of manners. Currently I’m devouring Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackery. Published in 1848 and subtitled "A Novel without a Hero" this scathing examination of the hypocrisy of polite society may seem like strange comfort reading but that scheming social climber Becky Sharpe pulls me in almost despite myself. Best of all, many of these classic works are now in the public domain meaning they are always available with no need for holds via Overdrive or Project Gutenberg. Or find them as e-audiobooks! Something to immerse yourself in while you’re taking that oh so necessary for your sanity walk.

Finally, let us celebrate books about books and the power of the written word to bring us together - a reminder that as isolated and overwhelmed as we may feel, we’re all in this together and share our common humanity. Heartwarming titles that reflect on this theme include The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society about a book club formed during World War II, The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend about a woman who sets up a book store in a town where "no one reads" and The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek about a Depression-era packhorse librarian who brings much needed books to isolated areas of Appalachia. These are titles about people who overcome war, poverty, grief and loneliness to create found families and stronger communities. Sounds like just what we need in these trying times.

Still need more titles? We’re available remotely! Just reach out to your friendly neighborhood librarians via our chat services or telephone reference for all your reading and other informational needs. We also provide online readers advisory via email! Tell us what you like to read and we’ll suggest some titles to help get you through the this. Which we will do. After all, we’re still #Houstonstrong.

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