July 10, 2010

Books That Get Me Through The Night

Everyone has bad days, right? And everyone has ways of dealing with them. Me? I turn to books – always have and hopefully always will. Some books I turn to again and again - I call these my duvet books. And they never let me down. Be it a bout of insomnia, illness, don't-know-what-to-read-all-my-books-look-rubbish-itis or a dark night of the soul, these books have gotten me through. There aren't very many of them – perhaps a dozen at most. Here are the five that consistently remain my BBFs (Book Best Friends) and are likely to for many years to come (all titles link to Goodreads):

A theme that all of my duvet books share is that of escapism and what a world Cassandra Clare has created to escape into. Modern New York becomes a hive of demons, megomaniacal villains, werewolves and vampires– all stalking the bright lights of Manhatten and the backstreets of Brooklyn pursued by mysterious Shadowhunters. I think that City of Bones is one of the few books that had me from the very first line. I've never reviewed it, because I doubt my ability to be even remotely objective. I first read the Mortal Instruments series about two years ago and have re-read it more times than I am willing to admit. The story is great, the characters arresting (and no, not just Jace – I like them all) and this is absolutely my go to book when I find myself in a reading rut. On reflection, it might be quite a lot because of Jace. But not entirely. Honest.

A few years ago, I went through the break up of a very long term relationship. On the day that my co-breakee was moving out of our shared home a good friend took me to a bookshop and bought me a copy of Neverwhere. He then took me to the local botanical gardens, bought me ice-cream and read the first few chapters aloud to me. He was handsome, flatteringly younger than me and had a wonderful reading voice. Tell me that you wouldn't love a book after that? It helps that Neverwhere is an absolutely fantastic story, taking place in London Below – a parallel London existing beneath the tube stations and offices of London as we know it. Inhabited by strange and wonderful creations such as the Angel Islington and the glorious Marquis De Carabas it is impossible to read it and not forever more walk through London Above with your imagination running wild. It got me through that first bad day and has gotten me through many more since. Bliss in a book.

A second outing for Gaiman (in fact, I should probably do a post on my Gaiman love as love him I truly do) and this time co-writing with Terry Pratchett. Not a combination that should perhaps work – but boy, does it! Good Omens is, I suppose, apocolyptic fiction. But not as you know it. The anti-christ has been despatched by Hell in baby form (so far, so Omen) in order to bring about the final battle between Heaven and Hell (Satan's not the most patient guy...). The only problem is that they've kind of lost him. With neither the hoards of Hell nor their Heavenly counterparts having the faintest idea where said anti-christ actually is they assign their best guys to the problem. Enter Aziraphale, an angel who would rather be pootling away in his bookshop and Crowley, “an angel who did not so much fall as saunter vaguely downwards.” I cannot stress how funny this book is – I defy you to read it (no matter how miserable) and not laugh out loud. My copy has such sentimental value that it is the only book that I have never lent to anyone – and the only one that I can always find whenever I need it.

Fabulous, fabulousness! I read this on a pure whim about five years ago and was utterly surprised at what I found. I suppose that this would fall within the fantasy genre, although it seagues between its utterly bewildering Old Kingdom and the land to the south of it, which seems to inhabit 1940s England. Luckily, Garth Nix is such an accomplished storyteller that this never seems awkward or clunky in any way. Sabriel's story is at once dark, moving and sometimes extremely funny and certainly covered ground that I had never read about. Both the world of the living and the world of the dead are hugely accessible in this often chilling tale. And Mogget! God, I really do love Mogget. This from someone who generally is not a fan of talking animals. Wonderful escapism and the first in a three part series, all of which are good. But it's Sabriel that I can return to, and get lost in, again and again. This is the book I pick up when I can't sleep – or if I am a bit poorly. Ultimate escapism, ultimate comfort reading.

Really, I could have chosen any of the Harry Potter books. I love them all, but The Deathly Hallows holds a particularly special place in my heart. When the book first came out, I was about two months pregnant and feeling a bit overwhelmed by life. I jumped into JK Rowling's universe without hesitation, loving the opportunity to hide away from life within the pages. Later in my pregnancy, things were pretty tough and I had many nights where I was unable to sleep. Every time this happened, I would prop myself up in bed (and I took some propping by this stage) and read aloud to my bump while listening to the wind rage and scream outside my cottage windows – it was hugely comforting. This is the book that I took into hospital with me when preparing to give birth and this is also the book that I read when my daughter was so tiny, and I was so sleep deprived, that I could concentrate on nothing else. For these reasons this will always be my ultimate duvet book. To this day, if my little girl cannot sleep, or isn't well, I pull out The Deathly Hallows and read a couple of pages – it invariably works and even when it doesn't, it makes me feel a lot better about the whole situation.

So – how about you? I am absolutely sure that each and everyone of you has at least one book that you return to again and again. In fact I suspect that, like me, you probably have several. What are they? Comment and let me know. Even better – write your own list and link back. While this has turned into quite a serious post, it will be followed in the next couple of weeks by “Books that kept me awake through the night” - because who doesn't just lurve a spooky story.....

11 comments:

Marjorie said...

Nice idea! I may have to think about this a post my own list!
I love 'Good Omens' I'm on my 4th copy, I think, as they keep disappearing.
(BTW, I came here via the tweet Neil replied to)

Natalie (Mindful Musings) said...

I LOVE the Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare, and I just started listening to the audiobook of Sabriel a few days ago. It was recommended to me by Amelia @ Imagination in Focus. This is my first time reading/listening to Garth Nix, but it's pretty interesting so far! :)

Nomes (inkcrush) said...

nice list and a great post idea :)

I really need to read Sabriel...

Manda said...

The great thing about books is how you love them not only for the story but also for the time of your life they first became important to you. Mine is pretty similar. I'm so glad there are other people out there that understand that! (Sorry, new to the world of book blogs- can you tell?) This would be a great post to write- do you mind if I borrow the idea?

Manda said...

I kind of went ahead already and wrote my own list. Here's the link http://memoirsofawordnerd.blogspot.com/2010/07/comfort-reading.html. Again, great post. :-)

celi.a said...

Oh, great post! I'd say that several of these fill that post for me as well. But add in some Robin McKinley and a Diana Wynne Jones or two... *grin*

Lauren said...

This is so interesting. I've only read one that you've mentioned (City of Bones) and although I've read every other HP book, I just never got around to this one. I think I might need to though.

Off the top of my head, I'd have to say The Hunger Games and Charlotte Sometimes are the two I go back to most often. They both take me completely away to a different world and I love that.

asamum said...

Great post :D Mine is Twilight *grins* if I am feeling dow n or in a book slump I read Twilight and perk right up :D

Becky said...

I am in shock. Lauren hasn't read the last HP. This seems to me like the world is going to end or something.

All HPs are my comfort reads. All Mortal Instruments too. How funny! Also I think Perfect Chemistry will find itself on my duvet list.

Good to find another Sabriel fan. I love that series. Garth Nix does not get enough attention in my book.

Splendibird said...

I too am in shock, Lauren! How can you have read all of the others and not pounced on TDH as soon as it came out??
And Sabriel is awesome - I'm half planning on doing a Garth Nix love post too.

Angiegirl said...

What a wonderful idea. I, of course, have those books that are the only ones that will do sometimes. I love that SABRIEL is on your list. And the story behind NEVERWHERE is simply beautiful. Thanks for sharing!