In times of hardship and uncertainty, readers turn to books. It’s in books that we find escape, peace, solace, and comfort. Knowing that we could all use those kinds of reads right now, I asked 22 authors to share their comfort reads.

Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

“During this turbulent, terrible time, I’ve found my concentration to be mostly aspirational, my eyes drawn constantly to social media or the news. So I turned to short stories for solace, notably, Jhumpa Lahiri’s collection of gems in Interpreter of Maladies. Her writing is exact, exquisite and each tiny world is populated with longing and love, dreams and disappointments, observations of quiet, beautiful things. Ordinary lives, deeply observed. When this book came out, I was a young teacher and a colleague handed it to me, saying, ‘This was written for you.’ She was right. And now, while we are alone, separated from loved ones, it feels more important than ever to simply feel seen.” —Samira Ahmed, author of Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know

Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

“A scant few books are so special that they actually become part of you. This is one of mine. The writing is vivid. (I could see it as a movie long before it ever became a tv mini-series.) Good Omens always makes me laugh. I love that none of the characters are entirely good or bad. And it captures those perfect little moments—the good stuff we take for granted—without being sentimental. There’s also enough detail and subtlety that I catch something new every time I read it. The best part: When everything looks darkest, the good guys win.” —Eve Calder, author of Sugar and Vice

Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender

Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender follows Felix Love as he grapples with his own identity, along with the bigotry of the world around him, and tries to find his own love story. It delves into self-doubt and the difficulties of questioning our own identity, especially after we’ve already come out to others, and to ourselves. The book also tackles the bigotry trans people face, whether from strangers, family, or even cis queer people. But Felix Ever After will leave you feeling warm. It is really a celebration of queerness, and of the love and happiness characters like Felix deserve. ” —Adiba Jaigirdar, author of The Henna Wars

The Long Way To A Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

One of my favorite comfort reads is The Long Way To A Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers. The Wayfarers series feels like a warm, sci-fi hug to me. So often, space opera is grand but cruel, and it’s a breath of fresh air to step into worldbuilding as considerate as Chambers’. In this book, the universe is vast and full of complications, but the characters are doing their best to take care of each other as they build the wormhole tunnels to connect it.” —Emily Skrutskie, author of Bonds of Brass

Feels Like Summer by Six de los Reyes

Feels Like Summer by Six de los Reyes always gives me a cozy, comforting boost. It starts with a fake relationship between a cynic and a just-dumped musician, which—over the course of a long, hot summer—turns into a casual hook-up, then a romance that means everything. The heroine is wonderfully prickly. The hero coaxes her out of her shell and takes care of her when she’s on her period. Basically, it’s Talia-nip. And so much fun! Everyone should read it.” —Talia Hibbert, author of Take a Hint, Dani Brown

The Chronicles of Chrestomanci, Volume 1 by Diana Wynne Jones

“This is slightly cheating, because you get two books inside a single volume, but when it comes to comfort reads, isn’t a second helping always better? This anthology introduces us to the world (worlds, truly) of Christopher Chant (aka Chrestomanci), a powerful magic-user who oversees the magic inside an exceptionally British multiverse. Some readers may be familiar with one of Jones’ other creations, Howl’s Moving Castle, via the Studio Ghibli adaptation. Like his literary counterpart Wizard Howl, Chrestomanci dresses like a dandy and is exceptionally clever, helpful, and kind-hearted. These books are charming, witty, dreamy, subversive, and endlessly enjoyable.” —JD Scott, author of Moonflower, Nightshade, All the Hours of the Day

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

“I appreciate that this gothic, psychological thriller about a young woman who—spoiler—discovers her husband murdered his previous wife probably isn’t what most people think of when you say ‘comfort read.’ But, for me, a comfort read is something I can completely lose myself in. Rebecca is emotionally intense and narratively fascinating—an artful puzzle box of a book that you can come back to endlessly.” —Alexis Hall, author of Boyfriend Material

Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey

“A book I recently read that I absolutely loved is Sarah Gailey’s Magic For Liars. I remember hearing about it and trying to get my hands on a copy at last year’s American Library Association Annual Conference. The premise itself checks so many boxes for me—female protagonists, magic, teens, a murder investigation—and the execution is flawless. It’s also deeply, nonchalantly queer, which was delightful. Gailey’s writing is sharp, witty, evocative, even brutal at times. I can’t recommend this book enough. Their latest YA book, When We Were Magic, is next on my list.” —Carly Usdin, author of Heavy Vinyl: Y2K-O! and The Avant-Guards

Midnight at the Blackbird Café by Heather Webber

“My favorite book of 2019 also happens to be the comfort read I’m recommending to all of my pals: Heather Webber’s Midnight at the Blackbird Café—small town, Southern setting, loving family, secrets, and pie. Did I mention there’s pie? With nuanced characters, and a well-crafted plot, it’s as heartwarming as it gets, and satisfying like digging into a warm bowl of homemade macaroni and cheese. Not light and fluffy, but meaningful. When you’ve completed the story, you just feel good.” —Esme Addison, author of A Spell For Trouble

Lead by Kylie Scott

“I’m a shameless hussy for the entire Stage Dive series by Kylie Scott, especially the third book, Lead. Jimmy Ferris, a recovering addict and the sexy lead singer of the rock band Stage Dive, needs a live-in assistant/sobriety companion. Enter curvy Lena Morrissey, ex-PA and the only person who can take Jimmy’s bad attitude and dish it back out. The sparks, y’all! Their snarky banter is hilarious. Their I’m-putting-up-with-you-for-the-check tolerance to friendship to lovers ride is heart and panty melting. I swooned from the beauty of Lena teaching Jimmy how to love, not just her but himself. Simply amazing. And then throw in the bromance between the band? Sigh. Emotional, sweet, and sexy romance at its best!” —Naima Simone, author of Ruthless Pride

Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? by Agatha Christie

“This lovely single title by the prolific Queen of Crime brings back the sounds and smells of those seemingly endless summer afternoons I spent reading as a teen, completely immersed in the English countryside, hunting for clues along with the two amateur sleuths, to discover the meaning of a dying man’s enigmatic last words ‘Why didn’t they ask Evans?’ With wonderfully manipulative characters, eerie grand mansions, mistaken identity, and a dash of romance, this read will leave you with a big smile, and a craving for more mysteries.” —Vivian Conroy, author of Last Pen Standing

Sunshine by Robin McKinley

“My go-to comfort read for the last decade is a secondary-world fantasy in a post-war urban fairyland that follows a resourceful baker whose unique ability to channel sunshine allows her to save the life of a vampire left for dead. Con’s extraordinary ugliness has its own kind of allure. But Sunshine already has a boyfriend: the calm, mysterious reformed bad boy Mel. Don’t worry, it’s not (quite) a love triangle! The bantering dialogue and Sunshine’s warm and loving home life set against her at-times-harrowing adventures creates an escape like one of Sunshine’s monster cinnamon rolls: decadent, sweet, a little spicy, perfect.” —Alaya Dawn Johnson, author of Trouble the Saints

Cold-Hearted Rake by Lisa Kleypas

“When I’m looking for a comfort read, I go for my tried-and-true authors, the ones who never let me down. At the top of that list is Lisa Kleypas. She was one of the authors I read and studied when I was writing my very first book, and she’s still someone I reach for time and time again. Her most recent series is about the Ravenel family, and while you don’t need to read them in order, why not start at the beginning with Cold-Hearted Rake? Like all of Kleypas’ books, it has flawed but likable characters; a dry, understated wit; and deep, heart-tugging emotion.” —Julia Quinn, author of First Comes Scandal

This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper

“In the face of difficult times I need to laugh and be buoyed by smart humor. No matter how many times I have read This Is Where I Leave You, the wry tone and snappy dialogue doesn’t grow old. It becomes more familiar, more comforting, like a nutty uncle you see every few years, but when you do, you couldn’t be happier. There’s enough entry into the dysfunctional lives of this unhinged cast as a nosy neighbor can ask for so she may accurately report back to her canasta club with some solid juice. If you’re looking for sentiment, it’s not here, but it is a clever comic novel that will leave you wanting to read more of Jonathan Tropper’s works to lighten the mood.” —Alli Frank, author of Tiny Imperfections

The Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig

My favorite read for those days when I need comfort is The Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig. If you love romance, adventure, and a hint of danger all in a historical setting, this is the book for you. It combines everything I love: a quick-witted but flawed heroine, snarky banter, hilariously comedic side characters, and good old fashioned espionage—all wrapped up in a delightful regency romance.” —Swati Teerdhala, author of The Archer at Dawn

The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean Auel

 “Christmas of 1982, my father gave me the first in the Earth’s Children series by Jean Auel, Clan of the Cave Bear. Considered a young adult series, the last book was released well into my adulthood (2011) and after sitting with the characters again, I felt like old friends had come around to visit. This book is a comfort because it inspires in me the belief that no matter the obstacle faced—violence, prejudice, disability, sexism, a harsh homeland—humanity will triumph through the forces of love and acceptance, and by treasuring each life on our planet.” —Asha Youmans, author of Tiny Imperfections

Story Genius by Lisa Cron

It might be unconventional… but my comfort read for the moment would be a writing craft book called Story Genius. I need to focus on my writing goals to give me structure and help to keep the anxiety at bay. By the time COVID-19 put me into isolation, I was struggling to finish the first draft of a manuscript. That’s why my comfort read is Story Genius by Lisa Cron, a craft book that explains why so many popular novel-writing strategies (including both pantsing and plotting) don’t always work, offering instead a technique that not only revolutionized my beliefs on character development, but has undoubtedly saved my first draft, gifting me a goal to focus on in these difficult times.” —Kacen Callender, author of Felix Ever After

The Craft of Love by EE Ottoman

In times of stress, I sometimes turn to EE Ottoman’s trans m/f 19th-century New York-set historical, The Craft of Love. It’s a gentle novella about a silversmith and a quiltmaker, both of them skilled artisans, who find common ground in their love and palpable pleasure in practicing their respective crafts. As the pair move warily through friendship to love, the book offers fascinating glimpses into everyday life in this period.” —Ruby Lang, author of The Uptown Collection

The Lives of Christopher Chant by Diana Wynne Jones

“When times are hard I always return to Diana Wynne Jones, the British author of (primarily) children’s fantasy, who remains one of the wildest and most delightful imaginations I have ever come across. She is most famous for Howl’s Moving Castle, but she actually wrote dozens of books over her long career. My favorite comfort read is probably The Lives of Christopher Chant, which tells the story of a very unhappy boy who discovers he has the power to travel to parallel worlds and becomes entangled in an interdimensional smuggling ring.” —Emily Tesh, author of Silver in the Wood and Drowned Country

Possession by A.S. Byatt

“Quarantine. Social distancing. Stay-at-home orders. These are unimaginable times, and I find myself turning to the comfort of well-worn, beloved books. But which should I choose? As I peruse my special bookshelf of favorites, my eyes land first on my Agatha Christie collection, then The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, followed by The Flanders Panel, and finally upon The Mists of Avalon, the book that set me on my writer’s path. Yet, none of these will provide the specific solace I seek, that sensation of falling back into a different yet recognizable realm and losing myself entirely. Then I see it: A.S. Byatt’s Possession, a sweeping masterpiece concerning two modern-day academics on a quest for the truth about two Victorian poets, a pursuit in which they actually discover secrets about themselves. And I reach for the cherished, threadbare book.” —Marie Benedict, author of Lady Clementine

Happy All the Time by Laurie Colwin

“Whenever I am feeling moody or anxious or even just a little bit down (all of the above apply right now, of course), I reach for Happy All the Time by the late, great Laurie Colwin, a master of character and mannered wit. Written in 1978, it’s the story of two off-kilter young couples in New York City who fall in love and never quite back out. It’s the one book that I adore where nothing bad ever really happens, which sounds boring but is anything but.” —Lisa Brown, author of Long Story Short

The Hidden World of the Fox by Adele Brand

“One of the unexpected delights of all the humans staying home is that all the animals have come out to play. To accompany me on my daily dog walks, I downloaded the audiobook of The Hidden World of the Fox by British ecologist Adele Brand, a wonderful storyteller and ardent observer of foxes. More nature, less news seemed like a good coping strategy. Brand’s writing is filled with lush descriptions of ancient forests in Belarus and the woody countryside in Surrey, but it’s her admiration for the scrappy, adaptable red fox that makes this book shine. It’s narrated beautifully by Jane McDowell.” —Lian Dolan, author of The Sweeney Sisters

What are your comfort reads?

Kelly Gallucci

Kelly Gallucci is the Executive Editor of We Are Bookish, where she oversees the editorial content, offers book recommendations, and interviews authors and NetGalley members. When she's not working, Kelly can be found color coordinating her bookshelves, eating Chipotle, and watching way too many baking shows. She is a Gryffindor.

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