For the past two weeks I’ve been in desperate need of a holiday. I’ve been tired after more or less working non-stop on both day job, upping my skills for the day job, as well as writing. All at the same time as I’ve been trying to mess with my sleep schedule and my diet for maximum cognitive gains. Needless to say, I’ve been tired. So when sir Terry Pratchett’s death anniversary rolled around, I gave in. It was time to turn to comfort reading.

For me, comfort reading most often takes one of two forms; re-reading every Terry Pratchett book I have or reading every Seanan McGuire/Mira Grant book I have. Sometimes with an added option of re-reading John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War books. If it’s a particularly hard time, it’ll be all three. And if it’s a nightmare of a time, I’ll go on a romance reading kick after I’ve exhausted all three – although usually, I have to be really careful with that since the imperious, overtly jealous and overprotective man – trope in romance just makes me angrier and after a couple of those books I’ll be back in the Hulk situation again and no one wants that.

For me, at least, there’s something supremely comforting about re-reading a favorite book. Well, yes, that’s rather the point of a comfort read, I hear you say. Hold on, I have a point. A first read is demanding in the way having a new friend over for the first time. You have to be on your best behavior, pay attention to them. In Finnish we say “vieraskorea“, which in very rough translation is something like “guest behavior”. Of course, the original is much more nuanced but there you go. To start with, “vieraskorea” applies even when you’re not the host. It applies everywhere you are not among people you, personally, consider close family.

Whereas, when re-reading an old favorite, you can let yourself go. The old favorite knows to just, metaphorically speaking, go to the fridge to get a beer before settling to sit with you on the couch. That other book on the first read might not care that you’re wearing sweats that have very nearly been worn to pieces or that you’re not articulate like you’d like to be, nor that you missed that reference to Homer the classic playwright, but not Homer the animated character.

But you care, don’t you? It makes you feel inferior that you didn’t catch that reference or didn’t see that thing coming or whatever. And most of the time, that’s okay. Because there’s also something exciting about that. The new book knows all kinds of cool tricks and you’ll happily keep it company to the wee hours of the morning.

But even so, sometimes, when you’re tired, or angry, or heartbroken or just plain busy, you find yourself coming back to that couch in the ratty sweats, because it’s good, isn’t it? The characters you know and love, fighting the good fight, because maybe this time, it will all be okay, and you won’t bawl your eyes out during that one scene that makes you cry when you even think about talking on it with other people. Even though you know you will, and wouldn’t have it any other way.

Three weeks to my next holiday, three more packed weekends until I can sleep all day if I want. I’m about done with the collected works of Terry Pratchett and I’m thinking that the collected works of Seanan McGuire aren’t that far behind. I think I can make it.

Do you, dear reader, read for comfort? Do you re-read or prefer something new?