We may be awfully deep into summer for a spring book list now, but what better time to talk books than summer? I mean, we may not be leaving on as many or as varied vacations as we would in other years or under other circumstances, but sometimes a mental break is just as good. And these books listed below? They are great for escaping the world for a while.
Because, as we are all more than aware, this spring it really felt like the whole world was one giant dumpster fire of crazy. In fact, it was the weirdest thing for me. I found that I was so preoccupied with the pandemic and politics and crisis-schooling my kids that I just couldn’t read. I picked up book after book and then put them down unread again. Eventually, I realized I needed a change.
Reading for Comfort
I needed to give my heart and soul and mind a break. Now was not the time to challenge myself. Now was the time to care for myself so that I could care for others. So, in the interest of that realization, I made a concerted effort to read things that brought me comfort. I gravitated to books and genres that I already knew I loved, books that helped me escape and brought me comfort. I hope some of them bring you comfort, too.
And in the interest of seasonality, I have put an asterisk (*) by the titles that I think would make great beach or pool reads. Here goes! Here’s everything I read from March through May 2020, all linked up to Goodreads. Let’s start with my favorite genre, shall we?
I’d say that of these six books, the two I would most highly recommend would be Code Name Helene and Secrets of a Charmed Life. Naturally, because I am nothing if not predictable, they are both WWII-based novels with ties to Great Britain and with very strong and enigmatic female main characters. I truly loved them both and recommended them to friends before I had even finished them – and that’s saying something! The Orphan Sisters and Light a Penny Candle are also WWII-ish novels, set in England and Ireland, respectively. The Yankee Widow was a lovely story and actually kind of timely for today’s climate of friends and family being on the opposite sides of political divides. And Time After Time was a quick, rather magical read that went back and forth from the 1920s through the 1950s. Both were set in the good ol’ USofA.
Admittedly, I place both of these titles under the heading of “contemporary fiction” with reservation. Could Next Year in Havana be put under historical fiction? Yes; half of the book takes place in 1950s Cuba. But the other half takes place in modern day. Could Field Notes on Love be put under a Young Adult Fiction heading? Absolutely; that’s what it is. They were both good. And they were both a little problematic as far as the plot went. Which did I prefer? Next Year in Havana, hands down.
You know how sometimes you read a memoir and the whole time you’re reading you think to yourself, how can this possibly have been real life? But it was? It really was somebody’s actual life? Yeah. Both of these books gave me that feeling. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks was a jaw-dropper for me. I had no idea that Black women were used for medical testing like they were or that the Lacks family were basically ignored by the medical profession. And The Nazi Officer’s Wife gave me an entirely new understanding of how people, especially Jewish women, were treated and attempted to survive under the Nazi regime.
Now, while neither book would be great for lighthearted summertime reading, they are both definitely must-reads to put on your TBR list.
My Favorites when I’m reading for comfort
There are certain books that, no matter what season I am in and no matter how awful life seems, I will always turn to and be able to fall into. At the very top of that list are certain books in the Anne of Green Gables series by L.M. Montgomery. Even in that series, though, there are two standout books that are my absolute favorites. First, there’s Anne’s House of Dreams. The 5th book in the series, it would definitely be preferable to read the other four books before you pick up this one, but it’s not exactly necessary. And the other one would be the 8th in the series, Rilla of Ingleside. This book can absolutely stand alone, but if you wanted to make sure you were up to speed before you started it, you may want to read Rainbow Valley first.
Other comforting books for me are the entire Harry Potter series and a lovely little book called They Loved to Laugh by Kathryn Worth. Everybody knows the wizarding world of Harry and friends, but if you want a sweet, simple, and rather unknown story to make you feel better about life and love, check out They Loved to Laugh. For me, settling down with a comforting book like that is like eating warm apple pie or buttery mashed potatoes. It’s simple, it’s timeless, and it warms you from the inside out.