Comfort Reading

I think time has come for us to discuss what we read for comfort. What is the trashiest kind of reading you enjoy when you are exhausted, sick, or simply need some really mindless entertainment?

For me – and I’m kind of ashamed to confess this secret that nobody knows about me – the trashiest author of choice is Jodi Picoult. If there is one author who knows nothing about psychology and always presents the most incongruous (from the psychological point of view) plots, it’s her.

She keeps creating characters who embody the most monstrous type of motherhood you can imagine. From a mother who gives birth to a child to harvest organs from her and who doesn’t relent even after the kid goes to court to stop the barbarity, to a mother who responds to a daughter’s incarceration by having another baby to substitute for the child who came out wrong – Picoult loves celebrating this type of outrageous mothers. She never condemns them, mind you. They are all heroes in her novels. The fathers are usually simply absent, clueless and useless.

All of Picoult’s novels are badly written and quite ridiculous. One that is the least so is Nineteen Minutes. It narrates a story of a school shooting and its aftermath.

Whenever I’m sick or very tired, I read or re-read a novel by Picoult. No matter what’s going on in your life, you will never fail to feel very normal and adequate in comparison to her characters.

And now that I’ve shared my deep, shameful reading-related secret, feel free to share yours.

26 thoughts on “Comfort Reading

  1. I like reading old-favourite mysteries and political fantasy over and over again, but not the same story on a loop. Right now, for example, I have viral fever and am working from home, and feeling generally miserable in this horribly hot and humid weather, especially during our standard Third World (TM) power-cuts. So I’m reading The Clocks by Agatha Christie. I’ve no recollection of when I’ve read it last, so I’m assuming it must have been a couple of years at least.

    After this I will read a Pratchett — probably Thud!. I’ve also just realised that I have no recollection of the actual plot-development in Philip Pullman’s trilogy, so that might be next.

    I should mention here that while I had total-recall memory till I was sixteen or so — I could recite The Merchant of Venice, which was a prescribed text, from memory — these days I have a memory like a hollow sieve. So even after several re-reads, I forget entire chunks of the stories completely. This facilitates re-reading no end.


    1. Sorry to hear you are sick! I’m just coming off a viral infection and the weather’s also been hot and humid beyond what I can tolerate easily. Bleh. Get well soon!

      I have a gift of forgetting any mystery novel completely 5 minutes after I read it. As a result, I can reread my favorites 5 to 10 times. It really saves me money. 🙂 🙂


  2. I mostly read sf and fantasy, but for lowbrow mindless silliness, I sometimes read Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum novels. (hoping I spelled her name correctly) It disturbs me a bit that another author that I think is better at the same sort of thing, Jennifer Stevenson, has not gotten nearly the market attention that Evanovich has.


  3. Ha ha. Mine is also Jodi Picoult. Once every couple years, I’ll go on months-long binges where I read as many of her books as possible. Then I feel slightly ashamed and finally get tired of her schtick, and sell them all to Half Price Books and buy a better pile of books that I’m not afraid to display on my bookshelf.


    1. I read them on Kindle, so nobody knows my secret. Of course, now I’ve gone and revealed it to the world. 🙂 Let’s see how many of my colleagues look down on me on Wednesday. 🙂


  4. Murder mysteries, contemporary fiction, and young adult books. I’ve only read one Jodi Picoult book, and I couldn’t stand it so I’ve never tried any others. The books I read aren’t necessarily more literary than hers was, just more interesting to me.


  5. I read the Charlene Harris Sookie Stackhouse series of novels. When I was interviewing for jobs, I used to buy two Sookie-Stackhouse novels per interview — one for the flight to, and one for the flight back. As you can imagine I was extremely stressed out and out-of-it all through the long flights, but the novels are so trashy and require so little attention that even then I managed to finish one per flight.


  6. I normally read books on current events, travel guides, history and most nonfiction along with some fantasy stuff like Tolkein and Lovecraft. But my big guilty pleasure is trashy romance novels, the sort with the hunky dudes on the front cover 😀 I have a big stack of them that I bought from the Salvation Army, thrift shops and used from the library and it only takes me an hour or two to read a Harlequin and less than a day to read bigger one. I need to give my mind a break sometimes 😀


  7. When all else fails, rereading Georgette Heyer will usually perk me up. Or a good fantasy — I especially like Pratchett, Garth Nix, Patricia Briggs, DM Cornish, and Tamora Pierce.


  8. I want to recommend “The Forgotten Garden” by Kate Morton. Nice, light reading. Family secrets, the search (by 2 women protagonists) for roots, one’s real history, finding yourself via discovering the family past. I think now that if you like her style of writing, you’ll enjoy the book. It’s psychologically good tooo, imo. If you decide to read, I would love very much to hear your opinion on it.


      1. Also several young women as main heroes, which is hard to find. And an interesting friendship between 2 girls (you’ll see). Don’t forget to say whether you liked it or not, so that I’ll know what to recommend in the future. 🙂

        Another book I liked was Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Gothic novel “The House of the 7 Gables”, especially author’s dark humor in Chapter 18. Too some family secrets, but completely different style. It’s on Kindle too, I guess:
        There are some other links in wiki, if needed.


  9. I’ve just ended reading another novel, which I *loved* and thought you would love too. “A Reliable Wife” by Robert Goolrick (is on Kindle too). If you didn’t like “The Forgotten Garden”, this author is completely different and touched me on entirely another level. This novel sucked me in from the second chapter. Vivid psychological descriptions. Interesting plot. Wonderful writing style. It’s about how childhood experiences shape us among other things. The reviews on Amazon reveal practically the entire plot. Even back cover there reveals too much. I am not afraid of small spoilers myself, but in this book would advise against such big ones and only read 1st and beginning of 2nd chapters available on Amazon and the following back cover from the book version I was lucky to lend from the library (couldn’t find it on-line, so here approximately):

    In 1907, Ralph Truitt, a lonely man who owns most of a small Wisconsin town, puts an ad in a Chicago paper looking for “a reliable wife”. Catherine Land responds, but she isn’t what she seems or the “simple woman” she claims to be. However, Truitt has plans of his own

    “Astonishing, complex, beautifully written, and brilliant, A Reliable Wife is a nearly-forensic look at love in all its incarnations, with all its damages, deceptions, and obsessions, run through with points of light and pinned with ruinous truths.”—Sara Gruen, author of Water for Elephants


    1. I read the novel. It was really great AND there is a lot about St. Louis in the novel. I bought it at an airport and thought it would be one of those airport trashy books but it was really good.


      1. Do you refer to “A Reliable Wife” ?

        Have you also read Goolrick’s memoir “The End of the World as We Know It: Scenes from a Life”? Is it that good too?

        I’ve lately had great difficulty to find books, which would pull me in like Goolrick did. “The Forgotten Garden” is nice (have you tried?), but not like that. Can you recommend some other author with such pretty style, please?


        1. I haven’t read anything else by him.

          Have you read any of the novels that Ruth Rendell writes under the pseudonym Barbara Vine? She writes very well and her books are psychological suspense novels. She is a British writer, though. I don’t compare her to Goolrick exactly but oh, she’s good. Her knowledge of the human nature is bizarrely profound.


      2. there is a lot about St. Louis in the novel

        I missed all of it (since I’ve never heard of this saint?) Could you give an example, please?


        1. No, I meant the city. St. Louis is the city near which I live and it appears in the novel. It’s the city where Catherine goes to meet Truitt’s son. I’m not a huge fan of the city but the novel allowed me to see it in a new light.


  10. Because I’m a terminal geek I keep going back to Suetonius’s “Twelve Caesars” whenever I need to just throw my eyes across something. Juicy dirt on all your favorite Roman emperors from the Julians to the Flavians.

    Helena Is A Dork Cinema Trivia Time: This wonderful collection of information/gossip about the Caesars was also the source material for the 1979 Gore Vidal-Tinto Brass-Bob Guccione flick “Caligula,” except for the tacked-on scenes of gratuitous oral sex, which are nevertheless pretty consistent with the picture Suetonius paints of ole Little Boot. Can you believe it was basically a multimillion-dollar porno starring Peter O’Toole, Helen Mirren, and Malcolm McDowell???


    1. I remember when the Soviet Union fell apart and they started showing just anything on television at any time of the day. So once I came home from school (I think I was 14, or something) and watched Caligula on TV at 3 pm. That was a great time for all teenagers because all kinds of films were shown during daytime while parents were at work. The parents would have had a conniption if they had any idea this was happening. 🙂


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