All readers know, books fulfil many purposes, and the right book at the right time can succour and soothe and calm a troubled soul or a weary mind. This is the position I found myself in at the end of a very busy and emotionally draining week at work. I had been trying to read a book that I just did’t fit with. It was well written and had many good reviews and comments by other authors I admired and set something wasn’t right. Rather than calming me and taking me to another place, it was making me edgy and unsettled. The more I thought about it and puzzled over it I realised it was actually nothing to do with the book per se, it just wasn’t the right book for me at that time.
As soon as realisation dawned and I acknowledged it , I was giving myself permission to put it down and stop struggling to read it. I wasn’t admitting defeat, or giving up, I was just making a choice. This left me on a Saturday evening gazing a the stack of books to be read beside my bed, and later, stood vacantly staring at my bookshelves trying to work out what it was I needed. Although there are many books on my TBR pile I want to read I just couldn’t find quite the right thing. They all seemed too unfamiliar, even those by authors I had previously read and enjoyed. I was finding it hard to pin down exactly what it was I was looking for. I almost settled for something by Anne Tyler, tempted by her quiet writing style and careful character studies, and she never lets me down.
I flicked through Pride and Prejudice, a perennial favourite, but even this didn’t quite fit. Alexander McCall Smith came to mind as I thought of Mma Ramotswe and her no nonsense, compassionate demeanour. I had almost settled on a book from the stack beside my bed called ‘The Pleasure of Reading’ as yet unread by me. Just as I was about to pick it up I realised that exactly what I needed was sitting on the table beside me. ‘The Pursuit of Love’ by Nancy Mitford. I have of course read it before but not for some time. I remembered enough to know what I would be getting. It would take me back in time to the period between the wars I always find interesting, the characters would give just the right amount of familiarity, and it would stimulate without challenge.
It was the right book at the right time and I’ve since enjoyed it immensely. This little ‘reading blip’ has confirmed my belief that when a reading slump or fallow period hits, it may not be the wrong book, it just might not be the right book at the right time.
Do you have particular ‘comfort reads’ or books you always come back to?