Our Reading Lives

How Rereading Brings Comfort

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Jessi Lewis

Staff Writer

Jessi Lewis has her MFA in fiction and an MA in Writing and Rhetoric. She was one of the founding editors of Cheat River Review and now works to bring her own fiction, poetry and essays to eyes each month.     Twitter: @jessiwrit

Every Christmas, I break out David Sedaris’s Holidays on Ice  for a bit of rereading. Every winter, when it seems like the weather is lasting forever, I pull out my favorite Nikky Finney collection of poems, The World is Round, and find those that stimulated me early in my writing life. Something to get me thinking about anything other than the sky.

And when I’ve had it with the world, had it with the news, I pull out Wolf Winter by Cecilia Eckbäck, for escapism, for magic, for a throwback to a youthful character and for something else. I’ve read this book three times now and I keep going back to it.

It’s interesting that I chose Wolf Winter to be that comfort book. I heard about it through the All the Books podcast on Book Riot, gave it a try a while ago, and, for some reason, it stuck. This book doesn’t have the meaning of one of those texts passed on from a relative, and it lacks the sentimentality I have for the classics I read in college. But it works. It centers me. It reminds me that in snowy, northern areas, people would pile snow on the walls of their cabins to insulate the warmth inside.

By all means, you’d think I would go find a Nancy Drew from elementary school, or an American Girl book, or maybe one of the young adult books that made me want to live more boldly when I was fifteen, or a romantic comedy I read at the beach once. I don’t go searching for a children’s book I loved deeply, like Make Way for Ducklings, though there is a different form of comfort there. I don’t even aim to re-position the world by reading something powerful, like any of Toni Morrison’s work. Nope– for some reason, my comfort escape is not one of those books.

I can’t explain why. I can’t explain why familiar diction on a page feels like I’m hearing a story from a friend. I can’t explain why escapism requires a plot line on another continent, in a community far from my own. Even the violence of the book’s plot gives me a conflict I can analyze, consider and then close up and put away. This might be the true secret. I have the power to stop reading, while the real world keeps spinning its conflicts onward

This is how my mind can be tricked by a novel. Somehow, reading can convince my internal self into going elsewhere, and there’s comfort in that brief trip, even after the fact, when reality solidifies again.

How do you find the comfort you need from reading?

Not sure? Check out this prior Book Riot post on how to find that comfort: How to Find Your Perfect Comfort Read.