Our Collection

Comfort Reading

Whether it is to provide comfort during a cold winter, a long night when sleep is elusive, or just during generally troubled times, Library staff recommend the books that provide the succour, sustenance, or the right kind of distraction to get us through.  

The Long Winter | Laura Ingalls Wilder 

Laura Ingalls Wilder's descriptions of making a home out of the wilderness are always comforting, but when there are howling winds and snow outside, I reach for The Long Winter. There's something about knowing that spring returns even to the South Dakota prairie that keeps me warm throughout my own long winter. – Kirsten Carleton, Circulation Assistant

The Hobbit | J.R.R. Tolkien

Mine is The Hobbit. My uncle would read to us kids (11 of us) and it was always so comforting to me,  even though you have the Goblins, Gollum, and various other evil beings lurking, waiting to grab and bite. It still charms me. – Marialouisa Monda, Events Assistant

The Letters of Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett, 1845-1846 | Edited by Elvan Kintner

Curling up to read or write a letter is not something many of us have the pleasure of doing in 2020, so my comfort reading is often The Letters of Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Their correspondence of 1845-46 that culminated with their marriage and move to Italy is also perfect for Valentine’s Day month as the two were falling in love while they wrote to each other. Reading the letters naturally leads to wanting to look at the work each of them so admires of the other, and that is one of those wonderful rabbit holes the Library provides! – Cathy McGowan, Circulation Librarian

Pippi in the South Seas | Astrid Lindgren 

I’d like to acknowledge that this book was written in the 1950’s, and many parts of it have not aged well. However, in my more innocent youth, it was my go-to reading for sick days. I read it every time I stayed home sick from school well into my adolescence. It was the perfect sick day fantasy –two young children, having just recovered from illness, are looking rather wan. So clearly there is no other choice but to take a convalescent cruise to the South Seas with no one but their 9 year old friend Pippi as a chaperone. Really, what could be the issue with that? There are pirates, monkeys, tropical beaches, and consequence-free truancy. Just a dream come true. – Christina Amato, Conservator

Espresso Shot and its surrounding series | Cleo Coyle 

I’m consistently charmed and caffeinated by Cleo Coyle’s Coffeehouse Mysteries. Actually a collaboration by a wife-and-husband team of writers, the books are narrated by the appealing, opinionated, savvy, and even more alliterative Claire Cosi, manager of the fictional Village Blend coffee shop. That’s Village as in Greenwich, and the books’ vision of NYC and environs is just accurate enough to ring true, yet also fantasy-based enough to sweeten any urban bitterness. Accompanied by her inevitable but wonderfully rendered team of eccentric family and friends, plus the obligatory yet winning tough cops, Claire tracks down the missing, pinpoints the murderers, and frees the wrongly accused – all while brewing the perfect cup. – Sara Elliott Holliday, Head of Events

The Tale of Genji | Lady Murasaki Shikibu, translated by Arthur Waley 

I first discovered The Tale of Genji in college and this slim edition has been a constant on my nightstand ever since. I read it when I need to be soothed and sleepy. I’ve asked myself why I keep coming back to this distant and courtly world over the years (I’ve read that the translator cut passages he felt were too boring; the novel in its entirety is quite long).  I think it’s the poetic language, the repetitive and cyclical plot, and the slow pace. It all evokes a dreamlike and lovely world for me. – Mia D’Avanza, Head of Circulation

"When things get too much for me, I put a wild-flower book and a couple of sandwiches in my pockets and go down to the South Shore of Staten Island and wander around awhile in one of the old cemeteries down there." That's from author Joseph Mitchell's "Mr. Hunter's Grave," and I feel the same way about returning to Mitchells' work when "things get too much," particularly the New Yorker pieces collected in Up in the Old Hotel. HIs perfectly-pitched, decades-old profiles of people and places in New York never fail to provide the right stuff. Information about his occasionally unorthodox journalistic practices have done nothing to diminish their strengths. For straight-up laughs and distraction, you simply can't beat recently-deceased Arkansas writer Charles Portis, particularly Dog of the South and Masters of Atlantis. Portis is a master of dialogue, and his ever-growing cult of admirers carries around favorite lines to be deployed for relief when things get rough. Finally, and on an entirely different note, I find myself drawn to periodic re-readings of Flaubert's short piece The Legend of St. Julien. Based on a Medieval legend, this violent, beautiful story of trial, cruelty, and redemption is far from a "comfort-read," but it can get one safely through a troubled night. - Steven McGuirl, Head of Acquisitions

Peppermint Tea Chronicles (or any book from the 44 Scotland Street series) | Alexander McCall Smith

A self-declared serial novelist, cozy mystery writer McCall Smith was challenged several years ago to write regular installments of a story as Armistead Maupin did with his Tales of the City. He accepted and since 2004, the chapters are printed one per weekday for a period of weeks each year in the The Scotsman, a paper local to the author’s home base in Edinburgh. A few months after their initial print run, the stories are published in book format. Peppermint Tea Chronicles is the thirteenth volume in this series! True to their original publication format, I like to read just one chapter each day and only once have I been tempted to skip ahead; Cyril the gold-toothed dog was in peril, I could not wait to learn of his fate! Whether you read them in this disciplined style like me, or plow through them all in one go, I hope you enjoy these delightfully cozy heart-warming and mirthful tales of another city, Edinburgh, and its colorful cast of characters. - Susan Vincent Molinaro, Children's and Young Adult Librarian

P.S. If you'd like to know what some of your favorite writers are reading for comfort, the New York Times just shared those recommendations.