You know, the kind where nothing truly bad happens, and you know everything is going to turn out ok in the end. There’s no awful things done to women of any sort. Any murder is off-stage before the book starts or is a murder of someone nobody (including the reader) liked. Any dreadful dark secrets are things that happened literally centuries ago. Often the worst thing that happens is nothing more dangerous than embarrassing oneself at a party. Despite what Google wants me to think, they don’t have to be mystery novels!
Sometimes they’re delightful. Sometimes they’re calming. Sometimes they’re life-affirming. Sometimes they’re quality, but often they’re popcorn. The kind of book you’re not rushing to end, and you wish you could get back to during a stressful day.
Authors like Barbara Michaels (more than her Elizabeth Peters persona, who is excellent but not so cozy), Jane Austen, the always-beloved Georgette Heyer, and similar imitators.
Some make equally cozy movies– Cold Comfort Farm, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, The Enchanted April.
Connie Willis has a couple: The perfect To Say Nothing of the Dog, and the more modern Bellwether.
Martha Wells! But not her more recent stuff which is dramatic and not everything works out neatly and perfectly. But #2 just finished and really liked City of Bones. Recommended!
Kismet is fun. :) And the music! And The Importance of Being Earnest. And the Matchmaker (from whence Hello Dolly! came). Also all excellent movies. Well, maybe not Kismet (we may never know, as most of the movies have been lost to the sands of time), but it has a great operatic soundtrack…actually two.
Stranger at the Wedding by Barbara Hambly is a bit on the intense side for this topic (#1 thinks it’s totally appropriate, along with Bride of the Rat God which kind of fits in with Scalzi’s Agent to the Stars), but A College of Magics by Caroline Stevermer is just right. (As is Sorcery and Cecelia and some of Diana Wynne Jones. Often YA is a great place for this stuff. A lot of Nina Kiriki Hoffman stuff is life-affirming, though NOT Fall of Light which is triggery and victim-blamey) #2 has re-read the first few books of Amber in The Great Book of Amber compilation a bunch of times. Basically I find the throne war fascinating but I’m meh on the stuff that comes after. (TEAM BENEDICT 4 EVAR!)
I feel like we should have some Chick Lit here, but I never keep the Chick Lit so I don’t really know any titles. There were a bunch of Chick Lit vampire books that we sent back and forth to each other, but I’m blanking on titles (Dead girls don’t…?).
#2 adds that Dune (#1 Dune? Really?) and Jane Eyre are both soothing to me after years of many re-reads. A lot of Mercedes Lackey is questionable but Arrows of the Queen and Owlsight are both familiar and therefore soothing. Lord Peter Wimsey novels by Sayers. Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman, because it’s nonfiction about books, which is the most soothing of all. Sometimes nonfiction works out nicely because it’s not necessarily about any characters getting bashed on. I also appreciate Amanda Cross’s Kate Fansler mysteries because they are full of the main character being in her head, and I am too. You can be sure that justice and harmony will prevail in Dee Goong An (Celebrated Cases of Judge Dee). And of course, the queen of the cozy mystery, Agatha Christie.
I need more of these. MORE.
Gentle readers, please give me recommendations!
September 9, 2014 at 2:10 am
From the top of my head: Elizabeth Gaskell. And the BBC series Cranford, with Judy Dench, is absolutely devine. If I can, I will be back with more. Thanks for the recommendations, I was looking for such new books. And even though it is not soothing, and bad things happen, I do like Outlander, and some parts are soothing. I go back and reread just those.:-)
September 9, 2014 at 4:29 am
Yeah, rape kind of destroys a novel. DH just returned Outlander to audible. It started out so well.
September 9, 2014 at 1:18 pm
The first half is ok, the second half gets all kinds of not-good
September 9, 2014 at 7:43 pm
So much rape in Outlander. Or attempted rape. At least they’re equal opportunity about it
September 9, 2014 at 2:38 am
The Aunt Dimity books. Nothing bad happens and there is a friendly crime solving ghost and adults are affectionate toward childhood stuffed animals and there are recipes. There is one book where a real crime occurs (Deep Blue Sea), then in the followup the protagonist is super paranoid and then thinks everyone is a vampire, and then everyone tiptoes around her in the next book because she went off the rails. But then it’s all back to normal non-crime crimes in a quaint British village. (So the series takes about 3 books to recover from the break in formula in DBS).
September 9, 2014 at 4:35 am
Omg, I haven’t read dimity books in years! Great suggestion!
September 9, 2014 at 3:21 am
Prodigal Summer. Any of the Shopaholic books by Kinsella (I particularlly enjoyed the Undomestic Goddess). I don’t know any more recent Chick Lit.
September 9, 2014 at 4:31 am
I had a really hard time with the shopaholic books… Fighting about money is not soothing for me at all. I actually only read one… at an airport– I think I was out of stuff and borrowed it from a traveling companion. But her focus on consumerism and what everyone else thinks about what her baby was wearing was pretty depressing. I kept thinking she needed better psychological help that she wasn’t getting.
September 9, 2014 at 1:15 pm
I hated the shopaholic books. I found the lead too annoying.
September 9, 2014 at 1:18 pm
Watching someone spending money they don’t have on things they don’t need makes me feel really anxious whether it’s reality or fiction.
September 10, 2014 at 11:02 am
The early Shopaholic books give me such a terrible panicky anxiety feeling. I read some of Kinsella’s other stuff (she has a pen name, I forget what it is) and liked it but a friend gave me the first few Shopaholics and I nearly coudn’t read them. The looming overdraft! Her buying things for people when she’s already broke! So much anxiety!
September 9, 2014 at 4:19 am
The Miss Mapp and Lucia books by E.F. Benson. And any/all of the P.G. Wodehouse Jeeves stories.
September 9, 2014 at 4:33 am
Hahaha, Mapp and Lucia are so fraught with tension! Though it is true the stakes are very small. Jeeves and Wooster are a great example, in that you know Jeeves will fix everything for the best.
September 9, 2014 at 4:39 am
Works by Anita Desai and Anne Tyler. Not gloriously happy stories but soothing nonetheless.
September 9, 2014 at 5:07 am
Although it’s not a novel, I find “Alive!“, by Piers Paul Read to be quite soothing. Although there is some cannibalism, some of the plane crash victims do survive through amazing physical and mental strength and eventually get rescued.
September 9, 2014 at 11:15 am
Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage is another book I love of this type. I think every people manager should read this book as so much of their survival is based on Morale and one’s sense of purpose.
September 9, 2014 at 1:08 pm
“Endurance” is a fantastic book but I would classify it as “hair-raising” rather than “soothing.” LOL
September 9, 2014 at 5:58 am
I like Neville Shute for this, especially Trustee from the Toolroom. Though horrible things happen, they’re mostly in the background– his main stories are good people being nice to each other in trying circumstances.
September 9, 2014 at 6:01 am
If you like Dorothy Sayers, I’d suggest Ngaio Marsh & the Roderick Alleyn series.
Also ‘The Marriage Bureau for Rich People‘ by Farhad Zama (Indian relationship comedy)
For an excellent feisty female lead, the Phyrne Fisher mystery series by Kerry Greenwood
September 9, 2014 at 6:08 am
I don’t think all Sayers applies… particularly not Gaudy Night. Despite it being a pivotal book in the series (and is an amazing book), there is an underlying, I dunno, negativity and sadness to it. (#2 may disagree.)
Earl Stanley Gardner/Perry Mason is pretty soothing.
Relationship comedy sounds perfect! I assume everything works out in the end?
September 9, 2014 at 6:43 am
Oh yes – everything works out very well in Farhad Zama’s books.
I’ve not read Dorothy Sayers but have been working my way through Ngaio Marsh. I suggest starting with Artists in Crime perhaps (written in 1938) or a Surfeit of Lampreys.
September 9, 2014 at 6:48 am
Also, another relationship comedy suggestion is ‘the book of the film of the story of my life‘ by William Brandt. It’s pretty silly but fun.
September 9, 2014 at 6:11 am
The Brenner detective stories by Wolf Haas. Always a bit macabre but quite funny at the same time.
September 9, 2014 at 6:12 am
Is macabre soothing?
September 10, 2014 at 3:27 am
the macabre bits are the surprising twists, not the overall vibe of the books
September 9, 2014 at 6:43 am
I Conquered The Castle, by Dodie Smith.
Pretty much any of the Terry Pratchett books, but especially those with Granny Weatherwax and Tiffany Aching.
If you’re into SF, Jo Walton’s Among Others. A lovely almost plotless story of a young girl, recently badly injured in a traffic accident, growing up at a boarding school and loving science fiction books.
September 9, 2014 at 6:55 am
Ah yes, pretty much all the Discworld books (well, not the Rincewind ones, as those could really be titled, “Randomly saving the universe through a series of unfortunate events”)! And especially those with Granny Weatherwax and Tiffany Aching. :) I was rereading them all from first to last but got stuck with a gap that I don’t own or are still at my parents’ (I’m not sure which). And buying Pratchett for Kindle is a non-starter because it doesn’t handle the footnotes well at all. :( (As I found out with Mort.)
September 9, 2014 at 8:47 pm
Among Others actually was the opposite of soothing for me at least. There are some charming things about it, but I still can’t decide if the protagonist was mentally ill and needed treatment, or if the book takes place in a mysteriously nefarious slightly alternate universe. Neither one is restful for me.
Then again, after I finished it I poked the internet trying to see what others thought, and it appears that mine might have been an idiosyncratic reaction.
September 10, 2014 at 6:20 am
Yeah, I think it’s just fantasy, Thisbe. “Witches and ghosts and Elves are real in certain parts of the uplands” thing.
September 9, 2014 at 7:30 am
I really like Meg Wolitzer. Stuff happens but not in a majorly traumatizing way, and there’s this vague snark to her cultural observations I really appreciate.
September 9, 2014 at 8:49 am
Was going to suggest Ngaio Marsh as well. Like Agatha Christie only (and I feel disloyal saying this) better written. Also a second for Dorothy Sayers. I even find myself re-reading Gaudy Night, even though it’s the darkest, because it’s also a love story between two of my favorite characters ever, where they’re finally able to meet as equals. I also find Jane Austen soothing, and any of Elizabeth Enright’s books (children’s books, but I never get tired of them).
September 9, 2014 at 8:52 am
Gaudy Night is the best and most important of the Peter Whimseys, but it’s the least soothing! Busman’s Honeymoon, OTOH…
September 9, 2014 at 9:39 am
I like Busman’s Honeymoon, but the villain in that one is really nasty. I really like The Nine Tailors and The Five Red Herrings–that one initially bored me but I think it’s funnier every time I read it.
September 9, 2014 at 9:43 am
pre-Harriett and post-Harriett are so different!
I really ought to let #2 discuss these because I’ve only read through the entire series 2x (and the Harriet Vanes maybe 3x), and the last time was probably in college (I’m remembering reading them as library copies at home, so probably during a college break). She’s much more of an expert on them.
September 9, 2014 at 8:57 am
I think this would qualify. Someone is dead but it is off screen:
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff
We Took to the Woods (and the sequels/related books) by Louise Dickinson Rich
Far Flung Hubbell by Sue Hubbell
If you read children’s books (middle grade or a bit later)
The Vengekeep Prophecies by Brian Farrey
September 9, 2014 at 10:19 am
I’m going to have to disagree about The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. It starts off so charming and fabulous–I just love everyone. But then it turns out to be about World War II with many scenes that greatly saddened me.
September 9, 2014 at 10:19 am
Thanks for the head’s up!
September 9, 2014 at 10:31 am
Okay- I was more on the fence about that one anyway.
September 9, 2014 at 9:34 am
I love Madeleine L’Engle. I read everything I could get my hands on of hers at a rate of about a book a day my sophomore year of high school. Her books are familiar and wholesome and I love them. Also many of her books are set in my old college stomping grounds, so that makes me happy and nostalgic. A few of them (A Severed Wasp and its companion, among others) are affected by WWII, but mostly in a distant way.
September 10, 2014 at 12:28 pm
I am pretty neutral on her fiction but I really loved A Two Part Invention, her memoir about her marriage.
September 9, 2014 at 10:17 am
As a kid, we would read _The Furious Flycycle_ if we had just watched a horror movie and were trying to get to sleep. That book always fixed things (though I don’t really remember it anymore).
I feel like most Louis L’amour books fit the bill. I should look up some specific ones, because sometimes someone you love dies and sometimes people get tortured.
September 9, 2014 at 6:13 pm
From Louis L’amour, I think I can recommend Flint, The Man from the Broken Hills, and Over on the Dry Side.
I also can recommend:
* Much Ado About Nothing (and perhaps other Shakespeare comedies, but I’m not into slapstick or plots based on lies, so I’ll recommend only this one)
* Sherlock Holmes (finally started reading this a couple of years ago after so many film(/digital) versions–good writing to savor!)
* Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nihm (I can’t totally remember if anything bad actually happened or if it just seemed like it was about to happen. Mostly it’s a very exciting adventure where you might accidentally learn to love rats.)
September 9, 2014 at 6:15 pm
Pretty sure Much Ado about Nothing is driven by plots based on lies… (with some slapstick too…) … how did the main couple fall in love? And Hero was set up and then they lied about her death. There’s not much in there that’s not a lie!
September 9, 2014 at 10:12 pm
Oh, right, the lying. This is sadly hard!
September 9, 2014 at 10:17 am
+1 for I Capture the Castle!
Also: Laurie Collins, _Happy All the Time_
Elizabeth Jane Howard’s “Cazalet Chronicles” (starts with _The Light Years_; takes place during WWII, so there’s bad stuff happening, and one–spoiler alert–instance of sexual abuse–but no bad things happen in a particularly wrenching way).
Anything by Maeve Binchy, as far as I can tell (I keep WANTING her novels to develop the edge she’s clearly capable of, but they just don’t)
Anything by Marjorie Sharp (though you can pretty much only find her books-for-adults in used book stores. _Britannia Mews_ deserves to be a classic.
September 9, 2014 at 10:19 am
I had no idea Marjorie Sharp had books for adults!
September 9, 2014 at 10:39 am
Oh I can’t believe I forgot the Miss Read series. I preferred the ones that took place in Fairacre. All about a schoolteacher in Britain. The first five I remember very clearly as being very gentle and nonviolent: Village School, Village Diary, Storm in the Village, Miss Clare Remembers. Over the Gate.
I always really enjoyed Herriott’s fictionalized memoirs- All Things Great and Small, All Things Bright and Beautiful. Although sometimes animals die.
At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon is another series. It got a bit tiresome as it went on and on but I really liked the first ones.
September 9, 2014 at 3:23 pm
Oh, YES, for Miss Read!
September 9, 2014 at 10:55 am
To Say Nothing of the Dog is just wonderful. For cozy, I’d say Alexander McCall Smith’s Isabel Dalhousie series and (though this relies much more on often-annoying stereotypes/caricatures) 44 Scotland Street series (I haven’t gotten around to the No1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series yet so can’t comment on those).
September 9, 2014 at 11:18 am
Although more of a kid’s genre, the first books I thought of when I read this title were the little house on the prairie books…and anne of green gables.
September 9, 2014 at 11:23 am
Anne of Green Gables, definitely! Little house… it depends…
September 9, 2014 at 11:32 am
Reading through the post and comments, I’m realizing that I don’t really go for soothing fiction. I like a bit of engagement with the darker side of things (though I also prefer the main characters, and most of the minor ones, to come out all right in the end). I love both Gaudy Night and Busman’s Honeymoon (though, if I’m remembering correctly, B’s H starts out wonderfully funny, but ends quite dark/sad. And I’ve been known to stop reading series — e.g. Val McDermid’s Tony Hill novels — when the main characters’ lives and/or relationships get too fraught/angst-ridden. Those novels are definitely *not* soothing, by any definition).
I’m not sure Deborah Crombie’s detective novels quite qualify as soothing by this definition, but there’s a definite tendency toward main characters being all right, and taking care of each other, and building a caring community of family and neighbors. That’s soothing, I think (though some of the crimes investigated definitely aren’t).
The main thing with which I’ve been having trouble lately is novels narrated through the perspective of someone who is under tremendous stress/basically falling apart. For instance, I think Sophie Hannah’s mystery stories are very skillfully constructed, but spending time inside the minds of her narrators tends to be unsettling.
September 9, 2014 at 11:33 am
Maybe A.S. Byatt’s _Possession_? I think that’s pretty soothing, in an academic way.
September 9, 2014 at 12:00 pm
Well, there’s a nice short story with Harriet and Peter and their kids…
September 9, 2014 at 12:16 pm
Oh, I LOVE Ex Libris. So good. I am completely drawing a blank on soothing options for you. Unfortunately, my book club tends to favor darker things. It is a source of concern for me, and every now and then I think I’m going to quit because of it, but I don’t because I like the people and we’ve read some really great books. But when I’m feeling particularly fragile, i just have to skip.
Maybe My Antonia? That one is lovely.
September 9, 2014 at 12:21 pm
I dunno, I always thought of My Antonia more as a slice of life. It’s been a long time since I read it but I didn’t think of it as soothing. It’s about triumph of the spirit, but bad things happen, and not before the book starts.
September 10, 2014 at 10:51 am
Oh yeah, you’re right. I forgot about that one part…Sorry!
I’m home today, so I just went and looked at my bookshelves. Some possible contenders:
The Snapper, by Roddy Doyle (also the Van- I never read The Commitments, but I suspect it is similar- stories from a working class Irish family. I can’t think of anything truly terrible happening in those books, and do remember finding them very funny.) Stay away from his later books if you’re looking for a comfort read, though- they are darker.
Bimbos of the Death Sun, by Sharyn McCrumb- a murder mystery set at a sci-fi convention. I read this one ages ago, but I remember liking it enough to read a bunch of other books by the same author.
September 9, 2014 at 1:05 pm
+1 on Ngaio Marsh, she is a literary palate-cleanser for me
+1 on Madeleine L’Engle, especially her YA books
and a rec for the Brit-Chick-Lit romantic comedies of Jill Mansell. Bad things do occasionally happen, but they are appropriately grieved and resolved and never turn into Life Ruining Events.
September 9, 2014 at 1:17 pm
No 1. Ladies Detective Agency series (some poverty and AIDS themes but not too heavy), Confederacy of Dunces, novels by Elmore Leonard (have only read a few of his books but so far the one’s I’ve read have been entertaining and the bad guys lose and the good guys win), The Right Stuff, Born to Run (but this may have no appeal to a person uninterested in distance running), Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey, Packing for Mars by Mary Roach (some of her other books like Stiff and Spook are a little heavier), James Harriott novels (I think someone already mentioned those), the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
September 9, 2014 at 6:00 pm
I second the five books of the Hitchhiker’s Guide trilogy, or if you don’t find crazy randomness calming, his Dirk Gently novels are more reasonable.
September 9, 2014 at 6:05 pm
But so many things go so wrong for the main character. :/
September 9, 2014 at 1:25 pm
Chick lit: Jennifer Lancaster is fun–bitter is the new black, and Such a Pretty Fat are best, the others you can skip. Emily Giffin’s books, except the last one. Idk what happened with the last one, I just couldn’t get attached to anyone.
I’m more likely to do movies for comfort. I just watched Stuck in Love twice, but husband said part of that was a little intense so maybe what some find comforting others don’t?
September 9, 2014 at 1:57 pm
Oh, I’ve got another suggestion – in non-fiction this time. I loved Gerald Durrell’s memoir ‘My family and other animals’ of his childhood move to Corfu in Greece in the late 1930’s. Lots of mad family and animal related shenanigans
I try to read quite a lot of soothing books so I loved this post for suggestions. I have a pretty limited tolerance for the dark stuff these days.
September 9, 2014 at 1:58 pm
September 10, 2014 at 12:58 pm
I read that when I was a kid… also, asked my mom what a “naturalist” was at the time I was reading it (since Gerald Durrell described himself as that) and she told me it was someone who likes to walk naked in the woods. thanks mom. wrong answer.
September 10, 2014 at 1:00 pm
September 10, 2014 at 1:00 pm
There’s some truth in that though…
September 9, 2014 at 2:11 pm
Some more thoughts: James Thurber. Tamsin by Peter S. Beagle. Phantom Tollbooth.
September 9, 2014 at 3:08 pm
The entire 8-book series of Anne of Green Gables. I often read and re-read those during times of stress. Jane Austen anything is soothing/bland, but I can’t reread them over and over, I get bored. Maeve Binchy. I can’t remember all the ones that are soothing (some have a few mildly disturbing events in them) but I like Scarlett Feather, Quentins, and the short story anthologies. I’ll probably come back with more suggestions. love this post. want something soothing myself right now, I’ve got enough stress in real life and I can’t make myself dive into books highlighting the worst of humanity.
September 9, 2014 at 4:07 pm
Except Anne’s House of Dreams is so so sad. (Which is why I’ve only read it once.)
September 9, 2014 at 4:30 pm
I re-read all of the Anne books that are available on Kindle (rights issues are in the way of Windy Poplars/Willows and Ingleside, apparently), and I was surprised by a couple of things:
1) How much more sympathy I have for Marilla, now that I am an adult.
2) How sad, but how deep House of Dreams is.
Regarding Elizabeth Peters: her Vicky Bliss books (the first four, only) are among my favorites, and I could re-read them many times. I have never taken to Amelia Peabody or Jacqueline Kirby, although I should probably give the latter another try because it’s been a while. While I like many of the books she wrote as Barbara Michaels, I have re-read quite a few of them in recent years and like some quite a bit and found that others just didn’t hold up.
As far as I can tell, at least for right now, my comfort book is “Cryptonomicon.” Make of that what you will, because I’m not sure what to make of it.
September 9, 2014 at 4:35 pm
We <3 Elizabeth Peters, but they're not really all that cozy. (Naked Once More is a personal fav.)
September 9, 2014 at 3:12 pm
Major Pettigrew’s last stand. Joy in the Morning by Betty Smith. Anne Tyler.
September 9, 2014 at 3:24 pm
Second on Joy In The Morning. I love A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, but Joy In the Morning is so much more comforting!
July 30, 2016 at 7:47 pm
Warning: Joy in the Morning has pedophilia (the main character’s step father). So… not soothing.
September 9, 2014 at 6:14 pm
One Plus One by Jojo Moyes – reads like the book version of a really good romantic comedy. I haven’t read anything else by her but I’ve heard her other ones aren’t quite as romantic comedy-esque.
September 9, 2014 at 7:51 pm
Does Parasol Protectorate count? She has those YA books now too. I’ve been reading a lot of comic books lately. Yeah bad things happen but they’re comic books so you know they’ll turn out ok. Gail Simone writes great female characters. I’ve been devouring old Birds of Prey, Batgirl, Red Sonja, and Wonder Woman.
I looked at everything I have read recently on Goodreads and apparently I don’t like to read soothing books. Maybe I freaking should considering how anxious I am all the time! Going to have to note some of these for future reference.
September 9, 2014 at 9:36 pm
I have been going through a re-reading binge lately myself … literary comfort food! Not sure if these qualify as soothing but they are books I turn to again and again.
If you like Ngaio Marsh, Dorothy Sayers et al. try Patricia Wentworth’s MIss Silver mysteries. Margery Allingham’s Campion books and Edmund Crispin’s Gervase Fen are also classics but sometimes can be a little more impenetrably British if that makes any sense.
If you like YA try E. Nesbitt – I love The Enchanted Castle. Also highly recommend Mistress Masham’s Repose by T. H. White (kind of a mashup of Gulliver’s Travels and The Borrowers – written from the perspective of a young girl who stumbles on a colony of Lilliputians living on an English country estate). The Flavia de Luce series is great (a young girl who is a self-taught forensic chemist and determined to poke her nose into all manner of mayhem) but there is a background of sadness due to her family situation and a fair amount of tension in the interaction with her sisters so maybe not so soothing?
Concur with recommendations for Terry Pratchett (though his newer books tend to be much heavier going) and Diana Wynne Jones.
Ben Aaronovitch has a series out called the Rivers of London about a constable who becomes an apprentice to London’s last official wizard, it’s a mystery series so there is the occasional Bad Thing but I was intrigued enough by the premise not to mind (and it’s not terribly bloody or gruesome, that’s definitely not my cup of tea).
For non-fiction try Bill Bryson – absolutely wonderful, I’ve loved everything I’ve read by him. Start with A Walk in the Woods (about the Appalachian Trail) or At Home (history of domestic life). There is one small dark section in A Walk in the Woods where he discusses some famous crimes that have occurred but it would be pretty easy to skip that part if so inclined.
September 10, 2014 at 4:31 am
E. Nesbit is not cozy at all! Like most British magic books there’s an underlying danger. Magic always turns out to have thorns. (Though enchanted castle is probably her least edgy.). American imitators are much more hopeful, like Edward eager.
FlAvia de Luce is completely the opposite of soothing! I have three of them in my bookcase unread because the last one was too dreadful. They are excellent books but entirely the opposite of comforting. Sordid.
September 10, 2014 at 11:21 am
I read the first Flavia de Luce book and didn’t enjoy it at all.
Meant to toss in … for those who liked “I Capture the Castle” (which I didn’t) take a flyer on Dodie Smith’s “The Hundred and One Dalmatians” and “The Starlight Barking.” If you liked the first I’m pretty sure you’ll like the others. :-)
September 9, 2014 at 9:54 pm
Oof, reading the list and the comments is making me wistful for how most of my books are in boxes in another state. :(
+1 for I Capture the Castle, James Herriot (well, of course), Anne of Green Gables, and 84 Charing Cross Road.
I think I have mentioned Sarah Caudwell’s mysteries before – The Sibyl in her Grave is somewhat stressful, but the rest are just lovely. And hilarious.
I also like to reread The Borrowers, though it has been forever. And actually a lot of kids’ chapter books from the mid century (was it Edward Eager wrote all the Half Magic books?) And Marguerite Henry. And Narnia.
In a more adult vein, I always love Kristin Lavransdatter – difficult things do happen, but it is full of chewy historical details. And I love the Aubrey-Maturin books over and over again.
September 10, 2014 at 6:59 am
I want to reread college of magics SO MUCH right now. But my copy is somewhere at my parents’ or else lost and I just can’t quite bring myself to buy it for $7.99 on kindle when I already own it, in theory. Maybe for Christmas.
September 9, 2014 at 9:59 pm
Seconding or thirding “A Walk in the Woods”, it is hilarious.
There’s a lot more Hambly. I’m especially fond of The Ladies of Mandrigyn (sword and sorcery!) and all of the Benjamin January novels (historical mysteries), in which many bad things happen but you know it’s a multibook series with continuing characters, so none of the really bad things will actually happen. Her Abigail Adams mysteries, written as Barbara Hamilton, are even lighter.
Jennifer Crusie’s romance-and-death-books have really really cheerful murders in them. Fast Women gets more intense but Tell Me Lies, Welcome to Temptation, and Agnes & the Hit Man never do. And then there’s Faking It where the terrible family secret turns out to be not that terrible.
I really like Sparkle Hayter’s mystery novels, they’re fast and funny and very-lightly noir. I can’t tell them apart well enough to recommend one specifically though.
September 10, 2014 at 4:37 am
Most of Hambly doesn’t have an everything will turn out ok vibe. She writes excellent books, but most of them are not soothing. (I say this as someone who has an entire “Hambly” shelf in one of our bookcases.) Haven’t checked out Barbara Hamilton though!
September 10, 2014 at 11:22 am
Try Hambly’s Star Trek novel, “Ishmael.” It’s excellent!
September 10, 2014 at 12:34 pm
Yeah, the January mysteries are wonderful but I do have to hold on to knowing there’s another book coming out so he’s not ACTUALLY going to die. And I wouldn’t recommend Time of the Dark and its world as soothing. But Ladies of Mandrigyn has a structure that always points to its happy ending, I think (it’s sequel doesn’t though) And the Adams ones really are much, much lighter.
September 10, 2014 at 12:41 pm
this is true. I would never read the Time of the Dark books if I were feeling down, or Jenny and her dragon hunter. I go back to Ladies of Mandrigyn a lot though.
September 9, 2014 at 10:09 pm
N’thing the Ngaio Marsh recommendation, though with a note that they are thoroughly of their time when characters of color, or gay/lesbian characters, show up. I enjoy them less than I used to because of this, but still find them soothing. Also seconding the Phyrne Fisher (by Kerry Greenwood) recommendation, though with a note that they get moderately explicit for cozy mysteries. The Mrs. Jeffries series, by Emily Brightwell, is another in the cozy British detective novel line. A bit predictable after a while, but still fun. I also like Alisa Craig/Charlotte MacLeod (Madoc Rhys, Sarah Kelling, and Peter Shandy mysteries, in that order of preference). Oh, and can’t forget Mrs. Pollifax! I find the Hong Kong Buddha and the Lion Killer to be too dark, but the rest are very much in the cozy and soothing vein. I reread them a few times a year. Dorothy Gilman also has a few other one-off mystery-ish novels that are enjoyable. Finally, all the love for Anne of Green Gables reminded me that I actually enjoyed some of L. M. Montgomery’s other stuff at least as much, if not more – in particular, The Story Girl, the Emily trilogy, and Jane of Lantern Hill.
September 10, 2014 at 6:56 am
I have tried many many times to get into the Story Girl, but I just can’t. It’s like it steps over some soppiness line into too cozy, if such a thing exists. Most of LM Montgomery’s short stories are pretty soothing too, and free on kindle, and if they’re not (because, for example, some are exceedingly racist against native Canadians), at least they’re short. She had a great career writing warm and fuzzy stories for women’s magazines (though sometimes she completely reused plots!)
Wow, I have not read Mrs. Pollifax in years.
September 10, 2014 at 11:22 am
LOVE Mrs. Pollifax. But my fave Gilman is the standalone “The Tightrope Walker”.
September 10, 2014 at 11:22 am
I keep thinking about this topic. I find both Bill Bryson and David Sedaris books to be soothing. What about Bridget Jones’s Diary? I haven’t read it in awhile but it might fit the description.
September 11, 2014 at 6:16 am
Bill Bryson is soothing yes, but I’ve found some David Sedaris really uncomfortable reading.
September 10, 2014 at 12:45 pm
I can’t quite wholeheartedly recommend his actual books, but Mil Millington’s original (and now hilariously dated in design) web site is a very reassuring and hilarious way to waste an afternoon:
September 10, 2014 at 6:57 pm
I second Good Enough Professor’s recommendation of Laurie Colwin’s novels (all of them), and her food writing, to boot (Home Cooking and her second collection, More Home Cooking).
September 12, 2014 at 8:30 pm
Jaspar Fforde’s Thursday Next books (The Eyre Affair is the first) are pretty amusing and not too heavy. Lots of references to classic literature and literary characters, too.
I also second the recommendation of I Capture the Castle.
When I’m looking for light reading, I usually look at cookbooks. (Really.)
September 14, 2014 at 7:48 am
Things *don’t* always go well for Thursday and there isn’t a feeling that everything is going to be ok, because everything isn’t ok and she has to live with the consequences. She also never gets a rest. Yes, they’re amusing and great, but soothing, no. (Also: Jennifer is heartbreaking.)
September 13, 2014 at 11:43 am
I found your blog through Laura Vanderkam’s blog. This is an interesting and timely post for me. I’m in a tough spot at present, and I’ve actually been looking for something to soothe my brain. P.G. Wodehouse was on my list, but now I can add I Capture the Castle and Jasper Fforde. Thanks!
December 30, 2014 at 12:47 am
[…] House Rising by Peg Kerr. Light high fantasy, sure to become a future soothing read (sadly out of print but ILL it if you can!). Standalone, happy […]
March 9, 2015 at 1:45 pm
Pardon me for resurrecting an old post but I go through your books posts when I’m fiending for books. Question: “I feel like we should have some Chick Lit here, but I never keep the Chick Lit so I don’t really know any titles. There were a bunch of Chick Lit vampire books that we sent back and forth to each other, but I’m blanking on titles (Dead girls don’t…?).” Were you talking about the Jane Jameson series? Nice Girls Don’t Have Fangs, Nice Girls Don’t Live Forever, etc?
March 9, 2015 at 1:50 pm
That sounds about right.
May 8, 2016 at 9:59 am
[…] note to self: check out reader comments on these […]
April 28, 2018 at 1:25 am
[…] Vintage post with great comments: Recommendations for soothing novels […]