Why You Should Read for Comfort

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Comfort food usually invokes visions of radioactive orange mac and cheese and hot buttered toast.  (I know, it’s not healthy, but it’s delicious and warm and comforting).  Similarly, sometimes what I need is to curl up with an old favourite book that allows me to escape into a fictional world that I know well, giving my brain the comfort food it needs.

One of my favourite go-to series is Tamora Pierce’s Wild Magic quartet.  I can remember reading about Daine, the protagonist, and feeling like we were kindred spirits. Although I  lack Daine’s ability to talk with animals, I have always admired her plucky nature and her epic archery skills. Throughout the series, Daine learns to use her gift while traveling to remote locations and fighting epic battles.  It’s an awesome and inventive read if you’re looking for a unique twist on a coming of age story.

The Nostalgia Factor

What does nostalgia do for us anyway?  Through scents, music, food, and even our favourite stories we are reminded of our connection to other people.  It’s even been known to counteract depression and give our lives meaning.

In a TIME Magazine article, Alexandra Sifferlin writes that “comfort foods remind us of our social ties, which means they may help us feel less lonesome when we feel isolated.”

Similarly, escaping into a fictional world can create a sense of community, which makes us feel just a little less alone.  It’s possible that just like eating comfort food or listening to a song that reminds us of good times, a good comfort read can entirely change our moods.  At least, that’s the way it feels for me each time I crack the spine on one of Pierce’s books, or start reading the Harry Potter series for the millionth time.  (A recent article in Psychologies talks more about what sorts of books most people like when it comes to comfort reading, but I prefer a good old fantasy read where good always wins).

Here’s a thought: if comfort reading is so good for us, why do people see it as a “just for fun?”  And why is it that “fun” and “education” can’t mix? 

The Issue

One recent article suggests that reading too many comfort books actually hurts young readers’ development.  As an English teacher, this bugs me a whole lot.  Obviously I would like students to be totally in love with To Kill a Mockingbird and Shakespeare, BUT, I also love it when I see a student reading a book that they just enjoy. I like it even better if that student is having a rough day and the book they are reading makes them feel better.  The best part about young readers is that when they love a book, they want to read more like it.  And you know what?

READING IS GREAT FOR YOUR BRAIN! (Like broccoli? Maybe?)

Better than Broccoli!

If reading links us to a larger community and makes us draw connections about the world around us, the act of reading,even for pleasure, is helping readers to become more socially aware. Also, I could blah blah on for a while about building vocabulary and making inferences and stuff, but I won’t, because I’m not in the classroom now.

Read what you want to read, because unlike mac and cheese, reading of any kind is actually good for you.

What are your favourite comfort books? Do you think that comfort reading has value?

 

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Gorgeous: A Review

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What It’s About

After the death of her mom, 18-year-old Becky Randle finds a mysterious phone number among her mom’s possessions.  It turns out that number belongs to world famous designer Tom Kelly, who says he can turn her into The Most Beautiful Woman in the World.  Like anyone who isn’t insane, Becky thinks he is joking.  That is, until the mysterious magic of Tom’s three couture dresses transforms Becky into the glamorous, thin and, oh yeah, gorgeous Rebecca Randle.  There’s just one catch: she has to fall in love and get married within one year.  If you’re looking for your next great read, here are a few reasons to pick up Gorgeous:

Cinderella Just Got Way Cooler

If you think that Paul Rudnik’s tale is just another Cinderella story, it’s not.  While Tom Kelly might be the coolest fairy god-father I’ve ever seen, there are no wicked step-mothers or step sisters.  Instead, Rudnik masterfully blends fairytale magic with the real world by creating a heroine in Becky who is both relatable and kick-ass.  When Becky becomes The Most Beautiful Woman in the World, she doesn’t lose her sense of self.  I.e. when her best friend Rocher (yes, it is pronounced like those chocolates) comes to help her out there isn’t any tension regarding who is more popular or pretty.

Hilarious Dialogue & Prose

Apart from a down-to-earth heroine, the dialogue and prose is well crafted. Not only do the characters all have their own way of speaking, but there are a ton of funny lines, like this one:

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Or this one:

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A Turbo-Speed Plot

The plot is so fast-paced it will keep you up at all hours just to find out what happens next.  Although the first few chapters feature Becky grieving her mother’s death, things start to happen fast when Becky calls Tom.  In a matter of pages, Becky is whisked away to feature in Vogue, star in a movie and woo a Prince all in a matter of 120 pages.  With plot twists happening at the end of nearly all the chapters, there was no way that I could put it down. No, seriously, I ended up staying awake until 3 AM just to finish this book.

The Final Verdict

When I realized what this book was about, I was worried that it was going to be one of those books where a plus-sized girl becomes skinny and popular.  Despite what the title might suggest, Gorgeous explores ideas surrounding inner beauty as well as family, love and heartbreak.  With magic, wit and some high-flying adventures, this is a fantastic, fast-paced read.