Friday, 11 December 2009


By Richard Jay Parker

Usually, at this time of the year, the lists of worst books and best books start circulating and there's always some fun to be had from constructing your own personal versions.

But rather than slagging or praising books I usually aim for a different area of discussion - comfort books. Everything about Christmas is about comfort - comfort eating, comfort viewing, comfort gifts. So, rather than selecting a book for the holidays that I feel I should be reading (ie list of recommendations for contemporary authors I feel compelled to catch up with), my eyes usually alight on something I wouldn't normally read during the other eleven months of the year.

It's very often from my own shelf. Don't get me wrong - my credit card is already bloody and bruised from its Amazon gauntlet and I know there'll be plenty of requested books plumping up my stocking. However, my 'to read' list can go on hold just for a couple of weeks and I'll immerse myself in something as tried and tested as Its' A Wonderful Life.

Last year it was a book of Ghost Stories by M R James. This year it's Dennis Wheatley's The Haunting Of Toby Jugg. Books from my warped childhood! It's an old yellowed copy and there's something deeply satisfying about spending some leisurely time with something that's been patiently waiting on my shelf for the right occasion. It's like time out.

In 2010 I'll look forward to diving into the latest thrillers. A pristine copy of something new and exciting is the best way to start the year. I've been chatting to a lot of great authors in 2009 and have bought their books as a result. My Christmas list has got increasingly longer as well. A lot of them are newbies like me and I can't wait to discover what they're capable of.

So as well as giving much needed support to the up and coming writers this year go to your bookshelf and find something classic, nostalgic and familiar as well - for a lot of us, it's what Christmas is all about.


  1. I have everyone in my life trained to give me book vouchers as gifts. Nothing else is half as nice. And I love Toby Jugg. New books or old, they are all delicious.

  2. I love the fact I get Barnes and Noble gift cards from everyone at Christmas. There are several new authors I want to try and I can't wait! But yes, I love pulling out an old book and curling up in a chair with a cup of hot chocolate.

  3. Yep, I agree. Giftcards are the gift from heaven for me too. Does take awhile to get them well trained not to give me socks :)

  4. But a new book from a newly published person *can* be comforting as well.

    Like my cheap and cheerful little yellow book - guaranteed to bring a smile and almost certainly a laugh to everyone who read it.

    I know I'm beginning to channel the behaviour of a ruthless double glazing salesman - but how else am I going to get people to buy a poetry book?

    Even one that people say things like this about?

    Even if you think you don't normally like poetry, you will love this book. A mix of entertaining verse, which will keep you reading.
    You won't want to put it down!
    Allie - on the UK Amazon site.

    Go on save me from the poor house - that's a comforting feeling isn't it?

  5. For some reason after reading this, Steinbeck comes to mind. With classics like - The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mine and Men, to remind you how fortunate you truly are.

    Another one of Steinbecks that might make wonderful winter reading is "The Winter of Our Discontent". The last isn't something that's as well read as the first two, yet Steinbeck fans will recognize his prose and storytelling at work.

    Thanks for reminding me of a few classics I wouldn't mind rediscovering once again. (Hugs)Indigo

  6. Thanks, Tina. Gift vouchers are great when they're exchanged for physical books but not sure if it would be the same to get one for a download. Time will tell.

    Hi, Abbi. Thanks for your comment. Hot chocolate and books? Surely the ultimate comfort combo.

    Glad you've managed to get your gift buyers so well trained, Gene.

    Good luck with the book, Michele.

    Sounds like you're having a Steinbeck Christmas thei year, Indigo. Wonder how many other readers will.

  7. Hi Richard

    I've just been on a nostalgia kick, too, re-reading all my old Dick Francis books and realising just how good they really were. Always nice when something you remember fondly has stood the test of time!