It's the end of the world as we know it

In the face of economic crisis, war, and swine flu (not to mention a thousand other horrible things), life can get pretty depressing. 2009 is kind of a bleak year, don't you think?  I personally know three people who've lost their jobs.  And another two who are very, very sick.  Our house isn't even worth what we bought it for eight months ago.  It's hard not to get down about it.  Some days the only way I can cope is by burying my head in the sand for a while – not because it solves anything, but because it's necessary to decompress.

My version of the sandbox is a good book.  Steve's is a good movie.  Both provide a good way to escape a crappy day.

I'm a writer, so clearly I'm biased, but I think books beat movies any day of the week. Because books allow me to invest a piece of myself.  I can put any face I want to the characters.  I can choose the way their voices sound in my head.  I can put together my own soundtrack depending on the mood I'm in.

It's rare that I'll ever see a movie based on a book I've read and think the movie was better.  (Except maybe for Interview with a Vampire.  And the Shawshank Redemption, which was originally a short story.)

There are books I'll read over and over again because I get something different from them every time.  Stephen King's IT, for instance.  (This is blog post #9 – are you getting that I'm huge Stephen King fan yet?).  I read that book every other year without fail, and I started when I was twelve.  Each time it's different.  When I was kid, I completely related to the kids in the book (who are eleven years old).  I understood their fears, their friendships, their wants.  Then they grew up – as did I – and now I relate to the story on a completely new level.

I've read Pet Sematary a dozen times, too.   Same with Misery.  What can I say, they're my comfort books.  Why?  Maybe because no matter how shitty a day I'm having, something worse always happens to one of King's characters.  Nobody tortures their characters more than King does.... and what can I say, it's comforting.

Because as bad as the economic crisis is, wouldn't it be worse if a psycho nurse kidnapped you and chopped off your foot merely for acting like a cockadoodie brat?  If your beloved pet got run over by a truck... then came back from the dead EVIL?  If a photo of clown came to life and tried to kill you?

Nothing cheers me up like a good horror novel.

So tell me, what are YOUR comfort books?


  1. You know what's funny? My (old) girlfriend used to find SO much comfort in Stephen King as well ... I think it was a subconcious thing because King looks IDENTICAL to her father (who wasn't around much).
    I too, enjoy Stephen King novels. But I don't really have comfort novels. If a book can capture me, I will read just about anything!
    The last book I read was The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls - and was floored by the true story of her life growing up.
    For a while I was hell-bent on the J.D. Robb "in Death" series... I've read most of them, then just suddenly stopped. Maybe I'll pick those back up again ...

  2. I admit it, I love a good movie but thanks to Jenny I can definitely appreciate a good book as well. Thankfully Jenny knows me pretty well and she has picked some winners for me.

    Except for that one and I refuse to read the other 3 books in that series. Jenny you know what book I am talking about.

    Oh by the way we are going to see Wolverine this weekend. Haha

  3. You're a regular perezhilton (that guy has made me so proud to be a Perez... I've simply given up trying to give him up. His site is "magically delicious" and I don't care if it represents everything wrong with pop culture today. "It's part of a good breakfast!") Your mom told me about your recent blogging so tonight I'm reading all of your entries. In the future when you're a New York Times Bestselling Author, this will be slangily referred to as a Jenny-Pestano-Hillier-a-thon (or something more clever - your name is hard to mess around with). The way you write is kind of captivating because it's very reader-friendly and relatable, but not so relatable that you know what's coming next and don't feel compelled to keep reading.

    ANYWAY, as far as I'm concerned, horror novels are only useful if you're terribly happy and looking for a quick way to put you into a frightened and depressed mood. While it's true that getting your arm ripped off by a scary-ass clown hiding in a storm drain is probably worse than anything that would happen to me on even the shittiest of days, I'm all about the atmosphere when it comes to comfort books. I like to revel in my interpretation of the world the author has created. It's not so much flowery adjectives or lengthy descriptions that create this world for me, but the attitudes of the characters - the degree of hope and optimism they possess, and the style in which the author writes. When I'm feeling down I like friendly writing that makes me feel like the author is sitting at the front of a third-grade classroom and telling his or her story aloud. There has to be a certain detachment between the author's voice and what's going on in the story so that it doesn't get too overwhelmingly depressing. What can I say? I'm too sensitive. It's fine if bad things happen to the characters, but I want the author to have some consideration for my feelings. I don't like books that are mean to me.

    This said, it's not hard to fathom that all my comfort books would all be from the Young Readers section. Well, they are. They include the Harry Potter series (of course), "Awake and Dreaming"; (a book by Kit Pearson about a lonely girl who dreams of being part of a big, perfect family), The Berenstein Bears "Big Chapter Books" (classic), "Maniac Magee" by Jerry Spinelli (about a simple-minded yet extraordinary orphan on the run who settles in a town divided by racism), and the "Booky" Trilogy (first-hand tales about a girl growing up in Toronto at the heart of the 1930's Depression).

    I can't say that these are still my favourite books of all time (though they once were). I've since found that often times the best, most thought-provoking and fascinatingly wonderful books are the ones that pull on your heartstrings and fill you with anguish. But when I want comfort, all I want to know is the latest heist Fred and George are pulling at Hogwarts, or how Brother and Sister Bear solved a spooky mystery in Bear Country.

    That's just me.

    So Jenny, I'll keep reading your blog and will continue to anxiously await the time when I can read one of your books (even if it ruins my day because it's about addiction-ridden people are have affairs and getting murdered).

    And if you're wondering, here is a list of my favourite books in no particular order:
    The Kiterunner
    The Diviners
    The Alchemist
    She's Come Undone
    Change of Heart
    The Glass Castle
    A Thousand Splendid Suns
    The Da Vinci Code
    The Thunderbolt Kid
    The Memory Keeper's Daughter

    Yeah, it's not a very interesting list. Mostly stuff you can find on the "Heather's Pick" list at Chapters or in Oprah's Book Club. I hate bad reads so when I'm choosing a book I like to go with the odds.

  4. First of all, this blog is fantastic!! There is a lot of wisdom in what you write about the escape books provide.

    I have one book I read every couple of years...To Kill a Mockingbird...don't know why, it isn't particularly exiting, or long, but everytime I read it I take something else about life away from it...

    Also, was just telling Steve at dinner that I find myself getting lost in some of the books that are everywhere...David Baldacci (just read The Camel Club series over the last few weeks) John Grisham (Steve told me about how we both saw the error in the book, pretty funny). I almost feel guilty when I get lost in these books that seem to follow such generic patterns, but its a great escape to take my mind off of life, work, etc, by delving into an easy, exciting read.

  5. Yes, that error! Tsk tsk Grisham.

    I agree there's something comforting about formulas. That's why they're formulas, they work.

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