I like comfort.
After I sold my first novel in the year 2000, I spent part of the advance money on something I still use every day and treasure the sight of: my writing desk. It’s an interesting and beautiful six-feet-tall mahogany secretary about two feet wide, and the drop-down desk is big enough only for my laptop, my ever-present mug of tea, and my vertical stack of comfort books—the ones that are always there, as comforting to look at as they are to read.
These books are the ones I read over and over—especially right before I’m about to start writing a new novel, and when I’m stuck in the middle and three-quarters of the way through. When I’ve written myself into a corner. When I’m blocked. When I’m scared and think I can’t do it. And when I just need to be reminded of what speaks to me as a writer and as a reader. I have more favorites, of course, including more recent ones that inspire me, but this beloved collection never leaves the desk, the side of the laptop, and restores me to all good things:
Then She Found Me by Elinor Lipman. LOVE this novel, starting with its great first line: My biological mother was seventeen when she had me in 1952, and even that was more than I wanted to know about her.
The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler. Inner lives. A celebration of the quirky. Beautifully written.
Good Grief by Lolly Winston. Never fails to help me. The perfect novel. As funny as it is touching and true.
Bitch In The House: 26 Women Tell the Truth About Sex, Solitude, Work, Motherhood, and Marriage, edited by Cathi Hanauer. I’ve read every essay at least 5 times.
Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy by Sarah Ban Breathnach. I love these inspirational mini essays, one for every day of the year. True comfort.
Circle of Friends, Maeve Binchy. Pure warmth. I've read many of her novels, but this was the first and the one I love most.
Range of Motion by Elizabeth Berg. I can’t always relate to Elizabeth’s Berg’s work, but when I can, I’m mesmerized. She’s elegance and earthiness at the same time.
A Little More About Me by Pam Houston. Wonderful personal essays. (In one she sums up her life by reciting Shawn Colvin: I gave nobody life, I am nobody’s wife, and I seem to be nobody’s daughter.)
Writers on Writing, Collected Essays from The New York Times. Essays on the writing life and craft from varied, interesting writers, from Richard Ford to Alice Hoffman to Barbara Kingsolver. Also a volume II. I can’t get enough of essays about the writing life.
Mothers Who Think: Tales of Real-Life Parenthood, edited by Camille Peri and Kate Moses of Salon.com. Another brilliant collection of essays from the trenches. Have read each one zillion times.
And the winner of the never-gets-old-and-never-will: Bridget Jones’ Diary by Helen Fielding. Voice. Absolute honesty. And biting British humor. A gem. (And gave me the courage to write my first novel at 34 when I’d all but given up.)
For a Happy Holidays chance to win a signed copy of The Love Goddess’ Cooking School, leave a comment about what books bring you comfort. I’ll pick a random winner early Wednesday morning, so check back here!Mini bio: Melissa Senate is the author of 10 novels, including her latest, THE LOVE GODDESS’ COOKING SCHOOL. She lives on the Maine coast with her son and lots of books. Come visit her website (click on her name above), friend her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter. Happy Holidays!