Authors on books that bring them comfort

Korean-American writer Min-Jin Lee, author of Pachinko, speaking at the Singapore Writers Festival last year.
PHOTO: SINGAPORE WRITERS FESTIVAL

NEW YORK • Authors are just like the rest of us - they like to soothe their anxieties by losing themselves in the pages of a beloved book.

Here are some of the ones they turn to when times get tough.

CELESTE NG

THE PRINCESS BRIDE

By William Goldman

In 1987, my sister was halfway through reading me The Princess Bride when she went off to college.

The day she left, I cried myself to sleep - and then, after I got my bearings again, I read the rest of the book on my own.

This has always been a comfort read for me: a fairy tale that acknowledges life isn't fair ("It's just fairer than death, that's all") yet still manages to make you feel that the good guys might win, that justice will be served, that there is a point to it all. If you only know the (fantastic) film, pick the book up, too - it is just as much of a delight.

Ng's most recent book is Little Fires Everywhere.


ELIZABETH GILBERT

THE SUMMER BOOK

By Tove Jansson

This slim, magical, life-affirming novel tells the story of a young girl and her grandmother, who spend their summer together on a small, isolated island in the Gulf of Finland.

Absent of sentimentality, full of love and humour and wisdom, this is a tale about how much fun two people can have in the middle of nowhere, when they are practising social isolation in earnest.

Gilbert's latest novel is City Of Girls.


KILEY REID

BIRD BY BIRD

By Anne Lamott

This is a book about writing, but truly, Bird By Bird is about taking your time. It is funny and honest and comforting, and a wonderful reminder of the glory in terrible first efforts, and the beauty that comes in taking it day by day.

Reid's debut novel, Such A Fun Age, was published earlier this year.


RUTH WARE

LOVE IN A COLD CLIMATE

By Nancy Mitford

For me, comfort reading is as often comfort listening - because it is so often in the silence of a long car journey or a solo walk that your thoughts start spiralling.

Agatha Christie for the reassurance that even murder can be fixed. Patrick O'Brian for putting petty, modern gripes into historical perspective.

But for sheer comfort reading, it has to be Nancy Mitford - who laughed and wept her way through love, loss, crippling bereavement and two world wars.

When Love In A Cold Climate fails to make me laugh and cry, the end really will be nigh.

Ware's most recent novel is The Turn Of The Key.


BRYAN STEVENSON

THE WARMTH OF OTHER SUNS

By Isabel Wilkerson

In The Warmth Of Other Suns, racial terror and violence are overcome with determination, faith, courage and the kind of resolve that some of us have been privileged to experience in our elders and the generation who came before us.

The generation who did so much more with so much less have something to teach us about managing a pandemic.

Stevenson is the author of Just Mercy.


ANN PATCHETT

WRITERS & LOVERS

By Lily King

Writers & Lovers made me happy. Even as the narrator grieves the loss of her mother and struggles to make art and keep a roof over her head, the novel is suffused with hopefulness and kindness. Lily King writes with a great generosity of spirit.

Patchett's most recent novel is The Dutch House.


ERIK LARSON

NEWS OF THE WORLD

By Paulette Jiles

Captain Jefferson Kidd, a hard-travelled Army veteran, makes his living reading newspapers to paying audiences in post-Civil War Texas, ordinarily a safe pursuit - until he agrees to take custody of a young orphan, Johanna, rescued from her Kiowa captors, to deliver her to her surviving relatives.

As Kidd and Johanna travel across an increasingly perilous Texas landscape, the two form one of the quirkiest, most satisfying friendships in modern literature.

Larson's most recent book is The Splendid And The Vile.


MIN-JIN LEE

COUSIN BETTE

By Honore de Balzac

Love is the antidote to fear, and few have written better about love than Honore de Balzac. Cousin Bette is juicy, immersive and terribly knowing about the feeling which connects us through time and distance.

Lee's most recent novel is Pachinko.


LUIS ALBERTO URREA

WINTER MORNING WALKS

By Ted Kooser

When trouble comes, I often turn to poetry. I find myself drawn over and over to Ted Kooser's slender holy book Winter Morning Walks.

When he was recovering from cancer, he could not be in sunlight, so he walked before dawn that winter and sent Jim Harrison 100 tiny poems about the daily walk. It will bring you grace abundant.

Urrea's most recent novel is The House Of Broken Angels.


AMY BLOOM

LEDGER

By Jane Hirshfield

All English mysteries prior to 2005. All of Jane Kenyon. All of Jane Hirshfield, especially her latest, Ledger, especially A Ream Of Paper. Both Janes understand the world in all its happiness, melancholy, unpleasant surprise and moments of resilience.

Bloom's most recent novel is White Houses.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 31, 2020, with the headline Authors on books that bring them comfort. Subscribe