Yes, that’s right. As Bonnie McCune says, “Comfort books are better for you than comfort food.”
“Comfort food.” A phrase to describe nibblies we crave when we’re sick, depressed, and out of sorts. Often based on nostalgic or sentimental feelings, especially from childhood, valued by the diner. This describes dishes like mac & cheese, chicken soup, apple pie, tomato soup, fried chicken. While comfort foods do bring comfort, I’ve found another activity that accomplishes the same end without calories. Comfort books.
Often books read in childhood or adolescence, sometimes a volume from adulthood that I’ve read over and over, they function like an old friend. I greet them with a cry of recognition and close them with a sigh of satisfaction. For me, this means they aren’t terribly complicated and at least some of their characters are pleasant, interesting and good. Needless to say, they wrap up happily. Other people include more challenging or depressing material. It’s up to you.
I’ve discovered a number of my childhood favorites are now in the public domain. This means I can locate them as free ebooks. I recently reread Heidi and Tarzan of the Apes, and made some discoveries. I still loved the description of Grandfather toasting cheese over the fire in Heidi. (Hmmm, is there a relationship to mac & cheese?) But many descriptive passages of the mountains, flowers, snow, city, jumped out as good writing. Tarzan, too, contained much more illustration than I recalled, as well as action and developments that moved so rapidly they can serve as examples to improve my own writing.
The first book I learned to read on my own has become a comfort book. I was so enamored of The Backward Day, the story of a little boy who gets up and puts his clothes on backward and sits backward at the table and walks backward to school, my first-grade teacher had me visit other classrooms and read it out loud. I’d love to locate a copy of The Wonderful Visit to the Mushroom Planet, discovered in seventh grade and the impetus for my fascination with some science fiction since. Another series in the scifi genre, the Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold, distracts me in times of political crisis and gives me a positive vision of the future.
Since I realized that many of the oldies are, indeed, available as free ebooks, I’ve downloaded more. The Five Little Peppers, Anne of Green Gables, Wizard of Oz, Black Beauty. A number of websites provide free electronic versions. If you search Amazon for titles of old favorites and add “free,” you can usually find them. Project Gutenberg specializes in converting public domain books to ebooks at no charge (https://www.gutenberg.org) as do others (http://www.freeclassicebooks.com, http://www.manybooks.net, etc.). Mysteries, romances, history, philosophy, plays, an endless stream for your pleasure and comfort.
I thought I invented the term “comfort book,” but I find through a search, others also know the concept. If you go online, you’ll find sites to guide you to these readers’ individual lists. And next time you need a little emotional comfort, try an old book favorite. Heart and soul, you’ll feel better, and you’ll add zero calories.
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Bonnie McCune’s newest novel, Never Retreat, features interesting characters even though they’re charming and does end happily.
A feisty single mom clashes with an ex-military, macho corporate star at a business retreat in the wild Colorado mountains, where only one can win a huge prize. But when a massive flood imperils their love and survival, they learn the meaning of true partnership.
Years ago, Ramona (‘Raye”) Soto faced harsh reality when a roving con man knocked her up. Now at thirty-something she’s concentrating on her career in a major telecommunications firm and funding college for her teenaged son. Enter Desmond Emmett—a fast talker and smooth operator. New to the office, the ex-serviceman possesses every negative quality for a guy Raye should avoid. Thrown together at a corporate retreat in the wilderness, the reluctant duo struggles to complete management’s extreme mental and physical tests for a huge reward. But only one can win the prize, and Des needs the money to underwrite medical treatments for his adored younger sister.
See-sawing between attraction and antagonism, the mismatched couple, Raye and Des, face their biggest challenge: learning the meaning of true partnership. When a massive flash flood sweeps down the rocky canyon and threatens their love and survival, they must put aside their difference to rescue their colleagues—and their future as a couple.
Bonnie McCune has been writing since age ten, when she submitted a poem about rain rushing down the gutter to the Saturday Evening Post (it was immediately rejected). This interest facilitated her career in nonprofits doing public and community relations and marketing. She’s worked for libraries, directed a small arts organization, and managed Denver’s beautification program.
Simultaneously, she’s been a freelance writer with publications in local, regional, and specialty publications for news and features. Her civic involvement includes grass-roots organizations, political campaigns, writers’ and arts’ groups, and children’s literacy. For years, she entered recipe contests and was a finalist once to the Pillsbury Bake Off. A special love is live theater. Had she been nine inches taller and thirty pounds lighter, she might have been an actress.
Her true passion is fiction, and her pieces have won several awards. Never Retreat is her third novel and her fifth book of fiction. For reasons unknown (an unacknowledged optimism?), she believes one person can make a difference in this world.
Praise for Never Retreat!
“. . .offering intriguing lead characters. . .the novel is a swift and satisfying read.
The fresh air helps turn this office romance into a truly romantic adventure.”
“Few novels operate on such different levels, moving their characters to challenge not just each other, but their own not just each other, but their own perceptions. . .McCune provides just the right blend of comic relief, interpersonal encounters, and outside environment changes to make her story a powerful blend.” —Midwest Book Review
“Never Retreat leads the reader into the wilderness…in a breathtaking page-turner that will leave you exhausted but wanting more!”
—Corinne Joy Brown, award-winning author of Hidden Star
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