In these dark times, I’ve found myself strongly desiring books that are happy, comforting, encouraging or funny. I’m usually a person who adores the books that stab you in the heart, and don’t usually read many happy, calming stories. But I wanted to chat about the few that I have loved: if I, lover and enthusiast of books that will break you, fall in love with a happy book, the book must be pretty damn great!
The Afterward by E.K Johnston
The Afterward takes the heroic knight quest and twists it on its head. Instead of telling the story of the quest, it takes place after the quest is over. The main focus of the story is what happens to the knights after they’ve completed the quest? It is a slice of life, female centric, character drivem, f/f fantasy. When I read it, I felt so calm when compared to my usual fantasy reads filled with urgency, panic and tension.
I Hope You Get This Message by Farah Naz Rishi
I Hope You Get This Message combines the mystery and magic of science fiction with the heavy character driven narratives of contemporary YA. It follows three teens trying to keep their families together, at the end of the world. It is a beautiful, touching and hopeful look at how humanity copes at the end of the world.
Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey
One of my more recent reads, Upright Women Wanted was the biggest bundle of fun! Novella length, this was marketed as ‘queer librarian spies on horseback’ and it certainly delivers that! Set in a Western style world, this novella follows Esther as she tries to escape her village by hiding in the back of a librarian’s wagon. What follows is the queerest adventure across the US as Esther discovers what the librarians really do. I really hope we’ll get more books in this world because I loved it and the characters so, so much!
The Library of the Unwritten by A.J Hackwith
I feel like I’ve spoken a lot about this book recently, and that’s because I’m pretty sure it will contend for one of my favourite books of the year. It is just THE BEST fun! It is a complete breath of fresh air in fantasy. It is the sassiest, snarkiest book with some of my absolute favourite characters. The Library of the Unwritten is all about Hell’s library, where all the unwritten manuscripts are kept. When a character escapes from the book to go meet their writer, Claire, Head Librarian, must hunt the character down and restore them to their manuscript. Of course, nothing goes right, and suddenly Claire finds herself in the midst of a war between heaven and hell. I also want to shout this book out as having the first on page pansexual rep I’ve ever read in fantasy, and so I love it even more.
The Infinite Noise by Lauren Shippen
The Infinite Noise is another slice of life fantasy that blew me away. I came into the book completely new, having never heard of the podcast before. The Infinite Noise expands on characters from the podcast The Bright Sessions, a podcast about people with superpowers going to therapy. It is another character driven story, one about Caleb struggling to control his powers, and Adam, a schoolmate who seems to be able to calm Caleb down when he is struggling for control. Whilst it does have a strong depression plotline, this book is on my comfort read lists because I found it really hopeful and beautiful in the depiction, and I can’t wait to read more books in this world.
The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
I’m sure a lot of people will have already heard of this one, it’s definitely one of the sci-fi books I see most recommended. But that’s because it is incredible! Goodbye heavy technical science ficiton, hello fun, character driven narratives that just so happen to be set in space! This is an absolutely joyous story about the rag-tag crew of the ship Wayfarer as they make their way into a warzone to create a ‘tunnel’ that will allow ships to easily fly there. The characters in this book are just phenomenal, I adored every single one. It is one of the sci-fi books that got me reading in the genre, and I can’t wait to read more like this.
Do you Dream of Terra-Two? by Temi Oh
And here’s the other book that got me reading in the genre! Do You Dream of Terra-Two? follows six young adults as they prepare to journey to Terra-Two, a potentially habitable planet. Set on an Earth where the Space Race continued and thrived after 1969, we follow the teens at their academy, where they have trained for this journey most of their lives, to their lives onboard the ship that will take them to Terra-Two. Each of the characters are brilliantly detailed and so realistic, and I loved reading every POV. In multiple POV books, I do often find there are some I just don’t care for and want to skip through, but in this book, I loved all of them! It’s one of my favourite sci-fi’s of all time and I can’t wait to read what Temi Oh writes next.
Witchmark by C.L Polk
I first read this book in the middle of a very stressful week, and it pretty much kept me together. I was completely blown away by the world and characters. I came away and the only word I could think to describe it is completely magical. It felt like magic. There is such a great mystery element, a wonderful romance, and I smiled the whole way through! The world is perfectly reminiscent of Edwardian England, with a twist: magic!
The Exact Opposite of Okay by Laura Steven
The Exact Opposite of Okay holds position as ‘funniest book I’ve ever read’. Laura Steven is just so fucking hilarious I am in AWE. This book is relevant and so, so current, as main character Izzy fights back when pictures of her having sex with a politician’s son are released. It is both utterly hilarious and a feminist masterpiece.
Tell Me How You Really Feel by Aminah Mae Safi
This was such a fun and wonderful romance! I love love loved it. This is the queer cheerleader romance we have been looking for! Following straight-A cheerleader Sana and wannabe director Rachel, as they have to make a film together. There’s just one problem: Rachel hates Sana because years ago, Sana asked Rachel out and Rachel thought she was making fun of her. I really enjoyed this one, particularly because there was lots of focus on things outside of the romance. Every character had their own stories and own lives and we spent as much time chasing their dreams as we did on the fun romance. Looooooove.
Full Disclosure by Camryn Garrett
Full Disclosure is another really funny and engaging YA, featuring sass, snark and absolutely full of queerness! The book follows Simone, an HIV positive teen as she starts at a new school and falls in love with Miles. Simone is just one of the best characters in YA: she is so fierce, snarky, confident and vulnerable, she gets shit wrong… But most of all, she sounds like she was written by an actual teen (which she was) and I think that really shines through throughout the book. There is also the most HILARIOUS sex shop scene ever and I will forever love Garrett for writing that.
Only Mostly Devastated by Sophie Gonzales
A new favourite of mine, Only Mostly Devastated published very recently and I so hope this book gets the success it deserves. This is a reimagining of Grease, and imagine pretty much all your favourite 90s/early 00’s romcoms, but super super queer, and you will get this book! Ollie, the main character, feels so familiar: he is an anxious, snarky, sarcastic kid who loves red skittles (IT’S LITERALLY ME?!) and I love him.
Love from A to Z by S.K Ali
This is one of my favourite YA contemporaries, it’s one of the first I read in the genre and so shall always be the level to which I hold all others! Love From A to Z is just one of the greatest love stories ever, following Adam and Zayneb from when they first meet on a plane, carrying the same ‘Marvels and Oddities’ journal, to when they fall in love. Zayneb is another of my favourite characters in YA. She is such a passionate, driven person, fighting to right the wrongs of the world. This book was such a fulfiling and calming read, it was so full of love and hope and strength, and I really urge everyone to read this if you get the chance!
Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
I couldn’t write a list of comfort books without featuring Red, White & Royal Blue. I’m sure there isn’t much I could say about this that you don’t already know. The love story of Alex, bi icon and son of the President of the US, and Prince Henry. I’m SO CLOSE to picking this up and rereading despite the pile of other books I really need to read instead. But this is just the most joyful, most fun, most queer, love story and I adore it.
Amelia Westlake by Erin Gough
Another hilarious f/f romance on this list (clearly I have a specific comfort book type). Amelia Westlake is set at a posh, Australian school, and follows Harriet, school prodigy, and Will, school bad girl, as they work together to highlight all the school’s problems. This book is so Australian, I couldn’t stop laughing. The humour is so dry and hilarious, Will and Harriet are so much fun and I really can’t wait to read more from Erin Gough.
On my TBR
I also wanted to shout out some of the books on my TBR which, from what I can see, look to be future comfort reads. I really can’t wait to start all of these and be comforted and calmed in these scary times.
Finna by Nino Cipri
The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite
The Gravity of Us by Phil Stamper
It Sounded Better in my Head by Nina Kenwood
The Lightning-Struck Heart by T.J Klune
The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J Klune
The Love Hypothesis by Laura Steven
That’s it for my list of comfort reads. I really need to add some more – the large majority of my books are definitely not ‘comfort’, as much as I do adore them! What are your favourite comfort books?