Comfort Reading: Books To Read When Times Are Tough

What books do you read when life is harsh?

Comfort Reading: Books That Soothe

Do you have any books that you always return to when life gets difficult? I know I do. Some of these books have been by my side for decades.

These are the books that I will have when I am an old lady too. These books have got me through hard times and they will again.. and again.

When I Need My Comfort Books

  • when I am ill
  • when in hospital
  • when I was breastfeeding babies
  • in times of loss and grief
  • when I am hurt, or scared or vulnerable
  • when in quarantine or isolation

The Books That Work For Me

The Cliff Hardy Series

My longest-serving ‘comfort reading’ books are definitely Peter Corris’ Cliff Hardy series – thank you to my old friend Enrico for buying my first Cliff Hardy collection, ‘Heroin Annie and Other Stories,’ as a gift in 1988. I have now read all 42 Cliff Hardy books and go back to the ones I have on Kindle and in hard copy when things go pear-shaped.

Cliff Hardy is a rough and ready private investigator, handy with his fists, an ex-soldier and ex-boxer, who lives in Glebe. Throughout the series, Cliff’s life and loves change as the years go by; he manages to stop smoking but a drink is always to hand.

I have read Cliff Hardy books when in hospital, when I had ear operations and when I had my childbirth damage re-upholstered. I have read it when waiting for test results and when simply tired or upset. Cliff has never let me down. These books are action-packed, they are witty and Peter Corris’ pithy and sharp observations of Sydney’s suburbs and characters have always cheered me up. 

By the way, when Peter Corris died last year, Paul bought a collection of his best Cliff Hardy stories alongside some essays on crime. It’s called ‘See You At The Toxteth.’ I’ve read that too and it’s excellent.  I’d recommend that book as a good start to your Cliff Hardy journey. Then read the lot!

Find a list of all the Cliff Hardy Series in order here.

You can read a long article about Peter Corris and his prolific output here.

An obituary for Peter Corris on the ABC website is here.

Find the Cliff Hardy books on Amazon here.

Garry Disher’s Peninsula Crimes

When Mum died, I read the entire Peninsula Crimes series by Garry Disher. There are seven of these books, each is splendidly engrossing and distracting. Like the Cliff Hardy series, these police procedurals have complex plots, which I love; so great to take the mind off hard times. The characters are sharply drawn too: D.I. Hal Challis and D.S. Ellen Destry find life, love and crime intermingling all around the beautiful Mornington Peninsula.

I need to visit the Mornington Peninsula and try all these books as a holiday read, then I won’t make such a mess of the pages as I weep, like I did before.

Garry Disher is a truly prolific author, I’ve also enjoyed his rural noir books “Peace,” and ‘Bitter Wash Road’ featuring Constable Paul Hirschhausen, these are also full of plot and twists and devious characters. Most engrossing.

Check out all Garry Disher’s work on his website here.

Find Garry Disher books on Amazon here or click below.

The Wolf Hall Trilogy

My current ‘comfort read’ is the Wolf Hall trilogy by the incomparable Hilary Mantel. I found the first two absolutely terrific years ago, so am re-reading them before buying the newly-published third and final instalment, ‘The Mirror and the Light.’

So far, I have almost finished ‘Wolf Hall,’ and have ‘Bring Up The Bodies’ ready to go on Paul’s Kindle. Both of these books won the Booker Prize, and I wonder if the third will too?

When I was a girl and young teenager, I used to read heaps of history books and think that I really enjoy the historical details and facts in the books as well as Hilary Mantel’s quite amazing writing. Perhaps after these I can try to find a very readable history book about the Tudors to read next.

There have been heaps of articles in magazines and newspapers about Hilary Mantel lately, and you can read more on her website here.

Click the images below to find them on Amazon.

My friend Maraya says that her comfort read is the early 20th century historical romance Molly. It’s a rough and tumble rages to riches tale set in London, and featuring the suffragette movement, the First World War and a fiesty female character. Easy to get swept away in! Find Molly here.

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Do you have a favourite comfort reading list?

Please share with other readers in the comments below!

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  1. says: Melanie

    I love reading and have many favourites.
    In terms of comfort reading, I would think the Harry Potter series. Such amazing books that I love, they take me away to another world.

  2. says: Angela Mccoll

    I love Patricia Scanlan books.She is an Irish author and her portrayal of everyday people is just tenuous…you feel as if you know them inside out. There are always twists and surprises and ordinary people rising above the mundane. I am reading Mirror Mirror at the moment and I get so absorbed that cakes burn and phonecalls go It’s good to have an author that can take you to another time and place right now with all that is going on.Thanks Seana for creating this booklist..??

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