Do you have particular “comfort reads” or books you always come back to? All readers know, books fulfill many purposes — and the right book at the right time can succor, soothe, and calm a troubled soul or a weary mind. This is the position I found myself in at the end of very busy and emotionally draining weeks at work. I had been trying to read a book that I just didn’t fit with. It was well written and had many good reviews and comments by other authors that I admired and yet something wasn’t right. Rather than calming me and taking me to another place, it was making me edgy and unsettled. The more I thought about it and puzzled over it I realized that it was actually nothing to do with the book per se — it just wasn’t the right book for me at that time.
As soon as that realization dawned and I acknowledged it, I was giving myself permission to put it down and stop struggling to read it. I wasn’t admitting defeat or giving up; I was just making a choice. This left me on a Saturday evening gazing a the stack of books to be read beside my bed where later I had stood vacantly staring at my bookshelves trying to work out what it was I needed. Although there are many books on my TBR pile that I wanted to read, I just couldn’t find quite the right thing. They all seemed too unfamiliar, even those by authors I had previously read and enjoyed. I was finding it hard to pin down exactly what I was I looking for. I almost settled for something by Anne Tyler tempted as I was by her quiet writing style and careful character studies — she never lets me down.
I flicked through Pride and Prejudice, a perennial favorite, but even this didn’t quite fit. Alexander McCall Smith came to mind as I thought of Mma Ramotswe and her no nonsense, compassionate demeanor. I had almost settled on a book from the stack beside my bed called The Pleasure of Reading as yet unread by me. Just as I was about to pick it up I realized that exactly what I needed was sitting on the table beside me. The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford. I have of course read it before but not for some time. I remembered enough to know what I would be getting. It would take me back in time to the period between the wars that I always find interesting; the characters would give just the right amount of familiarity plus it would stimulate without challenge.
It was the right book at the right time and I’ve since enjoyed it immensely. This little “reading blip” has confirmed my belief that when a reading slump or fallow period hits, it may not be the wrong book — it just might not be the right book at the right time.