When I first started thinking about this post, I was in the middle of recovering from Covid. (Yes, it finally tracked me down, caught me, and wouldn’t let go for over a month.) Needless to say, during that time, I was not really up to reading a book, but I could and did snuggle down and listen to one.  

Here is the thing, I didn’t go for something new and exciting. I went for a book that I had read (and listened to) many times before. It was wonderful! I loved relaxing into something I already knew, no worries or angst about what was going to happen next, no stress about how it was all going to end. I had enough of that with Covid, thank you very much! So, it was such a comfort to just sit back and enjoy the story. 

I began to wonder, was is it just me, or do other folks re-read or listen to old favorites when they are stressed or going through a difficult time? With that thought in mind, I began an informal, not very scientific (no stats here, folks) investigation. 

I began my research at home. I asked my husband (who favors non-fiction and usually reads recently published works) if he a had a favorite book he re-read when he needed a little literary comfort food. To my astonishment, he mentioned a book of poetry by Wendell Berry. Which just goes to show, we can even learn something new about the people we are closest to. 

Next, I asked people at work if they re-read books when times get tough. I started with my team in the Ashland Children’s Department. Here was another revelation — one of them re-read books, and the other read non-fiction science books, because getting answers helped them feel better. Other folks in the library read things like murder mysteries, which for me would only increase my stress, so that was a surprise as well.  

As I continued in my research, the one thing that became more apparent to me is that I had some strong unconscious bias about what kind of book brings comfort. It was so enlightening to me to discover that, yes, I’m not alone, there are those folks out there who re-read books as a kind of comfort food, and there are those folks, who just read because it relaxes them (whether it’s cookbooks, physics, or murder mysteries). But it can be too easy to assume everyone is the same. It can also be too easy to pass judgment on how others navigate the challenges of life.

I think that’s what is so great about libraries in general. Our doors are open and welcoming to all, and the more I learn about my fellow travelers on this planet, the more interesting life becomes. I’m glad I did my little research project; it was a wonderful way to get to know the people I live and work with on a deeper level. So, the next time you’re at a party or feeling awkward in a group, try asking someone what they like to read as a conversation starter — it could be a fascinating answer. If you are interested in finding out about some of the books that folks shared with me, here’s a list you can check out for yourself!

*I just want to say that this post is written for a library blog. There is an assumption on my part that people who are reading it, well, like to read. I fully recognize and acknowledge that not all humans find reading enjoyable, and therefore may deal with their stress in other ways.