Wikipedia defines comfort food as a food or drink that someone turns to because of "familiarity, simplicity, and/or pleasant associations." Just as I sometimes want nothing more than a thick slice of meat loaf and a pile of mashed potatoes, sometimes I want to read something I know will be entertaining but straightforward - less complex than many of the books I've been reading lately.

My favorite "comfort authors" are Rex Stout and Loren Estelman. When I read a story about Nero Wolfe or Amos Walker, I know what I'm going to get, and I know that it's going to be good. The only problem is that I'm running out of Amos Walker books to read.

Anybody else have favorite authors they turn to when they want simple entertainment?

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Heavens, yes. The most soothing of all comfort reads for me, when I am too zonked for any intellectual or emotional challenges whatsoever, are Patricia Wentworth's Miss Silver books. Their world is fixed, their course utterly predictable. All the characters fall into types based on class and morality, Miss Silver always solves the case and prevents the final crime, boy and girl always get to live happily ever after. Yet these books, written in the 40s and 50s, avoid the silliness and careless writing that have given cozies a bad name in recent years. And whaddaya mean, "running out of books"? The hallmark characteristic of a comfort read is that you've read it before and will reread it again and again. ;)
Me too - I love Patricia Wentworth as well as Dorothy Simpson's books and in particular Colin Watson.

There are times also when you just want a victim that damn well deserved to be a victim and you need something light-hearted and, well silly, in which case I do find myself drawn to Charlotte MacLeod - probably a bit too cozy for some people, but I do like a bit of lunatic on the side.

Which is probably why I love Colin Watson as well - that and you've got to love a book called "Broomsticks Over Flaxborough"
I'm also a fan of the Nero Wolf books as an easy, engaging read. I'm a sucker for the snappy writing & get a kick out of the characters. Also, I'll occasionally go back and re-read a S. King book - he'll drag ya right into the story.
If I really, really want a comfort book, it's A Wrinkle In Time by Madeline L'Engle every time. I read first in grade school and I can't even begin to count how many times I've read it. I've always identified with Meg and even now, as an adult, I love reading about Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Which, and Mrs. Who. And I can't help but smile to myself when I'm reading heavy science articles and they start talking about tesseracts.
My answer used to be Robert B. Parker. At the height of my enthusiasm, I would put all other books aside to read a Parker book. True they never took very long to finish, but Parker also had a knack for making you want to read "just one more chapter," that I find lacking in more books these days. I also used to put everything off for Harlan Coben's Myron Bolitar series and Robert Crais's Elvis Cole.
Usually when I want something like that I'll reach for a graphic novel or comic book like Preacher, The Walking Dead or Y:The Last Man.
When I have a major life crisis, I re-read The Lord of the Rings. I used that book to get through gall bladder surgery and divorce.

When I just need something light to make me feel right with the world, Nero Wolfe is great, of course. I also love Lawrence Block's Bernie Rhodenbarr novels.

Then, when I'm feeling the need for cathartic release, well, Lee Child baby!
I agree with many of the above. Lee Child. Coben. Crais.

But lately there's one guy that stands apart from the pack, in terms of a comfortable read: Steve Hamilton. I just feel great reading McKnight stuff. Feels indulgent and healthy all at once. Like a perfect glass of wine with no hangover and no heartburn.

Or like a Molson Canadian...
Rankin, Bruen and Billingham. I know it might not sound 'comforting' but the familiarity is key. I know those worlds and am so happy slipping back into them for a time and it allows me to turn off the world around me more effectively.

I gained five pounds reading Cornelia Read's debut, because she talked about a very 'eastern' snack I hadn't had in a long time. So her book definitely put me in search of comfort food.
For some reason, I find books set in the South comfort reads. So Margaret Maron, John Hart, PAtricia SPrinkle on the mystery side... Kaye Gibbons, Eudora Welty, Flannery O'Connor on the more literary side. Southern films too... To Kill a Mockingbird, Driving Miss Daisy, Steel Magnolias....
For me, surgery and other major crises are eased by Georgette Heyer, the founder of the Regency romance. But for mysteries, I think my favorite comfort rereads are the first 3 cat mysteries by Lilian Jackson Braun. There are also a few Robert Barnards that I keep going back to for relaxation -- not the ones whose villains are so bad they crimp my stomach, but the ones with humor. Evelyn Smith's MISS MELVILLE REGRETS. Most of the Miss Seeton books, specifying the ones written by Heron Carvic.

These are all decades old. They've proven their survival value. :-)
My 'comfort reads' are generally things which make me laugh, or authors I can just read the first sentence and slip into their world so easily. So Ken Bruen, Bill Fitzhugh, Eddie Muller - they don't necessarily need to be asy books to read - just styles and characters I am familiar with. A couple of my favourite comfort reads are John Welter's NIGHT OF THE AVENGING BLOWFISH, or Christopher Moore's LAMB: THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO CHRIST'S CHILDHOOD PAL BIFF. If I'm really really in need of comfort then it's either Jane Austen's PRIDE AND PREJUDICE or anything by Dr Seuss :-)


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