Isolation (re)reading recommendations

When the world gets hard, I turn back to my bookshelf. Re-reading is solace, my superpower and my safe space.

This isn’t anything new. I’ve written before about the comfort found in the familiar and re-reading what you know: “With rereading, I know what I am getting: I’ve been on these journeys before and I don’t need to worry about missing any plot twists or nuances in my sleep-deprived state. Any cliff-hangers or intrigues can be safely laid aside when sleep comes at last, because I’m clued-in to exactly how it’ll all work out in the end.”

So now the world is hard again, it’s back to the bookshelves (and library ebook app) I go. This time round, I’m skipping the dystopias and anything too real. In fact, I had to return a couple of library books early that were simply too close to life.

I am turning instead to the sweet and fantastical in search of distraction from the drama outside. And to multi-book series, for the relief of staying within the same world for longer than one book alone can provide.

Last year, this saw me revisit CS Pacat’s Captive Prince series (Captive Prince, Prince’s Gambit and King’s Rising) for some sexy/stabby MM romantic adventure. Then it involved a lot of YA space operas, such as Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff’s Illuminae Files (Illuminae, Gemina and Obsidio) – a YA series made up of entirely ‘found’ documents that adult readers will also enjoy. And I am currently re-reading Aurora Rising in preparation for their new Aurora Cycle novel in May. I can also recommend Kaufman’s collaborations with Meagan Spooner, including the Starbound Trilogy (These Broken Stars, This Shattered World and Their Fractured Light).

Closer to earth (albeit not this one), it’s inevitable that I will eventually return to Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, particularly to the sweetly clever Tiffany Aching books (The Wee Free Men, A Hat Full of Sky, Wintersmith, I Shall Wear Midnight and The Shepherd’s Crown), which are again suitable for adults and younger readers alike. I have recently revisited Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse novels, which inspired HBO’s True Blood. And my reading spreadsheet (about which no-one is surprised) tells me that JK Rowling’s Harry Potter books win my Most Often Re-Read title of the past 15 years.

While more firmly grounded in the ‘reality’ I’m trying to avoid, I often return to Kerry Greenwood’s Phryne Fisher or Earthly Delights series, or Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum numbers books (which I’m working my way through now). Phryne and Stephanie in particular have sufficient adventures to keep me going for a while (with 21 and 26 books respectively), and the bonus intertextual benefits of film and/or TV adaptations to compare. As does Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City books, TV series and reboots.

Romance fiction’s happy-ever-afters can also provide respite during such uncertain times. To that end, I have returned several times to Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston, a sweet, sexy MM romcom about the First Son of the United States falling in love with the youngest Prince of England. As have just ordered the latest in Rainbow Rowell’s Simon Snow series, set in a Potteresque universe that imagines what would happen if Harry and Draco fell in lust. What’s not to love about that? Or Becky Albertali’s Simonverse (or, you know, anything else she writes)?.

And though I’ve only just finished Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton and Rokesby Regency romance series, I suspect it won’t be long until I visit them once again. As I am sure to revisit Enola Holmes in Nancy Springer’s YA feminist reimagining.

For those who like their romances a bit raunchier, I recommend Aussie writer Kylie Scott’s interconnected Stage Dive (Lick, Play, Lead and Deep) and Dive Bar series (Dirty, Twist and Chaser) as adequately distracting MF erotic adventures. Or Rebecca Raine’s Finding Forever (All the Broken Pieces, Everything We Need, This Time Forever, Lost in Amber and Our Little Secret) or Return to You series (Becoming Us and Finding Grey) for more Australian MF, MM and MMF romance. Or Tessa Bailey’s Hot and Hammered series.

I’d love to hear your re-reading recommendations too.

First published March 2020. Updated July 2021.

Author: katelarsenkeys

Arts, Cultural & Non-Profit Consultant. Reader. Writer (Our Hybrid Future, The Relationship is the Project). Researching the art of arts governance.

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