When Kate Spade called and asked me if I’d like to host a book evening at the Covent Garden store, as part of their Happy Thursdays strand, they originally thought it might be called a book club but I prevaricated, and suggested calling it a book salon instead.
That’s because I didn’t want people to feel excluded: sometimes ‘club’ can make people feel like they’re on the outside looking in, and neither did I want people to think they had to read a book in order to turn up, so ‘salon’ seemed a little bit more relaxed.
I also thought it might be more interesting if I talked about several books rather than just one in detail: after all, we had an hour to fill and you never know if anybody is going to turn up…but they did, thank goodness, and we had a full house.
I picked comfort reading as a theme for the evening because, for me, books are the ultimate solace when I want to escape from the world around me, on the top of the bus on the way to a meeting, or in the comfort of my bedroom, for when I’m tired, miserable, lonely, or maybe just when I am wanting to relax after a long day.
I own over 3000 books but unfortunately London space does not allow me to keep them here, and I have stashed most of them in my father’s garage in the country, until the day I can actually shelve them myself.
The books I do have in London are the books I absolutely need to have around me, the books, I can’t manage without reading several times year. Sure, I have duplicates on my Kindle, but nothing beats the pleasure of an original’s foxed, yellow pages, and the musty smell of the paper.
I spoke for a while about the books I had brought along (the list is at the bottom of this post), and then hopefully paused for contributions. The other variable at a book evening is not knowing if anyone else will speak up. But, to my absolute joy, a lovely lady stepped up who had brought along her favourite comfort read – The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern and, after she spoke passionately about what it meant to her, and with a bit of encouragement from me, other women raised their hands and admitted to bringing along their favourite books too.
That broke the ice, and random droppers in started to contribute to the conversation and, before we knew it, our hour had flown by, with a whole extra list of books to think about.
We also discussed what actually makes a comfort read because one girl mentioned A Million Little Pieces by James Frey, which sparked a discussion about how sometimes a book that makes you examine yourself and re-examine the world around you can be a comfort read, partly because it reassures that we are not along in having have deep seated worries, traumas, and concerns.
Because of the controversy about Frey’s background, we also discussed how experiences which we read about don’t necessarily have to have actually happened in reality to resonate with you
So here is the list of comfort reads I brought along to discuss, some of which of course I have already mentioned here on the blog.
Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (Persephone Classics) by Winifred Watson
I Capture The Castle by Dodie Smith
Ian Fleming’s James Bond books (The Spy Who Loved Me)
The Provincial Lady in London by E.M. Delafield
The Tales Of The City series by Armistead Maupin (Babycakes: Tales of the City Series, Vol. 4 & More Tales of the City Series, Vol.2)
Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
A Civil Contract by Georgette Heyer
Friday’s Child by Georgette Heyer