JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: I'm logging in from my local library to post this, since I (as well as several other east-coast Reds) am still without power. Fortunately, I don't have to write anything clever; our friend Tasha Alexander volunteered to take on blogging duties today.
I know Tasha is one of the Reds communities favorite authors. Her Victorian-era Lady Emily novels brings together wicked mysteries and heart-stirring romance in stunning locations like Vienna, Constantinople and Venice. The latest in the series, Death in the Floating City, was a New York Times bestseller.
Since Tasha and her dashingly handsome husband Andrew Grant live in Chicago and the UK, we're usually the ones consoling her for lousy weather. (If you've ever taken a cross-country flight in the US, you know about Chicago's tumultuous climate.) She knows about the stresses and strains we all come under - and has a wonderful suggestion for easing them.
The pounding given to the East Coast by Hurricane Sandy has put me to thinking about comfort and those things we do when we need it. Most of us are fortunate enough to be assured of basic material comforts--food, shelter, clothing. But that does not mean we don't face challenges, disappointments, and a variety of seemingly unending stresses, and we all need means to cope with them.
Last year when I was here, I talked about books I wished I could read again for the first time. This year, I'm considering those dog-eared volumes that, like the most loyal and steadfast friends, stand by us through every difficulty. I have many, many comfort reads. First come the old favorites. The really old favorites. On the Banks of Plum Creek and These Happy Golden Years from Laura Ingalls Wilder's wonderful Little House series got me through those horrible pre-teen years when I spent most of my time at school dances crying in the bathroom. It probably speaks badly of me, but I took great joy in reading about Nellie Oleson dancing around the creek bank with leeches stuck all over her legs.
As I got older, Gone With the Wind became a favorite. I would get to the end of my enormous hardcover edition (a tenth birthday present) and turn straight back to page one. Until, that is, Scarlett's story was eclipsed for me by Pride and Prejudice.
Sometimes, when I'm stressed, I need a giant heap of books that I can tear through, one after another, to fill loads and loads of time. Elizabeth Peters' Amelia Peabody series could not be better for this. Amelia's wit and intelligence can divert my attention from almost anything.
Then there are the times when what I really want is something more ethereal. That's when I go back to Haruki Murakami's The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and escape into a bizarre world that is at once magical and disturbing. Not to mention written in some of the most beautiful sentences ever.
Interestingly enough, what I don't turn to for comfort is the book I consider to be my absolute favorite, David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas. Maybe that's because I don't want it tainted by whatever is causing me stress. Maybe it's because I want to keep it separate. I'm not sure. But I am sure about the one book that, no matter what, never ever lets me down when I'm in need. I think we all have a book like this--the one you can never tire of reading, the best dependable friend. For me, that's Pride and Prejudice. What's yours?
Let us know your comfort read, and one luck commenter will receive a signed hardcover of the newest Lady Emily mystery, Death in the Floating City!
You can find out more about New York Times bestselling author Tasha Alexander and read excerpts of her books at her website. You can follow her on Twitter as @talexander, friend her on Facebook, and see some of the actual locations in her novels on Flickr.