the friendship of books

Some books offer entertainment, and some are more - a haven or dream world to which we can escape when we need it. So many times I've imagined myself in Pern, or the Beast's beautiful silent castle, and returned to the real world strengthened.

And then there are the books that are friends. Their voice steadfastly murmurs exactly what you need to hear. Their atmosphere embraces you in the way you love best. For me, when I want a friend but at the same time prefer to be alone, there are a couple of book series I turn to. First, the Anne Shirley books. Skipping past their adventures and amusements, conversations and character descriptions, I just sink myself gently into LM Montgomery's poetic vision of the natural world and the wild, gentle soul. It doesn't make me feel stronger, braver, or more capable of handling life. It just is being with a kindred spirit, and so it is love.

Another best book-friend is the Riddlemaster of Hed series. I wander peacefully through its old and frail leaves and then on, into my own dreams of the High One's realm. Here are some words from my most dog-earred pages ...

They caught their first glimpse of the wild land, shaggy with pine, and of the distant blue-white mist of mountains. 

The light faded as they watched; shadows slipped after it, patching the Pass with purple and grey. Only one mountain, far in the distance, still burned white in some angle of light. The sun passed finally beyond the limits of the world, and the great flanks and peaks of the mountain turned to a smooth, barren whiteness, like the moon. 

He drifted shapelessly in the mists, seeped down into the still, dangerous marshlands, and felt the morning frost silver his face as it hardened over mud and reeds and tough marsh grasses. He cried a marsh bird's lonely cry.

He looked at her wordlessly as she sat in a billow of wrinkled, richly embroidered colth, the fine, dishevelled mess of her hair framing a high-boned face that, even tired and white, looked like something out of an ancient ballad.

And then there are the poems of Robert Frost. Always, those poems. Their melancholy tenderness, their delight at their own cleverness, and something deeply resonant of far away places in the heart of the poet, speaking to my own heart.

Who are the book-friends you go to when you need solace?


  1. Sometimes, just the feel of a book in my hands is comfort enough. But then... the words...
    I must look up this Riddlemaster of Hed... I'm afraid I have never heard of it, but oh my gosh, those words!

  2. I don't have any book friends but I do re-read books that I love but that's probably not the same though they do offer brief comfort. I guess I'm more likely to watch tv shows rather than read books during stressful times.

    I've not heard of Riddlemaster of Hed but that passage reads like a love song, will check it out. hope you have a lovely day.

  3. My book friends are comforting. I love the Mitford series and the character of Father Tim.

  4. Elizabeth WaggonerJanuary 22, 2016 at 2:54 AM

    Most times I turn to old childhood friends - the ones who have been with me longest: Louisa May Alcott, Laura Ingalls Wilder, "Black Beauty", "Heidi" - but a particular favorite adult book is Conrad Richter's "The Awakening Land". I also love Robert Frost for the reasons you mention - but along with him, the poems of Robert Service for their picture of the wild lands.

  5. my list is long of book friends that continue to bring solace throughout the years, here's a link

  6. That passage you quoted is beautiful. I think books become favourites when they speak to you - some of my favourites are practically falling to pieces they have been read so often.

  7. Another fan of the Earthmaster books here. Really, so many things Patricia McKillip has written have been dear friends of mine throughout my life.

    Also, Diana Wynne Jones.

    Recently re-read Black and Blue Magic by Zilpha Keatley Snyder, for the first time since childhood, and 'recognized' the San Francisco geography I'd been oblivious to 40 years ago. (I've still never been to San Francisco, but I've seen photos and read about it.)

  8. I love the photos. They are beautiful. I really love C.S. Lewis's Chronicle of Narnia. I have read them over and over. My daughter loves Tolkien and Shakespeare's sonnets.

  9. Yesterday I picked up one of the Anne books, to re-read, and from the first sentence I was delighted, happy. I remember always smiling and laughing, with a secret thrill reading those books. And of course sighing at the descriptions of nature. There is such a lovely feeling behind the words as well, which makes me see beauty in my own life.

    Will also look up the books mentioned in the comments, and the Riddlemaster.

  10. Lord of the Rings, a Little Princess, Wind in the Willows, the Earthsea books, In the Suicide Mountains, Precious Bane, The Horse and his Boy, Scarlet Sails, Possession, Dragonsinger, nick bantock's books, Wuthering Heights, Tatsinda, The Last Unicorn, The Tempest...I had better stop here, because this could go on all night...

    1. Dragonsinger was the first Anne McCaffrey book I read, and it sent me on a quest to find all the others. I still remember buying them from my local stationer's store, when I was 14, back when stationers still sold books as well as magazines and cards. To this day, I read Dragonsinger, and Dragonsong, when I am sick in bed. <3