Bad Day Re-Reads: Books That Make It All Better

The Rec League - tattered book big chocolate heartIn January, I was having a conversation on Twitter with Sheri W, who mentioned that she re-reads a few Jennifer Crusie books “on the regular to battle a bad day.”

Book Bet Me I know exactly what she means. As I replied to her, I have books like that, “Bad Day Re-Reads,” which are always happy/sexy/fun books.

Sheri agreed, saying hers were Bet Me ( A | BN | K | ARe) or Agnes and the Hitman ( A | BN | K | ARe). 

Since we had that conversation, I've been thinking about my Bad Day Re-Reads, the books I know will give me a break from crap days or from feeling really crummy. They're all stories that make me happy, that are friendly and peaceful and more than a little funny, and that somehow have a reassuring quality. Know what I mean?

My Bad Day Re-Reads list includes Holiday Sparks by Shannon Stacey ( A | BN | K | ARe), probably my favorite novella ever. Even if it's the opposite of the holiday season (it's a Christmas novella though the holiday plays a relatively minor role in the story), I can read it and it'll make me happy.  

I also have a few historicals that I will re-read any time I need to mellow out, or be lifted up a bit. The Summer of You by Kate Noble ( A | BN | K | ARe) is one I've read a few times, especially because the progress of the plot and the setting the characters inhabit is welcoming – and warm, because it's summer, after all. Plus there's a wry and witty humor in the heroine that I love. 

Devil's Bride by Stephanie Laurens ( A | BN | K | ARe) is also a pick me up read for a rather odd reason. The details about running a household and the ways in which Honoria manages her life, and the parts of Cynster life that encroach on her life are like flannel jammies for my brain. Everything is ordered and the details are explained and there are lists that are checked and cross checked, and all that organization coupled with the emotion, the not-quite-purple-but-definitely-lavendar prose, and the single minded pursuit that is Devil Cynster are so soothing. (Yes, I realize this is a bit strange).  

The Bad Day Re-Reads for me are slightly different from comfort reads for me, though they're definitely related. The Bad Day Re-Reads have a quality to the writing and the story that doesn't disintigrate over time and multiple readings. For me, they're all mellow and warm, and they work to make me happy every time I read them, and re-read them, and re-read them. It's a mix of enduring quality, tone, and the way in which I connected with the book. 

What about you? What are your Bad Day Re-Reads? What books do you find uplifting or guaranteed to make you feel better? Which do you recommend?

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Sarita says:

    In the very worst of times, I reach for fancy cooking magazines. But I do have a couple books I keep around for the slightly-less-dire but still rough circumstances.

    Cry Wolf by Patricia Briggs. And I love the Mercy series, but most of the time I have trouble getting into the Alpha and Omega books. It’s like the premise sounds like pure crack to me, but the execution seems just a little…blah. (purely a personal reaction). But on bad days Mercy and the awful things that always end up happening to her are too much to deal with, and Anna & Charles seem just right.

    And it’s not a romance, but Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey. It’s basically the story of a poor, pure-hearted young girl being constantly put upon by a family that just doesn’t understand until she finally wins at life in every sense. It provides a lovely sense of self-righteous catharsis on days my inner teenager is feeling cranky.

  2. 2
    Tam B. says:

    Bad Day Books are essential to your mental health I think.  Mine span a couple of genres.

    Beast Behaving Badly (Shelly Laurenston) always makes me smile and laugh.  I re-read it for fun but it is a great way to distract me from a bad day.

    Silver Shark (Ilona Andrews) is a novella that just hits all the buttons for me.  I love this novella.

    Lady of Quality / Black Sheep / Bath Tangle (Georgette Heyer).  The older (for regency) heroine engaging in banter and intelligent conversation with a man who “gets” her.  Great banter and discourse are my book crack.  Heyer does it well with a great nod to a sense of ridiculous.

    Enemy Within (Marcella Burnard).  Even when I know who the bad guys are I get swept up in this book.  The amazingly strong heroine who doubts everything and everyone and most of all her own sanity.  The hero with an agenda.  The various governments and their agendas.  And sword fighting (of a type).  I can cheerfully take a holiday in this book.

    I have a feeling this post will result in me blowing my book budget again.  :-)

  3. 3

    Julia Quinn’s novels do that for me, especially What Happens in London. But on a totally different note, Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changeling novels do it for me, too! It’s part of what I value so much about both those authors.

  4. 4
    Gry says:

    Aah – the “today sucks” books. Right now I can very easily present you with some of those titles, since they are stacked on my bedside table. Because my lif currently REALLY sucks.
    So.
    The Into the Forge/Into the Fire duology by Dennis McKiernan, and Silver Wolf, Black Falcon. Also his Faerie books.
    The Quantum Rose by Catherine Asaro. I adore that book! A very nice romance here!
    The Nantucket series by S M Stirling. Now, Stirling isn’t exactly an author that is known for his cheerful writing – he can get downright grim, but I feel that the Nantucket series does have a fairly optimistic undertone, and all the plotting done by various characters during the series tends to distract me from RL worries.
    Diana Wynne Jones – the Dark Lord of Derkholm and Year of the Griffin. These books are a hoot! Also the Crestomanci books.
    The Enchanted Forest series and the Lyra books by Patricia Wrede
    Pyramid Scheme and Pyramid Power by Eric Flint. Absolutely hilarious books!
    Robin McKinley – the Blue Sword and the Hero and the Crown

    I’m sure I can add more to the list, but this should be enough to start with!

  5. 5
    NicoleF says:

    My bad day reads follow the same mantra:  must not remind me of real life.  So I read fantasy or urban fantasy like the hurog books by Patricia Briggs or the charley Davidson books by Darynda Jones. (Also like the Pern books but I have to be ready for an epic re-read at that point.  Anything that let’s me go into a world unlike my own at the moment is what I need on a sucky day :)

  6. 6
    Annika says:

    I re-read certain scenes in the Kate Daniels books (mostly Kate and Curran interactions LOL), Patricia Briggs Mercy Thompson & Alpha and Omega series and my favorites in the Kristen Ashley Rock Chick Series.

    I also have certain scenes in books that I re-read when I feel like a need a really good cry, is that weird?

  7. 7
    Michele Mills says:

    I remember a couple of years back I had a very bad day, one of those days where you’re home alone, crying. I ended up rereading Shanna by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss. I hadn’t read that book in almost twenty years! It helped so much, sweepng me away to another time and place. I loved it just as much (despite what I could now recognize as dubious consent at the beginning)!! Sigh….Books are always there for you when you need them, aren’t they?

  8. 8
    Cathy KJ says:

    Julie James and Kresley Cole are high on my pick-me-up list, for their funny, witty characters and general “go get ‘em” attitude toward problems.

  9. 9
    rudi_bee says:

    My Bad Day Rereads include Welcome to Temptation by Jennifer Crusie, Duchess By Night by Eloisa James, and Love in the Afternoon by Lisa Kleypas. Although to be honest I have a pretty long list of books on rotation for getting over a bad or stressful day.

  10. 10
    Catherine says:

    I love this post! Definitely getting some titles to add to my never, ever ending TBR list.

    My favorite bad-day reads are “The Devil in Winter” by Lisa Kleypas and “The Devil Wears Plaid” by Teresa Medeiros. Nothing like a good alpha male/kidnapping to take my mind off whatever troubles it.

  11. 11
    BJ says:

    Mary Balogh’s Devil in Winter and the Bedwyn saga. Must have a thing for large, crazy family series, as Quinn’s Bridgerton series is also on the ‘grab when icky’ shelf, while Mari Carr’s Wild Irish series is in that folder on the Kindle.

    A couple of Lynn Kurland’s time travel romances (not the more paranormal ones on bad days….). Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. Rest of the series has been re-read but the first book is the bad day read.

    A couple more off-beat/less well-known: Into His Keeping by Gail Faulkner and Graceful Submission by Melinda Barron. Hyper-alphas who take care of the heroine ~ a good fantasy for a crappy day ;-) Oh, and if the bad day either lasts long enough or is awful enough ~ Sarah McCarty’s Promises trio.

    Also very likely to pick up a mystery ~ Catherine Aird and Dorothy L. Sayers are first choices on bad days. Less well-known than many, Aird’s border on parody of the cozy British village genre, but I love her dry humor ;-)

  12. 12
    Bona says:

    I think Lady Sophia’s Lover by Kleypas, SEP’s It Had To Be You and anything by Kinsale. Yes, I know, she’s serious and angsty, while the first two are light. But sometimes you just need to be taken to another time and place in a completely romantica, well-written story, and I find that Kinsale is the best for that. At least, it works for me.

  13. 13
    pamelia says:

    I love my comfort-reads!
    Mine are usually not light and fluffy as for some reason I enjoy a little angst when I’m feeling blue.
    “Dangerous Passion” by Lisa Marie Rice
    “Devil In Winter” by Lisa Kleypas
    The Alpha and Omega books by Patricia Briggs
    “Heaven and Hell” and “Knight” by Kristen Ashley—although I really have to say anything by Kristen Ashley which usually turns into a mega reread of her Rock Chick books, her Colorado Mountain books, her Dream Man books … you get the picture!
    The Chesapeake Bay books by Nora Roberts
    Jennifer Ashley’s Shifters Unbound series.
    Wow… I do reread a lot!  :)

  14. 14
    Aliyah says:

    I think the books/authors I go to depend on the level of the bad day:
    -day kinda sucked but there will be a fight to be had—bring on the Faith Hunter Jane Yellowrock series
    -I hate my boss, I hate my boss, I hate my boss—Julie James’ legal books
    -I want to quit NOW!—leave a pile of paperback Nora Roberts (Honest Illusion, ParaNora, Montana Sky, etc.) and back away slowly

    And I know that not all bad days are work related (I’m hoping for me it’s an age thing and will get better with time) so for those Sunday mornings where you want to spend the day in your pjs (but can’t) I tend to turn to Ilona Andrews, Sherry Thomas, Nalini Singh or Jax Garren’s Underlight series. It’s lovely to stick your head in the sand for a couple of hours and feel better afterwards.

  15. 15
    HJ says:

    Georgette Heyer, and Mary Stewart – both comfort and pick-me-up reads.

  16. 16
    bethy1017 says:

    This may sound weird, but my “I need to be cheered up” books are Anne Bishop’s Black Jewels trilogy. They’re dark fantasy, and very violent and disturbing at times, but also full of love and family and sacrifice, and the characters are the best I think I have ever seen. I have read them so many times now that they’re like old friends, and they always make me feel better when I read them.

  17. 17
    frannie says:

    For me, bad day reads would include anything by Rachel Gibson, Loretta Chase’s Your Scandalous Ways, Lois McMaster Bujold’s A Civil Campaign and the Barrayar books, and Crusie’s Welcome to Temptation.

  18. 18
    SL says:

    Strangely, my bad day reads are not romance. Usually it’s the urban fantasy books by Charles de Lint, especially his short story collections, Tapping the Dream Tree and Moonlight and Vines. It’s the mix of real life problems mixed with a little bit of magic that make it seem like all will come out right, if not perfectly, that work for me.

  19. 19
    Heather S says:

    Mine would be:

    “The Persian Boy” by Mary Renault
    The “Faith, Love, and Devotion” series by Tere Michaels (“Faith & Fidelity”, skipping “Love & Loyalty” and moving on to “Duty & Devotion” because I want more of Matt and Evan)
    “Mother of the Believers” by Kamran Pasha
    “Almost Like Being In Love” by Steve Kluger (this one is just good feels all the way)
    “American Love Songs” by Ashlyn Kane (one of the heroes is a guitar-playing nerdy guy, so cute)
    “Pride and Prejudice” (Duh. Jane Austen writes witty snark better than anyone)
    “Just Kids” by Patti Smith (where better to go than 1960s/70s bohemian New York?)
    And sometimes I’ll bust out the manga if it’s really bad:
    “Yellow” by Makoto Tateno
    “Hate to Love You” by Makoto Tateno
    “Ka Shin Fu” by Makoto Tateno
    The “Finder” series by Ayano Yamane
    “The Tyrant Falls In Love” by Hinako Takanaga

  20. 20
    kkw says:

    If bad day rereads are distinct from comfort rereads, I don’t think I go in for them. And I rarely reread romance novels anyway.
    If I’m having a really bad day, any printed material will do. Shampoo bottles, the newspaper, religious pamphlets, calorie counts, doesn’t matter. The act of reading pleases me, calms me down, even if the content is irritating.

  21. 21
    Mia West says:

    Adding Catherine’s DEVIL recommendations to my bad-day stash :)

    If I want to laugh, I’ll dive back into a Tessa Dare book.

    If I want to wallow a bit, I’ll go with something angsty by Sherry Thomas.

    If I want to get caught up in the language and emotion, I’ll pick up a Juliana Gray or Cecilia Grant’s A LADY AWAKENED.

  22. 22
    Lori says:

    Great idea to share these.
    Definitely have Jennifer Crusie books nearby for a book to cheer me up, and yes Heyer books are on the list as well.  I also enjoy re-reading some novellas for a quick pick me up at the end of a long day.  Just about any of Mary Calmes novellas will do it, Cherish by Tere Michaels, Cardeno C.‘s Home Series.  They are all low angst, some humour, and pick up my day.

  23. 23
    Heather S says:

    @ Lori: I really only liked “Cherish” because Matt and Evan were in it. I honestly don’t reread that one unless I feel like diverting my “punch a jerk in the face” instincts to a fictional character, because Miranda is such a drama queen and so obnoxious that I just want to SLUG HER. Matt and Evan do provide some compensation for that, though. I love these guys. I really, really do. I tend to revert to the full-length books for bad day/comfort reads (the books in those lists are pretty much all the same for me).

  24. 24

    On a bad day, I reach for the Terry Pratchett. I’m pretty much guaranteed a laugh, there’s emotion but not the kind of angsty emotion that could possibly make me feel worse, things work out in the end for the people we like, and no matter how many times I’ve read one of these books, I always find some little detail I didn’t notice before.

    Since my mom has the same habit, we also know we can call each other and just say a line from one of these books and get each other laughing.

    When it’s a darker kind of bad day, I like Dick Francis. Again, things work out well in the end for our hero, there’s usually a romantic subplot that gives the impression it will be HEA, but he also kind of tortures his heroes—they suffer on the way to the happy ending, and that suffering puts whatever I’m going through into perspective. At least I don’t have any broken bones!

  25. 25
    Teri says:

    I don’t usually reread books but I love Amanda Quick books, and will save her new novel for just the right time.

  26. 26

    Whenever I’m really upset, I re-read Three Fates by Nora Roberts.  After Hurricane Sandy, as soon as I had power, I immediately opened it up on my Kindle and it took my mind off of everything but the Sullivans and their quest to bring the Fates back together again.

    I also like to go back to the earlier In Death novels, especially Loyalty in Death when I need to be comforted.  I don’t really know why.  Maybe it is because so much crazy shit happens in that book, so there is very little that can actually happen that is worse than what happens in there (except actual terrorism, of course).

    I have been known to do a re-read of the Harry Potter books as well, but I need to be really conflicted to do that.  I figure it takes me back to my childhood when I read those books for the first time and it makes me think of when things were good.

  27. 27
    leftcoaster says:

    Ohhh, I have a long list because of how much medical stuff our little guy has going on.

    Here’s the most recent re-reads

    Knaves Wager and Your Scandalous Ways from Loretta Chase
    The Alpha and Omega Series from Patricia Briggs
    P&P and Persuasion from Jane Austen
    Short Soup from Colleen Kwan
    What I Did For A Duke from Julie Ann Long
    The legal series from Julie James
    The chocolate series from Laura Florand
    One Hot Night collection from Noelle Adams
    Her Best Worst Mistake from Sarah Mayberry
    Guilty Pleasures from Laura Lee Guhrke
    Bet Me from Julie Crusie
    Season for Surrender from Theresa Romain

    I think I’ll be adding Sharing Space from Nina Perez to my re-read list, it was the best thing I’ve read in a while and I was bummed when the books were done.

  28. 28
    CK says:

    Anything by Shelly Laurenston/G.A. Aiken. They always make me laugh. She’s my go to for any blah day or to get me out of a reading slump.

  29. 29
    Lostshadows says:

    For me it depends on what kind of a bad day I’m having.

    If I need a laugh I reach for Good Omens (Gaiman & Pratchett) or Small Gods (Pratchett)  I’ll probably try rereading Discount Armageddon (McGuire) next time, that was a hoot.

    If I need an excuse to cry I reach for Tempting Fate (Yarbro) or Phantom (Susan Kay). I not only know they’ll make me cry, I know exactly when they’ll make me cry.

    Other than that, I just head for an old favorite, which is a long list, but includes some old beFabioed Johanna Lindseys and Mary Jo Putney’s Silk trilogy. Other highlights are most of Timothy Zahn’s SW books, especially the Thrawn trilogy, LotR, and various fairy tale collections. (Generally Grimm’s, but sometimes Andrew Lang’s technicolor ones.)

    I also like comic books as a pick me up.

  30. 30
    cin says:

    Although there may be some content overlap between my bad day re-reads and my comfort re-reads, I approach them totally differently.  When I have a “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day,” I re-read scenes from favorite books or possibly short stories.  When I need a comfort re-read, I want to immerse myself for longer, so I will read the whole book. 

    The goal when I have a bad day is to try to take my mind off of things as quickly as I can.  I re-read scenes from books that have nothing to do with real life (or at least my life) and are very well written and make me happy.  I tend to look to Ilona Andrews (various Kate and Curran scenes or Curran POVs), Sharon Shinn (she has some great short stories as well as the Archangel, 13th House, and Elemental Blessing books), Anne Bishop, Patricia Briggs (Alpha and Omega or some of her older books, like When Demons Walk), Nalini Singh (the first Archangel book) and/or some excellent young adult authors like Kristin Cashore (Graceling and Fire) and Melina Marchetta (the Lumatere Chronicles).

    Funny, when I think about it, when I need a quick mood-changer, I usually pick up an actual book (vs. my kindle).  I have a stack of favorites in my bedside table and that is where I go first.  Not sure why that is….

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