Comfort reading is something I write about regularly and it's a familiar term to romance readers. One thing we do often is re-read books, especially books we love. Romance is, if you haven't gathered, a very intimate genre, not only because it depicts the emotions surrounding courtship, but also because it invites empathy from the reader based on those same emotions. So if you think about the emotions you feel in a relationship – love, fear, joy, attraction, for example – and you think about the fact that romance is asking the reader to identify with or even feel a portion of those same emotions, you can understand how re-reading a much loved book can be a heady, absorbing experience.

Comfort reads are a specific type of re-reading. Comfort reads are those books that are the reading equivalent of your favorite pajamas, the most fuzzy blanket, the familiar recipe, warm beverages, and everything that makes your body feel cared for and, well, comforted. Books that inspire that same feeling of being cared for are what I call comfort reads, and each reader's comfort read list is a little different.

Some relish the experience of being scared by dark and mysterious obstacles, or the satisfaction of seeing villains obliterated by the forces of good. I used to have a bootleg copy of “Doom,” a video game that required me to reboot my computer in DOS mode (I'm going back a few years, aren't I?) so that I could shoot aliens and save the world. I never got into gaming or first-person shooter games, but when I had a bad day, “Doom” was a marvelous thing. I would use a cheat code to give myself all the weapons and destroy any bad guys in my path by reducing them to a crispy rubble. I don't know what weapon that was, but a few rounds and I felt much better.

Some comfort reads are like that, too, especially when there's an epic battle or incredibly difficult odds to be faced, and seeing the slim possibility of victory and security widen to a certainty can be very satisfying when one needs some mental comfort.

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Though I do like reducing aliens to a crispy fried state, my comfort reads also allow me to reassure myself that all will be okay in the end – which in romances it nearly always is – and that people are basically decent, good and generous. I love the experience of being charmed by beautiful writing and quietly invited into a different reality, no matter how repeated it is – I've read some of my comfort reads hundreds of times, probably. Books that become comfort reads for me are so well composed that I discover something new each time I re-read them, something that only familiarity would reveal the sixth or tenth or fiftieth time around.

The books that I call my comfort reads change, but the books I'm reading now include Cry Wolf by Patricia Briggs, Devil's Bride by Stephanie Laurens, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, and some of the Pennyroyal Green series by Julie Anne Long, including What I Did for a Duke and How the Marquess Was Won. But my list does change, and new books are added to it when I find myself happily sighing at the end and looking to re-experience the story when I need the comfort of well-written familiar characters and emotions.

This year, my concept of thanks and thanksgiving are a little different, because so much of New Jersey was decimated by Sandy, and so many people are cold, discouraged and in need of comfort. Whether it's the prospect of cleaning out everything one owns from a wet, soggy house or seeing those same images on television and knowing it's your neighbor, feeling helpless is way too common right now. But, as I'm sure you know, there are also some amazing examples of people doing generous things to help: strangers showing up in teams to help people clean out their homes, volunteers cooking thousands of meals to feed everyone in a town with no power, crews from utilities across the country and as far away as Canada and California driving in to help turn the lights back on. Comfort reads do the same for the brain, I think: they come in to a fretful mind and invite a few hours of escape, tranquility and relaxation, so in the morning, the brain and the body can get back to work.

I hope your Thanksgiving is peaceful, plentiful, and warm, and I hope your world and your reading is wonderful and comforting.

What are your comfort reads? Do you keep a revolving list like I do? Which is your favorite?

Sarah Wendell is the co-creator, editor and mastermind of the popular romance blog Smart Bitches, Trashy Books.