By Lucy Pettigrew
From 8-12 October (THIS WEEK!) York St John University is holding its inaugural ‘Comfort Reads Week’, hosted by ILE as part of Libraries Week. This week of events seeks to celebrate and explore the power of reading for wellbeing. To get in the mood, we asked our students to tell us about their favourite comfort reads. In this post, Lucy Pettigrew shares her love for Ned Vizzini’s It’s a Kind of Funny Story.
Even though some people might view reading a book multiple times as pointless (“why read it again when you can read new things?!”), I think re-reading is one of the most comforting things about books. It’s warming to put yourself back into your favourite narrative without having to think about any new devices such as world-building; you already know the setting and the characters!
My favourite comfort read, without a doubt, is Ned Vizzini’s young-adult novel It’s Kind of a Funny Story. I first read this book in 2014 when I was 15 after spying it in my local Waterstones and being drawn in by how it looked. I loved the design of the cover as well as the yellow background (yellow is my happy colour so anything yellow draws me in, and it’s fitting that this became my favourite book and happy place!).
It’s Kind of a Funny Story is about a teenager called Craig Gilner who suffers from depression and has been under the care of many therapists. He studies hard to get into his dream school which he manages to do, however the pressure becomes way too much for him and he almost kills himself because of it. Craig then gets admitted to a psychiatric hospital ward, meets lots of people he feels inspired by and attached to, and goes on a journey of self-discovery and happiness.
Now, I can imagine that you’re wondering why this is my comfort read and favourite book if it deals with such a heavy topic as suicide (and this book also needs a trigger warning for things such as eating disorders), but what always makes me feel at home when reading this is the sense of hope. This is especially prominent at the end as the last line (after Craig reels off positive things in his life) is “So now live for real, Craig. Live. Live. Live. Live. Live.” This sense of hope will forever inspire me and make me feel warm inside (I know that’s cheesy but it’s true!). It forever inspires me to keep working at happiness and whenever I feel a bit down I always read the last few pages to remind me that the possibilities in life are endless and happiness will always find me (that’s also very cheesy, but again, it doesn’t make it false!).
Another reason this book is my ultimate comfort read is more personal (and I’m a bit nervous about putting this online but here we go…) – I was in a similar position to Craig in that I also spent time in a psychiatric hospital for a few months. This book gives me that feeling of hope that Craig and I shared as we both left those dark parts of our lives behind and reminds me to keep living as happily as I now know is possible. I read It’s Kind of a Funny Story in hospital a few times, too, as I needed some familiarity in amongst the unknown and it forever motivated me in my recovery to a happier, better and healthier life. So, I will always treasure my copy; it’s been with me throughout all the highs and lows of my teenage life from 2014 until now. Because of this, the book is highly nostalgic for me and it will always make me feel at home when I’m reading it, no matter where I am.
Do you have a favourite Comfort Read you return to time and again? If so, and you’d like to share your love in a 600-800-word post, email one of our sub-editors: Ellie Anderson-Ingham, Adam Cummins or Charlotte Stevenson.