Wednesday 29 January 2014

My Magnificent Seven: Comfort Reads

I have been wanting to start a new feature on The Book Zone for some time, which I am calling My Magnificent Seven (#mymag7). As an occasional mobile DJ (much less these days than I would like due to time constraints) I was for many years an avid follower of the Top 40. Like many people of my age, every Sunday evening I would pop a Do Not Disturb sign on my bedroom door and sit there, TDK D90 cassette (or AD90 when I could afford them) loaded into my tape recorder, finger poised on the pause button ready to record my favourite tunes from the separate radio. How happy I was when I got my first combined radio/tape player and no longer had to worry about ambient noise (of which there was rather a lot as I had three younger sisters and a younger brother). I also love lists (have you seen the Music Listography and Film Listography journals? If you are a fellow 'lists' fan then you will love them).

With this in mind I wanted to create a new feature that is made up of lists. I want to use this feature to reveal a little more about myself and my reading interests, and also remind you of some of the great books out there, that have been around for a while and are at risk of being forgotten. I appreciate that there is a Top Ten Tuesday meme that take place on a variety of blogs, but I am not a fan of memes and I don't want to be restricted to just posting these on Tuesdays. It's also unlikely that this will be a weekly feature - I will be posting it as and when time permits. I would also love to hear about your favourites so please do comment.

And so, My Magnificent Seven launches with:

My Magnificent Seven Comfort Reads

We all have comfort reads: books we turn to when we are feeling down, or in a reading slump. Books that we love returning to time and time again, no matter how many times we have read them in the past. In no particular order (except for the first two), here are mine:

Modesty Blaise by Peter O'Donnell

I have mentioned my love for Peter O'Donnell's Modesty Blaise series a number of times since I started The Book Zone. I love the series as a whole - I feel it is far more accessible and enjoyable than Fleming's James Bond books, and the character of Modesty Blaise is far more enjoyable to read. The books are not child friendly as they contain the occasional 'sexy scene', but for older readers they are great, quick reads. Despite the first book, Modesty Blaise, being written back in 1965, the books have aged pretty well (again, far better than the Bond books have in my opinion). Don't be put off by the pink cover of the first edition - these books are certainly not girly. Modesty is a great character for boys to read, and a great role model for girl readers. There is also none of the misogyny that permeates through the Bond books. Oh yes, and Peter O'Donnell write particularly great villains.

For many years these books were out of print and only available in charity shops (some of my old paperback copies are looking very battered and well read now) but a while back the wonderful people at Souvenir Press reprinted most of the series and I believe most of them are readily available these days. The character first appeared in a daily newspaper comic strip and it's also worth noting that the good people at Titan Books publish a large number of collected editions of these. I have a few of them and if you like graphic novels they are well worth getting your hands on. 

As I have said, the whole series could count as a comfort read for me, but the book I have read the most (out of every book I have ever read, I might add), is the first, Modesty Blaise, and although the books don't necessarily have to be read in order, I would strongly recommend it.

The Stainless Steel Rat by Harry Harrison

I wrote a tribute post about the Stainless Steel Rat books back in August 2012 following the sad passing of Harry Harrison. There's little more I can say here that I didn't say then, other than that I have read these books almost as many times as I have read the Modesty Blaise series. To save you having to jump over to that post, this is what I said at the time:
If you have boys who love science fiction and/or comedy then I simply cannot recommend them enough. As my own personal tribute to Mr Harrison I have re-read The Stainless Steel Rat today and yet again I was left with the feeling that it, and his other stories, are timeless and can have just as much appeal with 12+ boys today as they did with me back in the 1980s. Aside from Jim DiGriz himself they are full of great characters - Angelina, the ex-psychopath who still harbours minor homicidal tendencies, especially where Jim's safety (or fidelity) is concerned; Inskipp, the forever grumpy and long-suffering director of the Special Corps; the diGriz twins, just as devious and charming as their father. And on top of this, like Peter O'Donnell, Harry Harrison also writes damn good villains - the Grey Men are a particular favourite, appearing in The Stainless Steel Rat's Revenge, and also in a later book in the series (which I'm not going to name as it might contain spoilers).
The great thing is that back in 2012 the good people at SF Gateway released all of the series in ebook format.

Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators

I'm going to include the whole series as a comfort read here and not single out any particular book. I have loved these ever since I was a child, and although they have dated a little as the three young detectives manage to solve all of their mysteries with no use of mobile phones or the internet, I still find them just as enjoyable today. They can be read in any order, and so I often pick a random title from the series if I feel I need a hit nostalgic reading.

The BFG by Roald Dahl

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was my favourite Roald Dahl story when I was a child, but as an adult that has been usurped in my affections by The BFG. I love it and never tire of reading it.

The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings

I love these books and although some might say that The Lord of the Rings might be a little chunky to be a comfort read, there have been many times in the past when I have taken great delight in getting completely lost in Middle Earth. Back in 1994 when I was working on a kibbutz in Israel I took my much read copy of TLotR with me, expecting it to last me some time. The free time we had meant I finished it quicker than anticipated, and I ended up reading it three times in the six months I was travelling. As for The Hobbit? I have a battered old paperback, and also a lovely hardcover edition from way back, but I am now setting my sights on buying this lovely new edition, illustrated by Jemima Catlin.

The Tintin books by Hergé

I don't think I need to say much about these. I love them and always will! If I had to name a favourite, I think it would have to be The Black Island. it is the first Tintin book I can remember reading, and it introduced me to a lifelong love of the series (thank you to whichever teacher purchased it for Telford First School back in the day).

The Asterix books by Goscinny and Uderzo

My love for these is almost as great as my love for the Tintin books, and again, if I had to name a favourite, I would probably go for Asterix in Britain or Asterix and Cleopatra.


So there you have My Magnificent Seven Comfort Reads. I'd love to hear about yours so please leave a comment.


  1. Great list. Here are two of mine:

    Clive Barker's THE THIEF OF ALWAYS
    J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series

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  2. Interesting. Will go look up Modesty Blaise now. The books I frequently reread are the Wild Magic series by Tamora Pierce (especially the first). They were the first books I read that felt properly grown up but weren't as poncy as I found a lot of adult books to be. I still wish I was Daine (I've at least got the archery thing going on now, if not the actual longbow) and Numair Salmalin is still quietly a favourite of mine. I will happily buy anything by Ms Pierce just because I loved her books so much when I was younger.

    Another one is Redwall by Brian Jacques. I think I got a few raised eyebrows when I picked this up aged 10, especially as books with armies of fighting one-eyed rats on the front cover aren't exactly, well, girly. Still, I adored this series and Matthias was always one of my favourite heroes.

    As an adult (technically), my favourite books are Jasper Fforde's Nursery Crime Division series. If only there weren't just two of them!

  3. Hi both

    Andrew - the Harry Potter books came very close to making the list. If I'd had an eight place then they would have been on there.

    Bookauhu - I've not read any of the books you've mentioned. is that bad of me? To be honest, the Redwall books have never appealed as I really struggle with stories featuring talking/athropomorphic animals.

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  5. Great list! Tintin and Astérix are part of mine, too. I grew up reading them and can't even remember which ones were the first that I read. Another two of my list would be XIII and Sherlock Holmes.