A Visit With Old Friends

Last month I posted a couple of questions on Facebook—both the author page and the Beekeeper’s Apprentices group—wondering what people had been reading in the past year.  I wasn’t really surprised to find that many of you, like I, have been reaching for old friends.  In 2020, reading was heavily re-reading.

“I hang out with my literary friends instead,” one of you said.  Another put it, “rereading…is like paying a visit to an old friend in a time of isolation.”  “When I had no courage for new books and not much of an attention span, rereading Mary Russell’s adventures kept me sane.”

Courage is a good word for it.  I did read new books—I bought a whole lot of new books—but frankly, it’s only since the end of January that I’ve begun to pick up those that I know are going to be challenging, either mentally or spiritually.

Too many challenges in 2020.  Too much spiritual and mental battering, too much noir—where the hero probably loses, and the villain walks away unscathed—and not enough cozy—stories where the reader knows that things will be solved and the right people win, in the end.

Which may be why my re-reading also inclined toward humor.  Silly or dark, slapstick or subtle, humor has been a lifesaver.  Keeping Terry Pratchett, John Scalzi, Jodi Taylor, and Ben Aaronovitch on my night-stand let me sleep, secure in the conviction that smart, funny, and humane people are out there, and that those of us who love smart humor will prevail.

It’s been a long, dark twelve months, stupidly and unnecessarily long, and claustrophobically dark even for those of us who managed to get to 2021 without direct tragedy and loss. It’s a wound that will take time to heal.

And fiction helps.  The community of book-lovers helps.  Writers who make us grin and even laugh aloud help hugely, returning air to our lungs and perspective to our minds.

So this is a thank you, to all of you out there who kept in touch, who kept reading, who used my work to find community, find sanity, even used it to find inspiration for projects of your own.  My thanks to you all, let me know in the comments if you have recommendations for smart, funny, humane writers I may have missed—and I’ll end this with the sign-off I’ve been using on many emails over past months:

Keep safe, keep sane, keep reading.

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  1. Mary on March 2, 2021 at 5:57 pm

    Beautifully said, Laurie….of course it would be!

  2. Prudence Court on March 2, 2021 at 7:07 pm

    Love, love Ben Aaronovitch! I’m reading all of the Maise Dobbs books by Jacqueline Winspear.

  3. janet on March 2, 2021 at 7:17 pm

    I missed that post, but I’ve been devouring, and been most thankful for, all the e-books. I’ve also been re-reading favorite authors as well as new ones, such as your Holmes/Russell series and Deborah Crombie’s Kincaid/Gemma. Just finished the last one in the latter series yesterday once again. I see you have Dick Francis there. I’ve always enjoyed his and Felix is carrying on as if there were no difference. Rosemary Sutcliff books always make me happy and for some very light, enjoyable stuff, Elizabeth Cadell. There are many, many more, but that’s good to start with. 🙂

  4. Susan Huppi on March 2, 2021 at 8:01 pm

    I have reread old favorites. While I am staying current with your series I have reread Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, Dorothy Sayers and Josephine Tey.

  5. Anita Wright on March 2, 2021 at 9:26 pm

    Yours and Eileen Dreyer were my two go-to authors for the past year.
    I seriously only found a new read a week or so ago.
    Longest I have gone in years without a new read.

  6. John Hill on March 3, 2021 at 6:11 am

    Great to see some shared personal favourites: Pratchett is always a go to in trying times, especially the witches with the yin of Granny Weatherwax balanced by the yang of Nanny Ogg. Ben Aaronovitch is certainly carrying on the tradition admirably, while Reginald Hill was a timely reminder to reread some, especially the later novels. And ones I don’t know; so more to explore. Thank you.

  7. Dorothy Carey on March 3, 2021 at 6:45 am

    My NY City co-op has a Womens’ Club, and a book group within that. I got to choose the April book: “Mrs. Dalloway” by Virginia Woolf. I can hardly wait for the discussion.

    • Laurie King on May 5, 2021 at 12:17 am

      Hope it was a great discussion!

  8. Katy on March 3, 2021 at 8:19 am

    The Beekeeper’s Apprentice is always the book I turn to when I need comfort. I’ve read each book in the series at least twice, but I’ve easily read Apprentice dozens of times. This past year was no different – I read both the physical copy and listened to the audiobook. I also craved cozy mysteries – where no matter how suspenseful it is, I knew the bad guys would be caught and the good guys would walk away to see another day. So much comfort when the world was (is!) so very upside down and backwards and heartbreaking.

    • Laurie King on May 5, 2021 at 12:17 am

      Familiar friends are a blessing, true.

  9. Pat McAnally on March 3, 2021 at 3:53 pm

    Courage is a perfect word. Can’t deal with dark books now either. Besides your books, I’ve reread the whole Southern Sisters series by Anne George, Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody, classic British mysteries by Josephine Tey (highly recommend Daughter of Time) and Ngaio Marsh, Harry Potter, Dorothy Sayers, and just finished a Jane Austen immersion. Also recommend the All Creatures Great and Small remake on PBS for the scenery alone (even though the books are better.) Lighter yet intriguing stuff should be part of all our self-care rituals right now.

    • Laurie King on May 5, 2021 at 12:15 am


  10. Judith Bassett on March 7, 2021 at 3:44 am

    Dear Laurie. I want to thank you for your wonderful Holmes and Russell books. They are a breath of fresh air, even more so in these difficult times. I am a stitcher and I listen via audio books while I work. Life has changed in so many ways with all the restrictions, but we are slowly returning to a new kind of normality. I have decided to adopt the wonderful Captain Tom Moore’s motto. Tomorrow will be a good day, and wish you well

    • Laurie King on May 5, 2021 at 12:14 am

      I like the image of the storyteller’s voice in your ear as you work.
      Keep well.

  11. Barbara Dale Kline on March 15, 2021 at 9:12 pm

    Thank you for the blog about revisiting old friends. Revisiting old friends(earlier novels) has helped a lot

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