Two of the top ten comfort authors (Nora Roberts and Jayne Ann Krentz) write under more than one pen name. Many who participated on the poll made a clear distinction between the pen names. Some voters, for example, listed J.D. Robb, but not Nora Roberts, or Amanda Quick but not Jayne Ann Krentz. Because of this, we present the results both ways, resulting in a major change. Jayne Ann Krentz, who appears with all her aka's as third on the list, drops out of the top ten entirely when each aka is considered separately. Perhaps a bit more surprisingly, given how much better J.D. Robb has fared in recent annual reader polls at AAR, it is her Nora Roberts pen name that scored highest when considered by itself - J.D. Robb doesn't make the top ten - although perhaps fewer readers turn to romantic suspense for "comfort". More importantly, though, Linda Howard then moves up from number two to number one.
Since one of the original mini-polls we conducted in 2000 was for comfort read authors, let's now examine 2006's results in comparison. The table on the left, below, compares authors inclusive of their akas...the table to the right, below, separates out pen names.
There have been some clear changes from the previous mini-poll, conducted in 2000. Julie Garwood, number one in 2000, moved to seventh place in the current poll. Many voters wrote notes next to Garwood’s name in their ballot, that they only found her “older historicals” to be comfort reads. Mary Jo Putney dropped out of the top ten entirely while Julia Quinn moved up from 19th place in 2000 to third place in the current poll, and Jennifer Crusie moved from 19th to 8th place. And Lisa Kleypas, who didn't crack the top twenty in 2000, landed in the fifth postion of authors sans their aka's, and six place for those inclusive of their pen names.
All told, AAR readers gave at least one vote for 330 different authors. In addition to the top ten, many other authors received numerous votes. The next group of authors, the rest of the top 25, received at least 100 points (remember, this is a ranked poll...on each ballot the author in first place earns ten points; if she is in tenth place on a ballot, she earns one point.
As you can see from the results, two authors (Loretta Chase and Jennifer Crusie) have two titles each in the top ten. And a few of the top ten authors have another title or two in the extended list:
The Best of the Rest – Numbers 11-25
It Had To Be You - SEP (1994)
The Secret - Julie Garwood (1992)
As You Desire - Connie Brockway (1997)
Paradise - Judith McNaught (1992)
Outlander - Diana Gabaldon (1991)
Nobody's Baby But Mine - SEP (1997)
Mackenzie's Mountain - Linda Howard (1989)
Dream Man - Linda Howard (1998)
Almost Heaven - Judith McNaught (1990)
The Windflower - Laura London (1984)/
Saving Grace - Julie Garwood (1993)
Devil's Cub - Georgette Heyer (1932)
The Temporary Wife - Mary Balogh (1997)
Ransom - Julie Garwood (1999)
A Kingdom of Dreams - Judith McNaught (1989)
The authors with the greatest number of titles on voters' ballots are as follows:
Nora Roberts 28
Mary Balogh 25
Linda Howard 22
Jayne Ann Krentz 16
Georgette Heyer 15
Suzanne Brockmann 13
Julie Garwood 12
Jo Beverley 11
Lisa Kleypas 11
Judith McNaught 11
Julia Quinn 11
Johanna Lindsey 10
LaVyrle Spencer 10
Loretta Chase 9
Jennifer Crusie 9
Mary Jo Putney 9
You can see that even though Nora Roberts, Jayne Anne Krentz, Suzanne Brockmann, Jo Beverley, Johanna Lindsey, LaVyrle Spencer, and Mary Jo Putney had numerous titles named on ballots, not one of their titles cracked the top 25. Also interesting is that only five of the books were published in the past five years. One final note. The top 25 contained 16 historicals to 8 contemporaries. “Outlander” is a time travel story, so it’s in a category all by itself.
Clearly "comfort" means something different to each individual. Several readers indicated that "comfort" meant books they wanted to reread, time and time again. For others, a comfort read was one that offered a great deal of humor, and for others still, a comfort book is one that allows a reader to block out every-day life while reading, which accounts for some of the darker titles on the lists. This tends to be true for comfort read authors as well, although some readers listed certain authors because of a style or basic level of quality.
For LinnieGayl, comfort books are those she wants to pull out and read again, sometimes only read favorite sections, when she's sick, tired, or going through stressful periods. To Lee, "comfort" means that readers know the story is well-written and the characters are believable. With so many new books being published every year, and so few of them exploring new territory, these “comfort” books are ones that readers know are good from the get-go. There’s not a wallbanger in the bunch.
It seems as if, by and large, the favorite comfort reads for AAR voters were older books, with many in the top 10 being published in the early to mid-1990s. However, there was an incredible variety in the types of "comfort" titles listed by voters. While many were clearly funny books, others were rather violent suspense books. While LinnieGayl adores the "In Death" series, she doesn't find them particularly "comforting," although clearly many AAR readers do. The suspense novel aspect was something Lee noticed as well. When she analyzed the top 25 books, she noticed many of the titles have long been discussed on various message boards here at AAR, and even though some feature violence, for most it's not the main focus. Lee was puzzled, however, by the high ranking of Mr. Perfect though. While she enjoyed the light-hearted premise of the story, after the friends started getting murdered, it turned into a different book altogether. Even though she finished the book, she "knew" she wouldn't read it again. On the other hand, Cindy like LinnieGayl, often turns to parts of books rather than the entire book, which is why Mr. Perfect is a comfort read for her.
We invite you to consider these questions and post about these poll results:
How did you define comfort?
Do you read the book from start to finish or just your favourite parts?
Have your comfort reads changed over the years or do you find that you are always drawn back to an old favourite?
How do you use comfort reads? Are they there to jump you out of a slump? There to help you when you are having a bad time? Or are they there to remind you of how a book should make you feel?