1. David Nicholls 

If rom-coms are the most comforting type of movie, then David Nicholls writes the most comforting type of novel. He is best known for One Day, a moving but also funny and warm novel on friendship, love and the passing of time. Starter for Ten, about an awkward first-year trying to get onto University Challenge, and Us, which follows a family on a tour of the great art of Europe, are equally relaxing and heart-warming to read. Incidentally, Nicholls also has an incredibly gentle and soothing voice, so if you spot a podcast with him make sure to give it a listen. 

  1. Louisa May Alcott 

Little Women was the first classic I ever read and, as a 10-year-old, I thought it was mind-numbingly boring. So, I started reading it whenever I couldn’t sleep and gradually over the years, after rereading it many times, it has become the most comforting book imaginable to me. The warmth of the family, the relationships between the sisters and their kindness towards others in the community bring me so much joy. It is the most worn book on my bookshelf and, ten years later, definitely not a boring read anymore!

  1. Roald Dahl 

Roald Dahl was my childhood hero – I can still recite passages of Fantastic Mr. Fox and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory from memory. His worlds are so beautifully fantastical that reading these books now has to be one of the easiest ways to return to the imagination and wonder of being a child. I actually decided this week to read one of Dahl’s books of short stories for adults, Kiss Kiss. They are significantly more macabre and sexual than the books of my childhood but at their core they are just as surprising, extraordinary and funny. What could be more comforting now than reading short stories about a man who turns into a bee and a celibate vicar who gets eaten by a woman?

  1. Elizabeth Strout 

Whilst Roald Dahl is comforting to read because his books take us far away from reality, Elizabeth Strout is comforting to read precisely because she writes so well about reality. She is best known for Olive Kitteridge and My Name is Lucy Barton and I am yet to find someone who hasn’t fallen absolutely in love with these books after reading them. The prose is deceivingly simple and easy to read but gives such a profound insight into the relationships within communities and families, two groups which have suddenly become significantly more important. 

  1. William Boyd 

William Boyd is the master of the immersive story. His books often chronicle one character through every stage of their life, capturing them so skilfully that they begin to feel uncannily real. I read Sweet Caress when I was 16 but I can still visualise every stage of Amory Clay’s life, from her relationships in 1920s Berlin to her career as a photographer in the Second World War, as if it had been told to me by a friend. Any Human Heart is equally absorbing, written as the journals of a writer and his experiences of the events of the twentieth century – he even meets Virginia Woolf, Evelyn Waugh and James Joyce. The filmic dreaminess of Love is Blind also makes it the perfect book to curl up in bed with for a day. 

Is there a book which is particularly important to you? A new discovery or an old favourite which inspires or uplifts? We want to hear about it! Send in pitches (the more personal the better) to jessica.curry@st-hughs.ox.ac.uk and yjdeng267@gmail.com to be featured on our brand new weekly ‘Friday Favourite’ article.