What do you do when you’re stressed out? Do you binge-eat Twinkies or binge-watch Netflix? As for me, it’s neither. When my stress level is off the charts, there’s nothing that can comfort me like reading a kick-ass thriller.
Rereading classics or my other favorites during stressful times never quite works. It turns out I don’t really want to dive into the symbolisms of “Moby Dick” or “Middlemarch.” “Mrs. Dalloway” only adds to my anxieties. Although I enjoy romances, I resent happily-ever-after endings during a time of crisis! Mind you, these are the types of books I read during calmer times.
So, what to do? I often end up choosing a thriller. If you’re looking to escape life’s pressures even just for an hour every day, pick up a thriller.
Ultimate Comfort Read
Here are the top three reasons why thrillers are the ultimate comfort read.
#1 Page-turning pacing and action. Most thrillers are action-packed. Psychological thrillers such as “The Girl on the Train,” “Gone Girl,” or “Broken Harbor” may not have as much physical conflict as Lee Child or Preston & Child books, but they have a similar on-the-edge-of-your-seat pacing. You will forget about your worries well into the night because you won’t be able to put the book down.
#2 Complex plots. A good thriller almost always starts with a simple scenario and then veers unexpectedly toward layers and layers of complexity. Dashiell Hammett’s “The Maltese Falcon” opens with Miss Wonderly hiring private eye Sam Spade and his partner, Miles Archer, because her sister has disappeared. You can bet there’s nothing simple about this case.
#3 Good versus evil. A thriller usually involves a good guy trying to stop the bad guys from harming someone or wreaking havoc. The two camps are clearly delineated, which I find comforting. When I read about Jack Reacher in Lee Child’s books, I just want Reacher—an anti-hero good guy—to wipe out all the baddies.
When I read literary novels or women’s fiction, I can never be sure if the ending is going to be a downer or maybe a “non-ending” with things still up in the air. I enjoy those too, but only when I’m in a better mood. When I’m overloaded and burned out, I want the thorough satisfaction and 100 percent closure of a kick-ass ending, which I know I will get after the good guy (preferably Jack Reacher) has demolished all the bad guys.
At one point last year, I read Lee Child’s “Persuader” and “Worth Dying For,” Nicci French’s “Killing Me Softly,” Preston & Child’s “White Fire,” and Paula Hawkins’s “The Girl on the Train,” in quick succession.
That’s how stressed out I was—but great thrillers saved me. One of these days, I’ll read them when I’m happy.