The brilliant Emma Hughes shares her comfort reads: the books she most loves to curl up with to escape from it all…
Nothing beats snuggling down in a cosy, lamplit spot with a real page-turner, so we thought it would be fun to invite some of the best current authors to share their comfort reads: the books they love to indulge in when they want to get away from life’s cares.
Emma Hughes’ new novel It’s Complicated – about the difficulties faced by a single woman needing to ‘get on with’ having a family – is described as “the most heartwarming and joyful story of 2023”, and has had rave reviews, with Lauren Ho calling it: "Sharply observed, witty, and brimming with heart, It's Complicated asks readers an age-old question: What's love got to do with it (having a family)?, and answers it with panache."
As well as her fiction, London-based Emma writes journalism for publications including Vogue.co.uk. Grazia and The Guardian (and, we’re delighted to learn, she does it all by the light of “my lamp which hand on heart, is a pink glass Pooky one with a buttercup yellow shade that's my absolute pride and joy”!)
Emma’s own favourite place to read? “I used to love reading in bed, but I had terrible insomnia for years, and when I signed up to an NHS programme to tackle it that was one of the things I had to stop doing. So I've really gone all in on making my sofa as reading-friendly as possible: it's bright orange, marshmallow-squidgy and heaped with blankets.
“In the summer, though – and I hesitate to tell you this because I know I'm such a horrendous cliche – my idea of heaven is taking a brand new book to the Kenwood Ladies Pond and spending an entire sunny day reading it under one of the trees with a big bag of crisps.”
Here are Emma’s Comfort Reading choices…
1) A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
I grew up with Sherlock Holmes – my dad is a lifelong fan, and I used to pore over his collections of illustrated tales. A Study in Scarlet was the first one that Conan Doyle wrote, and the first one that I read: the scene where Watson is introduced to Holmes still gives me goosebumps. It's easy to forget how young they both are when they move in together at 221B Baker Street; neither is 30 yet. As a reader accompanying them on their first adventure will always be a pure joy, and as a writer there's so much I'm still learning about character, pace and plot every time I pick it up.
2) The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams
I actually listened to this before I read it – I have a crystal-clear memory of being eight or nine, sitting in the back of my parents' car with a tape of the original BBC serialisation playing on my Walkman, laughing so hard that I got the hiccups. I bought the book with my pocket money pretty much as soon as we were home. I still think the opening scene, where Arthur Dent finds out that his house is about to be knocked down to make way for an interstellar bypass, is one of the funniest things ever written: it's only about 15% sillier than real life, which is as good a rule for comedy as I've found.
I'd always been a reader but I think coming across Douglas Adams was the point at which I knew I wanted to become a writer, and specifically a writer who made people laugh (or tried to).
3) The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Bank
This was pressed into my hands by a friend who's never recommended a book I didn't love. I really thought she might have lost her touch with this one, though – Melissa Bank has been cursed with absolutely terrible covers, and I'm ashamed to say that I put off reading it on that basis.
When I did finally pick it up I couldn't believe how wrong I'd been. She writes about falling in and out of love as an introverted, overthinking young woman with the precision of Raymond Carver and the wit of Dorothy Parker; I really believe that if she'd been a man she'd never have been out of The New Yorker. I was devastated when I heard she'd died; I've re-read The Girls' Guide so many times that her voice feels like that of an old friend.
It’s Complicated by Emma Hughes is published by Penguin Random House and is available in various formats here.
Love reading? So do we! That’s why we’ve created a range of highly stylish reading lights to illuminate your favourite book nook – take a peek at them here.
Emma Hughes portrait photo above by Ola Smit