Distractions from sadness
October 16, 2013 4:32 PM   Subscribe

I'm going through a heavy streak of sadness (seasonal change/life issues/past issues) along with some extreme fatigue. I'm looking for engaging distractions that make the really bad days bearable. Books/TV/Movies, etc.

Caveat: I'm not really attracted to worlds that are twee and incredibly cute (cat videos) but also want to avoid dark disturbing worlds as well.

The sadness also is zapping my attention span so while I don't mind running series it has to be something that is really compelling in each episode to keep my interest.
posted by kanata to Grab Bag (46 answers total) 52 users marked this as a favorite
Have you ever read John Hodgman's books or, even better, listened to the audiobooks? His sense of humor - and his odd combination of silliness and cynicism - always seems to trick me out of my bad mood.
posted by roll truck roll at 4:45 PM on October 16, 2013

Lately I've been really enjoying Courtney Milan's romance novels and novellas. I'm reading her serieses in backwards order. I started with the most recent one, her "Brothers Sinister" series, set in mid-1860s England. The thing I enjoy about them is that they have pretty well-developed characters who aren't as idealized as those in what I think of as traditional romances -- they make mistakes, sometimes hurt each other, disagree or even fight, and learn, forgive and grow. You end up just liking them. The stories also don't portray the British Empire, especially its class system, sexism and politics, as something to be revered and romanticized.

Besides that, they are engaging, witty reads, romantic books that will transport you but not make you feel dumber for having read them; they have genuine history lessons embedded. The hot (but modernistically respectful and consensual!) sex scenes don't hurt, either. I recommend starting with the "prequel" novella, The Governess Affair, which you can get as an e-book for 99 cents on bn.com.

Or don't, y'know. If you have specific book genres you prefer, feed that back and I'd happily recommend something else. Hope you feel better soon.
posted by Smells of Detroit at 4:49 PM on October 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'm sorry you're going through this. It might sound weird, but I find watching the old Bill Murray Christmas movie, Scrooged, to be a real mood lifter.
posted by blurker at 5:00 PM on October 16, 2013

Heh. Regency romances are one of the genres that I cannot get into. The others are westerns and most science-fiction.
posted by kanata at 5:01 PM on October 16, 2013

"The Station Agent" is one of my comfort movies. It's kind of slow paced and gentle, and if your attention wanes away for a bit, you won't be lost.
posted by shortyJBot at 5:08 PM on October 16, 2013 [9 favorites]

What tends to work for you? What about police procedurals (murder mysteries with cops as the narrator)? They tend to have embattled narrators, not people with trouble-free lives, but they tend to not go too deep into disturbing material because the crime already occurred. Is that too dark for you? If not, try the Harry Bosch series.

Another option is The Fault in Our Stars, a young adult book where two teens meet in a cancer support group. It balances dark facts of life (cancer) with lovable characters who exchange charming, witty banter and build friendship and maybe even romance.
posted by slidell at 5:10 PM on October 16, 2013

"Arrested Development" is my go-to for rougher patches in life. I find myself snorting out loud in laughter.
posted by kinetic at 5:15 PM on October 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

Any comedy or cartoon that clocks in at under 30 minutes per episode does it for me; they're short and don't require a lot of attention/concentration to be entertaining. It's best if you find something with lots and lots of seasons so you don't run out, and by the time you're done you can usually go back and watch older episodes. Early Simpsons is an obvious choice, and I find 30 Rock and Arrested Development to be highly rewatchable and joke-dense.

Cartoon series I could idly watch forever: Beavis and Butt-Head, King of the Hill, Home Movies, Space Ghost Coast to Coast, Daria, Adventure Time (might be too cute for your taste), and some of the older Adult Swim series like Sealab 2021 and Aqua Teen Hunger Force (which I guess is still running, huh). I also really enjoyed the first few seasons of Batman: The Animated Series.

Certain video games can be really comforting and absorbing, too, if that's something you're into.
posted by Metroid Baby at 5:17 PM on October 16, 2013

Last time before I become threadshitter:

I do enjoy mystery novels/crime books but have been advised by therapist to stay away from anything too dark (gruesome depictions of bodies/any hurting of children, etc).

I would really enjoy a good video game as well but am completely blank there (the only ones I've played in the past decade have been PvZ and Angry Birds). It would also have to work with a semi-ancient PC (most Steam games - Minecraft etc, don't qualify for my machine) or what I can play on an iPod Touch.
posted by kanata at 5:20 PM on October 16, 2013

Terry Pratchet books. Maybe not the first two, cause I find those meh. But most of them are fantastic.

For video games, gog.com has Heroes of Might and Magic 3, which is one of the best games ever. Old and light enough that it should run. If you can find some classics (maybe on an emulator) such as Final Fantasy 6, 7, or Chrono Trigger, you can absorb many happy hours on those.

Netflix has Ouran high host club, which is an anime and absurdly silly. Oh, and if you haven't seen all the Hayao Miyazaki/Studio Ghibli movies, do so. DOOOO IITTTTTT
posted by Jacen at 5:29 PM on October 16, 2013 [3 favorites]

For TV, Eureka is a pretty fluffy (but well-done) science fictiony series that is engaging but doesn't have any Big Arcs for the first few seasons so if you zone out you haven't missed anything. And even if you do, it's easy enough to pick up. Same applies to the first few seasons of Castle (think Moonlighting with Firefly in-jokes).
posted by rtha at 5:34 PM on October 16, 2013

Oh, and BBC TV- Faulty Towers, Are you Being Served, Monty Python, Keeping Up Appearances...

And rtha skimmed over Firefly, but Firefly.
posted by Jacen at 5:37 PM on October 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

Have you tried making something? There are many videos of quick, easy, and cheap craft projects on YouTube. It's distracting to make things, you get a sense of achievement, and you end up with an object you didn't have before.
posted by Wordwoman at 5:39 PM on October 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

When I was going through a really heartbreaking breakup and subsequent depression (which lasted for like a year. yay) I ended up binging on Parks and Recreation episodes for a long while.

On preview, Studio Ghibli moves are great as well.
posted by littlesq at 5:41 PM on October 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

Besides watching TV (right now I'm going to start The Good Wife series - I was watching and dropped off, and now it's on Amazon or Netflix or something) or reading (the new Stephen King on deck) I play the Adventure/Hidden Objects games from Big Fish Games. They're relatively inexpensive - right now I'm playing Redemption Cemetery - and they take my mind off EVERYTHING.
posted by lyssabee at 5:56 PM on October 16, 2013

A suprisingly good time waster and cheer me up for me has been (and still is) Tapped Out iPhone/Android app.

It's a Simpsons based city builder type thing that is free, and then you can pay money for premium things in the game.

I've been playing for months, I love it! It has a Halloween theme currently which is a bit of fun.
posted by Youremyworld at 5:56 PM on October 16, 2013

You know what I like at this time of year? Watching videos of Crap I Am Never Going to Do.

For instance, raw foods. I love them, but the whole movement is just not me. However, watching people make them is fun and relaxing. Raw ravioli, for instance. Also, I might learn something.

Knitting and crocheting. Very good things, and I can do them, but sometimes I just want to watch. I like Mikey but you may like others.

For movies, I have my own favorites that I go back to: Love Actually and Kill Bill 1 and 2. You may have your own.

Books... I loved Louisa May Alcott as a child, and most of her books are online. Get yourself a cup of sweet hot milky tea, a cat on your lap, maybe on that afghan you imaginarily made for yourself (my sister sends me mine, as she actually does crochet), snuggle up and read. I recommend Eight Cousins or An Old-Fashioned Girl. Dip some ginger snaps or snickerdoodles into your cup as you go along.

We call it "turtling" in my women's group. You're just turtling, and eventually it will come out all right. I also step up my vitamin D intake (yes, my dr approves) and have just ordered a SAD lamp. YMMV on that, but focus on soft things, comforting things, what your old maiden aunt would do if you had one to take care of you. {{{{hugs}}}}
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 6:01 PM on October 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'm in a rough personal time right now, too (giant life changes, ahoy!) and this came at just the right time for me. I am all about the Masterpiece Theatre and BBC miniseries.

Re: books, I've devoured three of the first four Maisie Dobbs books by Jacqueline Winspear. They're basically literary Masterpiece Theatre; the protagonist is smart and capable and the mysteries are interesting while not at all shocking. They're cozy without being twee, and there's a lot of emotion in them, especially as it relates to the aftereffects of WWI. There's something comforting about how Maisie keeps soldiering on, doing good because she must.

Cold Comfort Farm is set in that same sort of era (1930s England), but it's very witty and funny. The idea of "something nasty in the woodshed" still makes me giggle. I Capture the Castle is in that era, too.

A Girl Named Zippy is a great book for several reasons. It totally looks like it will be cheesy and treacly, but it's whimsical in a way that makes me think of the best parts of my own childhood with just enough edge to not be overly precocious. (Whew! How's that for a description?) The best part is that you can easily read it chapter by chapter, epending on your level of patience; they're pretty self-contained. My husband and I used to read it to each other in bed.

Another one we used to read in bed, also in that cozy British 1930s kind of realm, is All Creatures Great and Small. Also good to read chapter by chapter. Several sequels.

Now is a great time to break out some of your favorite young adult comfort reads. L.M. Montgomery's lesser known stuff is great: The Blue Castle, her story collections, etc. (Anne and Emily are always worth rereads, too!)

Pageant is a guaranteed mood-raiser (if you have even one cell of love for drag queens in your body). I watched it on a day I was in a royal snit, and it made me feel great.

If you don't mind incredibly crass humor, Trailer Park Boys. Seven seasons and two movies (which you probably already know because you're in Canada). The theme song alone puts me in a stupid calm mood.

Anything Graham Linehan: The IT Crowd and ESPECIALLY Father Ted.
posted by Madamina at 6:11 PM on October 16, 2013 [4 favorites]

The movie Ever After, which I've probably watched...85 times? whenever I am sick or sad. Also, uh, Star Wars, but if you don't like sci-fi that won't work for you obvs.

Reruns of dumb sitcoms. (I like The Office, 30 Rock, Parks & Rec; YMMV)

YA fantasy novels (Graceling, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Finnikin of the Rock) and books I loved as a kid. Philippa Gregory and Anya Seton novels - ye olde English romance (older than Regency, anyway)

This is not a book or movie, but I find it soothing to cook really elaborate meals.

Do you like SimCity? That game can suck me in for hours and hours, and you'll definitely be able to find a version that works on an older computer (the new one won't; my computer is only a few years old and it's too slow)
posted by goodbyewaffles at 6:14 PM on October 16, 2013

Spider Robinson's Callahan series. There are short stories for days when you have less attention, and even the novels are fairly short. Funny and kind, they remind me that there are good people in the world and things will be okay.
posted by rpbtm at 6:16 PM on October 16, 2013

Favorite non-SF comfort reading/watching/listening, optimized for short attention spans:


Daniel Pinkwater's essays (especially the ones in Chicago Days, Hoboken Nights.) They're all collected in Hoboken Fish and Chicago Whistle.

William Sleator's family memoir, Oddballs.

Basically anything by Cynthia Heimel. (A lot of her work feels dated now: Much of it is sex and relationship writing that predates both AIDS and a lot of now-common gender-sexuality awareness. But she is profoundly funny, vigorously pro-gay, huge-hearted, and she understands the fuck out of depression.) I am particularly fond of this one, arguably the most dated of the lot, because it includes her actually-throwable "Low Rent I-Ching;" a thing, which, dorky as it is, has helped get me through many of the shittier passages in my life.

The work of Pagan Kennedy, especially her early book 'Zine.

Susie Bright, through I'm much more about her memoirs than her erotica.

Abbie Hoffman, especially Steal This Book. (Also dated, but hugely life-affirming and joyful.)

My go-to comfort mysteries are Joe Lansdale's Hap and Leonard novels, which I love with all my heart. I don't remember them being gruesome, but a lot of Lansdale's other work certainly is, and my tolerance for that sort of thing is fairly high. Maybe others who answer this Ask can comment on how suitable they'd be.


All of Dykes to Watch Out For.

All of The Mostly Unfabulous Social Life of Ethan Green.


I don't think you can do better than Avatar: The Last Airbender.

I also love The Unusuals, which is a smart, warm-hearted, and deeply absurd police drama that got cancelled after one season. (grumble).

Also, second rtha's Castle recommendation. The actors all have this magical chemistry that makes the whole series feel like a big, goofy (though rather crime-ridden) hug. I am totally addicted.

Second Madamina's Trailer Park Boys recommendation as well.


Howard Hawks heals all wounds, especially his screwball comedies. His Girl Friday and Bringing Up Baby are especially recommended.

A lot of Alfred Hitchcock's work also makes great comfort viewing. Rear Window is fun, gorgeous, super-smart and oddly life-affirming. (It does, however, include a dog death, which, while not graphic, may not be something up want to see right now.)

Some of the great, silent comedies might also be good right now. Check out Charlie Chaplin (possibly City Lights) and Buster Keaton. (Sherlock Junior is a great place to start.)

Also, I find it impossible to be sad while watching The Marx Brothers.


There is nothing on earth that helps me cut through sadness and anxiety like power metal. When it's at its best, it is huge, silly, soaring, epic stuff, and it puts steel in my spine and purpose in my stride. And for the most part, it's lacks the abrasive, shrieky, growly qualities that tend to put other people off of other metal subgenres.

And speaking of power metal: My best gal-pal and I recently got through a hideous divorce (her) and a couple years of of horrid, mixed chaos (me) by listening to loads and loads of Sabaton at high volume. It's big, loud, stompy balm for the soul. Plus, I have it on good authority that the band members are extraordinarily nice people. The song "40:1", (about a doomed but valiant stand by the Polish Army during WWII) was the gateway for both of us.

Hope this helps. Good luck with all the stuff you're going through. Next year in Jerusalem, eh?
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 6:23 PM on October 16, 2013 [3 favorites]

Reread books from your childhood (get them from the library if you don't own copies). Rereading in general is often all I'm up to during depression, so if there's anything you enjoy particularly that you haven't seen in a while, it might be a good time).
posted by dlugoczaj at 6:32 PM on October 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Also, nthing Parks & Recreation, for TV.

You might like crosswords or acrostics, if you're into that kind of thing. I find them pleasant distractions and it helps to feel kind of clever when I do them.
posted by dlugoczaj at 6:35 PM on October 16, 2013

Comfort reads for me include Beauty by Robin McKinley; nearly anything by Diana Wynne Jones and The Beacon at Alexandria by Gillian Bradshaw (sadly out of print but looks like secondhand copies are reasonably easy to find). Also Arthur Ransome's Swallows and Amazons books.

Someone mentioned Studio Ghibli films above; I agree but stick with the lighter ones. Princess Mononoke, for example, is not a good idea. You should be fine with My Neighbour Totoro, Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle. For a shorter attention span, the anime series (based on a manga) Azumanga Daioh is awesome and funny and has no over-arching plot to keep track of, just lots of little anecdotes in the lives of perfectly normal schoolgirls. No magical transformation sequences, though the occasional surreal dream. Yotsuba&! is also brilliant. Involves children, but nothing bad happens. Well, not BAD bad. Title character Yotsuba, who is 4, lives life with an approach of enjoying everything. Rather than being annoying and Pollyanna-ish, it's actually really endearing and often quite funny.

Other activities: I find jigsaw puzzles amazingly absorbing. They're pretty and you're making something out of mixed up jumbled stuff and are somehow immensely reassuring to do. Though that may just be me.

Good luck!
posted by Athanassiel at 6:46 PM on October 16, 2013

Above Eureka was mentioned - I am embarrassingly hooked but I think the show does get a bit dark and sometimes it gives me a weird feeling when I watch it late at night.

I would read David Sedaris books. So funny! Even better if you listen to him read the audiobooks.
posted by radioamy at 6:46 PM on October 16, 2013

A little bit of James Thurber always makes me go and pull down every bit of Thurber I have in the house. I don't know if it's to everybody's taste, but standards I have seen over and over like the You wait here and I'll bring the etchings down (qv) cartoon still crack me up every time.
posted by kmennie at 6:55 PM on October 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

My husband and I have been known to watch a lot of:
River Cottage, Cake Boss, Northern Exposure, Arrested Development, Trailer Park Boys, Kingdom (Stephen Fry), Jeeves and Wooster (Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie), Downton Abbey, Father Ted. I also like the Gilmore Girls. These are all 'safe' when I'm feeling vulnerable and susceptible to grim things. We also watch a lot of nature documentaries (preferably BBC, and preferably geology, history, etc... as I am at times sqeamish about animals hunting each other, sometimes not).

Cold Comfort Farm is also a recent two-part mini series - I liked it (haven't read the books though).

I voraciously read the entire Mary Russell series by Laurie King - but they ARE mysteries. Not much gore, and children are never harmed, but the protaganist gets in some tight spots (she is a great female protaganist though!). I also read a lot of 'young adult novels' - I like the Mysterious Benedict Society.

Japanese movies are great for this too - we just saw A Letter for Momo, which was cute. Sprited Away, Tampopo... memail me for more suggestions. Japanese films can be light but also very quirky and whimsical, which makes them more interesting than bad US Blockbusters.

Funny action movies? I like Red/Red2 and The Whole Nine Yards - engrossing, funny, minimal gore.
posted by jrobin276 at 6:56 PM on October 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

I really liked Party Down (streamable netflix). Each episode is self contained.
Also I second A Girl Named Zippy (featuring a cat named Pee-Dink)

I hope you feel better soon.
posted by TheLibrarian at 7:06 PM on October 16, 2013

I definitely think YA novels are the way to go. Probably, the best ones are ones that give you happy cozy memories, so check out Lizzie Skurnick's Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading. It will give you some good suggestions and it's also really funny so it will probably make you smile on its own.

Similarly, but skewing slightly younger: Un Lun Dun, by China Mieville, His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman The Neverending Story, and The Princess Bride are all comfort reads for me. (The last two are also comfort-watches. When I'm sad, I like to regress).

Watch (or rewatch) all the Parks and Rec. All the Party Down. All the Freaks and Geeks. All the Undeclared. All the IT Crowd. I also personally like to watch and rewatch Clue.

Take care of yourself!
posted by pretentious illiterate at 7:09 PM on October 16, 2013

Also, I second crossword puzzles. Just leave one out on the kitchen table and work on it whenever.
Is there any craft you like? maybe something simple for holiday gifts that does not involve a lot of supplies.
posted by TheLibrarian at 7:10 PM on October 16, 2013

The How To Do Everything podcast always makes me feel better. The hosts are two funny, affable dudes and the content is even sometimes semi-educational. Can't recommend it enough.
posted by the jam at 7:12 PM on October 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Seconding kmennie's recommendation of James Thurber. Especially Fables For Our Times and My Life And Hard Times, both of which should be in The Thurber Carnival, which I think is commonly available in bookstores. Also, Hugh Laurie says P.G. Wodehouse saved his life -- maybe it could help a bit with yours? Alas the video adaptation "Jeeves and Wooster" isn't on Netflix, but some of his stories can be found free on the Kindle bookstore. Of course, there's the hyper-hilarious Douglas Adams and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (in its many forms).

Netflix: The show A Bit Of Fry And Laurie helps with me. Stephen Fry's America is interesting and entertaining. The old BBC video adaptation of All Creatures Great And Small is like video comfort food, and is also on Netflix. If you "like" bad movies, there's always Mystery Science Theater 3000, several good episodes of which are on Netflix. Pod People's a good starter, I think, and available there.

Video games: Depends on what your style and/or platforms are.

On iOS these are some accessible favorites:
Tiny Wings/Tiny Wings HD (one touch action, super simple to learn)
Pinball Arcade (classic pinball recreations)
Defense of the Oasis (like super Minesweeper deluxe)
King of Dragon Pass (excellent story-based narrative game)
World of Goo (physics puzzles)
100 Rogues (roguelike dungeon exploration, but simplified)

On Android, Androminion is awesome and free, but will require you get the rules for playing Dominion from somewhere else. It's worthwhile ultimately though.

I have a Wii-U, and have been enjoying going through the rerelease of Zelda: Wind Waker lately. It's not really difficult (unless you enjoy that kind of thing, for which there is Hero Mode), and it's accessible like few other recent Zelda games for just wandering around a big ocean finding stuff. Fun even if you're not a game-head.
posted by JHarris at 7:31 PM on October 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Funny Farm with Chevy Chase.
posted by oh posey at 7:48 PM on October 16, 2013

I really enjoy listening to Radio Lab podcasts when I'm in this kind of mood. They are so engaging and interesting that I forget whatever is bothering me.
posted by tafetta, darling! at 7:50 PM on October 16, 2013

I was going through a pretty sad patch a while ago and distracted myself by listening to about 50 episodes in a row of the Answer Me This podcast. I find it very difficult to stay sad or upset when listening to them. I've talked about them on here before, but in essence they're like the most fun parts of Ask Metafilter, plus total chatfilter. The hosts are witty, lighthearted, and smart--and they have great chemistry.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 8:02 PM on October 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

You are the perfect age for Kingdom of Loathing.
posted by Night_owl at 9:27 PM on October 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you've got Netflix streaming, each episode of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic is less than a 30-minute time commitment, usually pretty funny and often somewhat insightful to boot. It seems like it would be twee and overly cute, but honestly it's usually not. It's what I watch when nothing else sounds appealing but I just can't handle anything more than staring at a screen, and it usually cheers me right up.

I guess Archer does the same thing, and is definitely way less cute and more hilarious. Apparently animation is my tv-comfort-food.
posted by vytae at 10:24 PM on October 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Grey's Anatomy is amazing for this. Shit goes down in every episode, there are awesome characters (Christina) and characters you'll alternate hating and loving (the titular Merideth Grey), and while there's death and suffering I wouldn't call it dark because it's so campy.
posted by c'mon sea legs at 11:08 PM on October 16, 2013

PONY's pretty good, yeah, but so many people have preconceived notions, both of MLP and bronies, that I don't generally recommend it. There is also Adventure Time, which is comfort food +3.
posted by JHarris at 11:11 PM on October 16, 2013

Seconding the Answer Me This podcast and for the same reason, I'd also recommend the Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast from NPR - smart, nice people chatting about light but interesting topics in a humorous way. I also find many of the "History of ..." podcasts to be engrossing and distracting. They can be information-dense, but there's no test!

On the games front I have an iPhone and tend to play puzzle games - Sudoku/Kakuro/Word Fill (links go to my favorite iOS apps for each - not all are created equal). I also really enjoy the iOS version of Katamari Damacy and have been working on Blockwick.

For watching/reading the manga and anime Natsume's Book of Friends (Natsume Yuujinchou) is great. Heartfelt but light enough that it doesn't weigh on you. I have a subscription to CrunchyRoll, which has tons of anime series, including this one. They give me a bunch of share codes for free trials - if that's your cup of tea, hit me up on MeMail, I can send you several.
posted by clerestory at 4:12 AM on October 17, 2013

I'm currently very ill and virtually bedbound and going through an alternating horror-and-comfort phase in my reading/viewing material (though I am starting to think focusing on just the comfort would be good at this point). So, this has been on my mind as well and I appreciate the list here.

Some of my favorite literary/cinematic comfort foods:

Isak Dinesen's Winter's Tales is a collection of what might be thought of as magical realism, but the stories are to me just very subtle fairy tales. Which isn't to say that they're overtly fantasy: they're just stories well-crafted enough to be magical.

Nicholas Christopher's A Trip to the Stars is similarly beautiful, fairy tale-ish without being (most of the time) explicitly fantasy. The story follows two people who were separated some time ago, but who remain profoundly connected as their parallel lives (one of them living with fortune and power in the American Southwestern desert, the other living in obscurity on a series of small islands across the world) gradually draw them toward a reunion. It's a very romantic book, moreso in an idealist way than a relationships/sexuality way.

Neil Gaiman's Stardust is, at least, an actual honest-to-goodness fantasy fairy tale about a boy who crosses "the Wall" into Faerie in order to catch a fallen star to bring back to his beloved. Gaiman often has an iffy reputation on MetaFilter (mostly by people who haven't read him), but it's a sweet story that does exactly what it sets out to do. The illustrated version, with artwork by Charles Vess, is lovely. Avoid the film at all costs.

Sometimes compared to Gaiman, Susannah Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is very much its own thing, that being a Victorian novel, a set of (literal) fairy tales, a very long and cozy series of vignettes about the friendship between two complimentarily opposite men. It's the rare long book that feels as long as it is--it couldn't possibly have been shorter, and conveys a good sense of time, but it's not a terribly long read.

Haibane Renmei is a short anime series that usually sounds sad when I describe it, but which is genuinely comforting and beautiful. I've thought and said before that a universe without Old Home is one without ultimate justice. It's a very dreamy slice-of-life thing about a young woman who has just been born from a cocoon and grown angel wings living in a mysterious town where everyone offers a kind of distant-but-maternal/paternal guidance and care. Back when it was new, it was sold as a kind of intellectual mystery story, but the many strangenesses of the setting don't really matter. It's on some level about dark things, but they're handled with such gentleness and warmth that it becomes comforting. It makes me cry.

Ghibli movies also comfort me, as well as What Dreams May Come, Harold & Maude, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Benny & Joon, Summer Wars, Igby Goes Down... I could probably just ramble on indefinitely here. Nthing Terry Pratchett, too; especially Thief of Time. There's a scene in particular there that's a very beautiful, perfect moment.
posted by byanyothername at 7:42 AM on October 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

(I also want to second The Station Agent. It's a very good, criminally overlooked, film full of kindness and comfort.)
posted by byanyothername at 7:49 AM on October 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Movies: "Some like it hot" and "Bring it on".
Books: "A Confederacy of dunces" and "The Master and Margarita".
posted by No Robots at 8:42 AM on October 17, 2013

Shaun the Sheep! Wikipedia link
posted by stampsgal at 9:55 AM on October 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

The show Parks and Recreation is my go-to pick-me-up. I like it because it's peppy and good-spirited, but also smart and witty. All the seasons except the current one are on Netflix. The New Girl, How I Met Your Mother and the second through fourth seasons of The Office are in a similar vein.

Do you like soaps or political thrillers? Scandal (also on Netflix) might be fun. It gets dark, but in a soapy, cartoonish way, while also being well-acted and -written. No gruesome bodies or hurt children.

For a long time, I used to read Maeve Binchy novels when I needed the literary equivalent to comfort food. Definitely a bit cheesy, but interesting characters and plots, and the author has a way of drawing you in.

Another great good-mood author is Bill Bryson. He has a very funny, engaging writing style. Start with A Walk in the Woods.

Feel-good, fun movies on Netflix: Zoolander; Love, Actually; Can't Hardly Wait; Grease; Ghostbusters.

Not on Netflix, but the Gilmore Girls is sadness kryptonite.
posted by lunasol at 5:51 PM on October 17, 2013

Calvin and Hobbes books. Try your library.
posted by kristi at 12:10 PM on October 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

« Older Puff pastry over two evenings - perform butter...   |   Where Can I Get This Black Wig? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.