15 Books to Soothe the Soul

Things seem pretty dire at the moment. Reading the headlines day in, day out, the pressure seems to be mounting. The world is on fire, and the entire population of the planet is under attack by a killer virus, and I wish I was overexaggerating.

It’s totally normal at times to feel overwhelmed by life, especially these times. If you’ve ever felt that way, or are feeling it right now: I see you. You’re doing great. When I’m starting to spin out, when the big picture seems way too big, I try to focus on the little things. The words on the page, the breath in my lungs. My kids’ laughter, because despite everything, there is still so much joy.

I also turn to the amazing power of books to inspire, uplift and calm. Bibliotherapy is real and books do have the power to heal. There is a book for every mood, and I know where to go when I’m seeking different kinds of comfort. Here is a list of recommendations, for different types of moods you want to dive into.

Apocalypse Now!

For people who like to lean into the situation we’re living through. The apocalypse is coming? Why not read some intense apocalyptic books that will get you in the right survivalist mood?

Wilder Girls, by Rory Power: An isolated girls school is shut off from the rest of the world when a deadly infection spreads through the island where they live. Not for a weak stomach.

Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel: A deadly pandemic sweeps through the world and kills … almost everyone. The world is changed forever. The language is beautiful, but it is also terribly, desperately sad. Look to this for a cathartic cry.

Adventure Romp

One of my favourite genres. Nothing beats getting lost in a good story. You can’t worry about your own life when somebody else is in more dire straights than you!

The Rook, by Daniel O’Malley: This book is So. Much. Fun. It’s kind of like … mutants learning their powers in London. The X-Men, but also profoundly English. I’ve not met many people who’ve read this, but it deserves more press.

Illuminae, by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman. This powerhouse writing duo has come up with a glorious space opera that is surprisingly romantic and profoundly terrifying. It includes battling warships and a zombie plague, but more sinister (perhaps) is a damaged AI system, which starts acting on its own agenda.

Insightful Nonfiction

What better time to think really hard about the meaning of life, and the way we choose to live (and die)?

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, by Atul Gawande: This is the most amazing book. It’s about death, and how we would like to die, and how society should shift its view towards death (as in, it’s not the thing that should be avoided at all costs). This might seem too intense for some, but Gawande’s style is soothing and convincing. This book changed my perspective towards life profoundly. I consider this a must-read for everyone, honestly.

Sapiens, by Yuval Noah Harari: A brilliant, insightful, uncomfortable book about humanity. I have many thoughts on this one. I’m not going to lie, it’s a hard unflinching read. But perhaps necessary for us to confront our shortcomings as a species.

Time for a Reread

Why not get lost in one of your favourite books or series from when you were younger? There’s a reason children and young adult books are so well-loved: they are about hope and courage and overcoming great odds, something we could all use a reminder of right now.

Harry Potter, by J.K. Rowling: Lose yourself in the magic of Hogwarts again and remember the importance of bravery and friendship.

Anne of Green Gables, by L. M. Montgomery: Who can resist the impetuous charm of Anne with an “E”? This beloved Canadian classic underlines the importance of home, family, and community. Rediscover the beauty in great imagination, and know that in friendship we find grace, even when our hearts are broken.

A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine l’Engle: Magic and science collide in this seminal children’s book about other dimensions. I remember being blown away by the entire concept of Meg’s intergalactic journey, but the most profound journey she made was discovering the importance of family love.

Delightful Romantic Comedies

Forget your troubles as you giggle over the ridiculous antics of two mismatched lovebirds falling for one another.

Bridget Jones’ Diary, by Helen Fielding: A classic. This is my favourite book to read when I just need some feel-good vibes. Nobody makes me laugh more than Bridget, who is my favourite literary character, I think, ever; she never fails to reduce me to tears (of laughter). I realize I’ve pictured the second in the series, The Edge of Reason, but it still stands up. My copy of the first book fell apart (sob!) and will be back in a second after I go buy a new copy.

The Undomestic Goddess, by Sophie Kinsella: She is the master of hapless heroines! Our intrepid main character makes a mistake at her law firm and shatters under the extreme pressure she’s barely been coping with. She escapes to the countryside and works as a domestic helper, finding the true meaning of happiness along the way. I feel extra connected to this book because I read it while I was dreading going to work at my law firm, watching my life spiral out of control as I struggled with a career I really didn’t want. Reading a book where I connected with the main character made some of the hardships easier to handle.

The Flatshare, by Beth O’Leary: A romantic comedy that is sweet and spicy. The concept is adorable: The main characters share a room, and bed, with each other, on the condition they never meet. Leon works night shifts, so only asks that Tiffy is not there from 9am to 6pm. They slowly begin to get to know each other through notes and leftovers. I adore this concept, and let it be known that this book makes consent and asking for permission Sexy AF. Other fun romcoms to enjoy are The Kiss Quotient, by Helen Hoang, and The Hating Game, by Sally Thorne.

Hot Cocoa Cozy

This is a bit of a new genre for me, but I am all over the cozy murder mystery. Who would have thought murder would be so sweet? Usually set in a quaint small town and characters with sweet jobs like baker (bonus points if recipes are included!) And they solve mysteries, and everything is as charming as a cup of hot cocoa in front of the fire. If you have any recommended books in this genre, I would love to hear them!

Murder by the Book, by Lauren Elliott: A cozy murder mystery, set in a quaint seaside town, investigated by a used book store owner? Perhaps a frisson of romance with the local cop? Um, yes please, sign me up.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, by Alan Bradley: Never has a poisoning been quite so delightful. Flavia de Luce, an aspiring chemist obsessed with poison, is the heart and soul of this charming book about murder.

The Secret, Scone and Book Society, by Ellery Adams: Books will heal you, as will friendship. Also, I will never get over the concept of the comfort scone, where a kitchen witch whips up a scone with the perfect ingredients that reveal hidden depths or past memories. I want one! Stay tuned for a book review … and catch up with my witchy book reviews here.

I feel better already – books really do have active healing qualities. I’m biased, of course, I’m really into books! And I’m always ready to give you a good recommendation. Every month I have chosen a perfect book for the season, and share it with you in my newsletter. Hold onto your socks, though, this next month’s chosen tome had me sobbing in a European cafe as my heart was shattered.

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