Anxiety is real. With work emails assaulting your phone, Facebook statuses of happy couples mocking your singledom, and all of our electronic devices constantly beeping, chiming, tweeting, and flashing for our attention, anxiety is so very real. The hopeless book-lovers that we are, we tend to turn to books as a solution for pretty much everything. So, why not cure anxiety with books as well?
But, of course, you have to choose the right books. Although that perfect image of curling up with a book and a cup of hot chocolate in front of a fireplace might seem like the most relaxing thing in the world, if you’re not curling up with the right book, then you might find relaxing a bit hard. For example, you’ll probably want to steer clear of Virginia Woolf or the famously neurotic characters like in Dostoevsky's novels. There’s not enough hot chocolate in the world to get rid of the anxiety flooding the pages of Notes From Underground.
From magical wars and dangerous adventures to personal tragedy and surreal existential crises, most of the best books aren’t exactly known for their calming topics. Thankfully, there are just so many books in the world that some will help you forget your own existential crisis and relax for a while. Books like these, in fact.
The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh
Nothing is more relaxing than just letting go of the past and future and just being in the present moment, especially if in that present moment you’re curled up with a book about being present. The Miracle of Mindfulness reminds us to stop and just be, something that seems pretty lost in our age of 4G and Instagramming every experience we have.
Mules and Men by Zora Neale Hurston
The “lies” told here that Hurston set off to her Southern home to find are imaginative and wild. As this fun cast of characters tells these tall tales, it almost feels like sitting around after Sunday dinner listening to all the old folks telling tales, everyone’s bellies full of candied yams and grandma’s greens.
Cosmicomics by Italo Calvino
Calvino likes to play, and in Cosmicomics he plays with science. It’s scientific concepts like you’ve never seen them. Don’t worry, it’s not the kind of “huh?”-inspiring science explorations that you see in those pop-science books or your 11th grade chemistry class. It’s actually fun, and these stories will get your brain going without stressing you out too much.
The History of Love by Nicole Krauss
Though largely about loneliness, The History of Love is one of the most beautiful books you’ll ever read. About a man who wrote a book dedicated to love, who has no idea that his book has changed so many lives, The History of Love is moving and the prose is so beautiful you’ll find yourself rereading every few lines with a deep appreciative sigh.
The Prophet by Khalil Gibran
Poem essays. Essay poems. Whatever you want to call what Khalil Gibran does, it’s beautiful and inspirational, and if you’re looking for a book to go all peace and calm to, this is the one.
Open City by Teju Cole
A book basically about wandering? Yes, please. The ultimate chill.
If on A Winter’s Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino
I know, I know. It’s totally cheating to have two books by Calvino on this list, but the man writes good book. And he likes to play. This book is basically like attending a party where you and the author are the only people in the room and you just play with literary devices all night. What better way to kill the anxiety?
Womanthology by Jessica Hickman
A giant book of comics all about women by women and full of magical, beautiful, imaginative stories. The stories will take you to space and magical lands to just the inside of a young woman's head. It’s the best chill you can get. The only stress might be the stress on your wrist from the enormous size of the thing, but bigger means more stories, right?
The Din in the Head by Cynthia Ozick
Speaking of books that are pretty much like a love letter to book-lovers… The Din in the Head takes a look at some of Ozick’s (and yours) favorite authors, their lives, their motivations, and the joys of reading them.