9 Books to Relieve Your Final Exam Stress

FRANKFURT AM MAIN, GERMANY - OCTOBER 13: Students learn in a library of the Johann Wolfang Goethe-University on October 13, 2014 in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. The Johann Wolfgang Goethe-University celebrates its 100th anniversary with a ceremony on 18 October. (Photo by Thomas Lohnes/Getty Images)
Source: Thomas Lohnes/Getty Images News/Getty Images

We're in that glorious time nestled right between Thanksgiving and Christmas, a time that is stressful in its own non-holiday way: final exam time. Cue panic, all-nighters, dreams about failing. Breathe! It's OK. Studying for final exams is all about balance — study for a few hours, take a break, then get back at it. 

But how to relax and take a break, your stressed brain asks? Simply put: Get your mind off of it – lose yourself in a book. Did you know that just by reading for six minutes, you can cut your stress level by more than half? Reading slows the heart rate and eases tension in muscles. Plus, you can literally "lose yourself" in a book; reading stimulates creativity, which leads to an altered state of consciousness that is far, far away from the 100 question exam review on your desk.   

The reads below are sometimes funny, sometimes thrilling, but they all share that amazing ability to make you forget reality for a few minutes and become lost in a book. Go ahead, dive in. Your notes will be there when you get back.

Party Games by R.L. Stine

R.L. Stine finally returned this year to the gruesome Fear Street that we loved reading about as teens. This latest installment is set on Fear Island, at Brendan Fear's birthday party, in a creepy old mansion that is possibly haunted. Your middle-school self will happily indulge in the page-turning, heart-pounding goodness that R.L. Stine knows how to deliver so well. 

One More Thing by B.J. Novak

The wonderfully talented B.J. Novak put out a collection this year of funny, quick, and bizarre short stories that are sure to take your mind off your studying woes. There are more than 60 stories packed into 250 pages — some stories are only a paragraph. Plots range from a rematch race between the tortoise and the hare to Chris Hansen taking his daughter to a Justin Bieber concert. Novak delivers a multitude of scenarios to escape to when you are completely gassed out on that final lit paper. 

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Soon to be a movie starring Reese Witherspoon, Wild documents Strayed's hike on the Pacific Crest Trail following the death of her mother and the dissolution of her marriage. Strayed's blind optimism going into her hike (having never hiked before) turns into an acute realization of just how unprepared she was for the trek (she did shoot heroin the night before she left). Strayed makes an incredible journey that is easy to escape in and will make you grateful for a warm bath and a cozy bed. 

I Was Told There’d Be Cake by Sloane Crosley 

Crosley’s funny, insightful collection of essays give a glimpse into the life of a New York woman who is simply trying to navigate adulthood. The 15 essays cover life benchmarks such as terrible bosses at a first job, being locked out of two different apartments in one day, to being a bridesmaid to a certifiable Bridezilla. Crosley is relatable, thoughtful, and can completely captivate you with each nugget of her life. You'll cherish the time spent with her. Plus, she totally gets all that stress you’re going through right now. 

The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp

There's nothing like a book with the motto "forget the future, embrace the now" to make you ignore whether you'll get a passing grade this semester. Follow Sutter through his senior year of high school as he gives no regards to his future, to his girlfriend, to his grades — until he finds himself passed out on Aimee Finecky's lawn. This is a book you can read in an afternoon and completely lose yourself in, thanks to the fast moving narration and easy, conversational tone.  

Choose Your Own Autobiography by Neil Patrick Harris 

The consummate entertainer, Neil Patrick Harris' creatively titled memoir is a literal choose-you-own-adventure book. It's written in second person, as you, the narrator, choose which path you'd like Harris to follow, whether it be to finally come out to Hollywood or deciding to audition for a little show called How I Met Your Mother. Choose wrong, however, and you'll find yourself buried in an avalanche. Or killed by your husband, David Burkta. Harris' memoir is a vicarious adventure at its best.  

Off Course by Michelle Huneven

Huneven's latest novel is about a woman in her late 20s falling prey to distraction while trying to finish a dissertation. Sound familiar? Cressida holes herself up in her parent's cabin in California, thinking the quiet and nature will help her work. That is, until a bearded and friendly townsman starts buying her whiskey shots. Huneven creates a protagonist that is extremely relatable, likable, and adventurous; plus, she'll make you feel less guilty about finding your own distractions. 

Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham

It's no secret that Dunham's highly praised collection of essays is a funny, revealing, and relatable portrait of a woman. It's also a winning book for distraction. Dunham's essays are so captivating and real, you'll forget about your study group and instead feel OK for keeping a food journal, too. Plus, like Crosley, Dunham knows a thing or two about working hard; she constantly has to convince a room full of grown men that her point of view is valid and worthy. 

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

A National Book Award Finalist, Station Eleven tells the story of a small acting troupe after a pandemic has killed most of the Earth's population. The nomadic group of actors roam between small settlements of survivors, performing Shakespeare and musical numbers for those who are left. A book to be devoured in a weekend, this suspenseful, elegantly written novel spans decades of before and after the pandemic, revealing the importance of the relationships that sustain us. 

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