Books

18 Books That Will Help You Relax & Unwind Before Bed

Find the perfect read to keep on your nightstand.

'Fox & I,' 'Vessel,' 'The Beautiful Ones,' and 'The Paper Palace' are among the best books to read b...
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We already know that a little bit of reading can improve your health. Studies show that cracking a book reduces stress, helps keep your memory sharp, and increases empathy. Basically, reading makes you a better person — and it can also help you sleep. So, if you’re looking to catch up on some Z’s, pick up a few of these books to read before bed.

Of course, even if thrillers are your go-to reading material, it’s best to avoid books that aren’t exactly relaxing. Suspenseful novels great, but if you read them before bed, they may keep you up all night — either because you’re too busy turning pages to count sheep, or because the climax leaves you with an adrenaline rush. Basically, you don’t want something that will make your heart beat faster, or a novel so gripping that you end up pulling an all-nighter just to get to the end (as we’ve all been guilty of doing).

If you have trouble falling asleep, reading can help you relax, but you probably want to look for a particular type of book — one that’s as calm as a cup of tea, and as soothing as a warm bath. Below, 18 books to read before bed that will help you relax and unwind at the end of a long day.

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1

Mary Jane by Jessica Anya Blau

Mary Jane was raised by her conservative family to be a good girl. A nice girl. But when she takes a summer job in a local doctor’s household, the 14-year-old comes face-to-face with the kind of liberal lifestyle that would make her mother blush. She keeps the doctor’s secrets — which include the identities of his two famous, hard-partying houseguests — to herself, but is forced to think long and hard about what she wants her future to look like.

2

Vessel by Cai Chongda

From former GQ China editorial director and Mensmode founder Cai Chongda, this memoir paints a brilliant portrait of the author’s childhood in a small town on the coast of China’s Fujian province. Chongda was forced to take over as the head of his household when a stroke left his father unable to work, and his desire to provide for his family took him far — not only from home, but also from the way of life he’d previously known.

3

May the Best Man Win by ZR Ellor

As cheer captain and quarterback, respectively, Jeremy and Lukas have always been high school royalty. Last summer, though, Jeremy broke Lukas’ heart. Now, the trans senior is making every effort to live his best, most authentic life — and that means going head-to-head with his ex for the Homecoming King’s crown. Lukas isn’t about to take Jeremy’s campaign lying down, though. He’s got a plan... and a lingering crush.

4

The Paper Palace by Miranda Cowley Heller

While on vacation with her loving husband and another couple, 50-year-old Elle sleeps with the other woman’s husband, Jonas — the man Elle always believed she’d wind up with. Waking up the next morning with her awful secret, Elle begins to sort through the reasons she and Jonas never married, and questions whether the two of them should take a second chance at love.

5

The Secret Keeper of Jaipur by Alka Joshi

This follow-up to The Henna Artist centers on Malik, a 20-year-old intern at Jaipur’s Royal Palace. It’s 1969, and the Palace’s Facilities Office is planning the construction of a modern movie theater in Jaipur. But when tragedy strikes on opening night, Malik is certain that an innocent person has been blamed — so he sets out to learn the truth.

6

My Remarkable Journey by Katherine Johnson

Katherine Johnson lived a storied life: The Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient once worked as a human computer at NASA, and was portrayed by Taraji P. Henson in the hit film Hidden Figures. She passed away in 2020 at the age of 101 — but not before writing this memoir, published posthumously in 2021.

7

The Last Garden in England by Julia Kelly

Moving between the Edwardian era, World War II, and the present day, Julia Kelly’s The Last Garden in England follows a small group of women who share a connection to one majestic estate. In 1907, Venetia is tasked with designing the Highbury House gardens; decades later, in 1944, three Highbury employees share a love of the greenery — and a wartime secret; and finally, in the modern day, Venetia’s biggest fan steps in to restore Highbury House’s beloved gardens to their former glory, only to uncover huge secrets from the estate’s storied past.

8

The Bombay Prince by Sujata Massey

In 1921 Bombay, the Prince of Wales’ latest tour of British India sparks riots in a country longing for self-determination. And Freny Cuttingmaster, a Parsi 18-year old-who suffers a tragic fall just as the royal procession passes her school, appears to be the protests’ latest casualty. But for Perveen — the first woman to practice law in India — the young student’s demise reeks of foul play.

9

One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston

A cynic who doesn’t believe in romance finds herself falling for a time-traveling woman in Casey McQuiston’s delightful follow-up to Red, White & Royal Blue. August knows that only fools fall in love, but when she meets Jane — an enigmatic woman who has accidentally traveled to August’s time from the 1970s — she begins to question her life philosophy.

10

The Beautiful Ones by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Nina’s a lucky girl. Thanks to her family connections, she’s able to make her debut in one of France’s most elite social circles. Everything is on the right track — until her telekinetic abilities appear to ruin her reputation for good. Nina spies a chance at salvation with Hector: a telekinetic entertainer who takes her on as his protégée. But does Hector have her best interests in mind?

11

Fox and I: An Uncommon Friendship by Catherine Raven

This touching memoir centers on a solitary writer’s unlikely friendship with a wild fox. Exploring themes of loneliness and solitude, Fox and I balances author Catherine Raven’s experiences living off-the-grid in Montana, where she met the titular fox, with ruminations on humanity’s broader relationship with nature.

12

The Kitchen Front by Jennifer Ryan

From The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir author Jennifer Ryan comes this uplifting historical novel about wartime Britain. With an Allied victory looking less and less likely in a country still reeling from the Blitz, a BBC radio show holds a contest to boost the country’s morale. Four women — a widowed mother, a domestic servant, a wealthy woman trapped in an abusive marriage, and a professional chef — throw their hats into the ring to become the first woman to host the program, in The Kitchen Front.

13

The Queer Principles of Kit Webb by Cat Sebastian

Coffee shop owner and ex-highwayman Kit Webb has made a valiant effort at finding contentment, but he’s begun to long for his madcap days on the wrong side of the law. When Percy enlists Kit to steal a book from Percy’s father, the onetime thief finds himself chasing both adventure and romance: as he teaches Percy the ins and outs of the criminal life, Kit finds himself falling in love.

14

Ladies of the House by Lauren Edmondson

Sense and Sensibility comes to modern-day Washington in Lauren Edmondson’s Jane Austen retelling. When a politician’s funeral is interrupted by a salacious revelation about his life, his wife and daughters find themselves ostracized from Washington society. Blamed for their late patriarch’s crimes, the family tries to move forward — but love, lies, and another scandal make their lives anything but easy.

15

All the Things We Never Knew by Liara Tamani

Teenage basketball stars fall in love at first sight in this heartwarming coming-of-age story. All the Things We Never Knew centers on 11th graders Carli and Rex: two of the best high-school athletes in Texas, who both have big, bright futures ahead of them. But as they embark on a romantic adventure, secrets come to light that could drive them apart forever.

16

The Art of Patience: Seeking the Snow Leopard in Tibet by Sylvain Tesson

After waking up from a coma, French travel writer Sylvain Tesson set out for Tibet, where snow leopard enthusiasts wait — some for months or even years — for their chance to spot the elusive cat in the flesh. Tesson recounts his own experiences waiting for the snow leopard in The Art of Patience.

17

The Hellion’s Waltz by Olivia Waite

Conwoman Maddie Crewe and the rest of the weavers’ union have had enough of one troublesome-but-wealthy associate, and they’ve got a plot to ruin him and secure their futures forever. There’s just one problem standing in their way: the new girl in town, Sophie Roseingrave, who hates con artists and is determined to find out what Maddie is up to.

18

The Final Revival of Opal & Nev by Dawnie Walton

Lightning just struck twice for Sunny. Shortly after becoming Aural’s first Black editor-and-chief, she catches wind that Opal Jewel and Neville Charles, a pair of 1970s rock icons who haven’t performed together in more than 25 years, may be reuniting. Although their career together was short-lived, Opal and Nev became infamous after they lost a bandmate to a hate crime. For Sunny, the story is personal: Her father was the man who was murdered.