Stress is an unavoidable part of life for most of us, but living with constant stress can take a major toll on your mental and physical health. The good news? Reading is a proven tool for de-stressing. According to a University of Sussex study, reading can lower your heart rate and ease tense muscles in as little as six minutes.
But not all de-stressing books are created equal. For example, picking up a book on the fast-approaching effects of climate change or the current state of politics is more likely to push your stress level off the charts than help you chill out.
I asked my fellow Book Riot contributors to share some of the books they turn to in stressful times, and they came through with a great list of titles to help you sit down, breathe, and recharge. Check out our list of de-stressing books below. Even if you’re not feeling the pressure, these are sure to calm your mind, body, and soul.
When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chödrön
Maybe this is a bit too on the nose, but I love listening to this audiobook when I feel overwhelmed by my life. It really helps me when I find myself drowning in negativity and anxiety. I listen to a lot of Buddhist and Buddhist-adjacent audiobooks, but this is the one I always come back to when life becomes a bit much.
Dear Girls by Ali Wong (October 15, Random House)
When I’m up to my elbows in stress, a good laugh always helps. That’s why I turn to comedian memoirs in tough times. This upcoming memoir from comedian, screenwriter, and actor Ali Wong is laugh-out-loud funny, but it also tugs at the heartstrings. It’s got the same kind of feel-good power as having coffee and catching up with your funniest friend.
The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 3/4 by Sue Townsend
This is a classic of Brit Lit. I read it as a teenager, but it’s much funnier as an adult. Growing up in the 1980s, Adrian is struggling with zits, his rejected poetry, and divorcing parents. It will remind you that no matter how hard life is right now, at least you’re not a teenager anymore! And when things are rough and you find it hard to concentrate for long stretches of time, it’s great that it’s in diary form.
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
This is my favorite world to escape to when I’m feeling stressed. Every element of this book brings me so much joy. There is some conflict in the book, as is necessary for any novel, but nothing that really stresses you out. To me, there’s an overwhelming feeling of comfort even in the most high-tension moments. The entire crew aboard The Wayfarer have so much depth and complexity in their own beautiful but imperfect way. Sometimes it’s nice to sit back and imagine myself alongside them as they soar through space.
When We Left Cuba by Chanel Cleeton
Sometimes it takes reading about someone with a more stressful life to put your stress in perspective. And with a book like When We Left Cuba, it can feel good to immerse yourself in the world of a character in a different time and place. This book has the perfect amount of intrigue, danger, romance, and drama to get your mind off of your own problems for a little while. It follows Beatriz who, after being exiled from her home during the Cuban revolution, is approached by the CIA with an opportunity to infiltrate Fidel Castro’s inner circle.
The Thirteen Problems by Agatha Christie
Yes, I’m a weirdo who finds solace in murder. Cozy mystery murder, that is. I come back to just about anything by the Queen of Crime when I need to quiet the angry voices; a whodunit with a sassy detective and a usually idyllic English setting is the move for me time and again. The world may not make sense, but at least the mystery on the book is put to bed.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
Like many readers, Harry Potter is my literary equivalent of “comfort food” and has been since I was a kid. But Prisoner of Azkaban is a particularly meaningful book for me when I’m going through difficult or stressful times. As Harry learns to deconstruct and overcome his fears by facing the dementors, it encourages me to be brave and find hope that things will turn out alright. After all, as Dumbledore said, “Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”
Ms. Marvel Series by G. Willow Wilson
I turn to romance and graphic novels as my cave to escape into, and Ms. Marvel is one of my favorites that always makes me feel better. With ten volumes and counting, it is a perfect series to pick up that has amazing stories, fantastic characters, and an overall search for justice. It’s the lasagna dinner and ice cream for dessert of comfort food for me.
Royal Holiday by Jasmine Guillory
Does your brain need a vacation? Romcom goddess Jasmine Guillory is here to help with Royal Holiday! Vivian decides to accompany her daughter on a work trip to London on a whim. Little was she expecting for it to end in a fling with the Queen’s private secretary. This delightful romance will put your stress out of mind and a smile on your face in no time.
We hope these de-stressing books helped you find your chill! They certainly helped us relax. Still feeling the stress? Check out these other articles from Book Riot: