If you’re a person who menstruates, then you probably know what I mean by period day. They’re those days when your period knocks you out, when you’re exhausted and aching and have cramps or a backache or whatever other nonsense your body decides to throw at you. Even with drugs and a hot water bottle, I often find myself craving comfort on period days. I just want to curl up on my couch, sink into a book, and escape my body for a little while.
I asked my fellow Rioters what books they turn to for comfort and escape on period days. Here’s the list we came up with. Because we all probably want to read different kinds of books on period days, I made sure this list covers a variety of genres. I hope you find the perfect read for the next time your period comes around, and that some of these titles bring you a little much-needed comfort, joy and/or distraction.
The Black Tides of Heaven by JY Neon Yang
One thing that often accompanies bad period days for me is a short attention span. I often find myself skipping from book to book without ever sinking into one. So I really appreciate short books that I can read in one sitting. This novella is one of my favorites. It’s got lush world-building and queer characters I adore. There’s enough action to keep me turning pages, but it isn’t overly violent, and the world and characters only get more complex and intriguing on the reread. It’s an all-around period day win.
Dead in the Garden by Dahlia Donovan
This romantic cozy mystery is like your favorite fuzzy blanket in book form. Set in the Lake District in England, it follows Bishan, a musician with the London Symphony Orchestra, and his partner Valor, who owns an adorable biscuit shop. When they find a former schoolmate dead in their garden, their quiet life suddenly involves a lot more detective work than they’re used to. But the murder mystery element here is light. Most of this book is the two of the being tender and affectionate, hanging out with their cat, drinking tea, and eating biscuits. It’s exactly the sort of cozy but engaging book I need on period days.
Mrs. Martin’s Incomparable Adventure by Courtney Milan
If there’s anything better on a day when you feel like you can’t possibly face the world than reading about two old ladies sticking it to the patriarchy, I don’t know what it is. This sweet historical romance involves two badass old ladies who pair up to take down a truly terrible man. In the process, they fall in love and eat a lot of cheesy toast (one of my favorite comfort foods). This book is also hilarious and goofy, which is an added bonus on period days. It’s definitely a go-to reread for me.
Middle Grade Fiction
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland In A Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente
If you live with friends/partners/kind housemates willing to step it up for you on period days, this book makes a great read-aloud. And if you’re just reading it to yourself, it is just as good. It’s the story of 12-year-old September, who gets whisked away from her bedroom in Omaha to an adventure in Fairyland. It’s funny, snarky, beautifully imaginative, and just all around delightful. As an added bonus, it’s the first book in a series of five, so you’ll have plenty of period day reading material for months to come.
A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park
This was one of the first middle grade books I ever read as an adult, and it’s still one of my favorites. It’s the story of Tree-ear, a boy in 12th century Korea apprenticed to a master potter. In order to prove himself to the potter, Tree-ear takes a long journey alone across the country in the hope of landing a royal commission. This book is just solid gold. It transports me every time I read it, and reminds me how powerful good storytelling can be. It’s the sort of simple, feel-good story I crave on period days.
Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera
After coming out to her family doesn’t go well, Juliet heads for what she hopes will be the perfect feminist escape: a summer internship with a beloved queer feminist author. Unfortunately, running away to Portland doesn’t solve all of her problems, and Juliet’s hero turns out to be only human after all. This book makes for perfect period day reading, first because periods play a big role in it. I find period plot lines to be really refreshing, since they’re so often overlooked. But this also makes a great pick during a rough period because it’s engaging, full of emotion, and tells a wonderful queer coming-of-age story. It will definitely curb those period blues.
Circe by Madeline Miller
I could just have easily put The Song of Achilles here, too. On period days, I need a story that fully absorbs me and takes my attention away from my own discomfort. Every time I read one of Miller’s retellings of Greek myth, I’m spirited away somewhere else, to a land populated by gods, monsters, and the unfortunate humans caught between them. Both Circe and Achilles are funny, heartbreaking, and page-turning. What more could I ask for on days when I want to curl into a ball and disappear? (Bonus: Perdita Weeks’s precise yet passionate narration on the Circe audiobook is a feminist triumph.)
The Tea Dragon Society by Katie O’Neill
This is one of the most soothing books I’ve ever read. The art is absolutely gorgeous, and the characters are all so gentle and tender and loving with each other. I get a terrible backache for the first few days of my period, and even drugged up on ibuprofen, walking around still hurts. This book is the antidote to that: it’s full of cozy illustrations of adorable tea dragons, queer people taking care of each other, and imaginative magic. There’s no violence. It’s like getting a perfect, quiet hug from your beloved grandmother.
The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang
I love reading comics and graphic novels when I’m on my period because I find visual storytelling soothing. It’s often easier for my brain to process books that have more pictures than words. This is another graphic novel full of beautiful art (the illustrations of dresses are amazing!) and characters I adore. It’s not without its hard, serious moments (there is an awful scene that involves forced outing), but it’s ultimately a hopeful, upbeat, beautiful story about friendship, love, and being yourself. It transports me and delights me, and that’s all I want when I’m stuck on my couch with a backache.
Sometimes when your period has you feeling like garbage, you want to think about anything else besides what your uterus is doing to you. But sometimes it’s helpful to be reminded that your body is actually pretty amazing. Period Power is a nice balance of science and woo-woo; it taught me a lot about the reality of what’s going on behind my period, but it also made me feel like having a body that bleeds is kind of like magic. It includes tons of tips and tricks to work with your period instead of against it. If you’re looking to lean in and learn more about what’s going on during your period, you definitely have to check this book out.