Riot Headline 10 Exciting Books to Read this Summer

Book Recommendations for Every Toxic Trait (Sort Of)

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Claire Handscombe


Claire Handscombe moved from Europe to DC in 2012, ostensibly to study for an MFA in Creative Writing, but actually – let’s be honest – because of an obsession with The West Wing. She is the author of Unscripted, a novel about a young woman with a celebrity crush and a determined plan, and the editor of Walk With Us: How The West Wing Changed Our Lives. She also hosts the Brit Lit Podcast, a fortnightly show of news and views from British books and publishing. Blog: the Brit Lit Blog. Twitter: @BookishClaire

We all have things in our personality that we’re not proud of — or things we are actually secretly proud of — but we know our lives would improve if we could get rid of them. A quick TikTok search reveals toxic trends come in all shapes and sizes, from always wearing your sunglasses on your head but never over your actual eyes to flirting with no intention of following through. Obviously, some are more light-hearted than others, and some affect everyday life more than others.

If you don’t know what your toxic trait is, your friends will probably be only too happy to (lovingly) help you figure it out. And if not, there are always BuzzFeed quizzes.

Once you know your toxic trait, books are here to help! They can offer catharsis as you vicariously live through a character dealing with some of the same issues as you or even advice on how to overcome some of those toxic traits, whether they’re about motivation, relationships, or, more generally, getting your life together.

I’ve collected a few of those books — from excellent novels that reflect your toxic trait (and perhaps offer some warnings and cautionary tales) to solid nonfiction with useful advice or fun reminders that you’re not alone in your struggles.

Being Jealous of Someone Who Is More Successful Than You

Book cover of Yellowface by R. F. Kuang

Yellowface by R. F. Kuang

If you’re always looking at your level of success and comparing it to other people’s, you’ll likely have more in common with the anti-heroine of Yellowface than you’ll really want to admit. A lot of June’s actions in this book, where she steals her more successful friend’s manuscript and passes it off as her own, stem directly from jealousy. This is an excellent read and very cathartic, especially for anyone who’s struggled with wanting to be better known as a writer.

Always Saying You’re Going to Write a Book but Never Actually Doing It

No Plot No Problem by Chris Baty book cover

No Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty

On the other hand, maybe you’ve been saying for ages that you want to write a book of your own (rather than stealing someone else’s), but you can’t seem to actually get around to it. NaNoWriMo is just around the corner, and there’s no time like the present! Stop procrastinating, and with this book, get ready to write a first draft in November this year.

Struggles with Punctuality

book cover for Late: A Timebender's Guide to Why We Are Late and How We Can Change

Late! by Grace G. Pacie

If your toxic trait is thinking you can leave the house in five minutes (and that includes finding the keys you’ve invariably misplaced) and you’re always late as a result, this book is for you! Instead of berating you for your perennial tardiness, it explains why your brain is hardwired the way it is and, crucially, how you can train yourself to be on time.

A Tendency to Shy Away from Fun Challenges

Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes Book Cover

Year of yes by Shonda Rhimes

If the reason you haven’t written that novel, though (or gone on that trip, or taken that class, or spoken to that person), is that you’re lacking in confidence or motivation, and what you need is a pep talk by a smart, straight-talking friend, look no further than Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes.

Being Disorganised

Book cover of The Bullet Journal Method by Ryder Carroll

The Bullet Journal Method by Ryder Carroll

If planning is the thing that trips you up when trying to get your life sorted (spoiler: it’s doubtful if we ever, in fact, get our lives sorted), then why not give bullet journalling a go? Ryder Caroll’s method is deceptively simple, as well as easy to personalise into a system that truly works for you. Plus, it’s an excuse to buy a new notebook, and if anything can solve all your problems and toxic traits, it’s definitely a new notebook.

Loving Gossip a Little Bit Too Much

Haven't You Heard by Marie le Conte book cover

Haven’t You Heard? by Marie Le Conte

Like many powerful institutions, Westminster runs on gossip. This book by one of the hosts of the UK news podcast Papercuts explores the role of open secrets in political life, the relationship between politicians and journalism, and how some gossip becomes news while some remains hush-hush and undercover.

Falling for People You Can’t Have

The Idea of You by Robinne Lee book cover

The Idea Of You by Robinne Lee

Most of us have, at some point, fallen for someone who there was no hope of us being with long-term. (Most of us have, right? Please tell me it’s not just me.) If you identify with that particular toxic trait — maybe it’s something that happens to you regularly, or maybe you are more in love with the idea of love itself than with a particular person — then this book is a must. Honestly, it’s a must for anyone who loves a well-written, intense love story. One of my top books of recent years.

Secretly Believing Everyone Should Be Like You

Millenneagram by Hannah Paasch book cover

Millenneagram by Hannah Paasch

We all know in theory that everyone is different, but sometimes we need a little help understanding how that plays out and that, in fact, it’s a good thing that we don’t all think and act in the same way or even prioritise the same things.


Me vs Brain by Hayley Morris book cover

Me vs Brain by Hayley Morris

Hey, overthinker: you’re not alone! That’s the message of this book by the TikTok sensation Hayley Morris: you may have seen her on your feed dressed up as various body parts in conversation with each other. Her book walks you through different elements of everyday life that you might be prone to worrying about and helps take some of those worries off your plate — while providing some light relief.

That’s just a start, of course: there are probably as many toxic traits as there are people in the world. But hopefully, these books are a good start. And in the meantime, you can read about the bookish toxic traits of other Book Riot writers here.