In times like these, the editors are turning to books that give us comfort—books that make us feel calm, reassured, make us laugh, and just plain entertain us. In some cases, these are books that we regularly rely on; in others we find solace in the unknown. So, if you're like us, and looking for a security blanket in literature, here are seven books that provide just that.
The Satapur Moonstone by Sujata Massey
Right now I just want to be transported into another place and another time. I want my brain to focus on a problem that can be solved and for me that means a mystery. I don’t want anything grim, but I’m not a cozy mystery reader either. Sujata Massey is my answer. I loved her first mystery featuring Perveen Mistry, The Widows of Malabar Hill, so now I’m going to sit down with her latest, The Satapur Moonstone. The story is in 1922 India, and involves a royal family curse and palace intrigue. Perveen Mistry is the only female lawyer in Bombay so it’s up to her to help resolve a dispute between two royal ladies, who, because they live in purdah, cannot speak to men. Mistry finds herself in the midst of something older and deeper than a simple feud, and I can’t wait to disappear into the mystery of it all.—Seira Wilson
Separation Anxiety: A Novel by Laura Zigman
Turning to books during good times, bad times, stressful times—you name is—is sort of second nature to me. My first pick is a book I’ve read that made me laugh out loud, which isn’t something that happens that often when I’m reading. Laura Zigman’s Separation Anxiety is the right mix of kooky, poignant, and absolutely true to life. While cleaning up her basement one day, Judy stumbles upon her now-teenage son’s former baby sling. She puts it on, and soon thereafter is carrying around her dog. Everywhere. Suddenly, dealing with her failing marriage, her son growing up, his passive-aggressive Montessori school, and Insta-celebs doesn’t seem so hard. Even though I’m still in the literal baby wearing phase, there was so much for me to identify with in this novel.—Sarah Gelman
Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer
On the top of my electronic stack of “books for a rainy day” is a book that was recommended to me from a friend I met at “farm camp” last summer, where I spent my days making cheese, gardening, pressing flowers, cooking and doing other dreamy things involving the natural world. I haven’t yet started Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachers of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer, but the dawn of spring and the growing season seems like a perfect time to do so. I texted this friend the other day to let her know we were planning our new vegetable garden, and she sent me this quote, which resonated with me so fully I can’t stop thinking about it: “To plant a garden is to believe in the future.” I can see Braiding Sweetgrass as a book I savor slowly, hopefully reading in the spring sunshine as the garden grows.—Sarah Gelman
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Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari
When I'm looking for a literary hug I tend to go back to the things I've read a long time ago. If it's poetry, it's Yeats, T.S. Eliot, Dylan Thomas, or W.S. Merwin. Sometimes it's short stories: John Cheever, J.D. Salinger, Flannery O'Connor, Checkov, or Guy De Maupassant. All old farts, which make me feel boring. Throw Joseph Conrad or E.B. White on that pile. Recently I returned to Toni Morrison and Junot Diaz, who are both a little more recent. Sometimes it's one of the Suzukis, either Shunryu or D.T. Sometimes it's Hannah Arendt. I don't know why. There are many others. But the book I most recently turned to was Yuval Noah Harari's Sapiens, because I was looking to step back and maybe see things from a distance for a little while, as if current events were already in the past, a point in a long line of human history.—Chris Schluep
Many people return to the film (which is fab) when they need a touchstone back to earlier, sillier times. I recommend giving the book a try. Like the film, the book catches you off guard with its sly humor and glorious ridiculousness… but the book packs in twice as much as the film. Want more Inigo? You get more Inigo. Want more R.O.U.S.es? You get more R.O.U.S.es. The Princess Bride perfectly matches hilarity with heroism, highlighting both life’s absurdities and the profound fulfillment found in doing the right thing. —Adrian Liang
How to Think Like a Roman Emperor: The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius by Donald Robertson
I find a lot of consolation in philosophy (thank you Boethius and Alain de Botton), especially Stoic philosophy which basically says: You do not have control over external circumstances, but you do have control over how you respond to them (so, don’t freak out). That’s what Donald Robertson talks about in his book, Think Like a Roman Emperor, which does a deep dive into one of Stoicism’s most famous devotees, Marcus Aurelius. In these uncertain times, when many of us are battling loneliness, bored children, fraying nerves, and so much more, this book is a handy guide for building emotional resilience. It’s my Linus blanket in book form right now. —Erin Kodicek
I’ll just say it: I miss my family. Even though we text and video chat daily, I miss them. So, to make-up for their absence and to bolster my heart with familial connection I’m reading Bess Kalb’s outstanding memoir, Nobody Will Tell You This But Me: A True (as told to me) Story. It is a truly life affirming, moving, and hilarious account of the relationship between Bess and her grandmother, told from the point of view of the grandmother. Whip smart, biting, and comically, unabashedly herself, the grandmother will say whatever is on her mind, in the way that only mothers and grandmothers can. This book makes me fall in love with their camaraderie, their need for one another, and their genuine, joyful wry views on life that they share together. In this uncertain moment, my relationships are keeping me steady, happy, and hopeful. As the grandmother says, “What have I always told you, Bessie? What have I always said? You’re my angel. I am you. I’m the bones in your body and the blood that fills you up and the meat around your legs.” That’s the support and love I want right now. —Al Woodworth
This article was originally published on March 25, 2020.
From philosophers, meditations on humanity, and memoirs of grandmothers, to mysteries and light-hearted novels, these are the books that the editors are turning to for comfort, reassurance, and entertainment.
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