Sometimes we all crave a comfort read just to temporarily get us through a challenging situation that is mentally draining. We may want to simply pass time or take a break from a tough day. Other times we need to find hope again and remove ourselves from the despair that clouds us. Hope you find these book recommendations comforting and helpful.
Comic relief is always guaranteed to provide comfort and solace. These were my top picks:
Fredrick Backman’s “A Man Called Ove” (Genre: Swedish Fiction)
An unexpected friendship develops between a young family of four who have just moved into a new neighbourhood, and their grumpy old neighbour Ove, an inflexible man who sticks to his principles. He trusts no one and thinks himself wiser than most people on the block. Only 59 years old, his wife passed away and he is grief-stricken. Pining for his wife, he struggles to make sense of life with overwhelming feelings of loss taking hold.
Whilst the book may seem sombre, it has great moments of joy and beautifully illustrates what it means to be truly alive. More importantly, the whole book is laced with humorous prose striking a perfect balance between the feelings of loss and ageing in a world that becomes more and more alien as we age and the human connections that can slowly release us from these imprisoning feelings.
This book will resonate with everyone and by the end of it you will fall in love with Ove. It will make you want to call your grandparents as a burst of love and gratitude washes over.
Terry Pratchett’s “The Color of Magic” (Genre: Fantasy)
Humorous, imaginative and fantastical, this is the perfect book for some light comic relief and an escape from every day life as we know it. Entertaining and fast-paced, the story begins in Discworld, where tourist Twoflower and Wizard Guide Ricewind embark on a whirlwind journey in the city of Ankh-Morpork. They travel on shiny dragons, dodge scary trolls, stumble upon prophetic ceremonies and haphazardly manage the potpourri of fantasy creatures and lands.
The first of a great series of adventures in Discworld, this book is sure to delight and humour its readers. Get ready to laugh out loud.
Nostalgia always makes me feel grateful! Here are some great nostalgic reads:
Annie Dillard’s “An American Childhood” (Genre: Memoir)
An intoxicating account of Annie’s childhood, it will get you feeling nostalgic of yours. Beautiful wisdom from the author captured in this semi-memoir/autobiography of the author’s life growing up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with anecdotes about her high school years, holidaying with her grandmother on Lake Eire to surviving adolescence, early relationships, her passion for literature and history. Whilst these are her memories, the book feels like a trip down memory lane where you find yourself visiting your childhood and reminiscing special moments.
As an added bonus, the book is adorned with beautiful prose and poem where you’ll continuously want to save sentences as standout quotes.
Betty Smith’s “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn”(Genre: Classic Historical Fiction)
Brace yourself for an emotional reading journey as this (short) book narrates the haunting sorrows of growing up poor in Brooklyn 60 years ago. Francie, a young girl born to poor parents endures many hardships of poverty only recognising these as she gets older.
She spends most of her childhood oblivious of this fact, gaining joy in the little pleasures of life like buying candy and playing with her little brother. As she gets older, she finds solace in books realising that complexities of life.
Francie’s mother, a janitor in the building where they live, is determined for her and her brother to have a better education than she did, requiring them to read a page of the bible and Shakespeare every night as well as negotiating piano lessons with resident teachers in the building. Francie lifts herself from her dire circumstances through self-education, visiting the library every day.
The title of the book is a metaphor for Francie as she grows up to slowly but surely lift herself out of poverty and flourish like a tree in Brooklyn. This book will resonate with almost everyone as we navigate the ups and downs of life regardless of our station in life.
Anne Tyler’s “The Accidental Tourist” (Genre: Literary Fiction)
A Pulitzer Prize Nominee for literary fiction, the story centres around a travel writer, Macon Leary, who writes books for people who hate to travel. Having lost his son a couple of years ago, his wife leaves him shortly after. Unsure of how to proceed with life he uses his writing to chronicle the challenges, the transitions and the emotional processing we are forced to embrace as life goes on. Sometimes by being thrust into chaos we truly find ourselves.
A beautiful story filled with colourful characters, both human and vulnerable, that teach us life-affirming lessons along the way. A feel-good book overall.
Romance is the ultimate comfort read. Enjoy these classic love stories.
Jane Austen’s “Persuasion” (Genre: Classic and Romantic Fiction)
Persuasion is strikingly different to many of Austen’s more well-known titles — a novel about a love lost rather than a romantic relationship that blossoms, the book engages the readers emotion through the plight of Anne Elliot, the central character of the book. Anne is convinced by her friend Lady Russell that she should not marry eligible Frederick Wentworth, who later in the story returns as a wealthy and successful captain.
Filled with regret at her decision on his return, she wonders what might have been and whether the relationship can be rekindled. A second chance at romance, this is by far Austen’s most romantic novel.
Elizabeth Gaskell’s “North and South” (Genre: Historical Fiction and Romance)
Strong social themes entwined in a romantic Victorian love story makes this book an instant hit. Similar to Austen’s style, the book is beautifully written and narrates the story of a young girl, Margaret, who moves from Hampshire to an industrial town called Milton in the heydays of the industrial revolution.
Milton is an ugly town, cloaked in poverty alongside opportunist tradesmen. Many of the poor residents work at the local mill in dire conditions, often being treated no better than animals and facing the risk of death on many occasions. Empathising with their plight she becomes fully aware of the social injustices and suffering the mill-workers face. To complicate matters more, the mill-owner John Thornton, falls for her. A wonderful story that has been adapted as a mini-series in the UK.
Pure literary escapism
And if you truly want to indulge, these little wonders will certainly do the trick.
Kazuo Ishiguro’s “The Remains of the Day” (Genre: Literary Fiction)
Winner of the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize, this book could not have a better introduction. A literary masterpiece, the book’s main character, a butler by the name of Stevens at Darlington Hall, takes a six-day trip through the West Country. During the journey, he reflects on fascism, the world wars and the love relationship between him and the housekeeper that failed to manifest.
What makes the book so powerful is it is literally littered with life lessons and philosophy about decisions made, regret, acting with dignity, acceptance and repression, enveloped in poetic prose and narrative that makes it a memorable and inspiring read.
Madeline Miller’s “Circe” (Genre: Fantasy, Historical Fiction)
Poetic fiction based on the fascinating story of the peculiar daughter of the sun god, Helios. Choosing to build relationships with mortals on earth, she discovers her power of witchcraft, transforming enemies into monsters.
Zeus banishes her to an island where she perfects her talent for witchcraft. However she is cast as someone who must be tamed and choose between her God family and the mortals she loves.
The book itself relays many analogies of being true to one’s self and discovering our own magic and abilities. It also explores what is means to be a powerful woman amongst powerful men and acknowledges that woman often cannot enjoy a similar status to successful men. Instead she is viewed as a scary sorceress.
A unique story created by Madeline Miller - if you love Greek mythology, you’ll love this.
Looking for something more specific? Get something more tailored with our personalised book prescriptions within 48 hours. You might also find it helpful to explore these feelings in a bibliotherapy session or learn some bibliotherapy techniques to help you process these feelings by completing our online Bibliotherapy, Literature and Mental Health course or our book Bibliotherapy: The Healing Power of Reading.
A big hello and thank you for reading! Passionate about literature, psychology, and life I launched Book Therapy as an alternative form of therapy using the power of literature. I train mental health professionals, librarians, teachers as well as readers on using bibliotherapy in their own work through our online Bibliotherapy, Literature and Mental Health course. We also curate reading lists/personalised book prescriptions for clients based on their individual needs. This is our signature personalised reading service.
You can also check out Book Therapy’s other free reading lists and A- Z of book prescriptions (covering both fiction and non-fiction). These suggest books based on your existing life situation (e.g. anxiety, job change, relationship heartache) as well as interests (e.g memoir, historical fiction, non-fiction, crime etc). There’s also a Children’s A — Z of Book Prescriptions. Feel free to check out the blog for more literary gems. There’s also a post on my personal story of how I entered the world of bibliotherapy and book curation.
In this role, I have had the opportunity to publish two books called Bibliotherapy: The Healing Power of Reading and The Happiness Mindset, and write various literary essays and pieces for newspapers and magazines. I have undertaken bibliotherapy workshops for The United Nations, various libraries in New York and corporate organisations in the UK and US. My book recommendations have featured in the Guardian, Marie Claire, NBC News, Asian Voice, New York Observer, Sydney Telegraph and various other publications. If you are a parent you might enjoy a podcast I’ve recorded with speech and language therapist Sunita Shah on Raising A Reader & Storyteller. And if you’d like to connect, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.booktherapy.io.
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