Share Book Therapy: 8 Soul-Soothing Reads That Help Us Quiet Our Anxieties

Book Therapy: 8 Soul-Soothing Reads That Help Us Quiet Our Anxieties

Alice Martin is a PhD candidate in English Literature at Rutgers University, where she obsesses over nineteenth-century women writers, the history of the publishing industry, and writing practices. She’s also a regular contributor to Shelf Awareness and a freelance writer and editor. Her writing has appeared in The Carolina Quarterly, Appalachian Heritage, and Sixfold among other publications. You can find her talking about books, food, and basketball (in that order) on Twitter @AliceJeanMartin.

Whether it’s about an impending deadline, a sick relative, feelings of isolation, or just the general state of the world, there is no shortage of reasons for feeling anxious right now. And with the recent publishing of Fredrik Backman’s Anxious People, we’re fully submersed in all our anxieties at the moment. While there is no quick fix for these feelings, these eight books have been hand-selected to provide some relief. With their heartwarming plots, poignant messages, and charming characters, these tales are sure to soothe your soul. Like many people right now, the characters in these stories aren’t just upset about one thing; there’s a web of concerns that stop them in their tracks. But they are not alone, and reading their stories is a great way to remind yourself that neither are you.


Beartown
by Fredrik Backman

The small, forested community of Beartown doesn’t have much going for it except its junior ice hockey team. But the pressure of saving the town is a lot of responsibility for a group of teenage boys, and the tension explodes in a violent act at the semifinals. With a young girl traumatized and the town devastated, accusations, blame, and guilt run rampant among friends and neighbors. Searing, insightful, and ultimately hopeful, BEARTOWN looks toward small-town politics for lessons the whole world needs to learn.

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Beartown
Fredrik Backman

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Swimming for Sunlight
by Allie Larkin

After a crippling divorce, costume designer Katie and her anxious rescue dog move in with her grandmother Nan in Florida. When Nan reveals that she was once an underwater mermaid performer in a roadside attraction, Katie helps her get in touch with her old pals to set up a reunion show. With new friendships forming, new business ventures afoot, and a new relationship around the corner, Katie must look to her dog for support and insight into her own lingering fears.

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Swimming for Sunlight
Allie Larkin

When recently divorced Katie Ellis and her rescue dog Bark move back in with Katie’s grandmother in Florida, she becomes swept up in a reunion of her grandmother’s troupe of underwater performers—finding hope and renewal in unexpected places, in this sweet novel perfect for fans of Kristan Higgins and Claire Cook.

Aspiring costume designer Katie gave up everything in her divorce to gain custody of her fearful, faithful rescue dog, Barkimedes. While she figures out what to do next, she heads back to Florida to live with her grandmother, Nan.

But Katie quickly learns there’s a lot she doesn’t know about Nan—like the fact that in her youth Nan was a mermaid performer in a roadside attraction show, swimming and dancing underwater with a close-knit cast of talented women. Although most of the mermaids have since lost touch, Katie helps Nan search for her old friends on Facebook, sparking hopes for a reunion show. Katie is up for making some fabulous costumes, but first, she has to contend with her crippling fear of water.

As Katie’s college love Luca, a documentary filmmaker, enters the fray, Katie struggles to balance her hopes with her anxiety, and begins to realize just how much Bark’s fears are connected to her own, in this thoughtful, charming novel about hope after loss and friendships that span generations.

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MENTIONED IN:

Book Therapy: 8 Soul-Soothing Reads That Help Us Quiet Our Anxieties

By Alice Martin | September 22, 2020

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I Miss You When I Blink
by Mary Laura Philpott

A witty and wise memoir-in-essays, I MISS YOU WHEN I BLINK offers a series of mini pep talks on how to cope with life’s small but unrelenting dissatisfactions. Philpott used to believe that when she accomplished all of her life’s goals, she’d finally be permanently happy. But reality is much more complicated, and much less perfect. Instead of throwing in the towel or starting over, Philpott offers funny and emotional anecdotes of how our life crises can be moments of small reinvention rather than catalysts for destruction.

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I Miss You When I Blink
Mary Laura Philpott

NATIONAL BESTSELLER

A charmingly relatable and wise memoir-in-essays by acclaimed writer and bookseller Mary Laura Philpott, the modern day reincarnation ofNora Ephron, Erma Bombeck, Jean Kerr, and Laurie Colwinall rolled into one (The Washington Post), about what happened after she checked off all the boxes on a successful lifes to-do list and realized she might need to reinvent the list—and herself.

Mary Laura Philpott thought she’d cracked the code: Always be right, and you’ll always be happy.

But once she’d completed her life’s to-do list (job, spouse, house, babies—check!), she found that instead of feeling content and successful, she felt anxious. Lost. Stuck in a daily grind of overflowing calendars, grueling small talk, and sprawling traffic. She’d done everything “right” but still felt all wrong. What’s the worse failure, she wondered: smiling and staying the course, or blowing it all up and running away? And are those the only options?

Taking on the conflicting pressures of modern adulthood, Philpott provides a “frank and funny look at what happens when, in the midst of a tidy life, there occur impossible-to-ignore tugs toward creativity, meaning, and the possibility of something more” (Southern Living). She offers up her own stories to show that identity crises don’t happen just once or only at midlife and reassures us that small, recurring personal re-inventions are both normal and necessary. Most of all, in this “warm embrace of a life lived imperfectly” (Esquire), Philpott shows that when you stop feeling satisfied with your life, you don’t have to burn it all down. You can call upon your many selves to figure out who you are, who you’re not, and where you belong. Who among us isn’t trying to do that?

“Be forewarned that you’ll laugh out loud and cry, probably in the same essay. Philpott has a wonderful way of finding humor, even in darker moments. This is a book you’ll want to buy for yourself and every other woman you know” (Real Simple).

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Dear Mrs. Bird
by AJ Pearce

In the midst of World War II air raids in Britain, best friends Emmy and Bunty are determined to stay cheerful. After becoming a typist for Mrs. Bird, the intimidating advice columnist for Woman’s Friend magazine, Emmy becomes discouraged by Mrs. Bird’s refusal to answer any letters which may include “Unpleasantness.” Drawn to women whose letters beg for help and connection, Emmy begins to write back under her boss’s name in this delightful ode to friendship and female community.

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Dear Mrs. Bird
AJ Pearce

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Bear Necessity
by James Gould-Bourn

In this charming, heartwarming story of overcoming grief, a father and son find an unusual way to reconnect. In the wake of his wife’s unexpected death, Danny has become a single father to eleven-year-old Will and has lost his construction job. Desperate to pay rent, Danny buys a ragged panda costume and becomes a street performer in the park, where one day he chases bullies away from Will. Although Will hasn’t spoken to Danny in the year since his mother’s death, he begins to open up to his new panda-clad friend.

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Bear Necessity
James Gould-Bourn

A heartwarming, poignant, and charming debut novel for fans of Nick Hornby and The Rosie Project, about a father and son overcoming their grief in surprisingly inventive ways.

Danny’s life is falling apart. He’s become a single father to eleven-year-old Will—who hasn’t spoken since the death of his mother in a car crash a year earlier—and Danny has just been fired from his construction job. To make matters worse, he’s behind on the rent and his nasty landlord is threatening to break his legs if he doesn’t pay soon. Danny needs money, and fast.

After observing local street performers in a nearby park, Danny spends his last few dollars on a tattered panda costume, impulsively deciding to become a dancing bear. While performing one day, Danny spots his son in the park, and chases off the older boys who are taunting him. Will opens up for the first time since his mother’s death, unaware that the man in the panda costume is his father. Afraid of disclosing his true identity, Danny comforts his son. But will Danny lose Will’s trust once he reveals who he is? And will he be able to dance his way out of debt, or be beaten up before he has a chance?

Filled with a colorful cast of characters, Bear Necessity is a refreshingly unpretentious and ultimately uplifting story of a father and son reconnecting in the most unlikely of circumstances.

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MENTIONED IN:

Book Therapy: 8 Soul-Soothing Reads That Help Us Quiet Our Anxieties

By Alice Martin | September 22, 2020

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Furiously Happy
by Jenny Lawson

A raw but hilarious look at mental health, FURIOUSLY HAPPY is a humor memoir from beloved journalist and blogger Jenny Lawson. Lawson reflects on her own experiences with extreme depression in order to illustrate how her conditions have given her a robust, unique view on life. Chock-full of pathos and laughs, heartache and hysteria, this memoir destigmatizes mental illness and encourages its readers to embrace their own weirdness in an unexpected celebration of joy.

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Furiously Happy
Jenny Lawson

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Once Upon a Sunset
by Tif Marcelo

Diana, a renowned ob-gyn, is unraveling. Her grandmother just died, her boyfriend left her, her mother is moving in, and a medical misstep is forcing her to take a sabbatical. After her mother discovers a series of World War II letters from Diana’s grandfather to her grandmother, Diana learns that they may have family they’ve never met in the Philippines. Determined to set the record straight, Diana sets off on an adventure that will challenge her view of herself and her family in this romantic and heartfelt tale.

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Once Upon a Sunset
Tif Marcelo

The author of The Key to Happily Ever After—“a true gem filled with heart, laughs, and a cast of delightful characters” (Nina Bocci, USA TODAY bestselling author)—returns with a heartwarming and charming novel about a woman who travels to the Philippines to reconnect with her long-lost family…and manages to find herself along the way.

Diana Gallagher-Cary is at a tipping point. As a Washington, DC, OB/GYN at a prestigious hospital, she uses her career to distract herself from her grief over her granny’s death and her breakup from her long-term boyfriend after her free-spirited mother moves in with her. But when she makes a medical decision that disparages the hospital, she is forced to go on a short sabbatical.

Never one to wallow, Diana decides to use the break to put order in her life, when her mother, Margo, stumbles upon a box of letters from her grandfather, Antonio Cruz, to her grandmother from the 1940s. The two women always believed that Antonio died in World War II, but the letters reveal otherwise. When they learn that he lived through the war, and that they have surviving relatives in the Philippines, Diana becomes determined to connect with the family that she never knew existed, though Margo refuses to face her history. But Diana pushes on, and heads on a once-in-a-lifetime trip that challenges her identity, family history, and her idea of romantic love that could change her life forever.

Infused with Tif Marcelo’s signature “sexy, adorable, and heartfelt” (Kate Meader, USA TODAY bestselling author) voice, Once Upon a Sunset is a moving and lyrical celebration of love, family, and second chances.

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Mornings with Rosemary
by Libby Page

Brixton, London, is gentrifying, and lifelong resident Rosemary is desperate to hold on to one of its last familiar relics: the lido, an outdoor community pool. Meanwhile, young reporter Kate has just moved to the area and is feeling isolated. When she’s assigned to cover the pool’s closing, Kate begins to bond with Rosemary and learn about the community center’s rich personal history. MORNINGS WITH ROSEMARY is a feel-good novel with a poignant heart, honoring the power of friendship and community.

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Mornings with Rosemary
Libby Page

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