“What are you reading?” can be an icebreaker, an olive branch, or a nosy query. During these times, it’s almost a plea. We ask it, hopeful: Are you reading something that I’ll love? Are you reading something that helps you withstand it all?
Sometimes simply knowing what others read during times of distress can give you ideas for what might help you relax, find joy, or escape and might ultimately bring a dose of comfort to your day — be it for 5 minutes or an hour. Here’s what the Greatist team reads when they want to relax and find comfort amid all the stress.
We’d also love to know what your favorite comfort reads are. Head on over to the discussion threads in our book club, Greatist Reads, to share.
Ashley Sepanski, Demand Editor
Comfort book: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, audiobook and BBC radio series recordings
Why I love it: The completely nonsensical space adventures of Arthur Dent, after earth is destroyed to make way for an intergalactic highway, have been my favorite summer read (er, listen) for years. In the midst of COVID-19, however, I’m feeling even more connected to Arthur’s plight as he navigates ridiculous encounter after ridiculous encounter (with the help of his trusty towel).
For the audiobook, Stephen Fry brings Douglas Adams’ masterpiece to life with kooky voices and British charm. But if you want a next-level experience, the BBC radio series features sound effects and a full cast. Whichever audio version you choose, it’s a delightful, off-kilter ride from start to finish that’s the perfect way to transport you off your couch and out of your head.
Amanda Page, Demand Editor II
Comfort book: Outlander (the original) by Diana Gabaldon
Why I love it: I’ve always had a fondness for all things Scotland, so this book impacts me on a special level. Oh, yeah — the hot romance is nice a touch, too, during times of great stress.
As a close second, I’d say Bonjour Tristesse by Francoise Sagan. This melancholy coming-of-age story is a lovely quick read that always manages to put life’s stresses into perspective. Being transported to the French Riviera is also a nice touch.
Christal Yuen, Senior Editor
Comfort book: Borne by Jeff Vandermeer
Why I love it: My therapist is going to yell at me for turning to apocalyptic fiction again, but even during a pandemic, it’s all I can read. I think it’s the way these stories swallow time, both in the pages and in real life, but also highlight how small moments are important.
Realistically, the most vivid memories of my life are associated with this book. I remember a bookstore boy telling me how life would forever change, and subsequently it did, because anyone I meet who gushes over Vandermeer’s work is someone I trust. Every time I look at this book, I think about how I wished I was reading it again for the first time, rediscovering that revelation of how relationships can still be beautiful and fulfilling amongst chaos.
Rita Mauceri, Editor in Chief
Comfort book: Fall of Giants by Ken Follett
Why I love it: I love historical fiction. It lets me escape into another time and place. Whether it’s something oozing with romance like Outlander or something rich with detail like Ken Follett’s Fall of Giants, there’s something so comforting about getting your head out of the here and now. It’s like an instant antidote to modern-day stress!
Ginger Wojcik, Assistant Editor
Comfort book: Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed
Why I love it: Her writing is illuminated with hope. She can’t help but believe in the tenacity and inherent good of the human spirit. Reading this book gives me courage to do all the hard things I’m afraid of doing.
Hilary Lebow, Greatist Updates
Comfort book: The Untethered Soul by Michael Alan Singer (audio)
Why I love it: I’m never not devouring a self-help book. In such strange times, though, I’m finding it hard to be still and read for more than a few minutes at a time. So my solution is walking on the beach and listening to this book.
I love this book because it addresses the mind’s tendency to spiral (haven’t we all been there lately?) and how to work with fear as a catalyst for growth and positive change.
An honorable mention is When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron.
Carley Millhone, Demand Editor
Why I love it: This is a book you’d expect your grandma to read at the beach, but I love the entire series. It’s the perfect escape read because it’s so lighthearted.
When I read this book, I’m whisked away into the over-the-top life of New Jersey bounty hunter Stephanie Plum, which resembles 0 percent of my own life. It makes me laugh out loud and smile ear to ear every time I read it. It has everything: nonsense fights, insanely hilarious characters, and a lot of sexual tension (hit me up, sexy fictional cop Joe Morelli). Print all the way!
Jill Campbell, Copy Editor
Why I love it: I don’t often reread print books, but I will re-listen to an audiobook, especially if I love the author’s/narrator’s voice. Listening to Lisa Jakub’s books feels like having a conversation with a good friend — I’ve listened to each one twice. (Not Just Me is particularly great if you have anxiety and/or depression and are looking for reassurance and coping strategies.)
I’ve listened to Michelle Obama’s book only once but can see myself going back to it — her voice is so soothing, and her story is filled with hope and determination. It’s the longest book I’ve ever listened to and is worth every second of those 19 hours.
Naomi Farr, Copy Editor / Books Editor
Comfort book: Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Why I love it: It’s one of the books I always return to in times of stress. There’s something about this book that has drawn me back to it multiple times during the past decade… it’s filled with wonder, color, carnage, and great storytelling. But I think it’s also the pervading throb of hope that emanates from the protagonist even when it seems all hope is lost, which, for me, is a comforting thread of light during dark times.
It’s a survival story, sprinkled with philosophy and a great deal of adventure. Even just seeing it on my shelf makes me smile. Of course, I’m also always reaching for fantasy and sci-fi novels for some quality escapism. The Aurora Cycle books by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff are also recent favorites.
Naomi is the book club editor of Greatist Reads and a copy editor at Greatist. She loves focusing on all things books, beauty, wellness, and mental health. She’s also a YA fantasy author and bookstagrammer. You can find her (and her cat) @avioletlife.