Best books for your mental health
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Bibliotherapy1 of 11
You've heard of aromatherapy and even vinotherapy (a personal favorite). But bibliotherapy? Proponents of the idea say that books (and not the self-help kind) can offer inspiration, comfort and companionship during tough times. So Glo asked writer Edan Lepucki to "prescribe" the best books for coping with ten different life challenges.
Family Drama2 of 11
The Epicure's Lament by Kate Christensen
Hugo Whittier will die of a rare and painful disease if he doesn't quit smoking. Of course, he's content to smoke himself to death in his family's mansion. That's too bad for Hugh, because his brother arrives with his two daughters (one of whom Hugh describes as a "sexy kindergartener"), then comes his estranged wife and the child she insists is Hugh's, then his gay uncle, and on and on. This is the perfect book if you love to hate your family—oh how you will feel Hugh's pain!
Work Woes3 of 11
Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis
No one's been more miserable over work than Jim Dixon, a professor at a not very prestigious college. He navigates the inanity of academia and seethes over his insufferable boss, Professor Welch, at one point fantasizing about tying him to a chair and beating him until he confesses why he gave his kids French names. Even if you don't feel better about your own job by the end, you'll at least have great new ways to describe waking with a hangover, like this: "His mouth had been used as a latrine by some small creature of the night, and then as its mausoleum."
Loss of a Loved One4 of 11
Wild by Cheryl Strayed
At 22, Cheryl Strayed lost her mother. In the spiral of grief that followed, she destroyed her marriage and much of what was stable in her life. Four years later, she decided to trek the infamously difficult Pacific Crest Trail—despite having no real hiking experience. This memoir follows her journey, featuring a too-heavy backpack called Monster, many, many blackened toenails, and a motley cast of fellow travelers. Strayed shows us that although the pain of loss lingers, it doesn't have to stop us from experiencing beauty.
Broken Heart5 of 11
Take Care of Yourself by Sophie Calle
After being unceremoniously dumped via email, French artist Sophie Calle asked over a hundred female experts—from a lawyer to a psychoanalyst—to interpret the breakup message. The result, which includes the text of the experts, as well as photographs and digital content, was originally exhibited at the 2007 Venice Biennale; as a 424-page artist's book, it's a wholly absorbing and intimate record of obsessive pain, one that may just rouse you to turn your own suffering into art.
Maternal Angst6 of 11
The Ten-Year Nap by Meg Wolitzer
After too many wakeful nights, most young moms would love the chance to sleep for a decade. But what if, ten years after becoming a stay-at-home parent, you find yourself emerging from a metaphorical slumber? That's the case in Wolitzer's candid and compassionate novel. This book will entertain and delight, but it'll also allow you to feel okay about being an exhausted, ambivalent, envious, and worried mother, whether your child is a newborn or off to middle school, and whether you work or not. Don't do the laundry or wipe down that high chair—read this.
Unrequited Love7 of 11
The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides
Instead of obsessing over the one you can't have, escape into this absorbing tale of three college grads in the early '80s: Madeleine Hanna, lover of Jane Austen and George Eliot; Leonard Bankhead, Madeleine's brilliant, manic-depressive boyfriend; and Mitchell Grammaticus, who has carried a torch for Madeleine since freshman year. This is a thoughtful and entertaining love-triangle story. Eugenides reminds us that love is sometimes painfully difficult and complicated; it can be a balm to read about a suffering similar to your own.
Longing for Home8 of 11
Glaciers by Alexis M. Smith
This slender, lyrical novel—about a 20-something library employee named Isabel—is weighted with things from the past: vintage dresses and serving platters; antique postcards; the Alaska its heroine left as a girl. In short chapters told in careful, delicate prose, Glaciers depicts Isabel's loneliness with such grace that it'll lull you into contemplation. So, go ahead: Pour yourself a drink, settle into this book, and then, allow yourself to long for a place you can only imagine in your mind. It's a beautiful hurt, isn't it?
Anxiety Management9 of 11
The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown
Natural disasters, partisan rancor, unspeakable acts of violence around the world—what's not to worry about? It may sound silly, but this children's classic will offer you a sliver of comfort in this scary world. The bunny's mother, who will "walk across the air" to find her son at the circus, is constantly wise and reassuring. Never mind if you and your own mom aren't getting along; this mother bunny can be whoever you need her to be: a loving friend, an inspiring mentor, maybe even a better, stronger version of yourself.
Drama With Friends10 of 11
Dare Me by Megan Abbott
Teenage girls know a lot about drama, and when those girls are cheerleaders, well, there's more at risk than just a faulty human pyramid. This dark novel centers on cheerleader Addy Hanlon and her friendship with the magnetic and manipulative Beth Cassidy. When a new coach threatens the girls' special yet precarious bond, the novel gets wonderfully tense and surprising. The depiction might make you flinch, but try to keep a steady gaze. Hopefully these limber, snarling characters will remind you that you're too old to deal with mean girls.
Major Regrets11 of 11
In the Woods by Tana French
Maybe, long ago, you did something you still can't forgive yourself for. Maybe there's a former version of yourself you don't ever want to face again. If so, you'll appreciate this crime novel, the first of French's Dublin Murder Squad books. It tells the story of Detective Rob Ryan and the case that shakes up all his old demons. It also tells the story of his complex friendship with his partner, Cassie. French's portrait of a man hounded by a past he can't easily recover from is masterful.
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