The healing power of books
Note to readers: A few months ago, we asked for newsletter feedback. We sincerely thank those who took the time to respond. Going forward, we will divide these newsletters into two or three parts per month, making each a tad shorter and their frequency more consistent. We’ll also be adding in new sections and/or straying from the format as necessary. As always, if you have any thoughts on this new approach, do let us know. We always appreciate feedback.
In recent newsletters, we’ve shared resources for taking action on major societal issues, including gun control, reproductive justice, and more. We’ve also shared encouraging examples of book lovers fighting for change, and the science behind why reading is a great way to decompress from stressful environments. This month, we want to talk about the books that have helped us through hard times, whether that be because of laughter, shared experiences, or humanity.
[Dear readers: Please note that today’s issue contains mentions of abortion, gun violence, and attacks against LGBTQIA2S+ rights.]
“When the world felt dark and scary, love could whisk you off to go dancing; laughter could take some of the pain away; beauty could punch holes in your fear.” — Beach Read by Emily Henry
As book lovers, we are all likely aware of the powerful nature of books. Sometimes we might read for educational purposes, while other times we may turn to books during moments of sadness, seeking moments of joy, commiseration, or simply a friendly face. Books cannot solve everything—reading must be coupled with action—but they can momentarily offer us peace. Their narrators can pull us in so overwhelmingly that we cannot put the stories down. Instead, all we are able to do is continue reading.
And, just as books have the power to decrease stress, there are “healing” properties associated with reading. In fact, a common treatment is bibliotherapy—an approach in which a therapist or bibliotherapist curates a selection of reading for a patient. The method is proven to help patients make sense of difficult memories and/or events and help increase hope and self-esteem. One study in the UK found that 28% of non-readers were more likely to experience feelings of depression than readers.
As we grow and come to see the world in a different light or experience different dilemmas, the focus of the books we turn to for comfort may change. But whatever their focus, their ability to heal still remains. In this newsletter, we’re sharing a list of books that have brought us and other book lovers comfort during heavy times, as well as actions to take once we are ready to fight.
What books do we recommend for difficult times? We pulled together a few of our favorites, as well as those from the larger book community.
Brown Sisters Series: Each sister has a dream or goal that they are working towards, one that requires self growth and motivation. Along the way they have tons of witty banter, steamy sex, and fall in love.
Book Lovers: In this story, we meet Nora, a literary agent with anxiety who desires a career change. The sarcasm and romance are superb, but so is the relationship Nora has with her sister.
Wow, No Thank You: Author Sam Irby is well known for her wry sense of humor. In this essay collection, she dives into mental and physical health, writer’s block, relationships, and much more, all through her signature comedic lens.
Detransition, Baby: Torrey Peters writes characters so realistically, largely in part because of her ability to craft humor, anger, sorrow, and sarcasm within one scene. The wit of the narrators results in laugh-out-loud moments.
The Summer I Turned Pretty: By now, you may have binged the Amazon Prime series based on Jenny Han’s series (and if you haven’t, please do so immediately). The friendships, displays of motherhood, and relationships can help readers work through complicated emotions and difficult experiences.
Percy Jackson & the Olympians: This series started as a bedtime story author Rick Riordan would tell to his son who has dyslexia and ADHD. He wanted to share a story about an underestimated boy who was told he would not succeed, yet ends up proving everyone wrong.
Fairest: A story that encompasses adolescence, frustration with societal expectations and limitations, love, discrimination and oppression, and much more through beautiful, simplistic writing. Author and well-known writer Meredith Talusan’s memoir gives hope without glossing over the difficult moments.
Betty: Narrated by Betty as she grows, Betty does not shy away from emotional, harrowing experiences. Betty sees the world in an incredibly poetic way, the writing ridiculously hard to put down.
The Sentence: A novel that addresses COVID-19, the 2022 Black Lives Matter Resurgence, Indigenous sovereignty, and a haunted bookstore, The Sentence touches upon so many critical topics, and never strays from Erdrich’s stunning ability to craft unputdownable characters.
Godshot: In Godshot, Lacey May grows aware of her beliefs and goals while longing for a present mother. Lacey May is a narrator that is hard to forget, one that encompasses so many emotions we all have felt during adolescence.
Additional community recommendations include: The Divergent series, Everything I Know About Love, They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us, The Days of Abandonment, anything by Isabel Allende, and Wild Embers. Many also noted a general love for middle grade/YA novels.
We also love reading by way of audiobooks — a calming voice can be incredibly comforting. Recent listens that have soothed us:
While we love to share new downloads with you every month, this time around we want to re-spotlight two of our favorite summer-ready creations from the past year.
Did you know this scene is also available as a computer background?
Did you see the exclusive Summer Reading Log we released last year? Head to the link, use password SummerReads, scroll down until you reach the log, and download.
Sorry not sorry that us book lovers don’t have time for relationships.
P.S.: Did you know we are on TikTok? Check us out!
Once we’ve taken time to read and recuperate, what are some critical actions we can take to initiate larger change?
Abortion access: We recently sent out a newsletter issue devoted to supporting reproductive justice. Check it out and consider getting involved with your local abortion access network.
Gun control: Although Biden has signed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, the bill is only a start. It does not touch upon many critical gun reform actions. Continue to donate to organizations such as Everytown, vote for politicians that advocate for gun control (Gun Sense Voter is a site that makes politicians’ views on gun control transparent), and read books/articles on the impact of gun violence.
LGBTQIA2S+ rights: They are continuously under attack, with over 300 bills put forward this year alone. Some critical organizations to support by way of donations and/or volunteer work include:
Additionally, contact your senator to support the Equality Act.
As always, thank you so much for taking the time to read our newsletter. If you’ve enjoyed this issue, we encourage you to share it with a friend, colleague, and/or family member. If you have any feedback, you can share that via email or direct message. Look out for another edition in a few weeks, featuring updates on our current reads.
Until next time.
Olivia and Fiona