How are you doing today? Are your shoulders hunched up toward your ears? Are your teeth maybe grinding together? Are you furrowing your brow every time you look at the news?
You know what I’m going to say right?…take a deep breath. Try to give yourself a break, let yourself escape for a few minutes, or turn off the whirring in your brain. If you’re anything like me, deep breathing is a nice suggestion, but it never lasts for very long. No matter how much yoga I try or how many meditation apps I download, I’ve found that the ability to detach from everything that’s going on and ground myself in the present has always eluded me.
One thing that does work though, is turning to books that have always had the ability to slow my pulse and provide me an escape, however brief it may be. I hope that some of these titles can do the same for you.
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A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold
Aldo Leopold wrote this series of monthly reflections from his “Sand County shack”in central Wisconsin. Reflecting on the beauty and timelessness of nature, as well its connection to human beings, Leopold takes the reader through the year month by month, tracing events from the first frost to the bloom of the spring flowers and describing the lightening storms and snowfalls he sees. These reflections, which were published shortly after his death, have a straightforward quality and Leopold, an expert in wildlife conservation and ecology, has a way of writing that makes this book almost a series of meditations on the rhythms of life. I turn to it when I feel like I’m coming unglued, reading through these peaceful accounts helps me to feel grounded again and I like to treat the book like a series of quiet moments, guiding me through the unchanging cycle of the earth.
I Miss You When I Blink by Mary Laura Philpott
I’m not usually a crier when I read, but the first time I read the chapter in Philpott’s book titled “A Letter to the Type A Person in Distress” I teared up in relief of having someone reflect exactly what was going on in my head. If you’ve ever felt like you’ve lost yourself, made choices that no longer fit you, or struggle to feel authentic in the midst of your life, you need this collection of Philpott’s essays which range from humorous to heartbreaking.
Upstream by Mary Oliver
Another nature-oriented book, this slim volume is a collection of Oliver’s writings about Providence, where she’s lived for several decades. As Oliver takes her daily walks, she sees and then writes about the birds, animals, and bugs that populate her quiet world. All of Oliver’s writing, from her essays to her poetry, celebrates the small, everyday parts of life and in times like these, when that’s all we have control over, her writing is soothing and inspiring.
The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction by Alan Jacobs
Is a book about reading books too meta? Even if you think it is, this slim volume from Jacobs is worth picking up for his reflections on the state of reading in America and the permission he gives readers to read purely for their own enjoyment. So many of us, as Jacobs points out, treat reading as a task to be checked off, rather than an occasion for relaxation. If you’re like me and you’ve felt blocked in your enjoyment of reading lately, this might be just the book you’re looking for to ease back in to being a book lover.
Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
“Anne with an e” and her optimistic outlook never fail to lift my mood. Add in the scenery of Prince Edward Island, Anne’s sweet best friend Diana, and her swoon worthy adversary Gilbert Blythe and you have a perfect escape back to one of my childhood favorites. Maybe for you it’s not Anne of Green Gables but instead Harry Potter or The Chronicles of Narnia or The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, but the important thing is that you find yourself feeling a momentary escape into a calmer world by picking up a book.