It seems like we’re all in a bad mood these days. After all, the planet is burning, democracy is crumbling, everyone is pivoting to video (again). Can a book make you feel better? Maybe, maybe not—but it can at least help you pass the time until you get to go to sleep again. So, what to read?
Anxious: W.G. Sebald, The Rings of Saturn
Just take a nice long walk with this strange fellow and let what he says wash over you.
Bored: Fran Ross, Oreo
Love it or hate it (and you won’t hate it), it’s impossible to be bored reading this novel, which among other things, actually manages to be funny (and brilliant and relentlessly weird) about race.
Depressed: Chandler Klang Smith, The Sky Is Yours
Don’t wallow. Don’t read Jean Rhys. Instead, read a big, technicolor, absurd novel that is so goddamn fun and bonkers you won’t be able to keep yourself from being air-lifted right out of the doldrums. You know, by dragons.
Disengaged: Mary Robison, Why Did I Ever?
No matter what’s going on, you should be able to bring yourself to read—and be charmed by—a single short section, right? And in this case, one is likely to lead to the next. You’ll be riveted before you know it.
Heartbroken: Iris Murdoch, The Sea, The Sea
Consider it a manual for what not to do, no matter what, no matter how bad you feel.
Jealous: Daphne du Maurier, Rebecca
A gentle (?) reminder that you have no idea what’s going on in other people’s inner lives—even the people who are closest to you.
Lonely: Rabih Alameddine, An Unnecessary Woman
You can’t be truly lonely when you have a book, especially when the book introduces you to a woman like Aaliya Saleh—lonely herself, though she wouldn’t admit it, as she too has her books to keep her company. You’ll do very well together.
Nostalgic: Ling Ma, Severance
Nostalgia seems harmless, right?
Numb: Raven Leilani, Luster
Nothing like an irreverent, voice-driven, sexy debut novel to liven things up a bit.
Overwhelmed: Rachel Yoder, Nightbitch
It won’t help you deal with your screaming child, but it will make you feel less alone while you clean up their poop and wonder what happened to your career/life/friends/art.
Overworked: Helen DeWitt, Lightning Rods
If you read this (hysterical, filthy) satirical workplace novel while you’re on the clock, it will be all the sweeter.
Powerless: Miriam Toews, Women Talking
A novel to remind you of the power you do have—and the power you could have.
Restless: N.K. Jemisin, The Fifth Season
A good work of speculative fiction can glue you to your seat, and this novel—the first in a series, so don’t be afraid to binge it—is a great one.
Stuck: Lucie Brock-Broido, The Master Letters
These poems will transport you to a magical, surrealist language-land. (Extra good for prose writers who’ve hit a wall.)
Tired: Natasha Brown, Assembly
Aren’t we all? Consider this novel a twisted kind of wish fulfillment.
Terrified: Alissa Nutting, Made for Love
As well you should be…