The Best Books for Every Mood

With a good book in hand, I can travel to far-off places and imagine myself walking across a desert or sailing around the world. I can take comfort in prose that offers an escape from the stress of daily life. Or I can just laugh along with a good storyteller as if we’re sitting together at a big kitchen table. Regardless of the frame of mind I’m in, there’s always a book for me. Here are my picks for books to match your mood:

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When you’re looking for adventure

Have you ever wondered what you would do if you were completely alone in the wilderness? Reading Robyn Davidson’s story of trekking for several months in the Australian Outback with just herself, a dog, and camels for company in “Tracks: A Woman’s Solo Trek Through 1700 Miles of Australian Outback gave me the confidence to try my first solo hike near my house. It’s not quite the Outback, of course, but baby steps.

When you’re feeling nostalgic

I have fond memories of 12-year-old me snuggling under the covers with a flashlight and a copy of William Goldman’s “The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern’s Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure” (it’s not just a movie!). Filled with sword fights, revenge, and true love, it brings me right back to when I was a kid, and I fully expected — and embraced — my future life as a pirate-slash-magician-slash-astronaut.

When you’re hungry

When I’m longing for white tablecloths and tasting menus, I pick up “Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise” by Ruth Reichl. Written about her tenure at the New York Times, her warm, humorous story about disguising herself as she reviews restaurants around the city feeds my inner foodie.

Then travel to France with Julia Child’s memoir “My Life in France.” Focusing on her experiences at Le Cordon Bleu, one of the world’s best culinary schools, Child’s signature charm and humor leaps off the pages. I like to read it and imagine myself cooking something from “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” in her gorgeous Cambridge kitchen just like on TV.

What’s your favorite type of fiction book to read?

When you’re feeling angry

Instead of throwing something at the wall, I channel my anger into a book like Naomi Alderman’s “The Power,” which focuses on the gendered nature of power — and what happens when it seismically shifts — in her dystopian novel. 

Other times, the constant stream of bad news from the world makes me want to give up. Reading “Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger” by Rebecca Traister empowers me to keep fighting for equality and justice for women and minorities, inspired by the stories of incredible women who changed the world.

When you just need a glass of vino

Sometimes, a glass of vino is all you need to cap off your day and unwind. “Cork Dork” by Bianca Bosker explores the wild world of sommeliers. I like to read it with a glass in hand and learn more about her experience training with them for a year. Pair with a Reisling for extra zest.

When you need inspiration

I graduated from college feeling lost, but when I read Mari Andrew’s “Am I There Yet? The Loop-de-Loop Zig-Zagging Journey to Adulthood” I didn’t feel so alone. Her drawings made me feel seen and totally captured how I what I was experiencing post-grad as a not-quite-adult.Then, a colleague recommended Chip and Dan Heath’s “Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die,” which left me with a great tool kit to turn that inspiration into action. Now when I have ideas, I can think through their framework and make my voice heard — and you will, too.

Originally published on July 24, 2019. 

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