There’s no getting away from the fact that there’s a lot of turmoil in the world today. When things feel chaotic, if can be hard to settle down and get on with your life, work, and leisure time. With that in mind, we’ve compiled a collection of books to help you through any time when life keeps throwing you curveballs: whether they’re coming at you from a global, national, or absolutely personal point of view. You can take a step back, refocus, or lean right into it—and regardless of your personal preference or coping mechanism, we’ve got a range of titles that have got you covered.
Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind, edited by Jocelyn K. Glei
Often, the most difficult thing in life is getting started on your day. That’s why it’s important to build simple and easy-to-follow habits and—don’t get scared off by this word—systems to manage your day-to-day. Fortunately, Jocelyn K. Glei has already asked a ton of experts on how you can organise your life to survive the daily turmoil and give you a blueprint for how to keep your working life in control. It’s a great foundation that can keep those curveballs from knocking you completely off balance, and it includes contributions from big hitters like minimalism champion Leo Babauta, marketing expert Seth Godin, and happiness coach Gretchen Rubin.
Parnassus on Wheels by Christopher Morley
If your life is overwhelming right now, maybe it’s difficult to read and you’re feeling easily distracted. So here’s a sweet, cheering, and soothing little novella that can keep your mind occupied. It’s about Helen McGill, our bored narrator who lives on the prairie with her brother. When Roger Mifflin, an itinerant bookseller, rolls through town trying to sell his travelling bookshop, she up and buys it. What follows is a charming tale as the two go on an adventure across the country purveying literary delights.
Back-up Recommendation: Its sequel, The Haunted Bookshop, which picks up some time after Parnassus on Wheels leaves off.
The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell
Prefer to lean into the chaos? We’ve got just the novel for you. Set in the heady days of 1920s New York, The Other Typist follows Rose Baker, a police stenographer whose quiet life is upended by a new colleague named Odalie, a force of nature whose love of speakeasies and jazz leads Rose astray. It’s got more twists and turns than Broadway Avenue and one of the most unreliable narrators you can ever hope to meet. It will transport you to a new place and help you embrace life’s wild ride.
Back-up Recommendation: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald—another way to relive the jazz age and test an unreliable narrator’s wily ways.
Bream Gives Me Hiccups by Jesse Eisenberg
Take some time off wondering how to solve your own problems have a meeting of the mind with Jesse Eisenberg and his menagerie of crazy characters. You’ll have to work hard to try to decide whether to laugh, cry, or recoil in horror at what they throw at you. From a young boy’s restaurant reviews that betray his mother’s unhappiness to a college freshman’s angry letters to her high school guidance counselor, these are characters who don’t know how to say what they feel, but find another way to behave and say something. You never know, you might uncover a personality type that’s more familiar than you bargained for. But if not, you can still follow along for his hilarious riffs and impractical situations.
Back-up Recommendation: Down the Rabbit Hole by Juan Pablo Villalobos for another precocious child narrator whose take on life is tragicomic and betrays some seriously dark undertones.
The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer
Are the typical narratives that belie a simple life annoying you? Do the easily absolved life struggles you read in novels get you down? Meg Wolitzer doesn’t make life easy for her characters in The Interestings. Beginning in the happy days of summer camp and following a group of friends through to middle age, Wolitzer creates a realistic sense of life after summer camp and all different kinds of curveballs that life throws at us. She doesn’t shy away from depictions of life’s little tragedies and defies the idea of happiness as simplicity, creating a real sense of verisimilitude that you’ll appreciate whenever fiction seems too free and easy.
Back-up Recommendation: Look for similar vibes in Modern Lovers by Emma Straub, the story of friends and former band mates who, having met in college, now find it’s time to pass the torch and watch their children take on the same moment of youth that bound them together in the first place.