Guides for Better Living From Around the World

Nishant Choksi

Right now, I’m a bit embarrassed to be an American. Not usually. But now. If I see a tourist on the street looking lost, it’s all I can do not to blurt, “I’m sorry about what our president said today and will say tomorrow,” along with directions to the No. 6 train.

I must have a lot of company. How else to explain the staggering pile of self-help books where Americans are offered the path to a better life via the rituals and outlook of other countries? Last year there were lessons in happiness and well-being, via hygge from Denmark. And this year? Japan is teaching us to seize the day (humbly). Sweden is showing us how to find balance and simplify our lives. And France is showing us, well, everything else. Naturellement. Just because they invented Camembert and guilt-free sex, they think they’re soooo perfect.

A FRENCHWOMAN’S GUIDE TO SEX AFTER SIXTY, by the psychotherapist Marie de Hennezel, immediately catches your attention because the cover shows a woman of a certain age glancing coquettishly over the bedsheets. But that age isn’t 40. It’s perhaps 75. So this isn’t the American version of old; it’s the French version, which is to say: old. And that’s what makes this volume uniquely French: It’s deeply un-American in its realism. Aches and pains, medications that reduce libido, a diminution of hormones that mean friction is tougher on our naughty bits and of course the occasional urge to cover all the mirrors in the house: Aging ain’t pretty, Hennezel admits. Yet for many of us, Eros lives, and Eros wants its due. What’s called for, then, is a revolution in the way we look at sexuality: a de-emphasis on orgasms in favor of kissing and caressing, more solo play to connect with our erotic selves and “making affection” as an alternative to making love. Feeling good through exercise and a healthy diet is paramount; looking younger through plastic surgery is mentioned not at all. Reading the stories of septuagenarians and octogenarians who are finding love or intimacy or sometimes just sex, one is reminded that the very French concept of joie de vivre — a sense of joy that comes from curiosity and playfulness, from looking outward instead of inward — is its own form of Botox.

This joie is very much at the heart of Jamie Cat Callan’s lively PARISIAN CHARM SCHOOL: French Secrets for Cultivating Love, Joy and That Certain Je Ne Sais Quoi. Maybe “Parisian Charm School” seems so thorough because Callan, who has written several previous books on various aspects of French life, is an American; she approaches her subject with anthropological rigor. Here that subject is French charm, which is some combination of intellectual curiosity, spontaneity, style and a soupçon of reserve. Charm, she points out, can’t be Googled; it must be cultivated. Yet, at its heart, it’s a tangle of contradictions. As a fashion consultant Callan interviewed put it, “Never be too feminine, too girlie. Never be too complicated. Too obvious. Never look like you’re trying. But you must try!” Being French seems kind of exhausting. Still, we clumsy Americans can worship at this shrine and maybe pick up a few tricks. Who, after all, doesn’t want to be like the woman in this line Callan quotes from Colette: “When she raises her eyelids, it’s as if she were taking off all her clothes.”

Perhaps Sweden was a little jealous of all the lifestyle-giving attention its Danish neighbor received, so this year brings us Linnea Dunne’s LAGOM: The Swedish Art of Balanced Living. Loosely translated, lagom means “not too little, not too much, but just enough,” making Sweden the Goldilocks of nations, one that earned an article on the website of the World Economic Forum called “Why Sweden Beats Other Countries at Just About Everything.” The reason, it seems, is that Sweden makes the concept of “the greater good” practically into a religion. You start with free education and universal health care and end with great pastry (and the regular coffee breaks — fika — to enjoy it). Fairness and moderation are basic cultural values: “Lagom is accepting an invitation to spend the weekend at a friend’s house, but bringing your own bedsheets because it’s fair to share the burden of laundry. … It’s wearing bright-red lipstick, but leaving the rest of your makeup perfectly understated.” There’s a reason Gianni Versace founded his luxury fashion empire in Italy and H & M was born in Sweden: “There’s this inherent celebrating of frugality in Sweden. We like affordable clothes because it’s a bit vulgar to splash out.”

If anything sums up the gestalt of this book — and Sweden — it’s this: Swedes are rated among the world’s top 10 happiest people, but not the happiest. That would be excessive. The aim isn’t ecstasy but “sustainable happiness,” the sort of equilibrium that’s achieved through small moments of calm and bliss in your everyday routine. So, to live the lagom way, invite your friends round for fika, spend time in nature, give away items that don’t add to your pleasure in life — and, most important, help a neighbor.

The primacy of the common good extends to everything in Sweden, including shuffling off this mortal coil. Reading THE GENTLE ART OF SWEDISH DEATH CLEANING: How to Free Yourself and Your Family From a Lifetime of Clutter, I couldn’t help thinking of my own parents, who were mild hoarders. When they were in their 80s and I meekly suggested that maybe they should get their home in order, my father’s response was: “Why? Soon it’ll be your problem.”

Margareta Magnusson is writing for people with families like mine — and maybe yours. Americans are just too much, she gently suggests. Swedes embrace consideration and minimalism, and the practice of “death cleaning” (which can start in your 30s — why wait?) embodies those values. “Let me help make your loved ones’ memories of you nice — instead of awful,” she says, and proceeds to do just that in this short, practical guide to getting rid of stuff. You categorize, normally going from large objects to small; you give things away or sell them, particularly if you have a family you know is going to bicker. And you never, ever start with photos or other items of great sentiment because you’re likely to get stuck. And oh, how right Magnusson is. After my parents passed away, my own death cleaning consisted of looking at old photos, then immediately giving up — taking everything they owned and putting it into a massive storage unit that has sucked up money for seven years. I may have to reread her book.

In Japanese, iki means “to live” and gai means “reason” — in other words, the reason to live and how you define it. Ken Mogi begins AWAKENING YOUR IKIGAI: How the Japanese Wake Up to Joy and Purpose Every Day with a story meant to illustrate the importance of this concept to the Japanese. He describes a famed sushi chef whose Tokyo restaurant is visited by President Barack Obama during a state visit and who is told by the president that his sushi was the best he had ever eaten. No big deal. “Ikigai resides in the realm of small things,” Mogi explains. “The morning air, the cup of coffee, the ray of sunshine, the massaging of octopus meat and the American president’s praise are on equal footing.”

Not really! Can I skip No. 4?

Mogi, a celebrity neuroscientist and broadcaster who has written more than 100 books, describes the five pillars of the ikigai way of life: “starting small,” “releasing yourself,” “harmony and sustainability,” “the joy of small things” and “being in the here and now” (what we might call “mindfulness”). And he demonstrates how some of the rituals most important to Japanese culture, from the tea ceremony to sumo wrestling, are based on these tenets. I admit that certain principles he espouses utterly baffled this Westerner, particularly the notion that in Japan finding purpose and joy in work, even work that requires great individuality and creativity, comes from a sublimation of the ego. He cites the example of the great anime artist Hayao Miyazaki, whose work is so repetitive and painstaking. Wait, if we all know who he is, how is he subsuming his ego? In work, Mochi explains, you have to be like a child, because “a child has no definite idea of the past or the future.” Seriously? Tell that to a 5-year-old screaming, “When will we get there?” in the back seat of a car because “there” involves ice cream.

I’m not sure if I could live in Japan for more than a week, what with all the appreciating of teeny porcelain objects and self-abnegation, but “Awakening Your Ikigai” is really quite a delightful look at sometimes mystifying Japanese traditions. (Spoiler alert: There’s a lot more to sumo wrestling than chubby dudes with man buns and diapers.) I can’t resist noting that in 2009, Mogi was charged with violation of Japanese tax laws for failing to report several million dollars in income. See? I guess America does have something to teach the citizens of other nations.

By Judith Newman, Jan. 23, 2018, first appearing in NYT > Books

Editor’s Note:

Judith Newman’s “To Siri With Love: A Mother, Her Autistic Son and the Kindness of Machines” was published in August. Her column appears every eight weeks.

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10 Horror Books That Prove War is Hell

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Writing horror fiction that revolves around war can be a difficult task. It doesn’t matter if you’re telling a story centered around warfare itself, situated on its edges, or examining its aftermath: when you’re dealing with real events that have taken countless lives and affected even more, finding the right way to show awareness of the human cost of these events is crucial.

When done well, the addition of horrific elements into stories of warfare can accentuate certain themes, and can magnify the most chilling aspects of war. Here’s a look at ten works of fiction that add a dose of the supernatural into real-life horrors, creating something that blends the visceral power of history with the terror of the uncanny.

The cover of the book Frankenstein in BaghdadFrankenstein in Baghdad

Ahmed Saadawi

As its title suggests, Ahmed Saadawi’s novel is set in the city of Baghdad. The year is 2005: American troops occupy the city, suicide bombings punctuate the landscape, and the abuses of the Baathist regime still haunt the memories of many. Into this landscape steps an ominous figure: a man created from the bodies of the dead, who seeks revenge on those who murdered the people whose limbs and organs now comprise him. As he replaces bits of himself, though, his quest for revenge grows murkier, leading the narrative into a complex and haunting place.

 

The cover of the book Blood CrimeBlood Crime

Sebastia Alzamora

The Spanish Civil War has been the backdrop for many tales of the supernatural: Guillermo del Toro’s acclaimed films “The Devil’s Backbone” and “Pan’s Labyrinth” both come to mind. Sebastià Alzamora’s novel Blood Crime sets up a morally tense situation from the outset, with different factions circling one another in a besieged town. The presence of a vampire lurking in the shadows ups the tension further, as the narrative moves from the surrealism of war to something akin to a nightmare.

 

The cover of the book She Said DestroyShe Said Destroy

Nadia Bulkin

The aftereffects of war and political unrest abound in the stories contained in Nadia Bulkin’s collection She Said Destroy. Key among them is “Intertropical Convergence Zone,” which draws its inspiration from the thirty-plus years when Hajji Suharto was President of Indonesia. The political crackdowns and repression that characterized his regime are, in this story, turned into something more surreal and ominous — and yet the weight of history gives it an increased power as well.

 

The cover of the book KokoKoko

Peter Straub

Some of Peter Straub’s most unnerving fiction takes readers far into the uncanny; others focus on a more human variety of monster. In Koko, the aftermath of the Vietnam War provides the backdrop for a harrowing story of memory and murder. Its central characters are a group of American veterans, reunited by the horrific actions taken by someone with whom they served. What emerges is a winding tale of shifting identities and secret histories, an unsettling novel with a sprawling scope.

 

The cover of the book The Wide, Carnivorous Sky and Other Monstrous GeographiesThe Wide, Carnivorous Sky and Other Monstrous Geographies

John Langan

The title story of this collection from John Langan blends a host of elements: a story of several friends being stalked by a sinister supernatural figure, with a science-fictional spin on a familiar figure from horror literature thrown in. The fact that this story centers around a group of veterans with PTSD, and that it thematically lines up with its larger themes of perception and violence, gives it an even greater weight.

 

The cover of the book DeathlessDeathless

Catherynne M. Valenti

There’s no shortage of conflict when looking at the history of Russia in the 20th century. In her novel Deathless, Catherynne M. Valente gives this history a supernatural spin, incorporating elements of Russian folklore that accentuate the sinister aspects of totalitarianism under Stalin. Think omnipresent ever-watching beings, immortal entities making sinister bargains, and the moral bargains ordinary people make in order to survive. Here, the presence of the otherworldly is far from escapist.

 

The cover of the book Anno Dracula: The Bloody Red BaronAnno Dracula: The Bloody Red Baron

Kim Newman

The Bloody Red Baron is one of several novels by Kim Newman set in an alternate timeline blending history from the 19th century onward with characters from the literature of the period. (The title of the first of these, Anno Dracula, might give you a sense of who’s at the center of this.) The Bloody Red Baron reimagines the First World War, leaving the very human horrors in place but adding in a layer of disquieting supernatural menace.

 

The cover of the book Black Mad WheelBlack Mad Wheel

Josh Malerman

The middle of the 20th century found the United States military involved in a number of actions overseas, from combat to covert operations. The novel Black Mad Wheel involves a small group of musicians summoned by the military to investigate a strange sound in the desert. What ensues is an unsettling story about the nature of time and the unanticipated perils of conflict.

 

The cover of the book When the World WoundsWhen the World Wounds

Kiini Ibura Salaam

Conflicts abound in the stories found within Kiini Ibura Salaam’s collection When the World Wounds, from tales of aliens clashing with the rules of their society to a surreal account of post-Katrina New Orleans. Among the most gripping works in the collection is “Hemmie’s Calenture,” about a woman who escapes from slavery only to find herself caught up in a long-running supernatural conflict set against the backdrop of the War of 1812. Here, questions of power and the human cost of warfare remain in the forefront of the narrative.

 

The cover of the book The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us AllThe Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All

Laird Barron

Laird Barron’s forays into horror rarely shy away from the phantasmagorical or the ominous, but he simultaneously never loses sight of the human scale at which these works play out. That blend of psychological veracity and imaginative terrors makes for deeply compelling reading. The protagonist of the story “The Men From Porlock” has seen unspeakable things in Europe during the First World War; after returning back to the United States, he finds himself witnessing uncanny echoes of that time and glimpses of the impossible.

So You Want to Read Literary Horror: Here’s Where to Start

Horror, as a genre, has a tendency to get a bit of a bad rap outside of its rather ardent fan base, despite the fact that more than a few literary icons made their bones on the backs of some truly spine-tingling tales (Ray Bradbury, anyone?). There has long been a strong relationship between literary fiction and the horror genre – the likes of H.P. Lovecraft, Henry James, and Oscar Wilde can attest to that. While violence and gore and things that more traditionally go bump in the night certainly have their place, so too do well-crafted sentences and deeper philosophical underpinnings. Over the last decade or so, there has somewhat quietly been a resurgence in literary horror as immensely talented writers pick up the genre trappings of horror, tear them apart and fuse them back together into wholly original and truly unsettling creations. Writers like China Mieville, Brian Evenson, and Jeff VanderMeer are following the footsteps of Bradbury, Peter Straub, and Shirley Jackson and creating some stunningly imaginative and extraordinarily unsettling prose. Here are a few of our (relatively) recent favorites.

The cover of the book House of LeavesHouse of Leaves

MARK Z. DANIELEWSKI

If you haven’t read House of Leaves, go grab a copy now. We’re happy to wait, it’s just that good. I’m pretty confident saying this literary head-spinner is unlike any other novel you’ve read. Part epistolary novel, part haunted house thriller, with a bit of weird fiction thrown in for good measure – House of Leaves is a difficult book to pin down or describe. It’s a narrative as twisting (literally) and expansive as the house it chronicles.

 

The cover of the book White is for WitchingWhite is for Witching

HELEN OYEYEMI

The fairy tale form is built on a dark undercurrent that, in many ways, is the perfect foundation for horror. That’s something that Helen Oyeyemi illustrates with terrifying brilliance in White is for Witching. The story centers on the Silver family, specifically the four generations of Silver women who have lived in the family home. When her mother passes, Lily, the latest in the family line, begins experiencing strange ailments and soon the Silver house itself begins to manifest malevolent intent. It is at once a dread-inducing mystery and powerful examination of race and family legacy.

 

The cover of the book The Library at Mount CharThe Library at Mount Char

SCOTT HAWKINS

Literary horror is at its best when writers play with readers’ expectations to create something that is at once familiar enough but also wildly original. Scott Hawkins draws from a wide range of influences for The Library at Mount Char – there are hints of Gaiman, a bit of Lovecraft, a little King. Hawkins takes inspiration before proceeding to tear it all to shreds and glue the pieces back together into something truly original, grotesque, and oddly beautiful.

 

The cover of the book A Head Full of GhostsA Head Full of Ghosts

PAUL TREMBLAY

A Head Full of Ghosts owes a nod to The Haunting of Hill House and The Exorcist for its slow-burn, constantly-shifting narrative. The novel centers on a suburban New England family coming to grips with a fourteen year old daughter who’s suddenly showing signs of schizophrenia – or so they hope. What follows is a novel that riffs on unreliable narration, reality TV, and familial tragedies in ways that are both unexpected and truly unsettling.

 

The cover of the book The Little StrangerThe Little Stranger

SARAH WATERS

With The Little Stranger, Sarah Waters reinvigorated Gothic fiction in a way that would’ve made Shirley Jackson and Edgar Allan Poe proud. Part haunted house horror, part unreliable narration, and part social critique, The Little Stranger is a deeply unsettling descent into madness and dread within the walls of a crumbling Georgian Mansion where a malevolent presence may or may not be lurking.

 

The cover of the book Mr. ShiversMr. Shivers

ROBERT JACKSON BENNETT

Mr. Shivers reads like the literary love child of China Mieville and John Steinbeck. It’s The Grapes of Wrath by way of Lovecraft. Bennett’s tale of a father on the trail of the possibly otherworldly killer who murdered his daughter is a slow-burn piece of dread-fueled Americana. Robert Jackson Bennett has quietly positioned himself as one of the more talented voices in the New Weird genre, and Mr. Shivers remains among his best work.

 

The cover of the book The HikeThe Hike

DREW MAGARY

Weird fiction and literary horror have long been comfortable bedfellows, and novels don’t get much weirder than Drew Magary’s The Hike. In this tale of a hike in rural Pennsylvania gone terribly wrong, Magary manages to infuse his pop culture references and classic folklore tropes with a nearly suffocating sense of existential dread.

 

The cover of the book DarkansasDarkansas

JARRET MIDDLETON

Jarret Middleton’s Darkansas is a novel that begins as an examination of familial strife and quickly progresses to one of preternatural dangers lurking just beyond the page and a century-old curse at its center. The story centers on itinerant musician who is his family’s black sheep. Unfortunately, any hope of reconciliation may have been doomed decades before he was born. It’s a dark, twisting page-turner with hints of Southern gothic lurking around the corners of its horror tinged sense of dread and juxtaposes its gritty reality against a mounting sense of surrealistic terror.

 

The cover of the book ThreatsThreats

AMELIA GRAY

“CURL UP ON MY LAP. LET ME BRUSH YOUR HAIR WITH MY FINGERS. I AM SINGING YOU A LULLABY. I AM TESTING FOR STRUCTURAL WEAKNESS IN YOUR SKULL.” Imagine you’ve just lost your spouse and you suddenly begin finding messages like those above hidden throughout your home: that’s the disturbing premise for Amelia Gray’s wholly unnerving examination of death, grief, and memory. The novel follows David, a man attempting to unravel the mystery of his wife’s death against his increasingly unreliable recollections and a world that no longer makes sense.

 

The cover of the book A Collapse of HorsesA Collapse of Horses

BRIAN EVENSON

Brian Evenson is the sort of writer who simply knows how to get under a reader’s skin. A Collapse of Horses is a short story collection that grapples with some big existential questions on reality and perception while simultaneously veering into the sort of grotesquerie that will leave you haunted long after you finish the last tale.

18 Essential Classics to Read Before You Die

Remember all those books that you were supposed to read in your high school English classes and college lit courses, but never really got around to? It turns out, they really are worth a second look with the fresh eyes of adulthood. After all, there’s a reason certain works become influential classics and serve as the narrative DNA for so many of the novels currently sitting on the bestseller lists and your to-be-read pile. While it may feel daunting, working your way through a classic or two is a particularly rewarding experience. And, let’s be honest, adding a little intellectual vigor to 2018 certainly couldn’t hurt, right?

The cover of the book Little Black Classics Box SetLittle Black Classics Box Set

Various

If one-stop shopping for the classics appeals to you, look no further than this box set. It features eighty books celebrating a wide range of classic literature from drama to poetry, and fiction to history, and includes works from Walt Whitman, Edgar Allan Poe, Joseph Conrad and many others.

 

The cover of the book The OdysseyThe Odyssey

Homer

Sometimes regarded as the first true novel and one of the all-time greatest adventures, this book is one of those classics you were supposed to read in high school, and is well worth revisiting. The Odyssey is a classic saga centering on a man’s fantastical and perilous journey to return to his wife and son.

 

 

The cover of the book Jane Austen: The Complete WorksJane Austen: The Complete Works

Jane Austen

Another piece of one-stop shopping, Jane Austen: The Complete Works is a perfect way to revisit one of the most engaging writers of the eighteenth century – one whose influence is still felt today. Austen was an incisive social critic with truly remarkable, razor-sharp wit and a core of feminism that was well ahead of her time.

 

The cover of the book Madame BovaryMadame Bovary

Gustave Flaubert

As a landmark of realist fiction, Madame Bovary long ago secured a spot as a literary masterpiece. Its portrayal of a housewife growing increasingly desperate to escape the day-to-day tedium of her life spoke deeply to many women of the era when first published in 1857. It is perhaps still far more relevant than it should be.

 

 

The cover of the book War and PeaceWar and Peace

Leo Tolstoy

Tolstoy’s epic and sprawling piece of historical fiction is undoubtedly – and infamously – a tremendous undertaking, but it is absolutely a journey worth taking. It is Leo Tolstoy’s magnum opus – it features some of the writer’s best work, along with literature’s most deeply human characters. There may also be a few lessons to be gleaned for the tumultuous times we find ourselves in today.

 

The cover of the book The Penguin Book of the UndeadThe Penguin Book of the Undead

Edited by Scott G. Bruce

Suspense and horror seem to be hardwired into our both our collective consciousness and our literary framework. What we think of as the modern ghost story did not really develop until the gothic period of the nineteenth century, but there were forerunners lurking in texts that spanned the Roman Empire, medieval Europe, and the Renaissance. This collection is a perfect introduction to those stories.

 

The cover of the book Les MiserablesLes Miserables

Victor Hugo; Translated with Notes by Christine Donougher

As the basis for perhaps the best musical in history, Les Miserables has long held a prominent footing in popular conception. The novel that underlies it also happens to be Victor Hugo’s best and one of the finest novels of the nineteenth century. Its decades-spanning narrative contemplates deep questions of morality, race, justice, and religion. It also made Jean Valjean one of the most beloved characters in literature.

 

The cover of the book The Complete FablesThe Complete Fables

Aesop

With his oft-witty and sometimes biting vignettes, Aesop created an extraordinary compendium of moral philosophy in a remarkably plain-spoken package. When one considers that characters like the tortoise and the hare have endured since the sixth century, Aesop’s literary achievement becomes all the more astonishing.

 

 

The cover of the book East of EdenEast of Eden

John Steinbeck

While Steinbeck is understandably best known for The Grapes of Wrath, East of Eden may be his crowning literary achievement. Written in Steinbeck’s later years, it is a work of Biblical scope and echoes with a sort of timeless mythic power. It centers on two families whose intertwining destinies outline a story of love, loss, betrayal, and brutality.

 

 

The cover of the book The Penguin Book of French PoetryThe Penguin Book of French Poetry

Various

Covering the period of 1820 to 1950, The Penguin Book of French Poetry highlights an era of remarkable transition and evolution. Featuring works by Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Breton, and a multitude of others, this collection charts a period of intense innovation and the converging and conflicting styles that underpinned such movements as Romanticism, Surrealism, and Cubism.

 

The cover of the book Wuthering HeightsWuthering Heights

Emily Bronte

Published merely a year before Emily Bronte’s untimely death, Wuthering Heights is a classic doomed love story. It is an amalgamation of many genres, although it arguably fits most neatly in the Gothic category. The tormented tale of bitter love between Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw – and its brutal consequences – is a haunting masterpiece.

 

The cover of the book Little WomenLittle Women

Louisa May Alcott

Little Women has been captivating readers for over a hundred years and stands as a landmark piece of children’s literature – one that transcends that designation and holds appeal for all ages. This tale of the lives of the March sisters and their triumphs and tragedies presented young readers with the world as it was, and as a result, spoke to them in a way few novels do.

 

The cover of the book 19841984

George Orwell

With apologies to Margaret Atwood, 1984 is perhaps the greatest piece of dystopian fiction ever written. Its relentlessly bleak narrative has proven alarmingly prescient since its publication in 1949 – is it really shock that it found itself once again atop the bestseller lists in January of 2017?  Regardless, Orwell’s tale of Newspeak, Big Brother, and Thought Police is a powerful, devastating, and seemingly ever-relevant read.

 

 

The cover of the book The Last of the MohicansThe Last of the Mohicans

James Fenimore Cooper

The Last of the Mohicans is one of literature’s great adventure stories. Told from the view of Hawkeye, a frontier scout and Native American, The Last of the Mohicans details the birth, intertwining, and eventual tragedy of Native American and colonial cultures.

 

 

 

6788719The Complete Sherlock Holmes

Arthur Conan Doyle

Perhaps the best known and most emulated literary sleuth of all time, Sherlock Holmes is truly in a class of his own. There’s nothing quite like reading Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original short stories and novels. This collection begins with The Hound of the Baskervilles, which was Holmes first appearance following his presumed death in The Final Problem, and features a host of other favorites.

 

The cover of the book The Scarlet PimpernelThe Scarlet Pimpernel

Baroness Orczy

The Scarlet Pimpernel is one of the most influential adventures of the early twentieth century and a landmark of young adult literature. It set the standard for a host of “masked avenger” stories that would come after it, including the likes of Zorro, The Green Hornet, and Batman, with its tales of an English fop who dons a mask and becomes a swashbuckling hero by night.

 

The cover of the book Where the Red Fern GrowsWhere the Red Fern Grows

Wilson Rawls

If you haven’t had a good cry in a while, it might be time to revisit Where the Red Fern Grows. This powerful children’s novel charts the relationship between a boy and his hounds. However, it’s the precise observation and emotional nuance that sets Where the Red Fern Grows apart from other books.

 

 

The cover of the book Lord of the FliesLord of the Flies

William Golding

What begins as a classic tale of boyhood adventure quickly devolves into a searing examination of cruelty and man’s inherent savagery. Whether viewed as a parable, satire, or political allegory, the power of William Golding’s story of a group of stranded boys struggling to survive and ultimately devolving to their baser instincts is as powerful today as it was on its initial publication, and may offer some unsettling insights into the rampant tribalism so prevalent in today’s political landscape.

For the Millennials Who Feel Overwhelmed: 15 Books on Adulting

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

Being a millennial is not easy. No matter how hard we try (and we try really, really hard), we tend to be looked down upon by older generations and blamed for many of the problems in today’s world. It seems like there’s nothing we can do right.

We’ve heard it all: We’re lazy, entitled narcissists who live with their parents for too long and can’t hold down a real job, right? Wrong. Surely our addiction to our phones and social media is destroying the world! Nope. We’ve been dealt a bad hand from the get-go, and are doing the best we can to survive in a society that’s suffering from actions made by previous generations.

If you’re a millennial and you feel like the world is working against you, have no fear. We know it’s tough out there, and that you haven’t been given a fair go at this whole “adulting” thing. We’ve compiled a list of books that will explain everything you need to know about being an adult, from relationships to buying houses, getting a job and keeping it, and everything in-between.

So crack open one of the books below, get reading, and continue to kick some major ass.

The cover of the book Rich20SomethingRich20Something

Daniel DiPiazza

Daniel DiPiazza, the young founder of the massively popular Rich20Something.com, was once working long hours at a low-paying job, hoping that one day, he would become something more. Then one day, he had a revelation: He was in charge of his life. Now at twenty-eight, DiPiazza has launched multiple successful businesses with zero startup capital by identifying and monetizing his skills into a career and life he loves. And with this book, so can you.

 

The cover of the book Assume the WorstAssume the Worst

Carl Hiaasen; Illustrated by Roz Chast

Assume the Worst is Carl Hiaasen’s cynical attempt to prepare young men and women for their future. The illustrated guide is packed with humor and wit, and provides a no-nonsense look at what comes next in life and how to make the best of it. This hilarious book is perfect for recent college graduates that are in need of some straightforward, yet hopeful advice on the future and what it holds.

 

The cover of the book Am I There Yet?Am I There Yet?

Mari Andrew

In this humorously accurate guide, Instagram sensation Mari Andrew captures the complicated journey to adulthood for millennials, and offers advice to those that want to take the road less traveled. Am I There Yet? details how to climb over hurdles, heighten self-esteem, and follow dreams that might seem out of the ordinary.

 

The cover of the book You Are a Badass at Making MoneyYou Are a Badass at Making Money

Jen Sincero

The #1 New York Times bestselling author of You Are a Badass brings us a financial guide that will help readers to confront their fears that have been keeping them from achieving their goals, and finally reach the level of financial success that they’ve been striving for. Jen Sincero uses her sass and her wit to explain how to unlock potential , get results, and make some real money.

 

The cover of the book 50 Ways to Get a Job50 Ways to Get a Job

Dev Aujla

This book is perfect for any millennial who feels trapped in the treacherous job hunt cycle with no luck of actually securing a position. Based on information gained from over 400,000 individuals who have used Dev Aujla’s method for job seekers, 50 Ways to Get a Job serves as a reminder that your resume isn’t everything, and that communication and confidence are the best ways to land your dream career.

 

The cover of the book Broke MillennialBroke Millennial

Erin Lowry

If you’re in your twenties or thirties and tired of living paycheck to paycheck, or you’re drowning in debt and don’t know what to do next, this book will be your ultimate guide to getting your financial life together. Broke Millennial offers step-by-step advice for investing, budgeting, and tackling tricky money matters and situations.

 

The cover of the book How to Be a Person in the WorldHow to Be a Person in the World

Heather Havrilesky

In this hilarious New York Times bestseller, Heather Havrilesky of the “Ask Polly” advice column guides readers through the “what if’s” and “I don’t know’s” of modern life with wisdom and tough love. She responds to all kinds of people from all walks of life to remind readers that they’re not alone, and never will be.

 

 

The cover of the book How to Be Single and Happy

How to Be Single and Happy

Jennifer L. Taitz, Psy.D., A.B.P.P.

When there’s constant negativity surrounding the idea of being single, it’s hard not to feel “less than” because you haven’t found someone to be with. How to Be Single and Happy is an empowering guide that will help single millennial women to have no regrets or guilt, and be completely content with being on their own. Drawing on her expertise as a clinical psychologist, Dr. Jennifer Taitz debunks the most common dating myths about women, teaches how to skillfully date, and cultivates the mindset that being happy does not depend on anyone else but yourself.

 

The cover of the book 100 Questions Every First-Time Home Buyer Should Ask, Fourth Edition100 Questions Every First-Time Home Buyer Should Ask, Fourth Edition

Ilyce R. Glink

Buying a home is one of the biggest and most important decisions in any person’s life. But for millennials, buying a house seems impossible – with everything from student loans and a wrecked economy, how are we supposed to gather the finances to buy a house? In 100 Questions Every First-Time Home Buyer Should Ask, Ilyce Glink, one of the most trusted names in real estate, answers every question that exists about home buying, and takes readers on a personal journey through the entire process.

 

The cover of the book This Naked MindThis Naked Mind

Annie Grace

Many of us like to go out, and at some point or another, we’ve questioned whether or not we drink too much alcohol. But we also often resist changing our lifestyles because we’re afraid that our social lives will suffer if we do. This Naked Mind offers a positive solution to this crucial issue. Annie Grace walks readers through the effects of alcohol on the body using the latest science, and reveals the cultural factors that play a role in how much we consume. Filled with surprising facts about why we drink, this eye-opening book is a must-read for anyone who drinks – it will change your outlook on alcohol, and help you to live a healthier life with less drinking.

 

The cover of the book My Friend FearMy Friend Fear

Meera Lee Patel

From the bestselling author of Start Where You Are, this artistic and inspirational journal allows users to reflect on the deepest parts of their life. A lovely mix of personal anecdotes, inspirational quotes, questions, and stunning watercolor images, My Friend Fear demonstrates how fear can lead to great change and new opportunities, reminding us to always find magic in the unknown.

 

The cover of the book Work That MattersWork That Matters

Maia Duerr

So many millennials feel trapped in dead-end jobs just to pay the bills every month. This leads to lack of meaning in our lives, and a sense of worthlessness that cannot be extinguished. Author and meditator Maia Duerr journeyed through several professions before she finally found work that was deeply fulfilling and meaningful to her. In this book, Maia walks readers through the process that can lead to positive change in their careers, and offers the tools needed to create joyful work that embodies who you are.

 

The cover of the book Work ItWork It

Carrie Kerpen

This uplifting and empowering career guide features advice from 50 high-profile women on how to succeed in the workplace and attain the dream career you’ve always wanted. CEO of Likeable Media and popular podcast host Carrie Kerpen shares the lessons she’s learned from her career, and the lessons of other powerful women, to help young women everywhere make their aspirations a reality.

 

The cover of the book Text, Don't CallText, Don’t Call

INFJoe

This illustrated guide to the introverted life is humorous, informative, and helpful all at the same time. There are still many misconceptions about introverts: They’re shy, anti-social, single, and are all cat people. INFJoe, the cartoon persona of artist and introvert Aaron Caycedo-Kimura, is here to clear the confusion for introverts everywhere. Filled with comic book style illustrations, this book demonstrates what it really means to be introverted, and provides tips on surviving at parties and in the workplace.

 

The cover of the book Things Are What You Make of ThemThings Are What You Make of Them

Adam J. Kurtz

This book will inspire anyone who has an artistic heart. From the creative mind of designer Adam J. Kurtz comes this handwritten and heartfelt book that serves to empower all kinds of artists. Tear-and-share pages are perfect for displaying important pages or to pass a bit of advice on to someone else who needs it. This vibrant book will be a life-changer for writers, artists, entrepreneurs, and anyone else who challenges the norm by being creative.

 

What to Read When You Are in the Mood to Be Alone

Photo by Nawaz Mughal, via Wikimedia Commons

There is a time to really relish “aloneliness,” especially now that we’re realizing that we must occasionally unplug if we’re going to make it through the next few years of politics. Each of these books dig deep into the rewards and reckoning made possible by the solo life.

The cover of the book Journal of a SolitudeJournal of a Solitude

May Sarton

Poet and novelist Sarton’s nonfiction work really bloomed after her long-term partner passed and she began to live by herself in Maine. This is arguably her seminal work–poetic and prosaic all at once, with precious passages on each page. Consider this one: “Friends, even passionate love, are not my real life, unless there is time alone in which to explore what is happening or what has happened.” Amen.

 

The cover of the book TRACKSTRACKS

Robyn Davidson

To call Robyn Davidson’s 1980 best-selling memoir a travelogue is a bit facile. It’s not that it doesn’t conform to the definition of a travelogue: It is about her mostly sola 1977 trek across 1,700 miles of west Australian desert with four camels and her sweetheart of a dog. But for many men and even more women, the book is also an anthem of liberation – from racism, nationalism, sexism, and from social conditioning itself.

 

The cover of the book Walden and Civil DisobedienceWalden and Civil Disobedience

Henry David Thoreau

Growing up in New England, I regarded Thoreau’s account of his time alone in the Massachusetts woods as a sort of local handbook, like a collection of blueberry recipes by Maine farmers. I wasn’t entirely wrong. With its anti-establishment, back-to-nature ethos, Walden can be read not only as a meditation but as the sort of educational pamphlet that can be used to fuel social movements. Above all, it suggests that to live alone is not just acceptable but ideal.

 

The cover of the book The Lonely CityThe Lonely City

Olivia Laing

Fusing memoir, philosophy, travelogue, and biography, the recently heartbroken Laing ostensibly is profiling four artists in this book but really tackles what she calls “the essential unknowability of others.” To be human, she suggests, is to sometimes experience loneliness — especially in the presence of others. More than that, she has the bold brilliance to suggest that loneliness is not only the human condition, but not all bad.

 

The cover of the book Dakota: A Spiritual GeographyDakota: A Spiritual Geography

Kathleen Norris

When poet Norris moved into her mother’s empty childhood home in South Dakota, she was ambivalent about the Midwest as well as her solitude. Twenty years later, her ambivalence infuses this beautifully rendered comparison of the life of a monk to life on the Plains.

 

The cover of the book A Time to Keep SilenceA Time to Keep Silence

Patrick Leigh Fermor

An account of his residencies in some of Europe’s most notable monasteries, this is Fermor’s exploration of the role silence and solitude can play in modern life. He writes: “In the seclusion of a cell….the troubled waters of the mind grow still and clear, and much that is hidden away and all that clouds it floats to the surface and can be skimmed away; and after a time one reaches a state of peace that is unthought of in the ordinary world.” Sage words, indeed.

 

The cover of the book The Art of StillnessThe Art of Stillness

Pico Iyer

Recently repurposed from a TED Talk, this mediation on the benefits of staying put may seem an unlikely endeavor from fabled traveler Iyer, but he makes a wonderful case how much we can learn from traveling inside our mind rather than across time and country lines.

 

The cover of the book Fifty Days of SolitudeFifty Days of Solitude

Doris Grumbach

When critic Grumbach decided to live in her rural Maine home for fifty days without speaking to anyone, she did so much soul-searching about mortality that she decided to share it in this wonderful, carefully calibrated volume of her conclusions, including her acceptance of her very human limitations.

 

 

The cover of the book The Pleasures of Cooking for OneThe Pleasures of Cooking for One

Judith Jones

Foodies everywhere were hit hard by the recent death of literary editor and general gourmet Judith Jones. But I’m most saddened because of the dignity and delight she invited us to experience when eating alone. Told through the irresistible lens of meals she made and savored, The Pleasures of Cooking for One is like Jones herself: pragmatically, profoundly delicious.

 

The cover of the book Invisible ManInvisible Man

Ralph Ellison

So much has changed since Ellison’s groundbreaking tome won the National Book Award in 1953, but arguably even more has not. Most notably, many men of color often are not seen by our society as themselves so much as what is projected upon them, which is a profoundly lonely way to move through life. As a powerful mirror to the most alienating aspects of American life, this book burns bright 65 years after its original publication.

The 24 All-Time Favorite Book Club Picks on Goodreads

book club picks

A successful book club pick must accomplish many things. For starters, it has to be a great read that the busy people in your club will make time to devour. It must also prompt a compelling and passionate conversation. It’s no wonder that picking your book club’s next book can feel like so much pressure. But don’t worry, we’ve done all of the research for you.

In fact, after we looked at the current most popular book club picks on the site, we got even more curious. We wanted to know which books are the all-time most popular book club picks on the Goodreads? We dug into our data to find this list of classics for your next meeting of bookworms, from the most popular pick, The Book Thief, to Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, there’s a book here to please even the most demanding readers.

The Book ThiefThe Hunger GamesAll the Light We Cannot SeeThe HelpThe Fault in Our StarsThe Night CircusThe Girl on the TrainGone GirlThe Light Between OceansThe Handmaid's TaleThe Immortal Life of Henrietta LacksReady Player OneRoomThe MartianTo Kill a MockingbirdMe Before YouDivergentThe Great GatsbyA Man Called OveUnbrokenOrphan TrainMiss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar ChildrenThe Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie SocietyWild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

By Cybil, May 24, 2018, first appearing on Goodreads Blog