While we’d all love more time to read, heavy workloads and/or childcare can make free time a precious commodity. Not to mention, it’s also tricky to commit to a book you’re unsure about.
To help you find a read that suits you best, we’ve paired bestsellers and modern classics with your current state of mind. Whether you’re down in the dumps or you're craving a bit of romance, we’re certain the following books will strike the right emotional chord—and make the most out of your reading time.
If you're feeling happy...
Jane and Prudence
As the author behind a slew of witty social comedies, Barbara Pym was a 20th century Jane Austen. This 1953 novel is an especially delightful entry in her canon, as it follows one woman’s well-intentioned (but rather meddlesome) attempts to play matchmaker for her younger friend. Full of sly humor and featuring two quirky heroines, Jane and Prudence is a charming tale of love and friendship that keeps the laughs coming.
If you're feeling romantic...
The End of the Affair
The English might be famous (or infamous) for their stiff upper lips, but in Graham Greene’s 1951 novel, those stiff upper lips that do them in. That, and some persistent Catholic guilt. Nevertheless, The End of the Affair is a historical drama with a heavy dose of romance, as its hero and heroine contend with their restrained passions and sexual tension during the London Blitz. What more could you ask for, truly?
Related: The Life and Genius of Graham Greene
If you're feeling impassioned...
Parable of the Sower
Those who have stumbled upon Butler’s work often wonder why she isn’t a household name. But despite her success in the science fiction community—she did, after all, win several Hugos and Nebulas during her lifetime—she's only recently received more widespread recognition. As a black woman writing between the 1970s and 1990s, her books were particularly sensitive to the intersection of race and power. Parable of the Sower, published in 1993 and set in 2020, is eerily prescient to contemporary problems like racism, corporate greed, and climate change.
If you're feeling nostalgic...
Slouching Towards Bethlehem
Nobody has the ability to capture a time, place, or feeling quite like Joan Didion. If you're nostalgic for your own past—or perhaps for an entirely different era—you'd be hard-pressed to find a more appropriate collection than Didion's first, Slouching Towards Bethlehem. The essay "Goodbye to All That" has become a literary touchpoint for anyone leaving New York, while pieces like "Some Dreamers of the Golden Dream" have immortalized 1960s California.
If you're feeling depressed...
Depression is a common disease, and its corresponding stigma makes it one of the most lethal. William Styron, author of Sophie’s Choice, recounts his own struggle, head-on, in his memoir. In addition to chronicling his downward spiral and simultaneous battle with alcoholism, he describes the many ways he tried to alleviate his symptoms. Though it’s not an easy read, Darkness Visible is an essential reminder that it’s possible to triumph over mental illness.
If you're feeling curious...
I'll Be Gone in the Dark
For forty years, the Golden State Killer—so named by crime writer Michelle McNamara—evaded justice. Authorities believe he was responsible for upwards of twelve murders and fifty rapes across the state of California in the 1970s and 1980s. Obsessed with the case, McNamara began writing a book on the subject, collaborating with police to uncover new evidence and follow forgotten leads. Though she tragically died before Dark’s publication, her arduous investigative work led to the suspect’s arrest in April 2018. Part memoir, part true crime exposé, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark is at once a study of a killer and a look at the woman whose insatiable curiosity and determination helped bring him to justice.
If you're feeling introspective...
Life After Life
If you had the chance to do everything over again, what would you do differently? Such is the question lying at the heart of Life After Life, whose reincarnated heroine has the opportunity to alter the course of history. In 1910, Ursula Todd enters the world on a snowy night; then she dies prematurely. On the very next page, she’s reborn again, and a different life starts to unfold. As this cycle continues throughout first half of the 20th century, Ursula eventually finds herself rubbing shoulders with Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun. Fans of historical fiction—particularly of alternate histories—will love this epic novel about destiny and the choices we make.
Featured photo: Lidya Nada / Unsplash