Book Corner: Books to Inspire Mindfulness During the Holidays

Whether or not you celebrate the winter holidays, life always feels crazier this time of year. You might love the season and have Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You” on repeat. Plus, you put up your tree on November 1, and your holiday cards are postmarked the exact day after Thanksgiving. Good on you! Or, you might be struggling with complicated family dynamics, grief, or illness, and find the holiday season hard to bear. You might experience a weird combination of both enjoying the holidays, but also finding them hard to deal with. And, if you don’t celebrate any winter holidays, you’re still stuck listening to Mariah Carey in every store and dodging shoppers and travelers on I-95 from November through January. (Let’s be honest, though. That’s all year long.)

I fall squarely in the “I love the holidays, but also they’re hard, and I want them to be over” camp. So, I chose books that could be almost an antidote to that feeling. Ones that encourage you and me to slow down and sip the spiked eggnog while staring out the window, at least for a few minutes. Because whether you are thriving, struggling, or just trying to get by, everyone could use a few words of comfort and peace. Even you, overachieving November 1 tree person.

Drop the Ball, opens a new window by Tiffany Dufu
An acclaimed expert in women’s leadership, Dufu was raised to believe that to have it all, she must do it all. But after having her first child, she struggled to accomplish everything she thought she needed to do to be successful. Dufu learned to reevaluate her expectations, let go of much of her to-do list, and enlist the help of others in order to thrive both at work and at home. Dufu offers strategies on how women can learn to focus on what they truly care about, drop or delegate extra work, and devote their energy to achieving their true goals to create a fulfilling life.

The Comfort Book, opens a new window by Matt Haig
Years ago, novelist Matt Haig began writing notes of hope and comfort to his future self, whether to get him through the darkest periods of his life or just to get through a rough day. His notes grew into a collection of short thoughts, stories, and meditations that provide a new perspective on life and all of its ups and downs. Drawing from a diversity of sources from across the world, as well as history, science, and his own experiences, Haig provides a book of hope and reassurance for us all, encouraging us to slow down and appreciate our existence. 

The Art of Living, opens a new window by Thich Nhat Hanh
Zen Master and world-renowned spiritual leader Nhat Hanh presents seven meditations drawn from his last full talks before losing the ability to speak, as well as personal examples from his own life. Through his meditations, we learn new perspectives on our lives and our relationships with others and the world around us. We are freed to live a peaceful, active, and joyful life and face aging and dying with curiosity, not fear. Nhat Hanh’s meditations help us live more deeply in the moment, right where we are.

Nothing Much Happens, opens a new window by Kathryn Nicolai
Based on the popular podcast, Nothing Much Happens gives the busy mind a place to rest with gentle, relaxing short stories to enjoy before bedtime. Nicolai, an experienced meditation and yoga teacher, provides a sensory experience in words and illustrations that calms the nerves, teaches mindfulness and self-compassion, and encourages better sleep.

The Well-gardened Mind, opens a new window by Sue Stuart-Smith
Horticulture therapy provides soothing and healing powers to those in crisis and those suffering from grief, trauma, and unhappiness. Psychiatrist and psychotherapist Stuart-Smith explores this topic through the act of gardening, alongside her acclaimed garden designer husband Tom. With eloquent humor, Stuart-Smith draws on her personal experiences to explore the benefits gained from immersion in nature, presenting a much-needed balm in this time of anxiety.

The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down, opens a new window by Haemin Sunim
Sunim, a renowned Buddhist meditation teacher born in Korea and educated in the United States, lights the way to inner peace and balance amid everyday life’s demands. Touching on eight areas, such as relationships, love, and spirituality, Sunim provides a way toward well-being and happiness through connection with others and compassion and forgiveness toward ourselves. Over 20 full-color contemplative illustrations encourage you to slow down and notice the world slowing down with you.

The Little Book of Hygge, opens a new window by Meik Wiking
Hygge (pronounced hoo-ga) loosely translates from the Danish as a sense of comfort and connection with others. It’s the pursuit of everyday happiness by appreciating simple pleasures, a concept that results in the Danes being famously the happiest people in the world. It can be as easy as curling up on the sofa with your cat or enjoying the scent of a favorite candle. Wiking, CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen, presents easy ways to create more hygge in your life, inspiring a greater sense of gratitude and well-being.

Get ready for Adult Winter Reading and the last year to earn a limited-edition Central Rappahannock Regional Library mug! Pre-register at, opens a new window

Tracy McPeck is the adult services coordinator at Central Rappahannock Regional Library. This column first appeared in the Free Lance-Star newspaper.