Book Corner: Turn to Books for Calm During Turbulent Times

Life is pretty strange right now. For the past month, my days have consisted of working at the dining table, developing a fine case of “text neck,” while alternately trying to convince a sixth-grader that optional schoolwork is mandatory (wink, wink) and devising creative strategies to keep three cats from constantly Zoom-bombing my meetings. When I leave work to go home, I’m magically already there. I have no commute to serve as down time—the only time where I got to be alone for a few minutes to practice my solo “Carpool Karaoke.” I’m well aware of how blessed my family and I continue to be, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels guilty for feeling out of sorts despite my relative good fortune.

We all are experiencing the pandemic differently.

I’ve always turned to books as a comfort and distraction, and these days, I need them more than ever. If you’re not familiar with the term “bibliotherapy,” it’s exactly like it sounds: therapists prescribe books to help you deal with issues such as anxiety and depression, especially when it comes to figuring out situations you’ve never experienced. Well, I’m not a certified therapist, but I am a certified (or maybe certifiable) librarian and therefore consider myself qualified to recommend some books to help you survive, maybe even thrive in, this brave new world.

All available as eBooks and/or eAudiobooks through your library, I chose these because of their capacity to provide comfort and tips for finding joy no matter the situation. Often, you’ll find the “therapy” lies in the relatability of these authors’ own stories, how they’ve experienced adversity and reframed their thoughts to break through stronger and calmer.

Just don’t be surprised if my next column is filled with post-apocalyptic tales of widespread disease and disaster. That’s just how I roll.

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb
Advice columnist Gottlieb shares her experience in therapy while simultaneously working with her own psychotherapy patients. Gottlieb’s own story blends into theirs as she connects with their search for meaning and exploration of mortality, learning powerful lessons along the way.

Notes on A Nervous Planet by Matt Haig
Haig encourages the reader to consider the big picture while providing simple but powerful strategies to living a full life. Drawing on his experiences suffering from panic attacks and anxiety, Haig presents short chapters that delve into single ideas, such as paying attention to good nutrition and sleep or understanding the mind/body connection. To counter the havoc the state of today’s world can wreak on our emotional lives, Haig provides battle-tested advice on how to live a full life.

How to Relax by Thich Nhat Hanh
With sections on healing, providing relief on nonstop thinking, and being at peace, Zen Master Hanh’s simple guide provides an understanding of why it’s important to mindfully recharge. “How to Relax” teaches you how to control stress and renew mental clarity through meditations appropriate for both seasoned practitioners and those new to the practice.

Almost Everything by Anne Lamott
“I am stockpiling antibiotics for the Apocalypse, even as I await the blossoming of paperwhites on the windowsill in the kitchen,” Anne Lamott admits at the beginning of “Almost Everything.”
The witty, profound Lamott calls for us to discover the hope that lies within and empowers us to discover what makes life sweet despite the despair and uncertainty that surround us daily.

Gmorning, Gnight! by Lin-Manuel Miranda
Miranda, of “Hamilton” fame, has long inspired his Twitter followers with daily words of encouragement. Though he wrote his original sayings and bits of poetry mainly for himself, Miranda’s audience grew, and his messages took on their own lives. Accompanied by charming illustrations by Jonny Sun, this lovely collection of Miranda’s bits of inspiration are filled with comfort and motivation for anyone who needs it.

Upstream by Mary Oliver
In this essay collection, renowned poet Oliver reflects on her contemplation of artistic labor, curiosity for the natural world around her, and her feeling of responsibility to the great writers and thinkers of the past to live thoughtfully and observe life with passion. Oliver compels us all to keep moving, find intrigue and inspiration in the unknown, and give ourselves over to creativity that lives within us.

O's Little Book of Calm & Comfort by the editors of O, The Oprah Magazine
This collection of soul-warming pieces from celebrated writers offers reassuring thoughts to any reader overwhelmed by daily life. Information and inspiration abound, covering topics from delicious food to lasting love. Candid humor and timeless advice provide the tools needed to love deeply, envision a hopeful future, and embrace the adventure of being alive, no matter one’s circumstances.

Yesterday, I Cried by Iyanla Vanzant
Bestselling author and life coach Vanzant has had a difficult life, but the challenges she experienced helped uncover amazing gifts and led to wisdom gained. Vanzant shows us how we can use life’s hardships as lessons that teach us to grow, heal, and learn to love. She emphasizes that the pain of the past does not have to be our current reality; instead, it becomes the seed of today’s hope and renewal.

Central Rappahannock Regional Library branches might be closed, but the library is still open! Visit us at for recommendations from our My Librarian concierge service, to try a virtual event, or peruse our rapidly growing collection of digital materials. Find us @crrlnews on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter!

Tracy McPeck is Adult Services Coordinator for Central Rappahannock Regional Library. This column first appeared in the Free Lance-Star newspaper.