These are the best books to read right now

Like much of the world, I am now working from home. That means that after I’ve closed my laptop and practiced some home yoga, I have seemingly endless amounts of time to fold myself into the pages of a good book.

Reading, to me, is more than just a respite, it’s a chance to deepen my experience of life. Books have helped me heal from depression, develop my craft as a writer, think more creatively, challenge myself professionally, and meditate on the curiosities of our existence.

And so, when our libraries closed, I purchased a few books for every emotional state that might drift my way. Whether I want to change the world, or simply escape to a different one, here are a few books that I think are perfect for the moment.

If you don’t think the economy crashing is the worst thing:

This Could Be Our Future: A Manifesto for a More Generous World
Purchase from your local Bookshop

Written by Yancey Strickler, co-founder of the crowdfunding site Kickstarter, this book imagines a world that isn’t organized by profit, but by generosity. Less a “let’s all be kind to each other” book and more of an actual blueprint for how our society could be designed in a more sustainable and beautiful way, I am really looking forward to this one.

Ever since the onset of the quarantine, I have found myself wishing for a different world. One in which we ride bikes more than we drive cars fueled with foreign oil. One in which we grow more food in our gardens than we buy from Mexico. One in which we wear the clothing we have more than we buy new clothing from China. This book, I think, is a great way to start imagining that world.

If you are ready to intensely declutter your life:

The Longing for Less: Living with Minimalism
Purchase from your local Bookshop

Once when I was journaling, I actually wrote the phrase: Is Marie Kondo my religion?

I have a deep love of decluttering and a deep obsession with Feng Shui. If I can’t sleep, I know I need to clean the dust out from under my bed and polish my floors. When I am feeling a sense of lack, I know watering my plants will help me feel nourished. When I’m stuck, I know I need to oil the hinges on my doors so everything moves smoothly.

But the answer to, “Is Marie Kondo my religion?” came from this book, which dives far beyond the material practices of feng shui into the immaterial philosophies on why we want to simplify our lives to begin with. Our craving for minimalism, as it turns out, has less to do with our things, and more to do with the mindset we are trying to achieve in the absence of them.

If you are bored out of your mind:

How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy
Purchase from your local Bookshop

After reading Michelle Obama’s biography Becoming, one of the things that stood out most to me was how her husband Barack dedicates time to thinking. He has a room in his house where no one is to disturb him, and he does nothing there but read and think. Mostly about how we can solve complicated life problems.

This is the perfect time to do that, but it would be so easy to allow that to go to waste if we’re distracted by social media and Netflix. As one of Barack Obama’s favorite books of 2019, I’m hoping this book will provide the perfect plan for cutting out the clutter, and using our beautiful brains for more than just the reactionary world of the internet.

If you have way too much anxiety:

First, We Make the Beast Beautiful: A New Journey Through Anxiety
Purchase from your local Bookshop

I have experienced my fair share of anxiety, but books about anxiety aren’t my favorite solution. Mostly because they talk about anxiety too much, and that’s a good way to make a person anxious. Then I found out about this book and instantly added it to my list — mostly because I resonate with the idea of “making a beast beautiful” so completely much.

Apparently, it has resonated with a lot of people because the book became a runaway hit with many adoring fans. I’m looking forward to sinking into this one and really allowing myself to become immersed in the beauty of our intricate minds.

If you really need some peace:

The Dalai Lama: An Extraordinary Life
Purchase from your local Bookshop

I’ve read a lot of books by Buddhist monks, they always bring me a sense of peace and contentment when my mind needs quieting. But until now, the books written by or about the Dalai Lama have barely skimmed the surface of who he really is and what he really believes. That’s why I was so happy to discover this treasure, unearthed from the troves of Dharamsala.

Written with all the detail of a Tibet scholar, the author focuses on “the Dalai Lama’s astonishing spiritual practice, rooted in magic, vision, and prophecy — details of which are illuminated in this book for the first time.” That’s all I really needed to hear to add it to my cart.

If you love a good memoir:

In the Land of Men: A Memoir
Purchase from your local Bookshop

As a writer and editor, I have long been obsessed with the biographies of others in the industry. Having already consumed Ruth Reichl’s Save Me the Plums about her time as editor-in-chief of Gourmet Magazine, as well as More than Enough by Teen Vogue editor Elaine Welteroth, I was so excited to discover this one, in which former GQ editor-in-chief Adrienne Miller shares her experience of working at a predominately male magazine in the 90s.

Really, it had me at “the 90s” — one of my favorite magazine (and fashion, and music, and television) eras. I loved print magazines so much in the 90s that I went to fashion school before realizing it was the journalism side I actually adored.

Reading is one of my favorite things. It’s more than just an escape, it’s a chance to learn and grow and further our human experience. I for one, am loving having more time to do just that.

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Author of a newsletter about writing (and other things) called The Novelleist. About to release my novel via Substack. Subscribe at ellegriffin.substack.com.

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