By Emilie Murphy

Spring break is coming up, which hopefully means enjoying some well-deserved downtime. With The New Yorker’s recent recommendations for bibliotherapy, using books for therapeutic healing, it seems like there are more benefits to reading than just unwinding. Reading is good for your physical and mental health. It is linked to peace of mind and stronger relationships, and can make a person more empathetic.

Want to read more but not sure where to begin? You’re not alone. One common complaint from the modern reader is that there are too many books to choose from. It is easy to get overwhelmed by options before even making a decision. We’ve attempted to help with this ailment, compiling a list of fiction and non-fiction books that will not only captivate, but could even make you a better person. 

 

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Fiction can be a wonderful escape, and those looking to do so will relish every moment of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. Moving back and forth between the present, where the reclusive actress Evelyn Hugo is finally telling her story, and the past, the Hollywood of the sixties, seventies and eighties, Taylor Jenkins Reid’s novel takes readers deep into the world of this tough, complicated and multi-faceted character. With many unexpected turns along the way, the book is a wonderful glimpse into another time and the life of someone who has truly lived, along with a very interesting twist.

 

The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz
by Erik Larson

This is not your typical World War II history book. From bestselling author of the international sensation The Devil in the White City comes a unique account of Winston Churchill’s first year as prime minister. Blending the intrigue of historical events throughout the year of 1940 with personal details from Churchill’s life, Larson gives readers a holistic and humanizing account of the infamous prime minister. Using his remarkable writing talents to bring the revered icon to life, Larson explores Churchill’s familial relationships, leadership style, and the stories of those closest to him. The result is one of Larson’s best works yet, and an entirely new angle on a much-told story.

 

Hill Women: Finding Family and a Way Forward in the Appalachian Mountains
by Cassie Chambers

If you liked Educated or Hillbilly Elegy, you will fly through Cassie Chambers’s biography Hill Women. Born to a teenage mother in one of the poorest counties in Kentucky, Chambers manages to rise from poor conditions, ultimately earning an undergraduate degree from Yale University followed by a degree from Harvard Law. Now a lawyer in Louisville and vice chair of the Kentucky Democratic Party, Chambers not only details her own incredible story, but also the stories of the women she grew up with. The result is a powerful narrative that helps to illustrate a much-maligned and misunderstood community.

 

The Dutch House
by Ann Patchett

It’s hard to tell what’s more beautiful, the cover of Ann Patchett’s latest novel The Dutch House, or the story inside. A modern-day fairytale complete with evil stepmother and likable orphaned children, The Dutch House spans five decades in the life of Danny and Maeve Conroy. At the center of this story looms the Dutch House, former residence of a once-wealthy Dutch family who lost their fortune during the Depression. Years later, the house is decrepit and flea-infested when Cyril Conroy decides to buy it for his family — his wife, Elna, and children, Danny and Maeve. With compassion and wit, Patchett tells a story about wealth, loss, nostalgia and, most of all, the relationships that carry us through our lives.

 

Catch and Kill
by Ronan Farrow

Think you know every detail of the Harvey Weinstein case? You are wrong. Ronan Farrow’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel takes us inside his investigation of Weinstein and the unimaginable obstacles he encountered along the way. (Think Iranian spies, collusion, Russian gangsters…no, we’re not kidding). Catch and Kill is not only a testament to the power of good journalism, but is a beautifully told story that will have you on the edge of your seat. 

 

Such a Fun Age
by Kiley Reid

This is the debut novel that everyone is talking about. Described by the author herself as ‘a comedy of good intentions,’ Such a Fun Age explores the lives of Emira, a 25-year-old babysitter in Philadelphia, and Alix, her employer. Emira is a black woman who has just graduated from college and finds herself ‘in a quiet panic’ about her life’s trajectory. Alix is a white, upper-middle class thirty-something who goes to extremes to prove to Emira that she is liberal and virtuous and definitely not racist. Part bildungsroman that deftly explores the aimless and hopeless feelings of twenty-somethings and part acute social commentary on ‘performative wokeness,’ Reid’s novel is that rare thing: an irresistibly readable novel that also makes you think.

 

Trick Mirror
by Jia Tolentino

Find yourself rolling your eyes at ‘wellness’ influencers while still drawn in by clickbait like ‘Yoga With Cat Aids The Body and Soul?’ Tired of feeling like you have to ‘optimize’ at all times? Addicted to social media but hate it at the same time? Jia Tolentino can relate. She dissects our modern anxieties with humor and sharp insights in her debut novel, Trick Mirror. For anyone looking for some sort of logic in our chaotic world, this book of poignant essays is for you.

 

Agent Running in the Field 
by John le Carré

We couldn’t have a reading list without one good mystery novel, and the latest book from bestselling author John le Carré has all the ingredients of a good page-turner: British spies, betrayal, and a secret mission. The protagonist, soon-to-be-redundant government agent Nat, takes on his last mission against the backdrop of Brexit. As a seasoned storyteller, le Carré puts his expertise to use, creating a convincing and entertaining narrative that delivers a unforeseen conclusion. Part mystery, part meditation on contemporary European politics, this novel proves impossible to put down.