By Julie-Ann Sherlock

During turbulent times, one of my favourite things to do is to escape to another world. I, of course, don’t mean literally, but I do mean “literarily”. Books help my mind leave the humdrum and stress behind, even if just for an hour or two.

Reading while sprawled on my bed, soaking up the rays on a sun lounger or in a hot bath with a relaxing glass of merlot, is heavenly. I have even read my Kindle while perched on a submerged stool in a swimming pool. 

For me, reading is one of life’s great relaxants, and it comforts me when life is tough. 

If you require literary comfort, here is a small selection of books that gave me the warm fuzzies and helped me through tough moments in my life.

Little Women By Louisa May Alcott

A childhood favourite, I revisited the world of the March sisters late last year in anticipation of the Greta Gerwig film. I found the same joy and comfort I had when reading it as a 12-year-old and realised how subconsciously influential, Jo had been in my life. 

The four girls turn into young women during hard times and learn so much about the injustices of life along the way. But no matter what they face and the arguments they have, their sisterhood and determination to be good people sees them through. They help us remember that those who are important in our lives should be held close and rifts should be healed—heartwarming stuff.

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine By Gail Honeyman

The tale of a woman struggling to find her place in the world after a traumatic childhood resonates. We all encounter moments of self-doubt and worry, even if we have almost perfect lives.

Eleanor’s life is stuck. She’s a lonely alcoholic who finds herself virtually stalking a celebrity. Then she lets a work colleague into her life, their friendship develops, and her world opens up. Sure, she still has troubles and worries, but now with the help of Raymond, she begins to see that the world can hold moments of joy and that small acts of kindness can be life-changing.

The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window And Disappeared By Jonas Jonasson

Nothing beats a giggle when life is getting you down. They say laughter is medicine for the soul, and Dr Sherlock is prescribing you this masterpiece by Jonasson

Follow the misadventures of an old man, as he gets himself in and out of sticky situations, and bonus—we get to learn history while laughing! A bit like Forrest Gump, our protagonist, Allan, somehow manages to get himself in the wrong place at the right time, during some of the most significant moments in history. Word of warning: Don’t read in public places such as trains or bars, you will get weird looks for your howls. 

The Secret Life Of Bees By Sue Monk Kidd

Sometimes a book makes you almost feel like you have been wrapped in a massive, loving hug, and that is what the Secret Life of Bees does for me. You follow the heartbreaking journey of a young girl as she tries to figure out and survive in a world without love and affection. 

Then, following a racist incident, Lily and her maid Rosaleen decide to hit the road in search of a better life and find a new home with the unconventional Boatwright sisters. Here they learn that you can choose a new family and that love can heal. 

Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín

As an Irish woman living thousands of miles from home, this book helps me not to feel so far away. Young Eilis takes the brave step of moving from a small seaside town in Ireland to the noisy, busy city of New York in the 1950s. Seeing how alien it all is for her and how she combats homesickness and loneliness to build a new life is inspiring. 

Of course, it’s not all plain sailing. There is love, loss, and a heartbreaking decision to be made—just like in real life. Tóibín brings me home. 

When I am seeking comfort from a book, I prefer something easy to read that restores my faith in humans. I want to be uplifted after I am challenged. I want to feel secure in my emotions while understanding the lives of others. 

Incidentally, all the above books have been made into movies (except in the case of Eleanor Oliphant, where the film is in development). However, no matter how good they are on the big screen, nothing beats a good read when you need to escape to comfortland. So grab one of these books, laugh, cry, and then feel better about the world.