Monday, February 8, 2010

Jey's Favorite Reads for Stressful Times

For the past few weeks, everyone I've talked to in the Oregon library world has been feeling overwhelmed and stressed out. I'm not sure what combination of events is causing this (although I'm sure the economy is one of them), but it seems to be hitting all kinds of staff and all kinds of libraries.

We're all familiar with the standard advice for dealing with stressful times, so I won't repeat it here (especially since it usually doesn't include baking & eating chocolate chip cookies). However, one of the things I find useful during tough times is re-reading a favorite book. Or two. Or three. Here are a few of my favorites. Please post your own! We could develop a whole De-Stressing Bibliography!

Any of the Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries by Dorothy Sayers. Extremely well-written and intricately plotted. I always end up wishing Sayers hadn't given up writing mysteries for more scholarly pursuits.

The Moonstone by William Wilkie Collins. One of the very first mystery novels, and a heck of a lot of fun. The plot is complicated, but the narration, from the point of view of a number of different characters, is wonderful, and absolutely hilarious in places. The authors other mysteries ramble on a bit, but I'm always sad to get to the end of this one.

To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis. I'm a big Willis fan, and this is my favorite. It's a hilarious, intricate time travel novel. It's even funnier if you've also read The Doomsday Book, which is an intense page-turner, but with a darker theme.

Ursula LeGuin is also one of my favorite authors. My favorite re-reads are The Left Hand of Darkness and The Lathe of Heaven. Like most of LeGuin's work, these books explore complex social and philosophical topics in an elegant and compelling way. The Left Hand of Darkness is also good to read during a heat wave, since it's also so cold in the novel.

Here's hoping our stress levels will be going down soon. Bring on the good books and chocolate chip cookies!


  1. I'll bit on this one! But any blog reader can comment, so it would be great to hear from lots of folks!

    I've been re-reading Lois McMaster Bujold's Miles Vorkosigan novels lately. Well written. Two other SF writers I really enjoy (and I love LeGuin and Willis btw) are Greg Bear and Kim Stanley Robinson, especially Robinson's "Red Mars" series. Starts slow, but unforgettable characters. (The author seems to have fallen in love with his characters and gave them near-immortality, but that's another story.)

    Re-reading is great when you don't have the energy to tackle something new. Jane Austen is great for that. I also like Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin naval series (surprisingly funny, marvelous feel for the period, and have a lot about personnel management in them as a secondary theme). When my brain is really fried, I like to read Horatio Alger novels. They are poorly written, badly plotted and full of stereotypes, but they are easy to read and there is a certain base appeal. Don't know what it is, but they are a window into mass culture and one of the forces that helped shape American values and assumptions.

  2. I'm about to turn the first page of To Say Nothing of the Dog. I'll post back on the clinical results of it's purported de-stressing properties.

    I have to agree with Jey re. LeGuin. Her Lavinia and another title in that vein, Black Ships by Jo Graham, are a great detachment from the daily grind. Eifelheim (Michael Flynn) is also a great choice (and pace) for the sci-fi fan who needs to decompress.

  3. I loved 'To Say Nothing of the Dog'. Connie Willis almost always gets me out of my own head and makes the world around me disappear. Her latest in this time-travel series - 'Blackout' and 'All Clear' - were fantastic, too.