Family reunions are fun, it’s also true that they can be a little stressful. It’s not that you don’t love your family, of course, it’s just that they can be hard to be around for extended periods of time. Sometimes you just need a little “me” time.
This is where books can save the day. A good book can help you de-stress by giving you a chance to be quiet and calm for an hour or two. It takes you someplace far away from the little issues that make family reunions more stressful and less fun. Here are five books that can help you do just that.
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
Best Read If: You want to live in a fantasy world for a little while.
The Name of the Wind is the first book in Rothfuss’ series, and is the perfect introduction to the protagonist Kvothe and his world. If you’re worried about complicated fantasy language, fret not: Rothfuss doesn’t overwhelm the reader with hard-to-pronounce names and long-winded descriptions of mountains. Kvothe is a charming narrator, and it’s easy to sink into his story as he weaves it for the reader, telling of his rise to the greatest heights of fame and glory, and his eventual fall from grace.
My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante (trans. Ann Goldstein)
Best Read If:You’ve imagined what it would be like if you grew up in Italy instead of the Philippines.
Up until October this year, author Elena Ferrante was a complete mystery. She has no social media accounts, no pictures of her exist online, and she’s never made any public appearances for book signings or book tours. Despite the lack of online and public presence, Ferrante still enjoys fame for her Neapolitan novels, which were praised for their portrayal of female relationships, with a focus on female friendships. But then again, her fans said, if you write as brilliantly as she does, who cares what she looks like.
My Brilliant Friend is the first book in Ferrante’s acclaimed Neopolitan series, and is about two girls who grow up as best friends, and whose paths in life diverge and converge in interesting, sometimes heartbreaking ways. Through them, the reader comes to know the city of Naples, and the complicated, complex nature of Italian politics and society, as well as the equally complex, equally complicated nature of female friendship.
The Dragon Behind the Glass by Emily Voigt
Best Read If:You’ve dreamed of being a jungle explorer.
A desire to understand the arowana’s appeal is what led author Emily Voigt down what she terms “a rabbit hole” in her book The Dragon Behind the Glass: A True Story of Power, Obsession, and the World’s Most Coveted Fish. The journey takes her on the adventure of a lifetime: from the glitzy and slightly seedy aquarium trade shows of Singapore, to the rainforests of Borneo and the Amazon, as she tries to track down an arowana in its native habitat. Along the way, she comes to understand how the arowana, and other rare species like it, symbolize humanity’s desire to control Nature by owning it.
The Romanovs: 1613-1918 by Simon Sebag Montefiore
Best Read If: You’ve always wondered what it would be like to be a member of a royal family.
Simon Sebag Montefiore’s The Romanovs: 1613-1918 is very long, but that makes a lot of sense when you remember that the Romanovs ruled for three hundred years. Dynasties as long as theirs are rare, especially when you consider the socio-political upheavals that occurred during their reign, to say nothing of the many, many scandals associated with them. Fortunately, Montefiore’s prose is very readable, and while he goes into the serious details of politics and war, he doesn’t skimp on the little dirty details because, as he says in the Introduction: “Everything personal is political.”
Rice, Noodle, Fish by Matt Goulding
Best Read If:You’ve imagined living the life of a traveling food writer.
But whether you’re in the planning stages of your first, or next, trip to Japan, or even if you have absolutely no plans of going but are still curious about Japanese food, then Rice, Noodle, Fish: Deep Travels Through Japan’s Food Culture by Matt Goulding is definitely a book you’ll want to read. Part travel guide, part food memoir, Goulding talks about all the food he eats as he journeys through Japan, from high-end kaiseki cuisine to cheap and cheerful ramen stands and izakayas. The photographs that accompany the stories are a visual treat, and will probably have you craving Japanese food within just a few pages.