Book recommendations after trauma
September 20, 2016 1:39 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for books that are enjoyable without being emotionally draining. I think I'm looking for fiction or memoirs, but am open to other suggestions as well.

I'm in recovery after a very traumatic event, and today I realized that I am starting to enjoy life a little bit! I might even be able to enjoy reading a book! I'm looking for something relatively light to start. Books I've enjoyed (pre-trauma) are Mindy Kaling and Tina Fey's books, Salinger and Salinger-esque stories, Vendela Vida's stuff... Since the event, I've been enjoying really light and predictable TV shows (rewatching The Office, Parks & Rec, etc), and I think I'm ready to start reading again.

TRIGGERS that I need to avoid: harm to children, descriptions of medical procedures, hospital environments, references to choking, suicide.
posted by deadcrow to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (22 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simson was a fun, easy read.
posted by netsirk at 1:48 PM on September 20, 2016

Lots by P.G. Wodehouse.
posted by pizzazz at 2:34 PM on September 20, 2016 [9 favorites]

This may be a little silly, but when I'm low or have had some sort of traumatic stress, sometimes I really enjoy reading kids' or YA books, or just kind of silly books. Particular favorites: The Wind in the Willows, Olivia the pig books, Lil BUB's Lil Book (I actually keep this on my desk for cleansing my mind of traumatic thoughts at work), the Weetzie Bat series, Rude Cakes, the Redwall series by Brian Jacques, things in that vein. I also enjoyed rereading the Little House series (except for the problematic ideas about Native peoples), and the Lord of the Rings series. I also recently read a series called The Hallowed Ones about the vampire apocalypse through the eyes of a young Amish girl... didn't realize those were YA until after I finished them but they were really enjoyable and entertaining. Sometimes I like losing myself in outlandish stories.

I also really like the poetry of Mary Oliver for these times. It's very nature-focused, and gives me a serene and grounded feeling. During a particularly hard period, I printed out several of her poems, including "The Journey" and would read them each morning when I woke up. They still bring me that lovely sense of peace whenever I read them. Another poet whose books I love is Kenneth Patchen, really absurd and interesting art coupled with similarly absurd and tongue-in-cheek poems.

An adult book that I also love that makes me feel at peace: An American Childhood, by Annie Dillard (a really lovely memoir about the author's childhood.) I've also taken solace at times in the essays, memoirs, and novels of Edward Abbey.

BONUS other media for trying times: Lil BUB's show and videos, the Hydraulic Press channel on YouTube (amazing videos of a Finnish dude crushing all manner of things in a hydraulic press and making hilarious commentary), Peppa Pig (yes really, it's like a palate cleanser for my mind), ABBA, Herman's Hermits, really any other British Invasion music, dancey pop from the 80s like Whitney Houston, Josh Ritter, especially the album Hello Starling, the Singing Nun (yes really), following the Puget Sound Goat Rescue on Facebook (many baby goat vids!), that Japanese picture of the beautiful wave, and the following Instagram accounts: norbertthedog, hedgehogmeeps, studiomucci, jonwurster (drummer who often posts hilarious and terrible signs, packaging, etc under the hashtag #mynewworstfriend), enchantedkiddieland.

I know that's a lot more than books, but man, I have been in that place and I always feel like gathering all of our resources, silly, serious, entertaining, trashy, whatever we need to shift our brains is what it's all about. Take care and be well.
posted by fairlynearlyready at 2:49 PM on September 20, 2016 [6 favorites]

Oh, my yes, seconding favorite children's series for good, light reading. I'm rereading Wind in the Willows right now and it's light Edwardian snark and the charming animals is perfect. The Chronicles of Narnia, My Side of the Mountain, and the Melendy Quartet by Elizabeth Enright are among my favorites (though you do have to squint sideways through the problematic aspects as with Little House . . .). If you're up for more adventure, The Golden Compass books or Harry Potter.

Amy Poehler's memoir, Yes, Please was good (and she read the audio version herself!).
posted by carrioncomfort at 3:08 PM on September 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

Terry Pratchett is my go to escape literature for when I need comfort food for my brain. Any of them would be great, but the Vimes ones are my favorite.
posted by Polyhymnia at 3:14 PM on September 20, 2016 [6 favorites]

Nthing PG Wodehouse, so funny!

If romances are okay Georgette Heyer's historicals are very light and gentle classics (The Grand Sophy and Frederica are my favorites). More modern light romances would include Juilia Quinn's 'Bridgerton' family series or Lortetta Chase's Mr. Impossible

For nonfiction, pretty much anything by Bill Bryson fits the bill. And oddly 'How I Killed Pluto and Why it had it Coming' by Mike Brown is the most charming science book/memoir I've ever read.
posted by Caravantea at 3:42 PM on September 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

Oh! And Chris Hadfield's memoir is fantastic too!!
posted by Caravantea at 3:43 PM on September 20, 2016

Two fun memoirs are Kristin Chenowith's of Broadway, Sesame Street & Pushing Daisies, as well as Jane Lynch. Bill Bryson's A Walk In the Woods is a hoot, skip Cheryl Strayed's Wild for now. Mary Roach's non/fiction makes me laugh. Fiction - the Fault in our Stars, the Shopaholic series for light fare, The Whistling Season by Ivan Doig is well-told and has a beautiful sense of place.

I've also read tales of tough journeys and making it through like Geraldine Brooks' Year of Wonders and now I'm reading Weir's The Martian, and may try Unbroken, to feed some aspects of The Journey. Best Wishes,
posted by childofTethys at 4:10 PM on September 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

> the Vimes ones are my favorite

I love Vimes, but they get dark. I wouldn't recommend them right now.
posted by The corpse in the library at 4:30 PM on September 20, 2016

I comfort-read Golden Age mysteries. There are usually deaths but they're described in such a bland way that they're not upsetting. Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, Georgette Heyer, that sort of thing.
posted by The corpse in the library at 4:34 PM on September 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

I like Terry Pratchett too, for comfort reading. Skip Night Watch and Monstrous Regiment right now, though.
posted by leahwrenn at 5:15 PM on September 20, 2016

Nancy Mitford
posted by thivaia at 5:22 PM on September 20, 2016

The Elephant Whisperer by Lawrence Anthony. Very sweet tale by the owner of a nature preserve in Africa.

The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver. Gentle coming of age story of a young woman making her way in Tucson.

The Last Chinese Chef by Nicole Mones. Entertaining and hungry-making excursion into Chinese traditional cooking, through the eyes of an American writer.
posted by bluesky78987 at 5:34 PM on September 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

Lots by P.G. Wodehouse.

I was just coming in here to recommend PG Wodehouse; I think I got through like half the Jeeves and Wooster books during a particularly bad period of depression. They are excellent at being engaging, light, and holding one's attention so one's mind can't wander into crappy places. And there's SO FUCKING MANY OF THEM
posted by Greg Nog at 5:46 PM on September 20, 2016

In the vein of the Little House books, All-of-a-Kind Family and More All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor are about a Jewish family living in the Lower East Side in the early years of the twentieth century. They make me feel comforted and secure, and the line drawings are as evocative of New York as Garth Williams' are of the prairies in the Little House books.

There are additional books in the series, too.
posted by apartment dweller at 6:11 PM on September 20, 2016

Single Subject Non-Fiction Books are my goto when I'm not feeling emotionally great (in no order):
  • The Horse: The Epic History of Our Noble Companion
  • Consider The Eel: A Natural And Gastronomic History
  • The History of the Alphabet
  • The Sound Book: The Science of the Sonic Wonders of the World
  • The Triumph of Seeds: How Grains, Nuts, Kernels, Pulses, and Pips Conquered the Plant Kingdom and Shaped Human History
  • Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep
  • Mycophilia: Revelations from the Weird World of Mushrooms
  • How Music Got Free: The End of an Industry, the Turn of the Century, and the Patient Zero of Piracy
  • Salt: A World History
  • Rust: The Longest War
  • Feathers: The Evolution of a Natural Miracle
Nthing P.G. Wodehouse. Start with The Code of the Woosters.
posted by gregr at 6:52 PM on September 20, 2016 [3 favorites]

When I was pregnant, I posted asking for heartwarming, non-upsetting books and got a lot of great answers. I'm sorry for what you're going through.
posted by slidell at 7:46 PM on September 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

Just one additional thought: I did very much love Fault in Our Stars, but, if I remember right, there is some medical stuff in it. I finished it on an airplane and cried most heartily while the old lady next to me gave me the shady eye. A great book though.
posted by fairlynearlyready at 8:02 PM on September 20, 2016 [2 favorites]

Hi. Based on your list you should NOT read Frederica by Georgette Heyer. Read The Unknown Ajax or Cotillion by her instead. Also acceptable are False Colours and The Nonesuch.

You should probably not read the Redwall books.

I also recommend lots of Wodehouse.
posted by Hypatia at 8:39 PM on September 20, 2016

Yup, don't read The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, but absolutely read Will Grayson, Will Grayson or An Abundance of Katherines by him.
posted by Duffington at 10:27 PM on September 20, 2016

Auntie Mame.
posted by brujita at 3:46 AM on September 21, 2016 [3 favorites]

Dave Barry!
posted by SisterHavana at 10:21 AM on September 21, 2016

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