Book recommendations please
March 27, 2020 9:00 PM   Subscribe

I would like to read books that are gentle and PTSD friendly. What would you suggest?

It's the perfect time for some nice distracting books. But I'm feeling fragile, have PTSD, and find it difficult to disconnect from disturbing books. I'd like to avoid books with significant violence, sexual violence, bigotry, child abuse, and generally upsetting things. Beyond this gigantic restriction, I'm open to fiction, nonfiction, science fiction, fantasy, and whatever else. Basically I want the recent Best Book You Ever Read thread filtered for more positive, uplifting books.

Yes, I know this rules out lots of amazing literature but that's just where I'm at right now.

My recent reading has been heavy on Terry Pratchett, self-helpish books (at least they are upbeat), and Michael Lewis. This is not enough.

What would you suggest?
posted by medusa to Media & Arts (21 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
Look for the genre "cozy mysteries." You'll find lots of cats and librarians and even some witches. Some of them lean a little toward romance, but there's nothing wrong with romance, in moderation. Tasha Alexander's Lady Emily series is a great example of the type. I especially enjoy the historical serieses.
posted by irisclara at 9:56 PM on March 27, 2020

How long has it been since you've re-read Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy & series?
posted by bartleby at 10:57 PM on March 27, 2020 [4 favorites]

I recently read Willa Cather's Death Comes for the Archbishop, which, despite its ominous title, is a positive, moving and uplifting story of a Catholic cleric facing adversity with faith and good sense in the American old west.

You might like the short stories of Noel Coward, which are mostly gentle tales with a lot of heart.
posted by bertran at 11:12 PM on March 27, 2020 [2 favorites]

Susan Juby's Home to Woefield

Steve Kluger's My Most Excellent Year and Almost Like Being in Love. I also love
The Last Days of Summer because it's very funny but it's set during WWII and it also made me cry. In fact, I'm going to go dig up my copies and spend the weekend with them.
posted by Constance Mirabella at 11:21 PM on March 27, 2020 [1 favorite]

Seconding Home to Woefield. There’s a sequel, too: Republic of Dirt.

I love Robin Sloan’s Sourdough. It’s gentle, funny, and uplifting.

Andrew Sean Greer’s Less is also funny and gentle with a happy ending.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:34 AM on March 28, 2020

The Soul Of An Octopus
posted by christiehawk at 12:53 AM on March 28, 2020 [1 favorite]

Is fanfiction an option? Because AO3 (archive of our own) does a really really good job of tagging its stuff, and you can set filters to automatically exclude the stuff you don't want to see ever. rates it's fics but doesn't have content tags but it is the other option. Then you pick a fandom and read away.
posted by AlexiaSky at 1:24 AM on March 28, 2020 [3 favorites]

Also reading a lot of Pratchett at the moment ...

You might like Sarah Addison Allen's novels - gentle fantasy.

If mysteries are ok, you could try Donna Andrews's bird-themed mysteries. I might start with the third one, Revenge of the Wrought Iron Flamingos. Also Kerry Greenwood's Corinna Chapman series is pretty gentle - lots of found family. Both series have deaths but as far as I recall no sexual violence. Maybe avoid Greenwood's Forbidden Fruit which does have child abuse.

Montgomery's The Blue Castle often gets recommended as comfort reading. The events are fairly gentle so it might be worth trying, though it does have a lot of feelings.

Difficult to recommend non-fiction without knowing more about your interests. You could try The Inky Fool's The Etymologicon. Or Esther Rutter's This Golden Fleece, about wool and knitting.

Would children's books work? Howl's Moving Castle maybe?
posted by paduasoy at 1:26 AM on March 28, 2020 [1 favorite]

What about all of the Jeeves books by P. G. Wodehouse? They are lighthearted, delightful, and you know that everything will end swimmingly. Plus, you can read them and watch Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie bring the stories to life, giving you a reading and watching experience.
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 5:29 AM on March 28, 2020 [8 favorites]

Jane Austen is my go-to for this, although some of her characters’ lives have disappointments and sadness, it’s more “constrained by social mores” problems than violence and trauma.
posted by jeoc at 6:06 AM on March 28, 2020 [5 favorites]

If you're not a regular romance reader, I suggest trying a little romance. If you get good recommendations, it's easy to find things that are warm and loving and clever and charming. The Kiss Quotient, by Helen Hoang, is where I'd start someone off.

SF, if you haven't read The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, by Becky Chambers, well that is pretty much straight up a warm hug of people being respectful of each other and getting to know each other's cultures.

Eliza and Her Monsters, by Francesca Zappia, is one of my favorite books. It's YA, about an artistic girl who doesn't quite fit into her athletic family. Under a pseudonym, she writes an enormously popular webcomic, so she's kind of rich and famous, but no one in her real life knows. It's a sweet story about bringing the two parts of her life together, and I love it very much.
posted by gideonfrog at 6:10 AM on March 28, 2020 [1 favorite]

The Everlasting Story of Nory by Nicholson Baker
posted by Redstart at 6:16 AM on March 28, 2020 [1 favorite]

Cold Comfort Farm!

Jasper Fforde, particularly the Thursday Next series. How can you not love a fantasy-mystery series about jumping into/altering the plots of classic books, particularly where the protagonist's sidekick is a badass Miss Havisham.

Seconding the suggestion for PG Wodehouse as well.
posted by basalganglia at 9:21 AM on March 28, 2020

The Sound of Waves by Yukio Mishima (1954).
posted by Rash at 9:35 AM on March 28, 2020

Anything by Robin McKinley.
posted by msamye at 11:52 AM on March 28, 2020 [1 favorite] has Jo Walton writing a column about books in which no bad things happen. She suggests At Amberleaf Fair by Phyllis Ann Karr which I heartily endorse. People also have some helpful suggestions in the comments. I would also add The Summer Book by Tove Jansson.
posted by gudrun at 12:06 PM on March 28, 2020

Anything by Robin McKinley
Except Deerskin, which includes sexual violence.

My mother had some suggestions:

Books (and authors) which are engaging, warm and not violent:
Sarah Winman: When God was a Rabbit
Penelope Lively (books for children and adults)
Salley Vickers
Alexander McCall Smith
Kate Atkinson
Michael Innes (mysteries)
Linda Grant
Georgette Heyer (romances - not her detective ones)
Alan Johnson memoirs (UK politics)
Clare Balding (memoir)
Anthony Trollope
Ian Sansom
David Nobbs
Barbara Trapido
Anne Tyler
David Lodge
John O’Farrell (UK politics / humour)
Joanne Harris
Eva Ibbotson (books for adults and for children)
Michelle Obama: Becoming
Elizabeth Von Arnim: The Enchanted April
Graham Greene: Travels with my Aunt
Rachel Joyce: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry
Elizabeth Peters: the Egyptian series (these are mysteries)
Frederick Blackman: A Man Called Ove
posted by paduasoy at 1:42 PM on March 28, 2020 [2 favorites]

I just read the sweetest novella-length romance. It's a m/m Beauty and the Beast re-telling set in England during WWII. "Beauty" is a middle-aged parson with a bum leg he picked up in WWI. Free with Kindle Unlimited, or 2.99 to buy. Briarley by Aster Glenn Grey.
posted by Orlop at 3:42 PM on March 28, 2020

Sarah Caudwell's Hilary Tamar mysteries

Jude Morgan's An Accomplished Woman, Indiscretion, and A Little Folly are Austenesque without being continuations or variations of Austen's book. I've only read the first two but I remember really enjoying An Accomplished Woman.
posted by Constance Mirabella at 6:10 PM on March 28, 2020

Fannie Flagg's books are all super comfy, and often hysterically funny.
posted by Mchelly at 6:17 PM on March 28, 2020

Came back to add three children's books which are comfort reads for me. Rosemary Sutcliff's The Armourer's House and Brother Dusty-Feet. Both are historical novels with lots of everyday detail and warmth. And Elizabeth Goudge's The Little White Horse.
posted by paduasoy at 12:08 PM on March 30, 2020

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