The Moomin series by Tove Jansson
I didn’t read Tove Jansson as a child but I remember that even seeing toy Moomins or their pictures on packages excited me. As a university student, I started learning several foreign languages and hoped that one day, I’d be proficient enough to read the series in Finnish but this didn’t happen either – although, I did watch the cartoons without translation. Now, as an adult, I’m returning to the comforting world of Moominvalley once again and finding it absolutely adorable, calming, and full of wisdom. You can see Moomins on all kinds of products these days, but I feel like few people actually get interested enough in these cute creatures to read the stories themselves, so I strongly recommend that.
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
When we decided to write about books that make us feel good, I spent nearly an eternity going through all the novels and stories I could only remember in my head – and everything wasn’t it. They were either sad, or uninspiring, or sad and uninspiring. But then I realized that my current read, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, is exactly what I needed – what is it if not perfect timing, especially since it’s my third try reading this novel? The book is about an ordinary Englishman Arthur Dent who is thrust into mind-boggling galactic adventures alongside an overly confident “explorer”, a kooky president of the galaxy, a female mathematician, and a depressed and grumpy robot (my personal favorite) as his not-so-true companions. The book is bursting with funny dialogue, witty remarks, and unexpected twists that will make you giggle or put a smile on your face at the very least.
Memoirs of people I would have liked to meet
For insight and perspective as well as instant dopamine, I turn to my shelf of my favorite memoirs: there’s Anthony Bourdain with his snarky, unapologetic accounts of foods and people he encountered around the world, and there’s Ruth Reichl and the comforting and daring dishes she cooked and tasted as a chef and a New York Times restaurant critic. There’s Madeleine Albright and George Stephanopoulos who talk about world politics and their place in it. There’s Josh Kilmer-Purcell who talks about his life as a drag queen and Augusten Burroughs who talks about sobriety. My newest, most treasured possession, is a book put together by Kir Konoplev, a famous Russian physicist turning 92. It’s a memoir written by his wife, Raisa Konopleva, titled Professor, Who Are You? and it offers a raw and personal view of history from the Siege of Leningrad to the present day through the eyes of a female scientist. If there ever was an account of perseverance and the love of life, it’s in this self-published book.
Friendship by various authors
In moments of stress, my brain seeks out something light-hearted and unpretentious. So, from the depth of a humble home library, I got Friendship, a compilation of stories published by No Kidding Press. Here, women and nonbinary people, both professional and amateur writers, share their stories of finding the meaning of friendship. Reading each of the 13 pieces is like befriending the authors: now you know so many secrets of theirs, you almost feel the urge to give something back. Witty, inspiring, and intimate, the book is also about youth and its indispensable companions like making mistakes and soul-searching. At some point, I’m glad I сame to this read now and not two years ago when I received it as a birthday present: it’s cheering me up now more than it ever could.
Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling, narrated by Stephen Fry (audiobooks)
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
My first choice might seem basic but it has saved me hundreds of times when I couldn’t sleep, didn’t think I would make it, or felt extremely lonely. Usually, I never listen to the “hard ones” – I can’t bear Umbridge in The Order of the Phoenix, for instance, or losing Dumbledore in The Half-Blood Prince. These days, however, I had a feeling The Deathly Hallows would be the right companion – and it truly is (though I am now only on chapter 7 and the toughest bits are yet to come). And Stephen Fry’s voice truly brings the story to life and is wonderfully comforting. It’s surprising how much wisdom can be found in the books you once read for magic and adventures as a child. As for Neverwhere: pick it up whenever you need a gripping, unpredictable page-turner that will keep you out of this world for a good day or two (that is if, like me, you decide to abandon food and sleep for it – otherwise it will last longer). Finally, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is to be saved for those times when the world seems too overwhelming and complex, the pieces of the puzzle don’t fit together, and love starts feeling like a concept altogether forgotten. This book might not give you all the answers, but every time I read it, it gives me hope for the world and the people in it.