Escape Reality with My Favorite Books of All-Time

Aug 10, 2023WELL-BEING

Books are a mental and emotional escape that impact our well-being. No matter how crazy life can be, the pages of a favorite book can transport us to calming realms. Let’s explore how our favorite books impact our overall mental, emotional, and physical wellness.

FAVORITE BOOKS — HOW LITERARY TREASURES IMPROVE WELL-BEING

1. Escape to Another World – Immersing ourselves in the worlds created by our favorite books provides a welcomed escape from the stresses of everyday life. Whether it’s the magic of fantasy realms, the charm of historical fiction, or the familiarity of contemporary stories, the act of entering these alternate realities can be a therapeutic journey that momentarily lifts the weight of our own concerns.

2. Stress Reduction and Relaxation – Reading has been scientifically proven to reduce stress levels. The rhythmic act of turning pages, the absorption into a compelling narrative, and the diversion from daily worries contribute to a calming effect on the mind. Engaging with a favorite book can serve as a form of mindfulness, promoting relaxation and a sense of inner peace.

3. Empathy and Emotional Resonance – Connecting with the characters and narratives in our favorite books cultivates empathy. As we vicariously experience the triumphs and tribulations of fictional lives, we expand our emotional intelligence and understanding of diverse perspectives. This emotional resonance contributes to a more compassionate and empathetic approach to real-life situations.

4. Intellectual Stimulation – Engaging with literature stimulates the brain, keeping it active and agile. The mental exercise involved in comprehending complex plots, deciphering symbolism, and pondering character motivations serves as a cognitive workout. This intellectual stimulation has long-term benefits for brain health and can potentially reduce the risk of cognitive decline.

5. Therapeutic Reflection – Favorite books often contain nuggets of wisdom, profound insights, and relatable experiences. Readers find solace and therapeutic reflection in the pages of stories that resonate with their own struggles, triumphs, and personal growth. These reflections can guide readers through their own journeys of self-discovery and healing.

6. Coping Mechanism and Resilience – Life’s challenges can be overwhelming, but the stories of resilience, courage, and triumph found in favorite books serve as powerful coping mechanisms. The fictional struggles and victories of beloved characters inspire a sense of hope and fortitude, reminding readers that they, too, can overcome adversity.

7. Social Connection and Shared Experience – The joy of sharing a favorite book with others fosters a sense of community and shared experience. Book clubs, discussions, and online forums provide avenues for social connection, allowing individuals to bond over their mutual love for certain stories. These connections contribute positively to mental and emotional well-being.

8. Mindful Presence – Reading requires focus and presence, encouraging a break from the constant distractions of the digital age. The act of immersing oneself in a book promotes mindfulness, allowing readers to be fully present in the moment and savor the unique pleasure of a good story unfolding.

My Favorite Books - Julie Pedraza

Read reviews of my favorite books on Goodreads. And download the Libby app for convenient free book reading or listening.

FAVORITE BOOKS – NON-FICTION

1. Know My Nameis a powerful and poignant memoir by Chanel Miller, a survivor of sexual assault. In the book, Miller shares her personal journey of healing, resilience, and reclaiming her identity after the highly publicized Stanford University sexual assault case, where she was known as “Emily Doe.”

The memoir explores the emotional aftermath of the assault, the complexities of the legal process, and the impact of trauma on an individual’s sense of self. Miller eloquently addresses themes of consent, survivorship, and the pervasive culture of sexual assault. It’s a courageous account of one woman’s experience and a call for empathy, understanding, and societal change in how sexual assault survivors are treated and perceived.

2. Finding Me is about Viola Davis’s life of poverty and hardship during her childhood in Rhode Island and her climb to fame in New York City. Viola Davis is not a quitter. Through close examination of the most painful memories, deep reflection, and therapy, Viola Davis finds a life worth living.

3. The Choice is a powerful and inspiring memoir that recounts Edith Eger’s experiences as a Holocaust survivor. Eger shares her harrowing journey through Auschwitz, where she endured unimaginable suffering and loss. Despite the immense trauma, the core message of the book is one of hope and empowerment.

Eger details her path to healing, emphasizing the importance of choosing a mindset of freedom and forgiveness. Through her personal story, she encourages readers to confront their own challenges, make positive choices, and find meaning and joy in life, even in the face of profound adversity. “The Choice” is a testament to the strength of the human spirit and a guide to finding purpose and embracing possibilities, no matter the circumstances.

4. The Happiest Man on Earth is a memoir by Holocaust survivor Eddie Jaku. Born in Germany to a loving Jewish family, Jaku’s life took a tragic turn during World War II when he was sent to concentration camps. Despite facing unimaginable horrors and loss, Jaku’s memoir is a testament to his resilience, optimism, and enduring humanity.

The book chronicles his experiences in Auschwitz and other concentration camps, emphasizing his determination to maintain a positive outlook even in the darkest of times. The memoir imparts valuable lessons about the power of love, forgiveness, and the choice to find joy in life.

5. A Heart that Works  is a memoir by actor and writer Rob Delaney about losing his son Henry to a brain tumor.The book is an intimate, unflinching, and fiercely funny exploration of what happened—from the harrowing illness to the bodily impact of grief and the blind, furious rage that followed, through to the forceful, unstoppable love that remains.

6. I’m Glad My Mom Died is a memoir by Jennette McCurdy, a former child actress and star of iCarly and Sam & Cat. The book is a heartbreaking and hilarious account of her struggles as a child actor—including eating disorders, addiction, and a complicated relationship with her overbearing mother. Spoiler Alert: She retook control of her life.

7. Born a Crime is a memoir by Trevor Noah, the acclaimed host of “The Daily Show.” The book provides a compelling and humorous account of Noah’s childhood in apartheid-era South Africa. Born to a black Xhosa mother and a white Swiss father during a time when interracial unions were illegal, Noah’s existence was, in fact, a crime under apartheid law.

Despite the challenges, Noah recounts his childhood with a blend of wit, humor, and poignant reflection. He delves into stories of resilience, survival, and the profound impact his mother had on shaping his character and worldview. The memoir provides readers with a unique and engaging perspective on the resilience of the human spirit in the face of adversity.

8. Educated is a memoir by Tara Westover that recounts her remarkable journey from growing up in a strict and abusive household in rural Idaho to eventually earning a PhD from the University of Cambridge. Tara was raised by strict and survivalist parents who rejected formal education and medical care.

The memoir explores Tara’s determination to educate herself despite facing numerous challenges, including an oppressive family environment, lack of formal schooling, and the struggle to bridge the gap between her upbringing and the academic world. Tara’s pursuit of knowledge leads her to achieve academic success but also forces her to confront the complexities of loyalty to her family and the need for self-discovery.

9. Solito, a memoir by Javier Zamora is the personal story of the author’s 3,000-mile journey as a 9-year-old from El Salvador, through Guatemala and Mexico, and eventurally to the United States. He tells the story of his beloved aunt and his grandparents, who took care of him while his parents lived in the U.S. Zamora’s voice, sense of humor, and heart make this a standout story about survival and the pursuit of the American Dream.

10. Broken Horses is a memoir by Brandi Carlile, the Grammy-winning singer-songwriter. The book traces Carlile’s journey from her challenging childhood in rural Washington State to her rise to musical acclaim. With a focus on her personal and professional struggles, including navigating her identity as a lesbian and the challenges of the music industry, Carlile reflects on the transformative power of music and the healing it brought to her life.

FAVORITE BOOKS – FICTION

1. Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver is a coming-of-age tale about a boy named Demon who is born to a drug-addicted mother in Lee County, Virginia. It’s the story of broken systems and a boy with no assets beyond a caustic wit and a fierce talent for survival.

2. Remarkably Bright Creatures  is a novel by Shelby Van Pelt. It tells the story of Tova Sullivan, a 70-year-old widow who works the night shift at the Sowell Bay Aquarium. Tova’s husband died and her 18-year-old son, Erik, drowned in the sea. Tova has never believed the police’s ruling that Erik’s death was a suicide. 

It’s also the story of Cameron, a young man who is abandoned by his mother as a child and raised by his aunt. The novel explores themes of grief, loss, friendship, and redemption.

3. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid is a captivating novel that unfolds the glamorous and mysterious life of the fictional Hollywood film actress, Evelyn Hugo. The story is narrated by Monique Grant, a journalist who is unexpectedly chosen by Evelyn to write her biography.

The narrative weaves between the golden era of Hollywood and the present day, gradually revealing the layers of Evelyn’s complex and compelling personality. Throughout the story, Evelyn Hugo emerges as a resilient and enigmatic figure, challenging societal expectations and offering a poignant reflection on the cost of pursuing one’s dreams in the unforgiving world of fame.

4. The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer is a dual-timeline historical novel that weaves together the stories of two women, separated by decades, who are connected by family secrets.

The contemporary timeline follows Alice, a wife and mother living in present-day America. When her beloved grandmother, suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, begins losing her ability to communicate, Alice becomes determined to uncover the family’s hidden history.

The historical timeline is set in Nazi-occupied Poland during World War II and follows Alina, a young woman whose life takes a dramatic turn as the war unfolds. As Alina faces unimaginable challenges, her story becomes a testament to love, sacrifice, and the resilience of the human spirit.

5. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini is a powerful and emotionally gripping novel that unfolds against the backdrop of war-torn Afghanistan, spanning several decades. The story intertwines the lives of two women, Mariam and Laila, whose fates become tragically connected.

Mariam, an illegitimate child, and Laila, a beautiful and intelligent girl from a loving family, come from vastly different backgrounds. Their lives intersect when circumstances force them into a complex and fraught sisterhood. The narrative explores the resilience of these women as they endure the oppressive rule of the Taliban, societal expectations, and personal tragedies.

6. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens is a novel that combines elements of mystery, romance, and coming-of-age against the backdrop of the marshes of North Carolina. The story unfolds in two timelines.

In the 1950s and 60s, Kya Clark, known as the “Marsh Girl,” grows up isolated in the wild marshes after being abandoned by her family. Despite her loneliness, Kya forms a deep connection with the natural world and becomes a skilled and observant naturalist.

In the 1960s and 70s, the narrative shifts to the murder investigation of Chase Andrews, a local football star. The town suspects Kya due to her solitary lifestyle and outsider status.

The novel alternates between these timelines, exploring Kya’s journey of survival and self-discovery, her relationships, and the mystery surrounding Chase Andrews’ death. The story is a blend of courtroom drama, romance, and a celebration of nature’s beauty. It delves into themes of resilience, prejudice, and the impact of human connections on one’s life.

7. Take My Hand  is a novel about two Black sisters who were victims of reproductive injustice. The book is loosely based on true events.

A young nurse with big dreams of helping her community comes to an Alabama clinic and is immediately embroiled in the lives of two young Black girls, caught first in the trap of rural poverty and then in the spotlight of a national court case as their mistreatment at the clinic’s hands comes out into the open.

8. We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter is a historical novel that follows the Kurc family, a Jewish family from Radom, Poland, during World War II. The novel is based on the author’s own family history and is a poignant exploration of survival, resilience, and the impact of war on individuals and families.

The Kurc family members are scattered across different parts of the world as the war unfolds, each facing their own set of challenges and dangers. From the ghettos of Poland to the depths of the Siberian gulags, the characters endure hardship, loss, and separation.

Despite the adversity, the Kurcs demonstrate extraordinary strength and tenacity in their quest to reunite and survive. The narrative weaves together the individual stories of the family members, capturing the breadth of their experiences and the indomitable human spirit.

9. Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate is a historical fiction novel inspired by the real-life scandal of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society, which operated from the 1920s to 1950s. The story unfolds in dual timelines.

In the past (1939 to 1950), the narrative follows the Foss children, a family living on a Mississippi River shantyboat. Their lives are disrupted when they are taken to the Tennessee Children’s Home Society, an orphanage run by the nefarious Georgia Tann. The siblings are separated and endure harrowing conditions as they navigate the flawed adoption system.

In the present (present-day Aiken, South Carolina), the story introduces Avery Stafford, a successful lawyer from a prominent political family. While visiting her grandmother at a nursing home, Avery discovers a connection to a woman named May Crandall, unraveling family secrets and a hidden past.

My father always told me: “Never trust anyone whose TV is bigger than their book shelf.”

—Emilia Clarke

FAVORITE BOOKS – THE GIST

As we turn the pages of our cherished tomes, we embark on a journey that transcends the boundaries of fiction, weaving its therapeutic magic into the fabric of our lives. Whether it’s the tranquility found in a quiet corner with a novel or the exhilaration of discussing a beloved book with fellow enthusiasts, the impact of literature on our well-being is undeniable. Let’s continue to celebrate the literary elixirs that soothe our souls, stimulate our minds, and enrich our lives with the boundless joys of reading.

As always, thank you for being here and sharing the articles you appreciate most. Be sure to subscribe to future posts below. If you have questions or suggestions, leave a comment or drop a note. My mind and inbox are always open.

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