In the last month since school started, I’ve asked the youth that I see in my practice which books they’d recommend reading to combat anxiety. They gave me such an interesting list that I thought I’d pass it along, instead of my usual weekly book review.
To begin with, I was surprised at how many people told me that the best books to read when you’re anxious are horror stories! Can you believe it? That is the last thing I would read, but those who recommend this choice say that nothing gets anxiety out of their heads better than sheer terror. If you’re in this category, please, please let us know why that works for you.
Many people also recommended thrillers – for the same reasons as horror stories, but it seems as though these readers need less stimulation to take their minds off their worries. Although a favourite story in this group was The Hound of the Baskervilles – is that a thriller, or a horror story?
The procedural detective story – e.g. anything by Agatha Christie – was also mentioned because the need to concentrate on the plot to figure out the clues and solve the mystery can also be a distraction from the cares of the day. I must say that, if I were preoccupied by anxiety, it would take more than a good puzzle to distract me.
The most pragmatic of the people I spoke with mentioned anxiety self-help books. These were the most sensible responses, but I was disappointed with this answer. I guess I was having more fun contemplating all the other responses and considering these great philosophical questions:
If I were curled up on the sofa, unable to read because I was so freaked out by the latest Stephen King novel, would that count as less anxious?
If I was really worried about some situation, could I focus on where the bloody (descriptive “bloody” not expletive “bloody”) knife was found, or who the left-handed person was? Would my worries be more preoccupying than the position of the body? My answers to these questions convince me that a procedural detective story wouldn’t work for me.
Self-help books would be too much like work and, as for thrillers, I scare easily.
No one thought a romance would help – darn!
For me personally, when I am most anxious, poetry is what helps. I say poems aloud and the rhythm of doing this is calming. Perhaps reading anything aloud would be calming, but I’m not so sure about Stephen King.
In the end, I couldn’t sustain my research, and I didn’t find that there was an overwhelming consensus, although everyone agreed that reading a good book could be a balm to anxiety.
What would you read?