The Polar Vortex — who knew this unwelcome arctic system even existed let alone could seize control of our weather for so long? The record-breaking blasts of frigid air this winter have made most of us feel like not venturing outside until the crocuses pop. Frigid days can be bleak, and as winter wears on (and wears us out) it requires more that warm soup, hot chocolate and a roaring fire to stave off the shivering and dreariness. A suggestion: escape winter’s wrath by curling up with a good book.
Beyond besting the winter doldrums, research has shown that the benefits of reading include reducing stress, slowing memory loss as we age and making it less likely that you will have Alzheimer’s disease.
And recently, researchers at Emory University found that reading a powerful story has the ability to create “muscle memory” in the brain the same way as if the events had actually happened to the reader (so, maybe reading a travel memoir on the Caribbean will make you feel like you’ve spent some time there?). The study concluded that some stories are so powerful they may even permanently positively alter the way the reader’s brain works.
So with all these potential benefits, why wait — get reading. I’ve canvassed friends who are avid readers for suggestions of good reads to get you started.
Some Fiction Picks:
We are Water by Wally Lamb. An ultimately uplifting novel about a marriage, a family, and human resilience in the face of tragedy. My friend liked the “complex and well-developed characters.”
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. The story of a lonely boy and a famous painting, one friend called this “the best book I’ve read in ten years.”
The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon: No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith. Tough questions about married life, parenthood, grief, and the importance of the traditions that shape and guide our lives are explored in this installment of the best-selling No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series. My friend felt the “tale and description of the Botswana landscape really warmed me up.”
City of Thieves by David Bernioff. With the Sochi Olympic games taking place this year, this story gives us an understanding of Russia in the early 20th century. The setting is during the WWII occupation of Leningrad by the Nazis. My friend described it as a “charming tale at times funny, most times frightening.”
Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. An epic story of murder, madness and doomed love set in Barcelona. My friend says she loved it so much she has “read it twice.”
This is Where I Leave You by Jonathon Tropper. A funny and emotionally raw novel about love, marriage, divorce and family. My friend commented, “I laughed until I cried”.
Some Nonfiction Suggestions:
Wild by Cheryl Strayed. A memoir of the author’s solo hike on the Pacific Crest trail. My friend called it “engaging” and noted it was “a favorite book club read.”
I Got Schooled: The Unlikely Story of How a Moonlighting Movie Maker Learned the Five Keys to Closing America’s Education Gap by M. Night Shyamalan. My friend found it “a thought provoking and compelling book on the American education crisis.”
Far from the Tree: Parent, Children, and the Search for Identity by Andrew Solomon. The stories of parents who not only learn to deal with their exceptional children but also find profound meaning in doing so, my friend called it “phenomenal.”by Jane Pauley. The beloved broadcaster offers advice for reinventing your life when you yearn for something different. My friend though it “inspirational.”
So light the fire, fall into a comfy chair and bask in your escape from winter by experiencing Barcelona, Botswana, the Pacific Crest Trail or some laughs in one of these great reads. It’s the journey you get to take without leaving you home before those wonderful crocuses pop.