Culture

I know, things are pretty bleak right now. You probably spent the last 72 hours scrolling Twitter and forwarding breaking news alerts to six rotating group chats. I can’t tell you when life will feel normal again, but I can tell you these books will create that illusion for a few hours. These are ELLE.com staffers’ picks to boost your mood in anxious times.

1

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling

amazon.com

$13.99

While the everyday fear of everyone hanging out without you (IRL, at least) has been rendered sadly irrelevant right now, Kaling’s humor and candor are perennial, and her debut book reminds you that she is at heart a writer above all else. IEHOWM features enough Hollywood tidbits to satiate, but what makes me return to this memoir are Kaling’s memories of an idyllic-sounding childhood, growing up with two driven and caring immigrant parents who imbued her offbeat personality with an undefeatable sense of confidence. —Adrienne Gaffney

2

Ninth Street Women: Lee Krasner, Elaine de Kooning, Grace Hartigan, Joan Mitchell, and Helen Frankenthaler: Five Painters and the Movement That Changed Modern Art by Mary Gabriel

amazon.com

$12.99

I’m only a few chapters in, but the strength of spirit of these women who fiercely pioneered a future world in uncertain times feels timely, inspiring, and hopeful as we face our own uncertainties. I’m ready to take their lead. —Rosie Jarman

3

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine: A Novel

Pamela Dorman Books
amazon.com

$27.00

$15.49 (43% off)

Eleanor Oliphant is not fine. She thinks she is—she’s perfectly content with her solitude and her many routines thank you very much (and what’s it to you, anyway?). But as she learns throughout this poignant and unforgettable novel, everyone needs somebody, and she, too, is capable and deserving of the joys human connection can bring. I feel a little conflicted recommending this for a list of books that will put you in a good mood because there are some deeply sad parts to Eleanor’s tale, but overall, this book is cemented in my memory as being as heartwarming as it is heartbreaking. Eleanor is often hilarious, and I walked away feeling completely charmed by her and hopeful for her future—what more could we ask for right now? —Kayla Webley Adler

4

Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer

Ingramcontent
amazon.com

$18.00

$13.68 (24% off)

There is nothing more torturous than being kept indoors while watching the weather get warmer and the trees start to bud. Robin weaves a beautiful narrative around the beauty of the natural world and the lessons it teaches us, which feels so important in these delicate times. —Katelyn Baker

5

Emily: The Cookbook by Emily and Matthew Hyland

amazon.com

$30.00

$16.00 (47% off)

Browsing cookbooks is one of my favorite forms of escapism, so Emily: The Cookbook has been perfect for both my physical and mental nourishment. Emily and Matt Hyland, co-founders of the popular New York pizza joint Emily, reveal how to create the ideal pie with straightforward tips (what kind of salt should you use? Does the dough really need to be tossed pizzeria-style?), proving that tasty food doesn’t always require complex gadgets or obscure ingredients. Their classic recipes—easily achieved by home cooks of all levels and accompanied by mouthwatering photos—are the perfect antidote to the stuck-at-home blues. —Margaret Willes

6

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Scribner
amazon.com

$17.00

$10.05 (41% off)

Okay, so it isn’t the most uplifting story line, but if you’re looking for a beautiful and sweeping narrative to lose yourself in when you’re tired of watching Netflix, I would highly recommend this book. The way Doerr writes is grandiose and poetic, and this book is the perfect companion for all your cozy reading needs. —KB

7

Bossypants by Tina Fey

amazon.com

$8.99

I always come back to this Tina Fey classic, which brings me as much joy as an episode of 30 Rock and remains one of the few books I never tire of re-readingIt’s hilarious without being mean or cowing to the status quo, and it’s zippy and light without sacrificing substance. Fey’s upbringing, years as a struggling comedian in Chicago and her SNL tenure (including that truly bizarre Sarah Palin season) are all rendered with both humor and thought. —AG

8

My Sister, the Serial Killer: A Novel

amazon.com

$11.99

Korede is a very good sister. No matter how many times her beautiful serial killer sister, Ayoola, calls her after murdering yet another one of her lovers, Korede is there to take her call, arriving at the crime scene with bleach and rubber gloves in hand. But what happens when Ayoola sets her sights on Korede’s longtime crush? Strap in, because this wild ride of a novel—a remarkable debut by a young Nigerian writer that you’ll fly through in one sitting—is a satirical, smart, super fun time. —KWA

9

The Gravity of Us by Phil Stamper

amazon.com

$8.72

What’s more relatable, in this moment, than being pushed out of your normal life and sequestered at home? Such is the plight of budding teen journalist Cal, whose New York City life is uprooted when his father is chosen for a new NASA program. Relocated to Florida, Cal must navigate a new way of building a career through reporting while under the scrutiny of a slightly sinister reality show being filmed about the astronauts and their families. But Phil Stamper’s beautiful and light YA romance is not all Big Brother in Space—Cal meets and falls for fellow AstroKid Leon in a story that’s told with such humor and heart that it will transport you, wherever you are, however far away the stars seem. —R. Eric Thomas

10

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal

amazon.com

$16.99

$12.87 (24% off)

This novel is exactly what its title suggests while somehow exploding expectations. When Nikki, a London bartender and law school dropout, reluctantly offers to teach creative writing to a group of widows at the Sikh Community Association, the class abruptly changes course after her students stumble upon a book of erotica. A family drama, romantic comedy, and thriller all in one, Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows is the kind of unexpected escapism we could all use right now. —Julie Kosin

11

Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes

Simon & Schuster
amazon.com

$16.99

$9.69 (43% off)

Okay, so technically it’s a little hard to have a year of yes (saying yes to invitations, new experiences, life in general) when you’re under weeks of no, but Shonda Rhimes’ entertaining and uplifting book on the year that changed her life will give you a new perspective on your own. Rhimes tracks her journey from professional exhaustion, personal frustration, and social withdrawal to a place of healthy expansive embrace. This book will inspire you to think about what’s possible and remind you that sometimes, big changes come through small steps. —RET

12

The Most of Nora Ephron

Knopf Publishing Group
amazon.com

$35.00

$11.41 (67% off)

I love Nora Ephron and have found myself going back to this collection. It’s got a little bit of everything, from witty essays on feminism, beauty, and aging to profiles of empowering female figures. Plus, you can dive into her delicious debut novel Heartburn, which recounts her breakup to Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein, or relive the screenplay of When Harry Met Sally… In an increasingly anxious time, I’ve found her frank, funny writing to be just the level of comfort copy I want to crawl up with. —Savannah Walsh

13

Holes by Louis Sachar

amazon.com

$6.99

The perfect remedy for social-distancing blues? Yellow-spotted lizards, onions, and just a splash of sploosh. There’s a certain comfort in revisiting the things we loved most as kids, and for me, that’s the wonderfully weird YA novel Holes. I’ve got a signed copy in my bedside table drawer—“To Rose: Happy Digging!” author Louis Sachar wrote—and I can still recite most of the movie adaptation’s original song, “Dig It,” by the D-Tent Boys. The story follows a wronged juvenile named Stanley Yelnats who is forced to dig holes at a Texas detention center to “build character.” While serving out his sentence, Stanley gets wrapped up in a mystical treasure hunt involving an ancient curse, forbidden love, and a really stinky pair of shoes. Holes is clever and heartwarming and, most of all, hilarious—the ultimate form of escapism for these uncertain times. —Rose Minutaglio

14

Becoming by Michelle Obama

AMERICAN WEST BOOKS
amazon.com

$32.50

$11.89 (63% off)

Perhaps you’ve heard of Michelle Obama. Perhaps you fear that revisiting the ever-more-halcyon days that she was in the White House might feel a bit bittersweet, or even sad. Well, worry not. In her bestselling memoir, the former first lady, accomplished attorney, and vegetable enthusiast has crafted an inspiring story that will be relatable to any person at any station of life. Obama spends much of the book diving into her formative years, writing about moments of deep self-doubt and rich education. Though she has lived an extraordinary life, her words make her seem blessedly normal. This is not a book full of Washington secrets and celebrity run-ins. This is a story of a black woman finding her way in America; it will capture your whole heart. —RET

15

Here for It by R. Eric Thomas

amazon.com

$12.99

ELLE staff writer R. Eric Thomas’s commentary on any topic is always an instant balm for the soul. His journey to Becoming (Michelle Obama pun intended!) and blessing the internet with his singular wit is as hilarious as it is heartening. He can even make the end times feel more tolerable. —Katie Connor

16

Normal People by Sally Rooney

amazon.com

$17.00

$8.99 (47% off)

I know you’ve seen this cover everywhere, but if you haven’t read Sally Rooney’s Normal People, there’s no excuse now. A Hulu adaptation of this tender account of first love—and all the questions, complications, and insecurities that accompany it—is coming very soon, and you’re going to be incredibly disappointed if you’re left out of that conversation. Marianne and Connell are schoolmates who pretend not to know each other, even as they cycle through a vicious pattern of craving, caring for, and hurting one another—all in the pursuit of a “normal” existence. Rooney’s observations on life and love are intensely shrewd, and a worthy follow-up to her equally smart first novel, Conversations with Friends—JK

17

Meaty by Samantha Irby

amazon.com

$9.99

There’s a reason you couldn’t escape the yellow cover of Irby’s We Are Never Meeting in Real Life in 2018: She’s just that funny. While you await her forthcoming Wow, No Thank You (March 31, people!), read up on her earlier volumes, including Meaty, the debut that gave us essays like “Massive Wet Asses,” ”How to get Your Disgusting Meat Carcass Ready for Some New, Hot Sex,” and “The Many Varieties of Hospital Broth.” At least now there’s no risk of laughing out loud in public (sob). —JK

18

Bonk by Mary Roach

amazon.com

$10.35

Horny season canceled! Mary Roach, a wildly entertaining writer who seamlessly blends science and narrative, turns her focus toward sex in this 2009 book. Whether you’re self-isolating as a party of one or quarantining with your polycule, you’ll love this laugh-out-loud funny exploration of the hows, whys, and huhs of sexual intercourse. Horny season rescheduled! —RET

19

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

amazon.com

$9.99

Counterpoint: Horny season never ends in The Kiss Quotient, the addictive tale of Stella, a mathematician with Asperger’s, and Michael, the male escort she hires for a crash course in romance. Yes, you’ll be sweating. —JK 

20

Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher

Simon & Schuster
amazon.com

$16.00

$10.27 (36% off)

There’s never a wrong moment for Carrie Fisher’s words of wisdom, but Wishful Drinking, which confronts family disfunction and and mental illness and addiction with in-your-face hilarity, is particularly soothing in this era of uncertainty. —JK

21

Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

amazon.com

$9.99

It’s 2018 and the United States is two years into the administration of its first-ever woman president. No, it’s not a fever dream, just Casey McQuiston’s delicious first novel, which chronicles the deliriously charming romance between Alex Claremont-Diaz, First Son of the United States, and Prince Henry, younger brother of the heir to the U.K. throne. —JK

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