The best books to alleviate dread

Who am I?

Twelve Percent Dread is about the curious state of anxiety that underpins living in the 21st Century, when we’re aware of so many current and looming disasters. However, it’s a bit of a misleading title, my book is actually very funny! Most of my work is built around stuffing as many jokes in as possible, and I want the reader to really chuckle and feel joy when they read it. In this book, the jokes come from the state of anxiety that the characters work themselves into. Assuming you, the reader, also experiences a certain level of dread throughout the day, here’s a list of books that will hopefully help relieve it.

I wrote...

Twelve Percent Dread

By Emily McGovern,

Book cover of Twelve Percent Dread

What is my book about?

London, the 2010s: Katie and Nas are best friends, exes, and co-dependents. They share everything, including a tiny room in a North London townhouse belonging to their landlord, Jeremy, former host of the hit 90s show Football Lads. With jobs and money in short supply, it’s a constant, dread-inducing fight to stay afloat. But their luck seems to change when Katie finds a job tutoring the daughter of Michelle Hayes, the billionaire CEO of tech giant Arkoa company whose control of their lives will only increase from here on out…

Twelve Percent Dread is a satirical comedy about modern life, packed with fast-paced jokes and absurd situations—an uproarious tale of female friendship and never putting your ****ing phone away.

The books I picked & why

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My Dirty Dumb Eyes

By Lisa Hanawalt,

Book cover of My Dirty Dumb Eyes

Why this book?

I wanted to recommend a couple of funny graphic novels to help stave off dread, and this book by Lisa Hanawalt is simply the funniest graphic novel I have ever read. The author is perhaps best known as one of the co-creators of Bojack Horseman (with her signature animal characters) as well as Tuca & Bertie. It’s a collection of musings and essays, told through Lisa’s incredible artwork. She has such an unexpected left-field sense of humour that is sharp but somehow always warm, underpinned by her beautiful illustrations. This book is like riding on a strange multicoloured rollercoaster though a candy dreamland, but you’re very securely fastened into your seat and feel very snugly held throughout.

It's All Absolutely Fine: Life Is Complicated So I've Drawn It Instead

By Ruby Elliot,

Book cover of It's All Absolutely Fine: Life Is Complicated So I've Drawn It Instead

Why this book?

Another comic book—this is a collection of Ruby’s comics which are both very silly and always have an emotional core of truth to them. Her loose art style is incredibly evocative of the chaotic experience that is being alive, which is something I also wanted to capture in my own book. Reading her work is like talking to your cleverest and most sensitive friend, who sees the world in a slightly tilted way that reveals a deeper truth. And it’s very, very funny. Her work is also available widely on social media as Ruby Etc so I recommend starting there.

It Might Be An Apple

By Shinsuke Yoshitake,

Book cover of It Might Be An Apple

Why this book?

Another comic book, which is actually a Japanese picture book for children. It’s about exploring the power of your imagination—is the apple you are looking at actually an apple, or could it be something else? I read this when it came out and I was floored by the joyous curiosity it inspires, as well as the beautiful ligne-claire style artwork. It definitely helps to relieve dread in that it makes you think like a child again, opening up the world to endless possibilities. Glorious.

The Song of Achilles

By Madeline Miller,

Book cover of The Song of Achilles

Why this book?

This is already very popular with the TikTok crowd, and they are right! It’s a reimagining of The Iliad, told from the perspective of Achilles’ lover Patroclus. The prose is so gorgeous that you’ll completely be absorbed and read it in under a week. Madeline Miller has a way of describing the world of mythical Ancient Greece that makes you want to teleport there instantly—it’s all olives and sparkling blue water and falling in love with your best friend. That’s not to say it’s a complete romantic fantasy—there is of course war, heartbreak, cruelty, peril and pain. But it’s true pleasure to read, and when you’ve finished it and are desperate for more, there’s her second Ancient Greek book, Circe.

Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds & Shape Our Futures

By Merlin Sheldrake,

Book cover of Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds & Shape Our Futures

Why this book?

Living in the 21st century and paying any kind of attention to the natural world means to be living in some state of dread. So this book is a bit of a salve for that—it’s very engaged with climate issues but invites you into a whole other world of life and activity that is hidden from us. I found it completely absorbing, and also humbling to remember that we are just one small part of this universe—there is so much else going on around us.

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