The best books to alleviate dread

Why am I passionate about this?

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.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of My Dirty Dumb Eyes

Emily McGovern Why did I love 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.

By Lisa Hanawalt,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked My Dirty Dumb Eyes as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Sharply observant, laugh-out-loud funny comics from The Believer cartoonist and New York Times illustrator

My Dirty Dumb Eyes is the highly anticipated debut collection from award-winning cartoonist Lisa Hanawalt. In a few short years, Hanawalt has made a name for herself: her intricately detailed, absurdly funny comics have appeared in venues as wide and varied as The Hairpin, VanityFair.com, Lucky Peach, Saveur, The New York Times, and The Believer.

My Dirty Dumb Eyes intermingles drawings, paintings, single-panel gag jokes, funny lists, and anthropomorphized animals, all in the service of satirical, startlingly observant commentary on pop culture, contemporary society, and human…


Book cover of It's All Absolutely Fine

Emily McGovern Why did I love 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.

By Ruby Elliot,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked It's All Absolutely Fine as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

It’s All Absolutely Fine is an honest and unapologetic account of day-to-day life as a groaning, crying, laughing sentient potato being for whom things are often absolutely not fine. Through simple, humorous drawings and a few short narratives, the book encompasses everything from mood disorders, anxiety, and issues with body image through to existential conversations with dogs and some unusually articulate birds.

Building on Rubyetc's huge online presence, It's All Absolutely Fine includes mostly new material, both written and illustrated, and is inspirational, empowering, and entertaining. Hope and tenacity abound in this book that is as heartening as it is…


Book cover of It Might Be An Apple

Emily McGovern Why did I love 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.

By Shinsuke Yoshitake,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked It Might Be An Apple as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

It Might Be an Apple is a boisterous, philosophical shaggy dog story for young children - and probably a few adults. The story follows a child's hilarious, wildly inventive train of thought through all the things an apple might be if it is not, in fact, an apple. Distrusting the apple's convincing appearance, the child's imagination spirals upwards and outwards into a madcap fantasy world - maybe it's a star from outer space with tiny aliens on board? Perhaps it wants a cool hairstyle? Does it feel scared, or snore at night? Children can see what all these crazy, funny…


Book cover of The Song of Achilles

Emily McGovern Why did I love 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.

By Madeline Miller,

Why should I read it?

27 authors picked The Song of Achilles as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

**OVER 1.5 MILLION COPIES SOLD**
**A 10th ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL EDITION, FEATURING A NEW FOREWORD BY THE AUTHOR**

WINNER OF THE ORANGE WOMEN'S PRIZE FOR FICTION
THE INTERNATIONAL SENSATION
A SUNDAY TIMES AND NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

'Captivating' DONNA TARTT
'I loved it' J K ROWLING
'Ravishingly vivid' EMMA DONOGHUE

Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the court of King Peleus and his perfect son Achilles. Despite their differences, Achilles befriends the shamed prince, and as they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine, their bond blossoms…


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

Emily McGovern Why did I love 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.

By Merlin Sheldrake,

Why should I read it?

18 authors picked Entangled Life as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A “brilliant [and] entrancing” (The Guardian) journey into the hidden lives of fungi—the great connectors of the living world—and their astonishing and intimate roles in human life, with the power to heal our bodies, expand our minds, and help us address our most urgent environmental problems.

“Grand and dizzying in how thoroughly it recalibrates our understanding of the natural world.”—Ed Yong, author of I Contain Multitudes

ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR—Time, BBC Science Focus, The Daily Mail, Geographical, The Times, The Telegraph, New Statesman, London Evening Standard, Science Friday

When we think…


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Shahrazad's Gift

By Gretchen McCullough,

Book cover of Shahrazad's Gift

Gretchen McCullough Author Of Shahrazad's Gift

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a fiction writer and currently live in Cairo, where I have lived for over twenty years. I noticed that the way I started telling stories was influenced by learning Arabic and by listening to the stories of the people in the city. My interest in Arabic also led me to read Arabic literature, like A Thousand and One Nights.   

Gretchen's book list on books influenced by Thousand and One Nights

What is my book about?

Shahrazad’s Gift is a collection of linked short stories set in contemporary Cairo — magical, absurd, and humorous.

The author focuses on the off-beat, little-known stories, far from CNN news: a Swedish belly dancer who taps into the Oriental fantasies of her clientele; a Japanese woman studying Arabic, driven mad by the noise and chaos of the city; a frustrated Egyptian housewife who becomes obsessed by the activities of her Western gay neighbor; an American journalist who covered the civil war in Beirut who finds friendship with her Egyptian dentist. We also meet the two protagonists of McCullough's Confessions of a Knight Errant, before their escapades in that story.

These stories are told in the tradition of A Thousand and One Nights.

Shahrazad's Gift

By Gretchen McCullough,

What is this book about?

Shahrazad's Gift is a collection of linked short stories set in contemporary Cairo-magical, absurd and humorous. The author focuses on the off-beat, little-known stories, far from CNN news: a Swedish belly dancer who taps into the Oriental fantasies of her clientele; a Japanese woman studying Arabic, driven mad by the noise and chaos of the city; a frustrated Egyptian housewife who becomes obsessed by the activities of her Western gay neighbor; an American journalist who covered the civil war in Beirut who finds friendship with her Egyptian dentist. We also meet the two protagonists of McCullough's Confessions of a Knight…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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