The best books to ‘get’ what it is like to be anxious and living life the best you can

Who am I?

As a psychologist, I am very interested in what motivates people and how they think and feel. I enjoy novels that let me see inside a human experience different than my own, and I like a good story! These picks are novels that charmed and touched me, and gave me an inside look at how people live everyday when they are lost, anxious, or lonely and striving to make the most of life. Each book delves into a different kind of anxiety that lets us glimpse the extraordinary efforts people make to get by and each leaves the reader a bit awed, and certainly more compassionate.

I wrote...

The 10 Best-Ever Anxiety Management Techniques: Understanding How Your Brain Makes You Anxious and What You Can Do to Change It

By Margaret Wehrenberg,

Book cover of The 10 Best-Ever Anxiety Management Techniques: Understanding How Your Brain Makes You Anxious and What You Can Do to Change It

What is my book about?

"This book offers the key to unlocking the complex biochemistry of your brain and reversing your anxiety-inducing habits. Dr. Wehrenberg has done the work for you to create the right learning environment and organize the needed tools. Follow her lead and your body and mind will thank you with the peace and quiet you deserve.” Reid Wilson, PhD, author of Don't Panic: Taking Control of Anxiety Attacks

"Ideal for the non-specialist general reader seeking to successfully deal with the enervating, disabling, devitalizing, injurious effects of untreated anxiety, The 10 Best-Ever Anxiety Management Techniques and its accompanying workbook are impressively 'user friendly' in organization and presentation, making it unreservedly recommended for personal self-help/self-improvement collections." The Midwest Book Review

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

Book cover of Nothing to See Here

Margaret Wehrenberg Why did I love this book?

Who would believe a story about children who burst into flame? This charmingly told story is funny, moving, and satisfying. Lillian is an impoverished and directionless young woman who is called upon to help her (wealthy) only friend. Her friend needs help to cope with step-children who unexpectedly burst into flame, surviving their flames, but wreaking havoc around them. In this novel about emotion, Wilson writes with deep understanding of the messiness of anxiety and abandonment, creating characters who are doing the best they can in circumstances they didn't create but with unexpected love and transformation find the path out. 

By Kevin Wilson,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked Nothing to See Here as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A New York Times Bestseller  •  A Read with Jenna Today Show Book Club Pick!

Named a Best Book of the Year by The New York Times Book Review, The Washington Post, People, Entertainment Weekly, USA Today, TIME, The A.V. Club, Buzzfeed, and PopSugar

“I can’t believe how good this book is.... It’s wholly original. It’s also perfect.... Wilson writes with such a light touch.... The brilliance of the novel [is] that it distracts you with these weirdo characters and mesmerizing and funny sentences and then hits you in a way you didn’t see coming. You’re laughing so hard you…

Book cover of Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine

Margaret Wehrenberg Why did I love this book?

Eleanor is a loner who longs to connect with a dream man but fears everyday connections. The people she works with and meets along the way are people we recognize, crisply defined, and living out their own quirks as they respond to Eleanor. This may be one of the best novels I have read for its loving portrayal of the day-to-day life of a traumatized woman who finds her way to healing, genuine friendship, and love.

By Gail Honeyman,

Why should I read it?

24 authors picked Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


A Reese Witherspoon Book Club Pick

"Beautifully written and incredibly funny, Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine is about the importance of friendship and human connection. I fell in love with Eleanor, an eccentric and regimented loner whose life beautifully unfolds after a chance encounter with a stranger; I think you will fall in love, too!" -Reese Witherspoon

No one's ever told Eleanor that life should be better than fine.

Meet Eleanor Oliphant: She struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she's thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life of…

Book cover of Standard Deviation

Margaret Wehrenberg Why did I love this book?

Standard Deviation by Katherine Heiny takes on the question of how much should we hold on and how much can we let go when we love somebody? This unconventional family is trying to make a second marriage work while taking care of an autistic son and a still-present ex-wife. Heiny writes with wit as well as compassion about an ordinary couple trying to get it right.

By Katherine Heiny,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Standard Deviation as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'I have rarely seen modern marriage reproduced so faithfully in print. It's about love once the early romance has subsided. Hilarious' Jojo Moyes, Woman and Home 'Standard Deviation is a marvel' Kate Atkinson 'Addictive reading' Mail on Sunday 'A comic masterpiece' Observer

A divinely funny novel about the challenges of a good marriage, the delight and heartache of raising children, and the irresistible temptation to wonder about the path not taken.

Graham Cavanaugh's second wife, Audra, is everything his first wife was not. She considers herself privileged to live in the age of the hair towel, talks non-stop through her…

Book cover of Anxious People

Margaret Wehrenberg Why did I love this book?

If you have read Backman’s A Man Called Ove, you know it will be worth it to stick with this! Through a series of conversations with the police, we come to understand what is prompting this odd collection of people, thrown together when taken hostage at an apartment real estate showing, to behave oddly when interviewed by the police. Backman’s grasp of human motivation is astonishing and his ability as a writer to reveal his characters’ inner lives held my interest hostage. He took his time with letting us see how each person came to be in the apartment and why it was so meaningful to each of them, offering some moving life stories and a few good laughs along the way.

By Fredrik Backman,

Why should I read it?

10 authors picked Anxious People as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The funny, touching and unpredictable No. 1 New York Times bestseller, now a major Netflix TV series

'A brilliant and comforting read' MATT HAIG
'Funny, compassionate and wise. An absolute joy' A.J. PEARCE
'A surefooted insight into the absurdity, beauty and ache of life' GUARDIAN
'I laughed, I sobbed, I recommended it to literally everyone I know' BUZZFEED
'Captures the messy essence of being human' WASHINGTON POST

From the 18 million copy internationally bestselling author of A Man Called Ove

It's New Year's Eve and House Tricks estate agents are hosting an open viewing in an up-market apartment when…

Book cover of Emma

Margaret Wehrenberg Why did I love this book?

Emma, by Jane Austen, is the book for lovers of classic literature and I had to include it here because Austen seems to grasp human nature so intuitively. Emma tries to take charge of her own life and of others’ lives, with good-intended but misguided interference. The need for her efforts to control is revealed as she copes affectionately with her anxiety-ridden father and her sister, as well as her society’s mores about suitable mates, all of which are trying to keep her restrained. Emma’s joy and interest in life and, ultimately, her resilience, lead her to let go of control and accept love on its own terms.

By Jane Austen,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Emma as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Her masterpiece, mixing the sparkle of her early books with a deep sensibility' Robert McCrum, Observer

Although described by Jane Austen as a character 'whom no one but myself will much like', the irrepressible Emma Woodhouse is one of her most beloved heroines. Clever, rich and beautiful, she sees no need for marriage, but loves interfering in the romantic lives of others, until her matchmaking plans unravel, with consequences that she never expected. Jane Austen's novel of youthful exuberance and gradual self-knowledge is a brilliant, sparkling comic masterpiece.

Edited with an Introduction by FIONA STAFFORD

You might also like...

The Secret Order of the Scepter & Gavel

By Nicholas Ponticello,

Book cover of The Secret Order of the Scepter & Gavel

Nicholas Ponticello Author Of The Secret Order of the Scepter & Gavel

New book alert!

Who am I?

Author Writer Teacher Reader Lego builder Musical connoisseur

Nicholas' 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Vanderough University prepares its graduates for life on Mars. Herbert Hoover Palminteri enrolls at VU with the hope of joining the Martian colony in 2044 as a member of its esteemed engineer corps. But then Herbert is tapped to join a notorious secret society: the Order of the Scepter and Gavel. As a new pledge, Herbert has to prove himself in a series of dangerous initiation rites, even if it means risking his life and the lives of his friends.

Many years later, when Herbert thinks the scandals of his youth are finally dead and buried, a murder occurs in the Martian colony, and Herbert starts to suspect it is linked to the secret Order of the Scepter and Gavel of his past.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in choosing a mate, anxiety, and isolation?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about choosing a mate, anxiety, and isolation.

Choosing A Mate Explore 15 books about choosing a mate
Anxiety Explore 177 books about anxiety
Isolation Explore 20 books about isolation