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

Margaret Wehrenberg Author Of 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

The Books I Picked & Why

Nothing to See Here

By Kevin Wilson

Book cover of Nothing to See Here

Why 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. 

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Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine

By Gail Honeyman

Book cover of Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine

Why 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.

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Standard Deviation

By Katherine Heiny

Book cover of Standard Deviation

Why 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.

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Anxious People

By Fredrik Backman

Book cover of Anxious People

Why 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.

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By Jane Austen

Book cover of Emma

Why 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.

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