Books for anxiety: from self-help manuals to novels

These books for anxiety are guaranteed to make you feel better

Books for anxiety
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Looking for books for anxiety? Let's face it: self-isolation is not great for most people's mental health, but it can really wreak havoc with your mental health if you're a long-term anxiety sufferer, or if you have other problems that are compounding the worry about Covid-19.

The following books are all useful for combating anxiety. Some will help you do this in a very direct way, written by psychologists and clinicians. Others will help you relax and escape the news for a while, and make you laugh – always a great antidote to fear and worry. 

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1. Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now

If there's only one book you end up reading from this list and you suffer from anxiety, may it be this one. Eckhart Tolle is a renowned spiritual teacher with a somewhat unusual personal history as a would-be academic in Cambridge who had an awakening aged 28. The beauty of this book is in how simply it's written, and how straightforward its message is about grounding yourself in the present moment. Powerful and uplifting.

2. Shunmyo Masuno, Zen: The Art of Simple Living

You don't have to be into Japanese Zen Buddhism to appreciate this very prettily illustrated book of concise and nonjudgmental life lessons. It doesn't require long reading times – the bitesize paragraphs are perfect as quick bedtime reading or as an anti-anxiety boost first thing in the morning. 

3. Edmund J, Bourne, The Anxiety & Phobia Workbook

If you feel like you need something more tangible and practical to deal with a serious level of anxiety on an everyday level, there's no better book than The Anxiety & Phobia Workbook, which is written by a psychologist and former director of The Anxiety and Treatment Center in San Jose and Santa Rosa, California. The book is packed with exercises and techniques to help you beat anxiety for good. 

4. Marie Kondo, Spark Joy: An Illustrated Guide to the Japanese Art of Tidying

Marie Kondo definitely sparked something with her book about tidying and getting rid of unnecessary clutter in our lives. There is something soothing about her precise methods for folding clothes or saying goodbye to things we no longer need. Tidying may be the best antidote to anxiety for many of us who are now stuck at home.

Forget Tolstoy and Dostoevsky – give Chekhov's short stories a go instead. Chekhov's day job was medicine, but his compassionate and insightful stories about ordinary people have a curative potential of their own. We promise that by the end you've finished them, you'll feel a little bit better.

6. Melanie Greenberg, The Stress-Proof Brain

Melanie Greenberg is a licensed psychologist and her book stands apart from many similar books because it borrows from psychology, neuroscience, and mindfulness techniques to help you understand and then retrain your brain. It will appeal both to people who cope with anxiety on a daily basis and those who want to learn more about how their brain works. 

7. Nancy Mitford, The Pursuit of Love

Nancy Mitford's wildly funny account of the lives and loves of English landed gentry in the late 1930s and '40s is full of vivid characterisation and bitingly witty dialogue. This book had us howling with laughter – something we all need a bit more of right now.

8. Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep

The quintessential LA crime novel, The Big Sleep is guaranteed to distract you with its elegant plot twists and exceptionally good writing. One of the best books ever, in any genre, and the perfect antidote to worry and feeling low.

9. Carlo Rovelli, Seven Brief Lessons on Physics

'What has physics got to do with anxiety?', you may wonder.  Well, the Italian physicist Carlo Rovelli managed to write a book on the fundamental laws of the universe that's an easy-to-read bestseller, and it is guaranteed to shift your perspective on the world and our place in it. Sometimes the best answer to feeling anxious may be seeing the bigger picture.

10. Peter Mayle, A Year in Provence

The one-time educational writer Peter Mayle's account of escaping England for a life in a small Provencal village is said to have introduced a generation of Britons to the joys of the Mediterranean lifestyle. A generous and gently humorous book, A Year in Provence is about learning to live at a slower pace and to value the simple pleasures. A worry-busting escapist delight.

11. Brené Brown, Daring Greatly

The full title of Brené Brown's bestselling book is Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. The scope of this wonderfully uplifting book is as ambitious as the title, and what makes it so unusual is the author's emphasis on the power of expressing our emotions fully, rather than suppressing or always controlling them. A wise and compassionate book that can become a crucial first step to feeling less anxious and more authentic. You can also watch Brown's fascinating talk called The Call to Courage on Netflix.