Reading is one of the best ways to relax (science even proves it can help you de-stress). So when we’re hoping to find some peace, these are the photo books, memoirs, poetry collections, and guides we turn to.
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From a photo book of sweet pets that makes us smile, to a collection of journal prompts and yoga poses, these 10 reads have helped us find our calm even on the most chaotic of days.
1. A Book That Takes Its Time, by Irene Smit and Astrid van der Hulst
Though it looks like an overstuffed scrapbook, this book is very calming for those who like to doodle or draw. There are illustrations and inspiring quotes, short essays, and journal pages—plus mini notebooks, collaging projects, tear-out cards, stickers, and other surprise bonuses for crafty people. It’s a one-of-a-kind gift for a friend, or yourself.
2. The Dogist, by Elias Weiss Friedman
We already know our four-legged friends are the perfect company when we need to de-stress, but sometimes we can’t have them nearby. For those times, flip through this gorgeous photo book from Instagram sensation, @thedogist. Each portrait of a sweet dog will be sure to turn around a difficult day.
3. Devotions, by Mary Oliver
This collection of the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet’s work features more than 200 works published since 1963. Many of the poems in this book beautifully describe nature and the seasons, uplifting longtime fans and new readers alike.
4. Tender at the Bone, by Ruth Reichl
This heartwarming memoir from noted food writer Ruth Reichl brings readers into the kitchens of her childhood, where her love of cooking and eating began. From cooking at home with her mother to eating her first soufflé, each delicious story will make readers laugh. Warning: Your stomach may grumble.
5. Beaches, by Gray Malin
In this stunning coffee table book, photographer Gray Malin captures beaches across six continents and 20 cities—from the Amalfi Coast to Santa Monica. The photographs—taken from above from helicopters—are a colorful, fun visual escape for those times when you can’t hop on a plane to the nearest tropical locale.
6. A Walk in the Woods, by Bill Bryson
After two decades of living in Britain, Bryson enlists a friend to join him in hiking the 2,100-mile-long Appalachian Trail. This classic travel tale hilariously recounts his journey and the trail’s history, capturing the tranquility and beauty of the trail and lakes along the way.
7. Goodbye Things, by Fumio Sasaki
Feeling like we need to have the best things and out-spend our friends and family can be exhausting. When you grow tired of the rat race and want to return to simplicity, open this book and read about how the author’s decision to purge his belongings helped him find freedom and focus. His simple, practical tips will help you free yourself from the things weighing you down, too.
8. Deep Listening, by Jillian Pransky
In Deep Listening, Pransky, a popular yoga teacher, shares her 10-step “Calm Body, Clear Mind, Open Heart” program to help them listen to their bodies and relax. This book includes journal prompts, meditation practices (you’ll love them if you’re a fan of Real Simple’s brief meditation column every month), and yoga poses.
9. Gardens of the High Line, by Piet Oudolf
Sometimes it’s hard to find peace and serenity in the midst of chaos, but that’s exactly what the architects behind New York City’s iconic High Line Park did. In this gorgeous photo-driven book, readers can learn about how the park’s creators turned an abandoned subway line in the middle of Manhattan into a sprawling all-seasons garden.
10. Me Talk Pretty One Day, by David Sedaris
When you want a good laugh, turn to this hilarious collection from David Sedaris. In Me Talk Pretty One Day, the beloved humorist writes about trying to learn French in Normandy, going to speech therapy, and his family. Each brilliant story will leave readers smiling from ear to ear.