One of the easiest ways to get away from the world is by opening a book.
This can be particularly true for caregivers who often live with long to-do lists and stressful realities. Even if you only have a few minutes to spare, a novel can provide an instant escape and significant therapeutic benefits.
According to researchers, bibliotherapy—using reading to aid mental health—can reduce moderate depression, even three years after the reading has concluded. Studies show that reading increases our sense of well-being while also helping us understand others. It has improved outcomes for people recovering from surgery and aided the cognition of those struggling with dementia. In addition, reading novels can increase longevity in older adults by 20 percent.
This multitude of positive effects means that both caregivers and their loved ones can decrease their depression and stress simply by turning a page or listening to a chapter of an audiobook.
Whether via an e-reader, an audiobook, or a paperback, we can immerse ourselves in the character’s mind, and, consequently, exit our complicated world. Our troubles leave our consciousness as the troubles of the characters and their world become paramount. Whether the book takes place at a family’s vacation home or in a dystopian futuristic society, the story offers us the chance to experience something completely different. Everyone needs that sometimes.
So if you’d like to delve into a book this summer, here are a few options to consider:
1) Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin
A widely popular literary novel about video game creators, Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow, is a warm and fascinating tale that will envelop you in its world of video games and friendship. For anyone with gamer children or grandchildren, it will offer insight into their fascination with these worlds, while also sharing the emotional ups and downs of a friendship spanning decades. This book was voted best fiction last year by readers on Good Reads, and it has spent 39 weeks on the New York Times best-seller list.
2) The Covenant of Water by Abraham Verghese
This Oprah’s Book Club selection tells the story of a family in southern India who is doomed to lose at least one person each generation to drowning. The book runs the gamut of experiences from joy to loss while evoking the beauty of a bygone culture. Taking place from 1900-1977 in a watery coastal world, Oprah Winfrey says The Covenant of Water is “one of the best books I’ve read in my entire life. It’s epic. It’s transportive . . . It was unputdownable!”
3) Romantic Comedy by Curtis Sittenfeld
If you’re in the mood for a light-hearted summer read, Romantic Comedy is a delightful venture into the behind-the-scenes action of a night-time comedy show. Loosely based on the workings of Saturday Night Live, the novel focuses on a writer and a guest host who banter and create together. Eventually, outside events combine to shift both the world and their lives. It’s a quick and lively read, and the first part feels so much like an insider’s peek at SNL that you’ll be surprised to find the author didn’t write for the show. It’s also a sweet romance.
4) Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus
The sudden shocks of life hit chemist Elizabeth Zott with some verve, but with a unique perspective stemming partly from her love of chemistry and cooking, the young mother strides forward with tenacity. Set in 1960s California, when women encountered vast inequalities in the workplace, Zott has a clear-headed appreciation for the abilities of women that inspires both the characters around her and the readers who open her story. An Apple TV+ series based on the book will debut on Oct. 13.
5) Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner
If you’d like to step into someone else’s caregiving life, the intimate memoir, Crying in H Mart, explores Zauner’s time as her Korean mother’s caregiver and also how she handles the intense pain of her death, while also dealing with other issues in her life, such as her relationship with her Jewish American father and her struggles to find her way as a young adult. This book may be just the thing if you want to release some pent-up emotion or feel a connection with someone else who has also been a caregiver.
Or if you’d like to read about another caregiving experience, my memoir, Kick-Ass Kinda Girl, depicts my time as a caregiver to both my mother and my husband along with other precious periods in my life to provide a broad perspective on life and caregiving.
Whatever you choose to read this summer, enjoy! Let the beauty of words and the characters they create bring you satisfaction and enchantment.
Thank you for reading, please share with a friend, and be well. —KK
Please consider making a donation to the Kathi Koll Foundation so you can help make a difference in struggling family caregivers’ lives. Thank you!
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