Books for bad days

Bad days happen to everyone. Maybe little things keep going wrong, or the world is being a terrifying place, or you’ve received bad news. Maybe you’re feeling sad and don’t have the energy to battle it. Maybe one of millions of other reasons is making the day a Bad Day.

Now, on bad days, or bad weeks or bad months, many people don’t feel like reading, but for when you do, or if you’re someone who can retreat into reading when things aren’t so good, it can be good to have some ideas of what to read. Some standby books ready to go. These will, of course, be personal, perhaps books you love for their message of hope or endurance, for their escapism, for their happiness. Or perhaps it is a book that means something to you personally: a gift from someone you love or a book you read at an important time in your life. Though what books are good for bad days is very subjective, here are a few suggestions to perhaps keep close to hand or take out of the library next time you’re feeling down.

  • Reasons To Stay Alive by Matt Haig – I’m starting with a classic kind of bad day book. This is a memoir about mental health struggles, but it is also a short, uplifting book with chapters describing things that made the author feel better and a practical and hopeful yet not too schmaltzy tone.
  • Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman – My next offering is comedy, but the kind of comedy with some darker humour about sin amidst ridiculousness for when overly cheery things just feel patronising and fake. End of the world comedy with a fantastic angel and devil duo.
  • Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage by Lord Byron – You may have to hear me out with this one. Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage is the ultimate Romantic hero standing on a mountain yelling about feeling sad. The thinly disguised Byronic hero travels across Europe, but mostly the four canto poem is a lot of moody Romantic thoughts (the big R kind, with nature and desolation and thunderstorms). Byron’s concise way of getting across feeling bad (“I have loved not the world, nor the world me”) can be the perfect poetry to read aloud when things are too much.
  • From Russia With Love by Ian Fleming – This is my escapism option. I’m not one for fantasy so I’ve chosen my favourite Bond book as something for a ridiculous, predicable plot that can keep your mind occupied and away from reality. Substitute with your preferred genre of escapism if you wish.
  • The plays of Joe Orton – Another dark comedy option, this time in a drama format. Orton’s plays are black comedies where things rarely go well, but the combination of ridiculousness and seeing bad things and sticky situations happen to other people can be useful. I recommend Entertaining Mr Sloane or Loot for one to try.