By Leo Babauta
In the quiet morning hours, or as I fade off to sleep at night, I cuddle up with a good novel.
This book is my world, my quiet time away from the din and discordance of the everyday world, but it’s also a way to explore the world in imaginative new ways.
There’s nothing that beats it.
I get lost in worlds wholly created by an author, imagined but containing truths about life, incisively commenting about life, reproducing it in beautiful new ways, putting me in the mind of another human being, grabbing my heart and dragging it through the thrill of falling in love or the dull numbness of divorce or the fear of being found out, giving me the power of flight or omniscience or magic, confessing about guilty deeds and crimes and affairs, taking me into richly reimagined periods of history, helping me time travel and space travel and regular travel into new lands, showing me how other people live in helplessness, in slavery, in squalor, in power and luxury, in prostitution and presidency, making the mundane seem magical and the magical seem possible.
This is why I read.
Reading has been shown to make us more empathetic people, but it also helps us learn to sit still for longer without distractions, and gives us a break from the pull of smartphones and the online world.
Reading is one of my favorite habits, and though once in awhile I slip away from it, I always come back.
Leo’s Book Recommendations
If you’d like to read more fiction, here’s a list of some of my favorite books to get you started (in no means comprehensive):
- Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett (start with this, but all of her books are great)
- City of Thieves, by David Benioff
- Motherless Brooklyn, by Jonathan Lethem (start with this, but all his books are great)
- The Art of Fielding, by Chad Harbach
- Everything is Illuminated, by Jonathan Safran Foer (all his stuff is great)
- The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, by Aimee Bender
- The Elegance of the Hedgehog, by Muriel Barbery (then, Gourmet Rhapsody)
- Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole
- The Blind Assassin, by Margaret Atwood (all her books are excellent)
- Shibumi, by Trevanian
- The Discworld Series, by Terry Pratchett
- The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, by Douglas Adams
I also love books by Kurt Vonnegut, Nick Hornby, Kazuo Ishiguro, Haruki Murakami, Raymond Chandler, William Gibson, Stephen King and John D. Macdonald.
Tougher but great books:
- One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
- Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy
- Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov
- Don Quixote, by Cervantes
- Tender is the Night, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
As for non-fiction books … this list is a bit old but I still like the books here.