We all need an escape every now and then. Especially with today’s current climate, escapism can be a gift. While we love intense, thought-provoking literature as much as the next person, every once in awhile you just want to escape into a story. These books will help you do just that.
Whether it’s romance or fantasy, these stories weave tales that will help you escape for just a bit, at least while you’re in between pages.
The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
Young Walter Moody has arrived in New Zealand to seek his fortune. He’s looking for gold, but what he finds instead is a dizzying mystery starting with a missing man, a struggling prostitute and a down-on-his-luck drunk in possession of an enormous fortune.
Gingerbread by Helen Oyeyemi
In a re-imagining of the classic German fairy tale Hansel and Gretel, a woman named Harriet narrates her origin story to her daughter Perdita. She makes a mysterious gingerbread that’s incredibly popular in Harriet’s magical hometown of Druhástrana. And it’s especially loved by her childhood best friend: Gretel.
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
A true classic everyone should have on their bookshelf. Whether you’re reading it for the first time or re-reading it for the 20th, it’s the perfect novel to escape into.
Swing Time by Zadie Smith
A friend of a friend said she was “totally engrossed” by this story of two brown girls who dream of being dancers. One makes it into a chorus line, but the other (our narrator) becomes the assistant for a singer. Her new life opens doors as well as her eyes to inequality, race, womanhood and friendship as she travels the world with her famous boss.
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling
I have to be honest, I’m not typically a memoir person. But Mindy Kaling’s has a spot on my shelf for eternity. It’s funny, warm and super relatable for all women.
The Baron in the Trees by Italo Calvino
This is a novel that reads like a fable, about a young Italian nobleman named Cosimo who gets so miffed at his parents one night when he doesn’t like what’s for dinner (snail soup), that he defiantly climbs into the trees and vows to live in the canopy for the rest of his life. The story stretches on for years; it’s magical, comical, weird.
Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez
In their youth, Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza fall passionately in love. When Fermina eventually chooses to marry a wealthy, well-born doctor, Florentino is devastated, but he is a romantic. As he rises in his business career he whiles away the years in 622 affairs—yet he reserves his heart for Fermina. Her husband dies at last, and Florentino purposefully attends the funeral. Fifty years, nine months and four days after he first declared his love for Fermina, he will do so again.
Miss Jane by Brad Watson
This is one of the quieter, more beautiful books you’ll read in your lifetime—if we ever had a chance to slow down and enjoy a well-wrought sentence, now would be it. Set in rural Mississippi, it’s a story of an isolated woman who makes meaning and finds beauty in her circumscribed world.
Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield
This is a beautiful novel that reads almost like a fairy tale. It combines folklore and science, magic and myth. It is suspenseful, romantic and richly atmospheric and guaranteed to help you escape the entire time you’re reading it.
Circe by Madeline Miller
Nothing says escapism like classic mythology. This modern retelling is a must-read. The title character is an awkward daughter of a titan who discovers her own talent for herbs and magic. Exiled after turning a romantic rival into a sea monster, she eventually meets Odysseus after turning his decidedly piggish crew into literal swine. Lyrical and character-driven, Miller’s book does not shy away from the fantasy elements and has much to say about our own time.
Writers & Lovers by Lily King
Writers & Lovers follows Casey―a smart and achingly vulnerable protagonist―in the last days of a long youth, a time when every element of her life comes to a crisis. Written with King’s trademark humor, heart and intelligence, Writers & Lovers is a transfixing novel that explores the terrifying and exhilarating leap between the end of one phase of life and the beginning of another.
Days of Distraction by Alexandra Chang
If you’re in the market for a newer fiction novel, you’ll enjoy this book. It’s about a young woman who leaves a job at a tech company for a small town in search of herself and the rest of her life. It’s tender and funny and exactly what we need right now.