10 Best Books (and Audiobooks) to Read When You're Busy and Stressed

Take a moment for yourself with one of these reads.

10 Self-Care Books to Read When You're Busy and Stressed
Photo: Courtesy of publishers

I'm not afraid to admit this: I'm busy, and I am easily overwhelmed, so reading hasn't always been the first thing on my mind. In fact, the television is usually better company than books. However, every couple of weeks, a book sneaks its way into my heart, and I realize how much I love sitting on my couch with a cup of hot cocoa and an open book in my hand. When you're feeling stressed, take a moment to breathe, ask for help if you need it, and read (or listen) to one of these 10 books.

01 of 10

HUMANS by Brandon Stanton

Self-Care Books, Humans

The Humans of New York (HONY) Instagram is a comfort to me. I have love seeing people sharing heartwarming and/or heartbreaking stories, showcasing their vulnerability for the whole internet to see. I even turned on post notifications for them, and I hate turning on post notifications in general. While Stanton has published two other HONY titles in the past, HUMANS is the best one yet. The images are breathtaking, and it makes the perfect coffee table book. Whenever you have a doubt about good in the world, crack open this book and remind yourself that kindness is right outside your door.

02 of 10

Eat, Pray, #FML by Gabrielle Stone

Self-Care Books, Eat, Pray, #FML

I have been listening to this audiobook while cleaning my apartment, and I often find myself laughing out loud while throwing out a bag of garbage or scrubbing a pot clean. Stone's hilarious memoir follows the popular genre of "woman gets dumped, she flies across the country, eats a lot of pasta, and discovers herself" that we all know and love, and which was originated by Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. Stone's version stands out, though. She discusses the heartbreak—actually there's two, and they're both doozies—but it never feels preachy. Instead, it feels like gabbing with a close friend over brunch about the craziest thing that they've ever done. Sometimes it pays to take a risk.

03 of 10

The More or Less Definitive Guide to Self-Care by Anna Borges

Self-Care Books, Anna Borges

When we think of the term "self-care," we may think of Lush bath bombs and eating our feelings in Taco Bell (wait, just me?). Borges gives you those options, but she also breaks down self-care into increments. Only have enough energy to clean your bedroom? That's self-care. Taking a shower even though the idea of standing for more than five minutes makes you want to cry? That's self-care. This self-help guide made me feel seen. While Borges openly admits that she doesn't have all of the answers, it will still make readers feel less alone.

Note: There are mentions of suicide ideation within some of the books featured on this list, including in this title and Group, below. If you are looking for someone to talk to, you can call or text the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988.

04 of 10

The 5 Second Rule by Mel Robbins

Self-Care Books, 5 Second Rule

I discovered Robbins when her now-canceled talk show, The Mel Robbins Show, came on in the afternoon. I'm not usually a daytime television person, but something about Robbins spoke to me. She cuts the crap, and instead she delivers the ultimate "push moment:" you count down from 5 and boom, make that decision. It's refreshing. We know what it is that we want. We just need a push to get it.

05 of 10

One to Watch by Kate Stayman-London

Self-Care Books, One to Watch

I love reality television. The Bachelor speaks to my soul (The Bachelorette, I can take or leave). However, as someone who is still dating, I can appreciate the story of a successful plus-size fashion blogger who is surrounded by gorgeous men who are competing for her affections. It's funny, it's smart, it has so much heart. What more can a woman want? The answer: a sequel.

06 of 10

The Upside of Being Down by Jen Gotch

Self-Care Books, Upside of Being Down

In this memoir, Gotch says it best: it's OK to not be OK. The former CCO of ban.do, a multimillion-dollar brand with the cutest planners and decor around, Gotch takes you on the journey of a lifetime. From her childhood in Florida that showcased early glimpses of struggles with a range of mental disorders such as bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety, and ADD; to her remarkable career path as a waitress, food stylist, and maker of headbands, you'll learn a lot about what success can look like. There's not one recipe, and it's comforting to hear. Plus, Gotch is a hoot, and we can all use a chuckle now.

07 of 10

Can't Even by Anne Helen Petersen

Self-Care Books, Can't Even

I am a proud millennial, and I am stressed out. In fact, I'm burnt out. In 2019, I held down three jobs (not including the freelance work that I occasionally do on the side), maintained a social life, and tried to make sure that I ate three meals a day and slept for more than five hours a night. Based on a viral Buzzfeed article, Petersen presents Can't Even, which explains why, even though my generation is overworked and underpaid, we are still expected to do as well as the generation before us even though the rules of the game have changed. While I often feel like I'm falling behind, it's somewhat comforting—and horrifying—to find out that I'm not.

08 of 10

Group by Christie Tate

Self-Care Books, Group

In an oddly hopeful book about what can happen when you're incredibly vulnerable in a psychotherapy group with six strangers. Tate should be thriving: she's a summer intern at a law firm and at the top of her class, but instead, she's depressed. After joining the therapy group run by Dr. Rosen, Tate begins to see her existence a lot differently. It's not as sad as you imagine that it would be. In fact, it delivers in more ways than one. By the time you close the book, you'll feel changed, too.

09 of 10

Becoming by Michelle Obama

Self-Care Books, Becoming by Michelle Obama

Fun fact: this was the first-ever audiobook that I listened to. It may seem daunting (19 hours?!) but Obama's chronicles keep your attention: from growing up on the South Side of Chicago (I grew up on the North Side), to her professional career as an executive who balances both work and motherhood, to, uh, becoming the First Lady of the United States. When she recounts how she and Barack met, I swooned. When her father died and you can hear her voice catch as she mentions it, I cried. I laughed with her (she's really funny and sarcastic, which was an unexpected surprise). I loved it with my whole heart.

10 of 10

The Meaning of Mariah Carey by Mariah Carey

Self-Care Books, Mariah Carey

Listen: Mariah Carey could slap me across my face, and I'd call my mother to tell her the good news. Carey is brilliant. In this memoir, her voice really shines. She reveals the mishaps, struggles, and triumphs that have made her exactly who she is, and we should be so grateful that she took the time to bless us with her stories. I didn't know what I expected when I cracked this book open, but it's one of the best celebrity memoirs that I've had the time to read.

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