13 Books Real Simple Staffers Read Again And Again
The world is a big place. While there are many positives to that—expansive oceans to swim in, unlimited places to travel, countless people to meet—sometimes it can all get a little bit overwhelming. At Real Simple, our favorite way to take a break from the stresses of the outside world is to get lost in a great book. Whether it’s a favorite childhood picture book that reminds us of simpler times or a new novel that makes us feel a little less alone in the world, reading is often the perfect escape. These are the books that have the power to transport us when we’re in the middle of a hectic commute or when we wake up restless in the middle of the night. If you’re craving a mini vacation from the every day, these comforting picks from RS staffers can help you find your happy place.
If This Isn’t Nice, What Is?: Advice for the Young, by Kurt Vonnegut
Whenever I have decision fatigue about what to read next, I turn to Kurt Vonnegut. Usually, I pick a new book of his from the bookshelves I share with my boyfriend (who, by my quick visual estimation, owns every book Vonnegut ever published). But his collection of commencement speeches, If This Isn’t Nice, What Is?: Advice for the Young, is the one I reread every year. He reminds readers to notice small, everyday joys and to always be kind. He makes me laugh and then happy-cry. —Libby Sile, senior editor, features
To buy: From $8; amazon.com.
A Wild Sheep Chase, by Haruki Murakami
I love writers who go to totally unexpected places—that’s why Haruki Murakami is one of my very favorites. Things happen in this book that just cannot happen in real life, but I’m always willing to go along for the ride. He combines the ordinary (what to eat for lunch, what’s on the radio) with the extraordinary (talking cats, dual universes) in every book, as well as a level of emotional connection that I crave and admire, all in his simple, approachable style. My favorites are probably A Wild Sheep Chase and Kafka on the Shore. —Tracy Spangler, freelance writer
To buy: From $10; amazon.com.
Little House in the Big Woods, by Laura Ingalls Wilder
We grew up reading and watching the life of Laura Ingalls Wilder, and we sometimes still daydream of curling up by the fire with Ma, Pa, and the rest of the crew. The series is based on Wilder’s real-life experiences in the American West with her family, and follows her childhood and her courtship with Almanzo Wilder, who eventually becomes her husband. Although things weren’t perfect on the prairie, at least they didn’t have constant push notifications to tell them otherwise. —Nora Horvath, editorial assistant
To buy: From $4; amazon.com.
Classic Jane Austen Novels
“Totally cliché, but I reread Pride & Prejudice, Sense & Sensibility, and Emma every couple of years as comfort food. They are so funny and truthful and remind me that smart girls always find happiness in the end. I find myself craving them especially when I’m stressed or reading about unpleasant things.” —Marisa Cohen, Senior Editor
To buy: The Complete Novels of Jane Austen, $10; amazon.com.
The Harry Potter Series, by J.K. Rowling
For obvious reasons, the magical world of Harry Potter is the ultimate escape from reality. No matter how many times we’ve watched the movies or read the books, Harry, Ron, and Hermione continue to show us that by leaning on friends and never giving up, good really can prevail over evil. While all of the books could have made this list, snuggle up with a mug of Butterbeer and reread the first volume, which captures the hopeful feeling of the series before it takes a dark turn. — Nora Horvath, editorial assistant
To buy: $8; amazon.com.
Thunder Cake, by Patricia Polacco
I grew up reading Patricia Polacco’s gorgeously illustrated books. I love how you can feel the warmth of her family though her pictures—I swear her grandma seemed so comforting she could have been my own grandmother! This one, especially, brings back fond memories. Through the story, the grandmother and granddaughter hurry to collect the ingredients for cake before a storm starts. Through baking, she helps her granddaughter overcome her fear of thunder, and at the end, Polacco includes the cake recipe. Chocolate cake and Grandma—if that’s not comfort, I don’t know what is! —Nora Horvath, editorial assistant
To buy: From $8; amazon.com.
Too Much and Not the Mood, by Durga Chew-Bose
Chew-Bose writes about all the experiences you’ve never been able to put into words—and I find her thoughts, feelings, and memories to be incredibly moving. She’s an essayist whose writing feels like it’s encompassing you, and there's something very comforting in that. Reading it makes me feel like I’m centered again, especially her first essay "Heart Museum." —Hannah Norling, associate producer
To buy: $8; amazon.com.
Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert
If you haven’t read this book by now, you’ve probably seen the movie version. Eat, Pray, Love is the ultimate story of escape. After her divorce, Gilbert sets off on a trip around the world—to Italy, India, and Indonesia—in search of three things: pleasure, devotion, and a balance between enjoyment and divine transcendence. Get lost in the pages of this delightful book, and maybe you’ll find yourself buying a one-way plane ticket, too. — Nora Horvath, editorial assistant
To buy: 9; amazon.com.
The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster
It’s been my favorite book since I could read, and I reread it probably about once a year and always find a small joke or insight or play on words I’d never noticed or gotten before. The main theme in the book is about the value of knowledge and learning from others. It teaches you that things that at first may appear to be common sense, can be seen in whole new ways.” —Rebecca Daly, senior fashion editor
To buy: $5; amazon.com.
Related: We Tried Blue Lipstick—So You Don’t Have To
No it’s not just for Halloween—blue lipstick is actually a beauty trend. We’ve seen it all over Pinterest in various shades from sky blue to inky indigo. It may look dramatic and eye-catching on beauty bloggers, but what about those who aren’t makeup mavens? You could end up looking like an Avatar or cartoon character, or you could end up looking edgy and cool. We decided to the try the trend ourselves to help you, our readers, figure out if it’s a trend you’d want to try. Real Simple editors of all ages gave it a try—watch the video to check out our verdict.
Anne of Green Gables, by L. M. Montgomery
We know the red-haired, freckle-faced Anne so well she feels like an old friend. But for those who are unfamiliar, Anne of Green Gables tells the story of orphan Anne Shirley, who is sent to live with brother and sister pair Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert on Canada’s Prince Edward Island. Although it’s considered a children’s book, we say that you’re never too old to join in on Anne’s highly imaginative adventures. — Nora Horvath, editorial assistant
To buy: $13; amazon.com.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
In this much-loved tale, Huck’s physical journey along the Mississippi River mirrors his own coming of age. While Huck’s life is anything but easy—the journey begins when he runs away from his alcoholic father—his sense of freedom lights up every page. Rather than start from the beginning, I love to open up to any random passage and find Huck wherever he may be, lazing on the river, hiding out at a farm, or sneaking aboard a steamship. His adventures remind me that sometimes you have to run away, get a little lost, or even fake your own death in order to find yourself. —Katie Holdefehr, senior editor
To buy: $5; amazon.com.
Where The Sidewalk Ends, by Shel Silverstein
For many of us, Shel Silverstein was our first introduction into the world of poetry. For many reasons, this collection is near and dear to our hearts. With whimsical stories and adorable illustrations, every page is bound to draw a smile. Some of our favorites include “Sick,” about a kid trying to get out of going to school, and “Smart,” our first introduction to the true value of money. — Nora Horvath, editorial assistant
To buy: $12; amazon.com.
Calvin and Hobbes, by Bill Waterson
Like us, Calvin is always trying to escape from the boring world around him. Throughout this hilarious and heartwarming comic, Calvin goes on countless adventures with his only-real-to-him stuffed tiger, Hobbes. While some of the strips are meant to make you think about bigger issues, Calvin and Hobbes always make it home safe at the end of the day. Readers who grew up with the comic strip will find comfort in reminiscing over the duo’s mischief. — Nora Horvath, editorial assistant
To buy: $56 for the box set; amazon.com.