15 Best Mindfulness Books to Help You Relax or De-stress

Gentle humor. Inspirational poetry. An exploration of joy. Find your next read from this list of calming tomes.

books for mindfulness
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To say we live in stressful times would be an understatement. Even if you've managed to stay calm and carry on, chances are there are times you need to de-stress, and you likely know at least one friend, family member, or colleague in desperate need of a little rest and relaxation.

Luckily, reading has been scientifically proven to be one of the best ways to calm and de-stress the brain. According to a 2009 study from the University of Sussex, sitting with a favorite book for even six minutes a day can reduce stress by up to 68 percent, making it more effective than listening to music or drinking a soothing cup of tea. Researchers say this phenomenon takes hold because books can actually transport you into a different reality, free from stress, and potentially into one that's a whole lot more interesting.

From genuinely useful and relaxing mindfulness books to gorgeous photography collections that awaken the senses, here's a list of some of the best books to help you unwind.

01 of 16

The Best of Me, by David Sedaris

David Sedaris: The Best of Me

This collection of some of the very best essays by legendary humorist David Sedaris offers small doses of funny, odd tales that illuminate what's wild and weird about the lives we lead.

02 of 16

Call Us What We Carry, by Amanda Gorman

Call Us What We Carry

Amanda Gorman's inspirational inaugural poem is featured in this collection of contemporary poetry that draws on the current moment, and provides hope and solace for troubled times.

03 of 16

There and Back: Photographs from the Edge, by Jimmy Chin

Photographs from the Edge

Enjoy breathtaking images—and the stories behind them—from Jimmy Chin, Oscar-winning director of Free Solo and National Geographic adventure photographer, taking you from Tibet to Antarctica. It's the perfect way to explore places you probably never imagined you'd go and meet people you've never had the chance to meet—without ever leaving the couch.

04 of 16

Hello, Habits, by Fumio Sasaki

Goodbye, Things book

A new addition to the Japanese minimalist trend, this second book by Fumio Sasaki explores the better habits you can create to embrace the minimalist lifestyle.

05 of 16

The Midnight Library, by Matt Haig

The Midnight Library Mindfulness Book

What if you could get a do-over in life? That's the premise of this fantastical tale, which brings the heroine, Nora, off to the library at the edge of the universe, where she can explore the roads not taken to see if she'd truly be happier if she'd made different choices in her life. It's the perfect read for energizing your path forward into a new year.

06 of 16

The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World, by Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and Douglas Adams

The Book of Joy

What happens when two Nobel Peace Prize recipients spend a week together discussing joy and happiness—even through difficult times? The result is this life-changing book that offers the insights of the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu on how to find true joy in the most difficult times.

07 of 16

The Husbands, by Chandler Baker

The Husbands

If a page-turning (but gentle) thriller is the kind of book you need to get a little R&R, this clever take on the Stepford Wives story—complete with a mysterious death and some too-good-to-be-true husbands in an idyllic subdivision—is a charming read.

08 of 16

Little Panic, by Amanda Stern

Little Panic Mindfulness Book

Part memoir, part historical account of a long-gone era in New York history, Stern's bold work is told with insight and humor, charting a bohemian West Village childhood fractured by anxiety and set against the famous abduction case of Etan Patz, one of Stern's neighbors. Over 400 pages, Stern expertly details the dual childhood feelings of wonder and fear and how, as an adult, she was able to rise above her "little panic" to thrive. It might just bring you some comfort to read if you, too, suffer from anxiety.

09 of 16

Just Sit, by Sukey and Elizabeth Novogratz

Just Sit Mindfulness Book

Studies have shown that meditation can help with everything from easing anxiety to improving body image, so isn't it time we all made a conscious effort to just sit? That's the main idea behind this self-help book for skeptics by sisters-in-law Sukey and Elizabeth Novograd, co-founders of newsletter The Well Daily. This easy-to-access, lushly illustrated meditation guidebook will help you build a practice, calm your inner critic, and block out external stressors.

10 of 16

How to Change Your Mind, by Michael Pollan

How to Change Your Mind

What if you could escape your worries and stress by rewiring your mind? This provocative bestseller from Michael Pollan (The Omnivore's Dilemma) offers a fascinating (literal) trip through the world of psychedelics, spirituality, and mental health. Pollan takes us deep into the world of psychedelics, exploring the powerful healing potential of these compounds and, in the process, offers a riveting journey through American history.

11 of 16

Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens

Where the Crawdads Sing

Based in part on her 20-something years researching lion packs in Africa, Delia Owen's immersive bestselling debut tells the story of Kya Clark, the wild "Marsh Girl" of North Carolina, whose remote upbringing has made her at home in the natural world but foreign to the human one. This is a beautiful and devastating coming-of-age story with a mystery at its center.

12 of 16

A Book That Takes Its Time, by Irene Smit and‎ Astrid van der Hulst

Book That Takes Its Time

Though it looks like an overstuffed scrapbook, this book is very calming for those who like to doodle or draw. There are illustrations and inspiring quotes, short essays, and journal pages—plus mini notebooks, collaging projects, tear-out cards, stickers, and other surprise bonuses for crafty people. It's a one-of-a-kind gift for a friend, or yourself.

13 of 16

The Dogist, by Elias Weiss Friedman

The Dogist book

We already know our four-legged friends are the perfect company when we need to de-stress, but sometimes we can't have them nearby. For those times, flip through this gorgeous photo book from Instagram sensation, @thedogist. Each portrait of a sweet dog will be sure to turn around a difficult day.

14 of 16

Tender at the Bone, by Ruth Reichl

Tender at the Bone Book

This heartwarming memoir from noted food writer Ruth Reichl brings readers into the kitchens of her childhood, where her love of cooking and eating began. From cooking at home with her mother to eating her first soufflé, each delicious story will make readers laugh. Warning: Your stomach may grumble.

15 of 16

Beaches, by Gray Malin

Beaches by Gray Malin

In this stunning coffee table book, photographer Gray Malin captures beaches across six continents and 20 cities—from the Amalfi Coast to Santa Monica. The photographs—taken from above from helicopters—are a colorful, fun visual escape for those times when you can't hop on a plane to the nearest tropical locale.

16 of 16

Deep Listening, by Jillian Pransky

Deep Listening book

In Deep Listening, Pransky, a popular yoga teacher, shares her 10-step "Calm Body, Clear Mind, Open Heart" program to help them listen to their bodies and relax. This book includes journal prompts, meditation practices, and yoga poses.

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