It Was the Best of Times, It Was the Worst of Times…

I’m all for good escapist reading, and when things are going badly in the world–bad economy, high unemployment, global warming, etc.–it always seems like the books that lead the trends are those that make you forget what’s going on in your own backyard. In recent years, that’s meant a lot of paranormal/fantasy/dystopian fiction. Most of these books aren’t particularly cheerful, but they hold the distinction of being very different from our own reality. There’s something cathartic about reading about someone else’s problems, especially if they’re a vampire. Plus with books, there’s a good guarantee of a happy ending (if that’s what you’re looking for), even if you need to plow through a massive trilogy of doorstops to find it.

But sometimes I just feel like wallowing, you know? I want to read books that allow me to feel what I’m actually feeling, whether that’s sad or depressed or frustrated, so I can work the emotions out of my system. It’s like how you listen to sappy love songs after a breakup, or take yourself off to a three-hankie movie. Every once in a while, it feels good to just face reality. On days like these, I reach for books that address the real world, books that have actual events as a backdrop, or that delve inside a person’s suffering or hardship. Reading about individuals who have come through hellish circumstances and survived can be encouraging.

But everyone has their own book list for days like these. Over at The Millions, Emily St. John Mandel has a few titles up that suit her mood in these troubled times, an interesting mix of both realistic fiction and fantasy.

How about you? What types of books do your reach for when you’re feeling a tad pessimistic?