If you love to read, but have trouble doing it because you’re so stressed out, I feel your pain.

Reading is my most favorite way to unwind, let go of the day, and “fill my cup“, so to speak.

Tons of my students have shared that reading is one of their favorite activities as well, but that it’s also one of the first things to go when their compassion fatigue levels start to skyrocket.

In fact, not being able to read winds up being one of their early indicators that their stress levels are climbing and they need to implement some self-care asap.

So what do you do when reading is one of your favorite ways to take care of yourself, but your brain is too bonked to do it? Here are some ideas I’ve gathered from past class discussions and my own life:

1. Skip any reading that is related to animals (or whatever population it is that you serve). Even if it’s fiction, but especially if it’s non-fiction.

2. Listen to audio books. Download them from the library if you want to save some bucks. It feels so good to have someone tell us a story again!

3. Let yourself off the literary hook. It’s ok to read lighter stuff when you’re stressed (or anytime you want). You’re not trying to impress anyone…by the way, I’m saying this to myself. My whole life I’ve had elaborate fantasies about people, who will never be in my home, judging my bookcases. Lower the literary bar.


YA and Children’s Lit Picks
The Divergent series – Veronica Roth
His Dark Materials trilogy – Philip Pullman
The Wildwood Chronicles – Colin Meloy
The Hunger Games series – Suzanne Collins
The Harry Potter series – J. K. Rowling

Humor Picks
Yes, Please – Amy Poehler
Bossypants – Tina Fey
How to Be a Woman – Caitlin Moran
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?  – Mindy Kaling
Me Talk Pretty One Day (or any other book) by David Sedaris
I Feel Bad About My Neck – Nora Ephron
Let’s Pretend This Never Happened – Jenny Lawson


Bonus Picks! SciFi/Horror/Fantasy genre:

Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon

Anything by Stephen King (try 11/22/63)

All Souls trilogy by Deborah Harkness


I know there are tons more! Which books keep your attention, even when your brain feels like it’s broken? What kind of reading helps you decompress after a tough day or week at work?

Tell me your top picks in the comments here or over on Facebook. Let’s keep a running list to help each other out!


See you at the library,

2 Comments on 12 Books To Read When Your Brain Hurts

  1. Love these suggestions! Yes, the first rule for me is to put the heavy stuff — I love learning and love getting my hands on stuff that makes me think. But the problem is, I end up dreading my reading because I don’t have brain cells left. So I don’t read.

    Until right before Christmas when my husband and I came across a beautifully illustrated version of the first Harry Potter book (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone)… we HAD to get it, paid $40 for it. And together we read that book in a week. Now we’re on the third book of the series (sadly the illustrated versions other than book 1 haven’t been published yet) and LOVING it!

    Harry Potter has absolutely gotten me from reading for BRAINS to reading for FUN! The best part is I can feel my creative side coming back since it’s such a creative, well-written, and inspiring series. <3 <3 <3 I read the first book when it came out a long time ago but never read the rest of the series because I was intimidated by their length. Now I can't wait to dive into them 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.