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Culture Notebook

Already Burned Out on 2019? Read These Books.

Our favorite recent releases (and a few oldies but goodies) will help you escape for at least a few minutes

Sick and tired of being sick and tired? Read a book. (Ethan Welty/Tandem)
Photo: Ethan Welty/Tandem books

Our favorite recent releases (and a few oldies but goodies) will help you escape for at least a few minutes

January comes with that itchy recalibration of trying to assess your year and your life. It can be exhausting, especially in the face of a 2018 that was… not great for a lot of people and places. For 2019, here’s an invitation to go easy on yourself and the world, if only for a little bit, with some books to fight your burnout by way of escapism.

Burned Out on Human Interaction? 

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(Courtesy Penguin Books)

Consider zombies instead. In The Plight of the Living Dead: What Real-Life Zombies Reveal About Our World—and Ourselves, Matt Simon looks at zombification, brain-altering viruses and parasites, and the myriad ways mind control shows up in the natural world. It’s fun, weird, and fascinating.

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Tired of Resolutions?

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(Courtesy Flatiron Books)

Rage-read Nine Perfect Strangers, by Liane Moriarty, the author of Big Little Lies, in which nine strangers end up at a health retreat and things happen. Wellness-related brain candy is self-care, right?

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Beaten Down by Politics? 

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(Courtesy W.W. Norton and Company)

Seething about government shutdowns and scared for our public lands? Not unwarranted, but not a total anomaly. Historian Jill Lepore’s sweeping, superdetailed look at five centuries of American history, These Truths is a somewhat-reassuring reminder that U.S. politics have always been cyclical and that, if we want to make progress, we’ll have to learn from the past.

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Exhausted by Scrolling Through Other People’s Lives on Instagram? 

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(Courtesy W.W. Norton and Company)

Perhaps you need a reminder that #vanlife ain’t all it’s cracked up to be. Read this wry New Yorker story, then read Nomadland, Jessica Bruder’s book about the three years she spent driving around the U.S. tracing the subculture of people who live in their vehicles and the economic and social forces that brought them there.

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Sick of Words? 

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(Courtesy Koyama Press)

Eleanor Davis’s graphic memoir of her cross-country bike trip, You & a Bike & a Road, which is told through line drawings and minimal captions, seems simple, but the sparseness gives her space to cover all the things she encountered along the way, from run-ins with border patrol to battles with her own body and mind. It’s gritty, funny, and triumphant in surprising ways.

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Not Excited About the Future? 

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(Courtesy Little, Brown and Company)

The Last WhalersDoug Bock Clark’s book about the Lamalerans, a small, indigenous whaling population living on a remote Indonesian island, is a clear, beautiful look at a society that’s slipping away as a result of climate change and globalization. Actually, it could make you feel more burned out, but it’ll pull you into a world you’ve likely never seen before.

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Burned Out on Burnout? 

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(Courtesy Timber Press and Simon & Schuster)

Hear ya. How about the most pleasant book possible: Catherine Reid’s The Landscapes of Anne of Green Gables, a natural history of the real spots behind the fictional life of your favorite Anne with an E, which will make you wanderlusty for Prince Edward Island. Or go make yourself something good to eat, and figure out how to cook it via Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, Samin Nostrat’s joyful and actually helpful cookbook that reads like a letter from a supersmart friend.

Landscapes Cookbook

Filed To: Politics / Books / Climate Change / Media / Culture