7 Novels That Will Leave You Inspired
I am all about non-fiction and professional development – but sometimes, when you’re facing burnout at work, you need to turn off your brain and force yourself to adopt a work-life balance that prioritizes time and mental space away from your job.
It can be tempting to turn to Netflix again, but I’ve found that my quality of sleep and energy level is much better when I avoid the screen in the evenings, opting for a book instead of falling asleep in front of a rerun of The Office. Plus, reading – even fiction – helps improve my focus at work. I’ve discovered that when I’m reading for pleasure regularly, I am able to stay focused on an otherwise mundane work task for a longer period of time.
I’ve picked these novels to avoid burnout because they are engaging reads you won’t want to put down. They’re fun and easy to get into – but more than that, many of them have themes that will make you feel like a better person after the last page.
Check out these titles from your local library and let me know what you think in the comments!
1) Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin
This is a fun read following the lives of two best friends when one starts “borrowing” the other’s fiancé (yikes!). What sounds like a rom-com premise really delves deeply into the issues of friendship and self worth in relationships. What are the stories we tell about ourselves and how do we let them dictate our lives?
2) Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s most recent novel explores race, immigration, and the long-term relationships of Obinze and Ifemelu, two characters you’ll feel strongly about one way or the other. Adichie’s writing is gorgeous, and this novel spans decades of relationships across many countries and cultures. Reading it will fully immerse you in a world away from your day job, while helping build your empathy and expand your thinking.
3) Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera
Gabby Rivera’s young adult novel follows Puerto Rican New Yorker Juliet through her journey coming out and moving across the country to work for a famous feminist in Portland. This book celebrates the value of self-care, includes some fantastic breathing exercises, and challenges you to make your feminism intersectional. Juliet’s voice is authentic, and you’ll fall in love with her while you learn how to develop your own identity and core values even in the midst of competing expectations from your friends, family, and society.
4) The Alchemist by Paolo Coehlo
If you’re like me, this was a title you saw everywhere but never had any idea what it was about. Paolo Coehlo’s bestseller came highly recommended, and had a huge impact on my faith in my ability to achieve my dreams. The Alchemist is a quick read that is almost like a self help book within a novel. If you’re feeling anxious about your next steps or need some clarity for your journey, pick this up as soon as you can.
5) Christodora by Tim Murphy
I haven’t read a book like this in awhile that got me so engaged in the lives of a varied cast of characters. Tim Murphy’s novel spans over four decades in New York City, charting the course of AIDS activists, artists, drugs, and showing heartbreak and humanity. Learn about important New York history and the struggles of the AIDS epidemic, while looking to the future and exploring how we forgive ourselves.
6) The Mothers by Brit Bennett
This beautifully written novel follows Nadia, who has recently lost her mother, and her best friend Aubrey, as they navigate growing up as Black women in southern California. Plus, the story behind the novel is inspiring – Brit Bennett published this best-seller to critical acclaim at only 26 after working on it since high school! Get lost in the story and Bennett’s prose, but also read to be dazzled by a debut author with determination and a fabulous work ethic.
7) Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
This wouldn’t be a complete “escape from your life” reading list without including a gripping thriller, one you can’t seem to put down. Gone Girl is well known, and for good reason. The novel is both celebrated and critiqued for its gritty portrayal of women. It’s one of those novels that will make you fall in love with reading when you’ve been working too hard. I’ve read all Flynn’s books and recommend them for page turners – with the caveat that Sharp Objects has a trigger warning for self-harm, and Dark Places features some disturbing violence against animals.
Which book do you recommend for keeping burnout at bay? Share this with your friends who are in need of an escape, or let me know what you’re planning to read next in the comments!
Allison Punch is a Washington D.C.-based writer and Member Success Associate at Devex, the media platform for the global development community. Allison works with global development organizations large and small and manages Devex’s University Membership, working with universities to provide their students with the best practical advice on careers in global development. She was the recipient of the Deacon Maccubin Young Writer’s Award in Prose at the 2016 OutWrite LGBT Book Fair, and graduated from the University of Michigan in 2014.