What we’re reading to combat coronavirus anxiety

Instead of our usual ‘What We’re Reading’ column this week, we asked our booksellers what books they were reading and recommending to combat coronavirus anxiety. Here’s what they said.


“I am managing my anxiety by taking myself to another world completely with Sarah J Maas’s first adult fantasy novel (she’s written a bazillion YA novels), House of Earth and Blood. Set in a complex world where vanir (supernatural beings) co-exist alongside humans, this chunky book is rife with violent murders, dangerous artefacts, complex political manoeuvring and warring factions. Everyone is quite sexy and troubled, especially protagonists Bryce Quinlan (half-Fae) and Hunt Alathar (fallen angel), who are searching for a terrifying demon and an unknown foe. The action takes place in the gritty and glamorous Crescent City, Lunathion, which operates on a charming mix of magic and modern technology. Real-life troubles take a back seat whenever I crack open this fantasy thriller!”

Leanne Hall, online children’s & YA specialist


“One of dear girlfriends just sent me a copy of Ada Calhoun’s book, Why We Can’t Sleep. It arrived early this week, right as I was starting to pace the floorboards even more than my normal nocturnal roundabout. As it turns out, I’m not alone in the wee hours. Women facing the great unspoken menopause, not to mention mortgages, careers and family juggling are filled to the bloody brim with anxiety. And let’s face it, this virus, this government and the dismantling of the arts are not lullabies to those of us already short of sleep.

There is comfort to be had though. Calhoun’s study into the modern lives of women show that we are doing too much, worrying too much, and also that we don’t have enough power – but there are solutions. Calhoun also gives insight into various studies, countries and attitudes to bring you remedies and reassurance. My take-home message to all women out there, similarly coasting on a formula of caffeine, alcohol and rage, is to buy this book, read it, feel part of a movement, and try your hardest to share that burden. Or in shorthand – simply try not giving so much of a f#ck.”

Chris Gordon, programming & events manager


“I’ve been revisiting some books that make me happy.

Rockhopping by Trace Balla. Trace’s beautiful graphic novels are guaranteed to make you look outwards in grim times and are almost as good as going bush for real. Rockhopping is about a hike in Gariwerd, full of bushcraft, ecology and warmth. And Trace has a new book, Landing with Wings, out in April, and I’ve read that too, and it made me very happy.

My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell. My go-to prescription for a case of bleakness or frustration, Durrell’s memoirs are a dream of leisurely, gentle adventures on Corfu, led by a cast of great characters, many of them who also wrote books, and you can read them too, if you want more.

The Fat of the Land by John Seymour. Look, I reckon permaculture enthusiasts and back-to-the-landers like me are looking very sane right now. Growing your own food in hard times is always a good idea. This delightful book was a catalyst for the organic farming movement, a beautiful chronicle of community and learning and a lovesong to ecological knowledge. It galvanised me to change the direction of my life and find what really makes me happy.”

Georgia Delaney, bookseller at Readings Kids


“In terms of managing my anxiety, I’ve found history books surprisingly helpful. Recent reads have included Jung Chang’s Big Sister, Little Sister, Red Sister and Patrick Radden Keefe’s Say Nothing. These books are fascinating, because I have very little knowledge of historical events, and they’re also reassuring because they remind me that things were bad before now, sometimes even worse. Progress does happen, even if it’s unbearably slow, and there’s no idyllic golden age to return to.

The news from last week also prompted me to pick up Eula Biss’s On Immunity for a reread. An elegantly crafted and enthralling deep dive into the world of vaccinations – this book is one my favourite ever non-fiction books and a compelling argument to care about community. I found it a bracing, informative and ultimately book to read at this particular moment.

Or if you’re looking for a book to make you feel happy, I recently finished reading an early copy of the long-awaited first novel from Australian author Ronnie Scott. The Adversary is a frank, funny, endearing, bittersweet story set over a single summer in Melbourne. With his housemate and best friend now occupied by a boyfriend and job, a young man is forced to explore the wider world beyond his Brunswick sharehouse – even as far as Richmond… I had such an enjoyable time reading this debut which made me laugh and cringe in recognition. Pre-order your copy for mid-April delivery today!”

Bronte Coates, digital content manager

House of Earth and Blood (Crescent City, Book 1)

House of Earth and Blood (Crescent City, Book 1)

Sarah J. Maas

$29.99Buy now

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