A Novel Idea: Meditative Reading – The best fiction for meditation

Reading fiction is as good as meditating.  We are serious.  Inc. reports reading is “one of the best ways to get that disengaged rest.” If you are not a meditator, not all of us are or can be, you can achieve the same peaceful relaxation through reading.  We have pulled together a list of some of the best meditative reading around.

The benefits of reading fiction are myriad and surprising.  According to the same article in Inc., reading is one of the most effective ways to combat stress.  Within six minutes of starting to read our heart rate slows and our muscles release their tension, according to research performed at the University of Sussex.

Regular fiction readers also report sleeping better, according to Inc..  Readers of fiction have better lifelong cognitive function, showing less characteristics of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia as they age, according to The National Academy of Sciences.  And these are just the health benefits.

Our advice, head to the bookstore and pick up one of these recommendations to help you rest.

On the Shelves … 

The Sea, The Sea – Iris Murdoch

Originally published in 1978, The Sea, The Sea examines what drives us all.  And the face we present to the world.  The story follows playwright and director, Charles Arrowby, as he attempts to write his memoirs but just end up falling in love with his adolescent crush all over again.  The book won the Booker prize that year.  However, we did not recommend it for Arroby’s self-aggrandising reflections or for the kidnapping plot that goes horribly awry.  Murdoch is also a philosopher.  In her paper, The Sublime and The Good, Murdoch postulates we need art and beauty to learn and understand the higher moral truths.  The Guardian writes the book is “variously sublime, ridiculous, difficult, facile, profound and specious.”  The prose is complex and detail oriented, including the descriptions of many off-putting meals had at Arrowby’s new home by London’s theatrical set.  Give yourself a few hours of rest and enjoy the quirky comic nature of this philosophical read.

Such a Long Journey – Rohinton Mistry

I read this book when I was seventeen and it remains one of my favourites.  It is a work of fiction I return to repeatedly.  Mistry’s novel follows Gustad Noble, a bank clerk and member of the Parsi community in Mumbai in 1971.  It follows Noble through the daily interactions of his life to major family events, like a son refusing to go to a prestigious school or a daughter becoming ill. The tender side of Noble comes out in his daily interactions with his neighbour, Tehmul, who has cognitive disabilities.  Amidst government plots, gargantuan sums of money, and painting the walls of his apartment building with all the world’s deities to prevent people urinating near his windows, Noble discovers who he is and for what he stands.  Winner of the Governor General’s Award in Canada, it is a spectacular meditation on the person in turmoil.  I would highly recommend this literary tour de force from one of Canada’s great authors.

Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier

Du Maurier dares to give us a protagonist without a name, only a role, Mrs. De Winter, Mistress of Manderley.  Rebecca is the name of Mr. de Winter’s first wife.  The novel is rife with self-doubt and fear.  The narrator’s anxiety is palpable in every glove dropped.  The reader pulled deeply into the world of Manderley, from the sophisticated and suave Maxim de Winter to the spiteful housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers.  Du Maurier leaves no stone unturned in this psychological exploration, even looking at the thoughts leading to suicide and the bullying behaviour of those around us. The Novel Cure, a compendium dedicated to helping readers find solace for their emotional ailments with the exact perfect book, recommends this book for those suffering from low self-esteem.

Less – Andrew Sean Greer

Winner of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize, this book is a meditation on aging in a world which increasingly leaves the aged behind.  The protagonist is Arthur Less, who is a minor novelist, white, gay, and knocking on the door of fifty years old.  These are his meanderings through the world on various literary engagements.  He is avoiding turning fifty company and the wedding of his one-time lover.  The Guardian writes “novels about novelists are always a risk, but Less is about anyone who has allowed their calling to define them at the expense of their humanity.” This is for anyone who struggles with purpose in their daily life.

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words …

How to Survive in the North – Luke Healy

This is an irresistible story with arresting pictures.  The narrative is three distinct stories, two real life arctic expeditions weave seamlessly with a fictional present-day character.  The stark colour palette is reminiscent of the aurora borealis, which finds its way into all tales of arctic exploration, including these three stories.  The work is a meditation on life in harsh conditions, survival, and what it means to be human.  Student reviewers at Concordia writes Healy’s work “combines two stories of isolation to create a stunning look at human emotion.”  The narrative has two distinct notes with respect to isolation.  The first is being physically isolated, as Ada is, alone on an island.  The second is isolation in the modern age, as Sully is, when he is on sabbatical weathering the storm of his affair with a student.  This book explores what it means to be truly alone.

If you want more fiction, we have been recommending quite a few books recently, last month’s list encompassed fiction across a broad array of subjects.

Header Photo Credit: Photo by Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash

Jennifer Cornick - Impact Hub Vienna
Jennifer Cornick Freelance journalist and blogger for various publications in Vienna. When I am not writing, I can generally be found with a book (or anything with words on it - even […]

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