Recommended Reading for Chill Vibes and Centering Oneself in This F*cking Hellscape 🙃

It’s Wellness Vibes Week! We’re taking some time at the start of this brand new year to explore wellness culture/wElLnEsS cUlTuRe through a queer lens, specifically the kind of queer lens that you can only find at your local Autostraddle. No celery juice or vagina steaming, just some chill tips for making your spiritual, physical and mental health a little better in 2020.

Hello old friends. Wow what a time to be alive, is it not? You’re here and I’m here — the gang, you could even say, ‘s all here. And it’s now. And sometimes shit is too fucking much. Why, as recently as last night I would’ve gone so far as to say that shit was absolutely and undoubtedly too fucking much. (It’s fine in this exact moment, thank you for wondering.) And then what do we do? When the shit has reached the undeniable level of too fucking much? When we’re feeling extremely out of sorts and untethered and tired of our own inner monologue, and the time and/or desire to move our bodies about it has long since passed? Friends, I believe that’s when we read a thing.

Oh you could meditate, you could. You should, even. But will you? If you’re being very honest with yourself, just put your pencil down for a minute and ask yourself, “will I though?” And maybe for some of you the answer is, “yes bitch, I will and I do,” and I love that about you. Some of you would even say, “what about my fabric-based hobby?” or even “yes but what of my art, the art that I make with pigments or inks or other things?” and I also love that about you. However, the answer for another some of you is maybe, “true, I will not, at least not at this exact time; perhaps later, or even definitely later, I bet.” You need to read a thing.

And so, because I care for you, deeply, I asked our team to share what they read when they have had quite the fuck enough of this absolute shit.

Their recommendations are below, and you should add your own in the comments.

Carmen Phillips, Editor-in-Chief

Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde

There are some books that weave their DNA into your own, changing a part of yourself that shifts how you move in the world and what you consider to be your purpose. Audre Lorde did that for me when I was 20 years old, and many years later I still return to Sister Outsider when I feel lost and honestly need to just stop fucking up.

Kamala Puligandla, Former Editor-in-Chief


Pleasure Activism by adrienne maree brown || Lesbian Sex by JoAnn Loulan

Pleasure Activism is always a fabulous reminder that sex (with ourselves too!) is important, restorative and generative; that pleasure is way more than sex; and that feeling good is a super radical act, especially for people who are often uncomfortable in the world.

Lesbian Sex is woefully out of date re trans women and non-binary people, but I love this cover and many of the stories inside.

Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya, Managing Editor

Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher

Thoroughly Kissed by Kristine Grayson

I love all things witchy and mythology laden so I read these (admittedly ridiculous) witchy romance books from Kristine Grayson called the Charming Series. Current fave is Thoroughly Kissed.


Molly Priddy, Writer

Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkein || Redwall by Brain Jacques || The Bush Craft Boxed Set by Dave Canterbury

When things get really dire I read the Lord of the Rings trilogy, or the Redwall series. But when I really need to just feel like I’ve got my life together and am on the verge of panic about it? The Bushcraft survival books by Dave Caterbury.

Valerie Anne, Writer

Sometimes when I’m stressed/overwhelmed I look up Buzzfeed “best tumblr posts” roundups because they never cease to make me giggle and chill the fuck out. “She wears short shorts, I wear long longs, she’s cheer cheerer and I’m on the sit sits” gets me every time.

Himani Gupta, Contributor

Riddle Master by Patricia A. McKillip || Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

Loved the Riddle Master trilogy since I was a teen and reading it always brings me back to myself. The Imperial Radich series has been serving a close second lately in that regard.

Heather Hogan, Senior Writer + Editor

Felicity by Mary Oliver

Mary Oliver’s work means so much to me because she never seemed to struggle with holding optimism and redemption and queer love and wonder and profound sadness in her heart at the same time. Reading her poetry makes me feel the way the woods do in the foothills of the north Georgia mountains, where I grew up. Or how I feel when I meditate. Or when it’s just me and Stacy in bed on a rainy, lazy Sunday afternoon. Grounded. Connected. Like I’m mercifully small in the grand scheme of things but that all my breaths matter. Oliver wrote Felicity after her partner of 40 years, Molly Malone Cook, died. It’s the most candid she ever is about their relationship. It’s tender and full of so much heartache. The hope she excavates from her grief is always a balm. In her eulogy for Molly, Mary wrote, “Isn’t it wonderful the way the world holds both the deeply serious, and the unexpectedly mirthful?” It is and I feel less alone when she knits that seeming dichotomy together for me.

Fortune cookies… just in case.

Shelli Nicole, Culture Editor

Corduroy by Don Freeman || The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald || Eloquent Rage by Brittney Cooper

I always read Corduroy kids’ books when I wanna chill out and be calm, it was my fave book when I was a kid. My favorite book ever that I read a few times a year is The Great Gatsby – made me want to write. And Eloquent Rage by Brittney Cooper is *mwah!

Riese , Editorial & Strategy

Dare to Lead by Brené Brown

I never really witnessed any models of strong leadership or management in my work life prior to starting my own company, so Dare to Lead has been really helpful for me in trying to figure out how to do this thing.

Sarah Sarwar, Design & Marketing Director

Yumi Sakugawa dispenses some insanely good advice and inspiration. Running across their posts on my feed feels like small, perfect doses of therapy and somehow arrive exactly when I need them.

danijanae , Writer

Poems 1962-2012 by Louise Glück

I always crawl back to the Collected Works of Louise Glück

Ro White, Sex & Dating Editor

Not Me by Eileen Myles

Really anything by Eileen Myles.

lnj , Director of Operations

Christina Katerina and the Box by Patricia Lee Gauch

I’ve had Christina Katerina and the Box for as long as I’ve been alive and it’s entirely possible that I am who I am because I just loved her so much. She reminds me to just do something lofty and weird and fun right this very minute with whatever you have. I also find myself relating very deeply to her mother, who just wants this refrigerator box out of her front yard.


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lnj has written 310 articles for us.


  1. Oooh I love these recs!

    IDK how the rest of you are doing but I feel like it’s been a TIME, particularly since the start of the year, and I’ve been gobbling up fiction like there’s no tomorrow (that saying is starting to feel a little bit too on the nose), and I’m remembering that reading or listening to books takes me out of my own head in a way that twitter never could, why did I ever get out of the habit of reading??? Books: they’re here for us!

  2. Kayla, YESSSSSSSS. Wishful Drinking is my go-to “everything is fucked” book too! The audio version that Carrie Fisher reads herself is absolutely the most comforting thing on my phone.

  3. I always return to the comfort of Harry Potter. It’s familiar and beloved, doesn’t tax my overworked (and underpaid) brain, and features kids not giving up in the face of great adversity.

    • Oh me too, although lately I’ve been in a moral quandary about it because I am very mad at J K Rowling! I’ve switched to Tamora Pierce books for now, but it’s hard to deny the soothing quality of HP forever.

      • Agreed. Rowling is a piece of work and needs to let her publicist handle her social media accounts.

    • I recently reread all of the Harry Potter books on audio, and was pleasantly surprised by how funny and good they were! I mean, I knew I liked them when they were a huge cultural phenomenon, but I didn’t realize how well they’d hold up to later scrutiny.

      This is all personal preference/opinion, but I like Diana Wynne Jones even more than J.K. Rowling in terms of creativity/whimsy/humor. I loved the Chrestomanci books when I was a kid (before Harry Potter was on my radar), and have loved a lot of her other books as a teen and adult. They scratch a similar itch for me in terms of comfort reading. (If anyone is looking for recommendations, I’d probably start with the Chrestomanci series, Howl’s Moving Castle, or Archer’s Goon.)

      Full disclosure: I have noticed some problematic elements in some of her stories on more recent rereads (some transphobia and fatphobia in one of my favorites, Deep Secret, a weird line about “noble savages” in one of the Chrestomanci books). I like to think she would’ve become more sensitive to some of these ideas as the times changed, but it’s hard to know for sure, as she passed away in 2011.

      • I love Diana Wynne Jones so much! She definitely does some weird exotification stuff in her older books that’s not great, but she was so talented, and her books have a lot of heart. I listen to the audiobook of Howl’s Moving Castle whenever I’m feeling out of sorts.

      • DWJ has also been a HUGE fave of mine and a comfort read growing up. There are some things that for sure shouldn’t be in there: it’s a mix, bc yes to the things noted, but also she has fully developed great POC as the central characters in several books that got repeatedly whitewashed in the covers, which is really frustrating.
        I don’t know if I’m remembering correctly, but I feel like the main characters don’t get exotified, but side ones sometimes did in other worlds? I feel like maybe this is part of the problem of white people learning slowly, Idk.

  4. Agatha Christie. Fluffy fanfiction. The last paragraph of Michael Cunningham‘s „The hours“.

  5. I read a little bit of fanfiction regularly as a treat but when things are crappy or I’m sick or I’m bored during holidays I hit the fanfiction a lot harder.

  6. FF, for internal mini vacations and Rilke’s “Stundenbuch” (Book of Hours) in real book form for bouts of desperation and HP
    in audiobook form for long walks, when necessary.
    Allow me to leave you with a poem I stumbled across the other day
    and a ff rec which I thought of just recently:
    It’s a Warehouse 13 continuation set ten years in the future from where the show left off.
    I hope you’re all well!

      • I actually kept one page on my phone‘s browser open to that poem a day page to well read a poem a day, and stumbled across this one.
        I did need a minute to collect myself, not gonna lie.

    • Rilke, how wonderful! My former therapist quoted Rilke to me some years ago, his words about loving and living the questions and I‘m still grateful for it.

  7. Sister Outsider is absolutely foundational and changed my entire life and world view when I was assigned to read it first year of college.

    Someone (I think Rebecca Traister) described Eloquent Rage as “incandescently brilliant” and that is so true.

    Pleasure Activism is also world changing.

    Mary Oliver’s writing saved my life in very real ways.

    I will add Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer. Speaking as a white person to fellow white people – if we are going to get out of this climate crisis, we MUST listen to the teachings of indigenous people and follow their lead on how to enter a reciprocal relationship with the earth. Here is a shorter article if people can’t do a whole book:

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