Sad girl laying back on bed while reading as she pears over book so that only her eyes show.
Illustration by Laura Chan-Sing, Ryerson University
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Sad girl laying back on bed while reading as she pears over book so that only her eyes show.
Illustration by Laura Chan-Sing, Ryerson University

Sad girls aren’t short on reads, all of which will make their hearts melt and keep them warm during the winter.

Disclaimer: Some of these recommendations may include minor spoilers in an attempt to provide context. Read at your own discretion.

When the cold rolls in and the sun steals itself away before five o’clock, it can be hard to hold onto hope. During the chilliest and darkest months of the year, it is proven to be especially difficult to keep thoughts from becoming cynical and the heart from freezing over. However, it could be said that allowing the psyche to wander to a place that is more melancholic can be beneficial when the mood outside is just as dreary. Indulging in the low points and heightened depression that winter brings can amplify self-awareness and provoke reflection. And, as far as hobbies go, there is not another more inspiring and self-indulgent activity for the imagination than reading. These 10 books, with themes that explore grief, isolation, uncertainty, interpersonal relationships and existentialism, will let self-proclaimed “sad girls” everywhere find a feeling of warmth within their pages to banish the wears of winter.

1.My Year of Rest and Relaxation” by Ottessa Moshfegh

While at first glance, a story about a pretty and rich unnamed narrator who plunges herself into a year of sleep to evade her depressingly privileged life may seem absurd and shallow, this journey of self-discovery will leave readers perplexed and enlightened weeks after they’ve put it down. Following the deaths of her parents, we meet our ridiculously unlikeable and cynical protagonist on the verge of a depressive spiral. Believing that she can physically become a “whole new person” and create a brighter future for herself with the regenerative powers of sleep, she dives headfirst into a black hole of nothingness with the help of one of the most irresponsibly eccentric psychiatrists in all of New York City.

However, the appeal of this book doesn’t lie in the narrator’s dark humor or the sleaze of an America before 9/11. It lies in the romanticization of being able to disappear. The narrator’s dedication to her isolation is something that reverberates with audiences that are subject to a constant barrage of information. In our current world that revolves around the inescapable pull of the internet, there is nowhere that anyone can simply exist without being seen. With such a high demand to constantly catalog one’s life, there is no hope of falling off the face of the Earth for an entire year to reinvent yourself. Therefore, readers from all over will rejoice in being brought to a placid and self-deprecating setting through the narrator’s experiment of rebirth.

Against the dream-like dregs of self-discovery juxtaposed with the harsh wit that propels the story forward, sad girls everywhere will come to see a beacon of hope. That tomorrow might not be so terrible, that the outlook to a better day is closer than possible. And while the copious amounts of psychosomatic drugs used to catapult the narrator into her slumber are not necessarily recommended, taking a moment to ponder the questions regarding rejuvenation and existence posed by the novel most certainly is.

2. “The Year of Magical Thinking” by Joan Didion

Written after the abrupt death of her husband, John, and the hospitalization of her daughter, Quintana, this memoir beautifully confronts grief and highlights the true joys of the human condition. Through the deeply personal and painful thoughts that Didion shares in the gaping absence of her loved ones, readers everywhere can tackle their own losses and reevaluate where love begins and ends.

Audiences are forced to realize the light that relationships can bring, why they are a true reason to keep going, and why when they end it can be so debilitating. Through the cycles of life, many new emotions can arise, causing confusion and depression. However, as Didion so generously states — “Grief turns out to be a place none of us know until we reach it.” And through her scathing portrait of pain, and later acceptance, readers everywhere will hurt alongside her, and eventually reach their own catharsis that reigns in a new season of growth.

3. “Beautiful World, Where Are You” by Sally Rooney

Set on the brink of a society trudging through the pandemic, this book is a philosophical examination of how our relationships can bring some light to the horizon. Following two parallel storylines of Alice, an agoraphobic novelist, and her best friend, Eileen, who is stuck at a crossroads with her own career, this story gives way to an exploration of how lonely growing up can be and why who we share ourselves with is so important to overall happiness.

Written in Rooney’s realistic and intricate style, this narrative illustrates how confusing navigating relationships can be and why it’s so rewarding to figure them out. The characters reveal their inherent flaws while they press onward to untangle the complex venture of adulthood. In the lows of winter, sad girls picking up this book will be met with a wave of comfort; the book can handle their anxieties toward love and definitions of success in a way that relieves the worries of tomorrow.

4. “Everything You Ever Wanted” by Luiza Sauma

The fantasy of life away from Earth and its man-made institutions, such as capitalism and the internet, is not an uncommon one in modern literature. However, combining such a trope with a cynical coming-of-age story and some philosophical enlightenment, this novel oozes with originality.

The daydream of wanting to indefinitely disconnect, even if that means abandoning life on the only planet human beings have known, is one that is increasingly prevalent among younger audiences. Depressed 20-somethings that have no career options or personal direction tend to fall for the fabrication that living somewhere far, far away can fix all of their problems. However, the charm that lies within this story is that that conclusion shows that this is simply not the case. As the protagonist goes through the course of that same conflict and subsequently decides to transplant herself to the clean slate of the planet Nyx, she eventually realizes the simple joys of life come from somewhere much closer to home. Examining what human beings value and how they cope with loss, sad girls picking up this book will emerge victorious against the bitter cold of winter. They will be ready to reevaluate their outlook on the mundane, eager to wait out the days until they can feel the sun on their skin.

5. “Little Weirds” by Jenny Slate

In this light-hearted and hopeful examination of love and loss, comedian Jenny Slate tackles the hardships of life with a child-like wonder that can’t help but make readers look twice at the world around them.

Cataloging the chronology of her life beginning with her birth and ending in her divorce, Slate titles her brief essays in this collection with things straight out of a children’s book, such as “Mouse House,” “Fast Bad Baby” and “I Died: Bonked.” By contrasting her grief with the wonder she finds in her world, she manages to open a rare window into her mind, letting her audience peer into how lovely things can still be even when you may feel like everything you have ever loved is gone. With themes of rebirth and self-love, this eccentric collection will bring a glow to the saddest of sad girls that will last through the coldest of winter days.

6. “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous” by Ocean Vuong

A deep-rooted portrait of a first-generation American family is painted in vivid strokes in this novel, which takes the form of a letter. Addressed to his illiterate mother, the novel exhibits a style of prose that is both tender and tumultuous, forcing the reader to sit with the epiphanies Vuong was having about life at a formative age.

Bursting with anecdotes that reflect the experience of someone struggling with their identity, the novel will comfort readers with the small victories that Vuong writes about, from his first love to his experiences in school as a first-gen student. In addition to the joys of life, however, he speaks delicately about grief and sacrifice in a way that forces the reader to experience gratitude, no matter how minuscule the things they have to be thankful for. Audiences will feel immensely connected to the confusion and chaos of growing up, and, more importantly, to the unbreakable bonds that family provides, even when all you want to do is run away from them.

7. “Just Kids” by Patti Smith

This deeply personal tribute to the friendship between Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe against the troubling backdrop of New York City in the 1970s highlights the joy and wonder that comes with youth. Heavy with the context of the classic rock scene at the time, Smith and Mapplethorpe’s respective artistic careers flourish and come to life within these pages, inspiring anyone who reads them.

However, it seems that the biggest takeaway from this book is how impactful the power of friendship can be in a world that is, truthfully, quite isolating and scary. Filled with heart-warming stories about overcoming poverty and bringing forth ideas that have revolutionized the artistic community, this touching memoir will not only motivate readers to create a legacy of their own but also have someone to stick by them the whole way.

8. “No One Is Talking About This” by Patricia Lockwood

This satirical take on internet culture is mind-blowing, to say the least. When the protagonist, an influencer and comedian, is forced to make a homecoming because of the birth of her sister’s premature baby, her perception of the world is forever changed.

This book completely shatters the rules of the internet in original, comedic bursts while simultaneously forcing the reader to do a double-take on their weekly screen time report. Addressing how social media warps the priorities of life and how we perceive one another in a judgemental and unforgiving world, this novel quickly and swiftly severs the ties that exist between ourselves, on and offline. In a time of year when many find themselves spending an increasing number of hours on their phone to make up for a lack of real-life social encounters, this book will make sad girls all over reevaluate how they spend their days.

9. “Supper Club” by Lara Williams

Following the trend of depressed and unlikeable 20-something female narrators, this book stands out as the feminist equivalent of “Fight Club,” except instead of hashing out violence, the “supper club” in this novel aims to explore and reclaim the vast appetites women are often denied in our society. It expands on what it means to take up space as a woman and how that can physically and mentally take a toll. It also explores in a unique way the dynamics in which we as women interact with each other and how those dynamics can be challenged.

In this gritty and shocking debut novel, the relationship between womanhood and food is explored in a way that alerts the reader and forces them to take control over their priorities and desires. Any sad girls out there looking for a reason to take that risk they’ve always been afraid of should pick this book up.

10. “Dept. of Speculation” by Jenny Offill

In this refreshingly quirky take on modern marriage, Offill expresses a faith that even cynics will see the power of love. Through the trials of infidelity, raising a child, and careers that are vastly different, the couple in this novel undergo many challenges internally and interpersonally that ultimately lead to a triumphant outcome. Told in a series of blurbs and letters headed from the “Department of Speculation,” this story will keep you wanting more.

Readers that aren’t fans of romance will even find a home in this book, this light-hearted and world-shattering narrative planting a seed of hope in their hearts for spring days to come.

Writer Profile

Maggie Habermas

University of Texas at San Antonio
English

Aspiring to be a professional sad girl that writes about music, movies and books that make me feel.

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