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Book clinic: what can I read after work instead of watching TV? | Books


Q: I want to come home from work and read instead of putting on the TV. Which books will help me disconnect from my stressful office life?
Uma, 40, businessman, Mumbai

A: Hannah Beckerman, author, critic and journalist, writes:
Let’s start with some comic novels that will make you smile. Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 is not only a work of comic genius but in its searing satirising of bureaucracy will possibly chime with some aspects of modern office life, too. Philip Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint – which contains arguably the most famous scene featuring a piece of liver anywhere in fiction – will certainly help you forget the stresses of the day, and may even provide some nostalgic reminiscences of adolescence. If the literary world is of interest, Edward St Aubyn’s Lost for Words is a brilliant satire on book prizes. Meanwhile, Jonathan Coe’s Middle England – recent winner of the Costa novel award – is an incisive and funny portrayal of Brexit Britain, which should help you forget your own daily troubles.

Turning to fiction that will make you feel good about the world, have a look at One Day by David Nicholls, which is both structurally innovative, unconventionally romantic, warm-hearted and funny. Or Jane Austen’s Emma: surely one of the greatest of all comedies of manners, which will undoubtedly bring some light relief.

Finally, you could take a look at some nonfiction to make you laugh: anything by David Sedaris, but particularly the autobiographical essays found in Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim and Naked. Alternatively, you could read some nonfiction that might make you reassess the stresses and strains of your working life: pick up Joanna Cannon’s beautiful and candid memoir Breaking and Mending: A Junior Doctor’s Stories of Compassion and Burnout or David Nott’s War Doctor: Surgery on the Front Line, which tells the story of Nott’s humanitarian trips to some of the world’s most dangerous war zones.

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