Book Review: Relax in Reading

Jill Schleiden

As Thanksgiving break and finals week approach, the stress-o-meter on your dash rockets sky-high.

Reading a good book can help alleviate some of that tension.

According to, reading for 30 minutes a day in between stressful events like studying and writing papers can make you more efficient and focused.

This is because reading keeps your brain active while relaxing your body and by making you happy if you enjoy the book.

Some good books have moved into paperback over the last year. Here are a few to check out. They can be bought cheap on or borrowed from the library.

The Fourth Bear
The Fourth Bear

‘The Fourth Bear’

“The Fourth Bear,” by Jasper Fforde, follows detective Jack Spratt as he investigates the murder of Henrietta, also known as Goldilocks, and tries to recapture an escaped serial killer, the Gingerbread Man.

Spratt works for the Nursery Crime Division of the Reading police department in England. He lives in a world where characters from books live among normal people, and stunningly boring aliens get high off binary streams from cell phone towers.

Throughout the book, Fforde plays with readers’ assumptions and the traditions of storytelling. At times, he addresses the reader, sets up atrociously alliterative puns and hinges the “mystery solved” moment of this murder mystery on a play on words.

Fforde delights in writing, and reading his work is an enjoyable romp through old children’s tales turned bad.

After just the first 50 pages, one has to wonder, why was the smallest bowl just right, and mama bear’s the coldest, if the porridge was poured at the same time? Who’s smuggling marmalade, a Class I drug, to the bears? What is Sommeworld, the World War I theme park, really for? And, most important, is the Gingerbread Man a cake, or a cookie?

‘Unaccustomed Earth’

Jhumpa Lahiri’s second book of short stories delivers the same delicate prose and well-paced narratives as her first, “Interpreter of Maladies.” The stories focus mainly on the lives of Bengali immigrants to New England.

Two of the stories are actually about the same people. In the first story, the boy and girl despise each other. The boy and his family are staying with her parents while his mother battles cancer.

His mother dies, and he and his father move away. The girl finds that she misses him.

Several years later, they meet accidentally in Rome and become lovers. The day before she is to return to America for her arranged marriage, he asks her to stay with him. She says no, and on the plane discovers a tsunami hit the beach where he stayed after she left.

The stories in this book are often thoughtful and somewhat morose, with painful epiphanies for the characters. But if you want a tear jerker that’s well-written, go for it.

‘Touched with Fire’

For those of you looking for a little less play and a little more information, try Kay Redfield Jamison’s “Touched with Fire.” The book is a wonderful combination of psychiatric studies and poetry.

Jamison wrote the book to explore the connection between manic-depressive affective illness (Bipolar) and artistic ability. As she compares different studies, she uses pieces of poems and stories by the bipolar writers to showcase the connection between great art and madness.

Is there such a thing as fine madness?

Why are artists called eccentric where a businessman would be called mad? Should artists with mental illnesses be treated, and if they are, is society losing great art? Jamison looks to answer these questions and more.

If you’re looking for an older book that’s a little cheaper to get hold of, try one of these:

“The Eyre Affair,” Jasper Fforde; “Interpreter of Maladies,” Jhumpa Lahiri; “The Hobbit,” J.R.R. Tolkein; and “The Cinnamon Peeler,” Michael Ondaatje.

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