Furiously Happy, by Jenny Lawson

No, no. I insist you stop right now. Still here? Awesome. Now you’re not allowed to blame me for anything in this book because I told you to stop reading and you just kept going. You’re like Bluebeard’s wife when she found all those heads in the closet. (Spoiler alert.) But personally I think that’s a good thing. Ignoring the severed human heads in the closet doesn’t make for a good relationship. It makes for an unsanitary closet and possible accessory charges. You have to confront those decapitated heads because you can’t grow without acknowledging that we are all made up from the weirdness that we try to hide from the rest of the world. Everyone has human heads in their closet. Sometimes the heads are secrets, or unsaid confessions, or quiet fears. This book is one of those severed heads. You are holding my severed head in your hands. This is a bad analogy but in my defense, I did tell you to stop. I don’t want to blame the victim, but at this point we’re in this together. 

The Evil Hour: A Biography of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, by David J. Morris

Most people, when they first learn about PTSD, assume that the hypervigilance, social isolation, flashbacks, and nightmares of the condition are universal complaints, as old as the hills. In fact, the opposite is closer to the truth, in that the collection of symptoms and concepts that we call PTSD is a relatively new historical entity that emerged from a very particular point in time and space—1970s America, a period lived in the long shadow of the Vietnam War, a period notable for its social upheavals, its crises of faith, its questioning of gender roles and modes of thought, what Joan Didion called its “febrile rhythms.” The seventies were, after all, the years that brought us Watergate, Patricia Hearst, Kent State, Jim Jones, the Weather Underground, and, perhaps most importantly, the end of the Vietnam War, a conflict that radically altered not only the way Americans looked at trauma and the role of the veteran in society but also the way America looked at the world.

This Close to Happy, by Daphne Merkin

Sometimes I feel doomed to tell the story of my family over and over again, like the injunction at the annual Passover seder to narrate the story of the Jews’ liberation from Pharaoh’s cruel dominion and their subsequent departure from Egypt. In the Hebrew text this retelling is described explicitly as a “mitzvah,” a good deed. We are called upon to impart the tale once more by reading the Haggadah aloud, for ourselves and for our guests, so we will not forget the fraught historical circumstances that brought us from there to here, from slavery to emancipation. I think of my childhood as a kind of slavery—certainly an imprisonment of sorts—but am not sure, even all these decades later, that I have ever escaped, ever reached anything but the most transitory sort of freedom.

This story, like all stories, goes forward and backward in time. Unlike most stories, the past never stays safely in its recessed place. Instead, it haunts the present to such an extent that it threatens to overwhelm it, to render it inoperative.

10% Happier, by Dan Harris

The first thing you notice is the rhinestone glasses. Then the fragrance—like he’s just stepped out of a two-hour massage.

I met Deepak Chopra six weeks after my interview with Eckhart Tolle. While I had thought of little else other than the ego and its discontents during those weeks, my encounter with Chopra, another self-help superstar, was entirely unplanned. I called it serendipity; Chopra almost certainly would have called it karma.

I had been asked to fly to Seattle to moderate a Nightline debate (or “Face-Off,” in the preferred rebranding of the show’s executive producer) with the extremely subtle title “Does Satan Exist?” Chopra—who was always, as we say in the business, “TV-friendly”—had been booked to argue the “no” case, alongside a Pentecostal bishop who’d lost most of his congregation after publicly reconsidering the existence of the Devil. The “yes” side was made up of a hip, young local pastor as well as a former prostitute who ran an evangelical group called Hookers for Jesus.

Note to Self, by Conor Franta

This will emerge as one of the more memorable moments of my life so far, and I’m really not sure why. Maybe it’s because I had eagerly anticipated what my happy place would feel like, and it exceeded all expectations. Maybe it was a simple, soulful moment that required no internal editing or filtering, no explanation. Or maybe it was a moment of pure joy that, deep down, I needed to feel alive again after going through some of the hardest months of my adult life. I’m not sure. But what I do know is that the time I spent on that hilltop – roughly two hours – flew by and left me wanting more. More time alone. More of these magical moments. More time to reflect. More time to appreciate the natural good in the world. 

The Bedwetter, by Sarah Silverman

In 1976 I was five and cute as a really hairy button. My eldest sister, Susie, was twelve. She was fair with very long dark brown hair and big brown sad eyes reflecting a heartbreaking need for love – by any means necessary.

When I was three she would babysit me and say ” If I drink this orange juice I’m gonna turn into a monster!”

I’d cry, “Susie no!” But she drank the juice anyway, went into the closet where the washer-dryer was, put a brown suede ski mask on her head, and came back out, monstrafied.

“RAAAAARGH!! The only way I’ll turn back to Susie is if you hug me!!!”

Terrified, I ran in a burst toward the monster, hugging her, eyes clenched.

Susie once pulled steak knife out of the silverware drawer, turned to me, and mused, “It’s so weird, like, I could kill you right now.