This post is part of my Books That Feel Like… series, showcasing favourite books that feel like whatever you want more of in life.
Whether it’s spending a summer in Italy, staying in a cabin in the woods, or feeling like you’re in a Studio Ghibli movie, I hope you can find your next best book recommendation.
“September 15th. – This is the month of quiet days, crimson creepers, and blackberries; of mellow afternoons in the ripening garden; of tea under acacias instead of too shady beeches; of wood fires in the library in chilly evenings.”Elizabeth von Arnim, Elizabeth and Her German Garden
Some of my favourite books are about characters living quiet lives in beautiful places, evoking peaceful days with plenty of space for slowing down and taking time for the small pleasures in life.
In my own life, I try to cultivate the same, whether it’s growing vegetables on my fifth-floor balcony, setting aside an afternoon for baking, or spending time in nature.
That said, one of the best things about retreating into a book is that you can immerse yourself in peace and tranquility even when your own life is more hectic.
As some of the best books about simple living, these laid-back reads are perfect to escape into during your commute, after a stressful day, or when you’re feeling anxious.
Take your pick, escape into each book’s restful pages, and feel rejuvenated as you read about the characters’ or author’s way of simple living close to nature.
The best books about simple living and slow, stress-free days
The Summer Book by Tove Jansson
Read The Summer Book for… a blissfully peaceful novel about quiet summers and slow living, exploration, and play on a small island.
This beautiful little book is the fictional story of a child’s summer visit with her grandmother to an island cottage by the Gulf of Finland, inspired by Tove Jansson’s own annual pilgrimage for over twenty summers.
(For more like this, I’d heartily recommend Tove’s beautiful memoir Notes from an Island, illustrated by her life partner Tuulikki Pietilä.)
The Art of Frugal Hedonism by Annie Raser-Rowland and Adam Grubb
Read The Art of Frugal Hedonism for… a guide to spending less while enjoying everything more, written as a collection of conversational ponderings.
If you want to live a life with less consumerism and more low-cost (or zero-cost) experiences and pleasures, you should absolutely read The Art of Frugal Hedonism.
It’s about letting go of society’s expectations, peer pressure, and the fear of missing out to rediscover the most simple and joyful ways of living.
As one reader on Reddit shares, “It’s like a book about how to live like a character in a very chill Studio Ghibli film.”
A Circle of Quiet by Madeleine L’Engle
Read A Circle of Quiet for… Madeleine L’Engle’s quiet, lesser-known memoir from 1972, offering a graceful and peaceful story about her search for meaning, purpose, and simplicity.
Inspired by a visit to her personal retreat near her country home, this book reads like a laid-back conversation on a lazy summer afternoon, full of beautiful musings on being a good, happy human at peace with the world and yourself.
The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher
Read The Shell Seekers for… a wonderfully heart-warming and life-affirming book about one English family and the long-hidden pieces of art that have the power to change their future.
The Shell Seekers is full of characters (retired or essentially retired) who spend their lives pottering away in country houses, gardens, and beautiful holiday spots rather than at work.
In a quiet corner of England, we meet artist’s daughter Penelope Keeling as she looks back on her rich and varied life, contends with her three children, and refuses to settle into pensioned-off old age.
The Rural Diaries by Hilarie Burton Morgan
Read The Rural Diaries for… a chronicle of farm life: chopping wood, building chicken coops, and making dandelion wine while finding a place in a small-town community.
If you dream of quitting the corporate world and starting a farm (I’ve written about this over on Live Wildly), The Rural Diaries should be your kind of book.
This is actress Hilarie Burton Morgan’s bestselling story of leaving Hollywood for a radically different life after the birth of her son, buying a working farm in upstate New York to explore a slower way of living.
Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life by Marta McDowell
From Peter Rabbit to Jemima Puddle Duck, Beatrix Potter’s characters exist in a dreamy countryside world filled with flowers, gardens, and lazy days of exploration and friendship.
Opening with a biography of Beatrix Potter’s gardening life, this wonderful book follows her through a year in the garden, offering a season-by-season overview of the colourful blooms, flourishing trees, and experiences that marked her year outdoors.
Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer
Read Braiding Sweetgrass for… ethnobotanist Robin Wall Kimmerer’s celebrated book that every reader who loves nature should treat themselves to a copy of.
This stunning celebration of plants and indigenous wisdom is full of the lessons to be learned when we slow down and pay attention to nature, offering a generous dose of comfort, hope, and peace in its pages.
Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver
Read Prodigal Summer for… a wonderfully abundant novel of a single summer in bloom, brimming with new life, hope, and long summer days.
Prodigal Summer is my all-time-favourite comfort read (and one of my favourite books about simple living characters) weaving together the stories of three people living in a rural community in the Appalachians.
This trio – a widower trying to keep her farm afloat, a forest ranger escaping her divorce in the woods, and a grumpy old man trying to nurture chestnuts back to life – must start afresh, discover who they really are, and have faith in new beginnings.
I’d also recommend Barbara Kingsolver’s memoir of growing her own food and living a more local, sustainable life, Animal Vegetable Mineral.
The Lady Farmer Guide To Slow Living by Mary E. Kingsley
Read The Lady Farmer Guide to Slow Living for… one of the most beautiful books about sustainable living, offering a guide to cultivating simplicity close to home.
In this gently inspiring book about simple living, Mary Kingsley – novelist, mother, homesteader, and co-founder of Lady Farmer – ponders how living simply can restore our health and happiness and that of our planet, too
Elizabeth and Her German Garden by Elizabeth von Arnim
Read Elizabeth and Her German Garden for… another of my favourite books about living simply, in which the protagonist discovers that her path to joy lies in having a garden, rather than a room, of one’s own.
Retreat into this semi-autobiographical novel from the author of The Enchanted April for a year-long diary of learning to garden and interacting with friends.
The book, full of sweet and endearing moments, also contains one of my favourite quotes about living a slow and simple life:
“What a happy woman I am living in a garden, with books, babies, birds, and flowers, and plenty of leisure to enjoy them!”
An Island Garden by Celia Thaxter
Read An Island Garden for… a gentle journal that gardeners and artists have found delight and inspiration in for over a hundred years.
Originally published in 1894, Celia Thaxter’s horticultural writing chronicles a year in the garden on Appledore Island, the island her father purchased and built one of New England’s first offshore summer resorts.
The hotel attracted writers, musicians, and artists, including the American Impressionist Childe Hassam, whose beautiful paintings of Thaxter’s house and garden are reproduced in this book.
For more books about slowing down and simple living, you might like my collections of the best cottagecore books to imagine a cozy life close to nature, the best books with Studio Ghibli vibes, and the most wholesome comfort reads.
You might also like my writing on Live Wildly about the best simple living books to inspire a slower way of life. Slow down, breathe a little deeper, and enjoy.