Hope can be a powerful force, especially when the world continues to fight a deadly pandemic. It assures us of a better tomorrow and gives us the courage to go on. But when economies are crushed and millions of lives are lost, hope turns to despair. The good news is, while we sit at home, we can always turn to books for hope. For instance, in books that remind us sometimes things can go ugly, but eventually, love, togetherness, and hope always win.
According to the study, Reading Between the Lines: Reading for Pleasure, those who read have better self-esteem levels, coping strategies, and decision-making skills, and often view setbacks as a part of life that can be overcome easily. Dr Josie Billington, deputy director of the Centre for Research into Reading, Literature and Society, who worked on the research, says, “While it will not come as a surprise to many people that reading is good for us, the depth and breadth of the benefits of reading for pleasure to our emotional health, empathy and wellbeing are both illuminating and reassuring.”
2020 is coming to an end but the fight against the pandemic is not over yet. So, what better way to start 2021 than reading books that heal from within.
If you are wondering where to begin, here are 13 books that will fill your heart with hope and courage.
Unbowed: A Memoir, by Wangari Maathai
In Unbowed: A Memoir, Wangari Maathai, founder of the Green Belt Movement and winner of the Noble Peace Prize (2004) recollects her tumultuous journey from childhood when education wasn’t a priority for African girls, to her fight against governmental authorities to save acres of forest lands in Kenya. In her journey, she has played a strategic role in women’s empowerment. An inspiring narrative of how resilience and determination move mountains and hearts, this anecdote reflects the capitalist challenges faced and overcome by a woman of colour. An empowering story, Unbowed: A Memoir will leave you brimming with hope and belief that you can achieve anything in life.
Hope in the Dark, by Rebecca Solnit
Hope in the Dark is a collection of essays exploring hope in the midst of social justice movements. With a powerful argument and convincing writing, Solnit’s hopefulness is truly inspiring and contagious. As Rebecca writes, “To hope is to gamble. It’s to bet on your futures, on your desires, on the possibility that an open heart and uncertainty is better than gloom and safety. To hope is dangerous, and yet it is the opposite of fear, for to live is to risk.” One of the biggest lessons this book imparts is how we shouldn’t be afraid to celebrate small wins, even if the fight isn’t over.
The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak
A highly popular book, The Book Thief is engrossing and heart-breaking at the same time. An unusual take on Holocaust, narrated by Death itself, this book tells the story of Leslie Meminger, a foster girl staying in Munich, Nazi Germany. It revolves around the coming of age of Leslie and her friends, the horrors they witness in their town—the food shortages and bomb droppings, the risk her family takes to harbour a Jew, to name a few. Amidst the chaos, Leslie is peculiarly drawn to books, her first one being discovered near her brother’s grave. Read her story that redefines grief and empathy, life and death, hope, and hopelessness.
Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life, by Albert Liebermann and Hector Garcia
Ikigai that literally translates to “a reason to jump out of bed each morning” is now a worldwide concept that originated in Japan, where it is believed that every person has an Ikigai, waiting to be found and nurtured. Through their book, which is now an international bestseller, Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles have attempted to share this wisdom with the rest of the world. The authors have shared this wisdom after speaking to several centenarians of the Okinawa island which translates to an implementable lifestyle rather than just a philosophy. A must-read book in the self-help genre, this book has also been endorsed by readers who have transformed their lives with Ikigai.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
An epistolary novel, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is a delightful read. Speaking of the post-WWII era, when societies and communities were being rebuilt and books and publishing houses were inching back to prominence, this book talks about a community on a forgotten island of Guernsey that started a literary society as a lifesaving ploy but eventually came together to form one. The book stresses on how difficult times enable people to stand together and support each other.
The Magic of Believing, by Claude Bristol
The Magic of Believing by Claud Bristol is a book that was ahead of its time. The power of belief earned its status in the contemporary world in the last couple of years, but Bristol wrote about this more than half a millennium ago. Bristol’s lessons are hard-hitting and are presented without any fancy representations, which makes it an effective read.
My Glory Was I Had Such Friends: A Memoir, by Amy Silverstein
This memoir is a moving tale of friendship, hope, and the human spirit. Silverstein has had a heart transplant 26 years ago. Her heart has failed again and she is on the waiting list for another transplant. Her survival gut takes her to California, where she is joined by her nine friends who put a hold on their lives, careers, and families to care for her. These nine women, though strangers to each other, battle side by side to help Silverstein fight her situation. This poignant memoir strikes chords and questions us about friendship, hope, and grit.
Tribe of Mentors: Short Life Advice from the Best in the World, by Tim Ferriss
Tribe of Mentors is a highly recommended self-help book. In it, the author, Tim Ferris asks a set of 11 carefully curated questions to successful people. From tech entrepreneurs to sports stars, people in their 20’s to those in 70’s, Tim Ferris’ interviewees couldn’t have been more diverse. This book will help you find answers you have been looking for—on habits, failure, success, the spirit of never giving up.
It’s Not Easy Being Green: and Other Things to Consider, by Jim Henson
This collection of wise and witty quotes is bound to cheer you up. The author, Jim Henson, renowned for his creation of The Muppets and Fraggle Rock, continues to make us laugh with this book while staying true to his words: “Life is meant to be fun, and joyous, and fulfilling.” Highly recommended for readers of all ages, this book is the perfect antidote to any gloomy day.
A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman
This touching novel is a reminder that there is a story behind every cold heart. Ove is a grumpy old man who sticks to his routine and never breaks rules. He is lost in grief and hopelessness when a family moves in next door. Ove’s new neighbours are cheerful and chatty. But their first interaction is disastrous and Ove dislikes them right away. As the story progresses with their funny and quirky interactions, Ove recovers from his grief feeling hopeful and happy. Beckman’s writing is engaging and tugs at the readers’ hearts, making them laugh and cry, sometimes both at the same time.
Making Hope Happen: Create the Future You Want for Yourself and Others, by Shane J Lope
Making Hope Happen is a book by an expert on the psychology of hope, Shane J Lope. The book stresses on the message—hope matters, hope is a choice, hope can be learned and hope can be shared with others. The same is elucidated with real and uplifting stories of people of different ages and professions. With strong underlying research evidence, the author shares how hope can improve performance and productivity for anyone, anywhere.
The Tattooist of Auschwitz, by Heather Morris
The Tattooist of Auschwitz is the story of an extraordinary man and his extraordinary love in the backdrop of misery and hopelessness. Being one of the rarer stories of the Holocaust, the book is based on the real-life story of Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew who is given the task of tattooing a number on the arms of the other Jews brought into the concentration camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau. It speaks of a difficult time when the identity of Jews was reduced to only a number; they were enslaved with their lives at the mercy of Nazi soldiers. Lale falls in love, a sliver of hope in the sea of anguish and agony, and never gives up on his belief of surviving the concentration camp and living a happy life after the war.
Hope Was Here, by Joan Bauer
Hope is a sixteen-year-old girl who lives with her aunt Addie and is a waitress at a diner in Wisconsin owned by a man named GT. GT is suffering from leukemia but that doesn’t stop him from running for the mayor’s election against a typical politician. As the author says, “You’ve got to love yourself with all your shortcomings, and you’ve got to love the world no matter how bad it gets”. A simple read with a powerful storyline and relatable settings and ideologies, Joan Bauer has created a true-to-life novel which you will relate to instantly. Hope was Here is a brilliantly written novel with well-developed characters and plot. It is a perfect blend of hope, strength, determination, and compassion, which will surely leave you wanting for more.