There is definitely a lot going on right now - the crisis in the Middle East, the war in Ukraine, climate change, increasing polarisation. And then there are work pressures, personal challenges and the rising cost of living! Finding solace, hope and inspiration from the pages of a book can be a welcome respite.
As well as offering comfort and guidance, reading a physical book itself can help us feel less stressed. It is an activity that we do at our own pace and with just the book in our hands we have less distractions, less incoming information and we can take our time to find meaning. Here are five books that can provide solace and wisdom during stressful times.
Almost Everything – Notes on Hope by Anne Lamott
Anne Lamott's "Almost Everything" isn’t a book that shows life as a wonderful or perfect all of the time. It touches on topics of addiction, poor behaviour, the climate crisis, the political crisis and how hard family relationships can be. But in amongst all that, it shares beautiful and exquisite moments of humans and nature at its best and this does indeed give you hope that life is or can be wonderful.
Only kindness, forgiveness and love can save us. Oh and grace as spiritual WD40. And walks are nice.
Lamott writes from the personal and having lived an eclectic life, she has much to share. Lamott makes plain her foibles from the past and the present and does so in a way that doesn’t diminish the impact they can and do have but acknowledges that we can all grow, change, or improve and they don’t have to define us or the path we are on.
The Comfort Book by Matt Haig
The Comfort Book could have been titled the little book of hope. If you have found the last few years tough and are still feeling a little flat then this book is perfect for you. The book is a mix of philosophy, memoir and self-reflection and Haig builds on the wisdom of philosophers and survivors through the ages, from Marcus Aurelius to Nellie Bly, Emily Dickinson to James Baldwin. Haig shares his own personal struggles with his mental health and also a beautiful mantra he uses to help himself
Nothing is stronger than a small hope that doesn’t give up.
The book really does bring a feeling of comfort.
Phosphorescence – On Awe, Wonder And Things That Sustain You When The World Goes Dark by Julia Baird
In Julia Baird's "Phosphorescence" she looks to answer the question:
Phosphorescence is Baird’s term for that inner light that inspires us to continue when life seems gloomy and depressing. Through personal anecdotes and reflections, Baird explores the power of awe and wonder as sources of sustenance when times are dark.
Man’s Search For Meaning by Victor Frankl
A timeless classic, Victor Frankl's "Man's Search for Meaning" delves into the author's experiences as a Holocaust survivor and psychiatrist. Frankl explores the human capacity to find meaning and purpose even in the most dire circumstances. This quote highlights the amazing attitude that the Frankl has towards life:
Thus suffering completely fills the human soul and conscious mind, no matter whether the suffering is great or little. Therefore the ‘size’ of human suffering is absolutely relative.
It also follows that a very trifling thing can cause the greatest of joys.
This is a great reminder that when we feel like things are going wrong or we are unhappy with what is happening, we can dwell on this and allow it to consume too much of our time attention and energy. We can choose to look around for small things that are bright spots - the beautiful sunrise, laughter with friends and the like and allow them to bring us joy.
Effortless – Make It Easier to Do What Matters Most by Greg McKeown
This one may seem a little from left field but in "Effortless" Greg McKeown provides practical insights on simplifying life and tips on how to reduce unnecessary burdens. In times of stress, the idea of making things easier may seem elusive, but the theme of the book is all about how can we make the most essential activities the easiest ones.
Effortless Inversion means looking at problems from the opposite perspective. It means asking, “What if this could be easy?” It means learning to solve problems from a state of focus, clarity, and calm. It means getting good at getting things done by putting in less effort.
Effortless is an easy read, has great explanatory diagrams throughout, and excellent summaries at the end of each part.
If you are feeling the current times a little stressful then these five books offer a hope, wisdom and practical guidance. If you pick up these books and give them a read, may the words of the pages be a source of comfort and resilience for you.
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