How’s your blood pressure? Edging up a little, like everyone else’s? Are you feeling overwhelmed by the daily news? We all could use some reading material that will buoy us right about now. I have put together a list for just this purpose. I’m sticking to nonfiction for now, out of a personal desire to remember the positives in the real world. Some of these books contain tragic elements, but also the overcoming of such. Here are a dozen titles I hope will comfort, inspire, amuse and make you feel better about the world.
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba. My son told me this was the most inspiring book he’s ever read. Possibly the world’s most resourceful teenager builds a windmill from scraps he’s foraged and brings electricity to his village in Malawi.
Grandma Gatewood’s Walk by Ben Montgomery. The story of an average woman who decided to do something with herself after leaving an abusive marriage. She liked to walk. Long story short, we can thank her for the preservation of the Appalachian Trail.
The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown. I never would have picked up this book if it had not been chosen for our community-wide reading selection a few years ago. Now I recommend it to everyone. If you’re in the mood for a tale of overcoming adversity to achieve something great through the virtues of teamwork and cooperation, this book is for you.
Very Good Lives by J.K. Rowling. A small volume containing the Harry Potter author’s commencement speech on the benefits of failure.
The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio by Terry Ryan. The subtitle for this is “How My Mother Raised 10 Kids on 25 Words or Less.” If we could bestow posthumous Nevertheless She Persisted prizes, Evelyn Ryan would surely qualify. A genius at advertising jingles, she kept her family in laundry detergent, appliances and adequate housing by winning contest after contest.
All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot. Funny and (mostly) affirming anecdotes from the life of a country veterinarian. There are a few sequels if this one leaves you wanting more.
Outcasts United by Warren St. John Refugee youths from disparate backgrounds come together to form an American soccer team.
Hope in the Dark by Rebecca Solnit. Why there’s still hope.
The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking by Oliver Burkeman. Even curmudgeons need something uplifting occasionally.
Lunarbaboon by Chris Grady. Cartoons depicting the life of a woke moon monkey dad.
She Got Up Off the Couch by Haven Kimmel. I laughed. I cried. I cheered, as the author’s mother fights her way out of the depression that kept her glued to the couch for years and overcomes every obstacle to make a better life for herself.
Dear Data by Giorgia Lupi. Where art, friendship and data all merge, you’ll find this book.