7 Books To Read When You Need Perspective
There are times in life, times of crisis or mega-transition, when we all need to change our perspective. Sometimes, we look for the advice or support of our besties (regardless of whether those besties are siblings, parents, or pals). We turn to these people for their understanding of our strengths (and weaknesses), for their ability to provide us with a ray of sunlight in the thick of a problem that feels like a windowless cell. These people get us — but they're not us. They have other angles, other life experiences, other ways of real-talking us. They're the best — until they're not.
Enter books, the ones you turn to when you want your friends' advice and support--without the baggage. Books provide incredible windows into new worlds, and the more we're able to see of the world beyond our front door (as Dorothy had the foresight to teach us), the more we're able to grow as people. Books can change our lives. They can inspire us to contemplate and to act, to see the everyday in a new way.
Frankly, I'm tempted to suggest you read any book when you feel like you need perspective (not helpful, but true). Okay, maybe not your old algebra textbook. Then again ... who knows what those equations might reveal.
Want a guaranteed perspetive shift? These seven titles will certainly tilt your world, even if they don't turn it completely upside down.
1. The New Testament by Jericho Brown
One of 2016's prestige Guggenheim Fellows, Jericho Brown writes poems that will convert even the most virulent anti-verse readers. I chalk much of Brown's power up to his facility with music and song, as evinced in the alliterative opening of "Labor" — "I spent what light Saturday sent sweating" — where a few simple words create an entire mood and event.
2. Phosphor In Dreamland by Rikki Ducornet
Rikki Ducornet may be more of a household name than you think, even if you've never read this novel. This dreamy parable takes place on the fictional island of Birdland. Filled with legends and alchemical love affairs, Phosphor in Dreamland is one of those novels that provides a vision so singular (I mean, if I said the book had moments of ecological pornography, would that really make sense?) you'll feel as though you've been weaving through time and space after reading.
3. Man's Search For Meaning by Victor E. Frankl
A therapist recommended this to me once and, unlike her other reading suggestions (a workbook about self-esteem that was cheesy AF), this book made me reconsider my life. Frankl's account of his time laboring in four Nazi death camps is part-memoir and part-treatise on his signature concept of logotherapy, the idea that an individual's main purpose is to discover what brings their life meaning. This book will help you ask yourself the biggest questions, so be sure to give yourself space to ponder your responses.
4. Cities I've Never Lived In by Sara Majka
The writing in Majka's debut collection is spare, stunning, and spot-on. "How strange we are. How different we are from how we think we are," she observes. In Cities I've Never Lived In, Majka's characters reveal how to confront loneliness and isolation with dignity and honesty.
5. Eunoia by Christian Bök
Bök's slim collection — of poems? short-shorts? essaylets? — is uncategorizable, despite its relatively simple premise: each of the book's sections uses only words containing each of the five vowels. (So only words with A, then only words with E, etc.) You never knew the letter U could have its own distinct mood!
6. Lab Girl by Hope Jahren
Jahren makes a career in plant biology sound like the ultimate #blessed career. (That probably has a lot to do with Jahren, recipient of not one, not two, but three Fulbright awards.) This memoir is a coming-of-age story that will also completely change the way you listen to — yes, listen to — the sounds of plants.
7. Lost In The Funhouse: The Life And Mind Of Andy Kaufman by Bill Zehme
The outré comedian who constantly toed the line between "goofing" and sincerity comes alive on the page in this biography that uses stream-of-consciousness techniques to depict a comedic mind ahead of his generation.