We live in a divisive world right now. It can feel difficult, maybe even impossible, to unite as global citizens over anything. But I do think there's one issue most people can agree on, no matter what you believe: 2016 SUCKED. 2016 has been a big, stinking, garbage fire of a year. 2016 even ruined the desire for 2016 to be over, because in 2017 a man who the majority of Americans did not vote for is going to be inaugurated as President of the United States. So if you're feeling a sense of hopelessness, or loss, here are few books to read to restore just a little bit of your faith in humanity (or at least, your faith in books).
To be perfectly honest, I've never been a big "self help" reader. I'm still not entirely clear on what the word "mindfulness" means. And I have an irrational dislike of Elizabeth Gilbert (sorry, Liz, I'm sure you're a nice person in real life). But if a book inspires you, then it's a good book to read. If a book leaves you feeling just a little less hopeless, and perhaps even hopeful, then it's a work of genius. It doesn't matter whether you found it in the self-help section, the YA fantasy section, or in a puddle on the side of the road.
So here are a few books of all genres, to remind you that not all is lost, even when life feels hopeless:
1. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
A shepherd boy travels from Spain to Egypt in search of buried treasure. But that simple synopsis doesn't even scratch the surface of Coelho's inspiring fable on the power of dreams (spoiler alert: the treasure is a metaphor). If you need a reminder that dreams matter, and that there's still good in the world, The Alchemist is the book for you.
2. Letter to My Daughter by Maya Angelou
Letter to My Daughter is a letter from Maya Angelou to the daughter she never had. But it's also a letter to all of her daughters: to every woman on Earth, of every background and belief. Through essays, memoir, and poetry, Angelou shares her lifetime's worth of wisdom with her many daughters, and urges every one of them to stay hopeful, and to live a life of meaning.
3. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Yeah, yeah, I know the ending is sad (and also that flower is a terrible girlfriend). But there's a reason that The Little Prince is so well-loved across the world. It's a children's story for grown ups, deceptively simple with it's charming fairy tale characters. The lessons it imparts, however, are meant for adults who have forgotten how to step outside of their own narrow perspective.
4. The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama
Look, I know a lot of us just want to cling to Obama's leg and beg him not to leave us. But since we can't make him stay, the next best thing we can do is read his book on hope and reclaiming the American Dream, and try to share young Obama's audacious hope for the future (but seriously, is there no loophole that lets Obama stay President for life?).
5. Your Illustrated Guide to Becoming One with the Universe by Yumi Sakugawa
Even if you don't think of yourself as a meditation person, Yumi Sakugawa's calming, adorable illustrations will soon trick you into a new sense of inner peace. There's nothing wrong with taking a moment to care for yourself and have a heart-to-heart with your inner demons, even in the midst of political strife. Deep breaths.
6. I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
At age fifteen, Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head at point blank range for daring to go to school. Not only did she survive, she kept fighting for her right to education, and wrote a book just to hammer the point in (and won a Noble peace prize, too, for good measure). Her fiercely feminist memoir is an inspiration to every young woman out there who wants to change the world.
7. El Deafo by Cece Bell
For the graphic memoir fans, El Deafo is guaranteed to make you feel good about the world. Based on Cece Bell's actual childhood (except that Cece Bell is not, in fact, a rabbit), El Deafo is the story of a little girl dealing with hearing loss, starting a new school, making friends, and possibly even becoming a superhero.
8. Life of Pi by Yann Martel
If you think you're feeling hopeless now, just wait until you're lost at sea in a lifeboat with a full-grown Bengal tiger. Life of Pi is a novel about surviving a deadly situation, about the common beliefs that bind all human beings together, and about flesh-eating islands. But above all, it's a story about keeping hope alive in the bleakest moments.
What can I say? I grew up in the Harry Potter generation. HP is your classic hero's journey, but it is also a not-so-subtle allegory about defeating fascism through community organizing and civil disobedience. And it's the comforting, childhood story that first taught us to never lose hope, to always keep fighting, and to trust that there are still good things worth fighting for.