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Hopeful books and stories can be comforting to read during fearful times of crisis. If you need a little hope in your reading, try these books that offer some light in the darkness.
You’ve braved the packed store and frantic crowds. You’ve snagged some extra toilet paper and soap. You’ve heeded the pleas to socially distance.
Here we all are. In our stocked homes, ready for the crisis that we know is coming.
But outside our windows, the world looks much the same. Is this just the calm before the storm? What do we do while we wait for it to hit? What can we do?
For many of us, this will be the worst of it. We will be isolated. We may get bored. We might even get sick–but it will be mild and we will recover.
As we realize this, initial fears about shortages are morphing into something else: community. Because those mild inconveniences will not be the worst of it for everyone.
Offers to help elderly and immune-suppressed people–in ways that keep them safe–are flowing on social media.
Teachers and homeschoolers are sharing information about how to educate and entertain children suddenly home for the long haul.
People are even sharing a roll or two of precious toilet paper with those who are legitimately out (heroes).
Another thing that helps? Stories.
As I’ve watched this all unfold and made changes in my own life this past week, my mind has continually gone back to various stories I’ve read.
Some are eerily similar to what’s happening now, while others are very different. But they are all similar in one way: they offer hope in times of crisis.
As the news and rumors flow nonstop, what helps us make sense of what’s happening–and maintain our hope–are stories. It’s why people are sharing articles about Italians singing from their windows, or people helping elderly shoppers in the grocery store.
As the prepping panic dies down, we’re all likely to have some downtime in the coming weeks–maybe even months–so you might get a little extra reading time. If you find yourself craving some hopeful books, check out the list below.
Hopeful Books to Read in Dark and Fearful Times
Author: Susan Meissner
This book about the Spanish Flu of 1918 may be too on the nose for some people, and it could even stoke fears. But if you’re up for an eyes-wide-open account of a real pandemic, you’ll get a story about both the darkness and the light of a tragic moment in history.
Months after a family takes over a Philadelphia funeral home, the flu sweeps through the city. Even in the most devastating days, the family finds reasons to hope and ways to move forward.
Author: Kimi Eisele
A crisis can bring out the worst in people–but also the best. If you find yourself wondering how community can be sustained during “social distancing,” this is the book for you. While not about a pandemic–in this case, the electrical grid goes down–this book about a neighborhood that works together to rebuild their lives will restore your hope in people’s ingenuity, generosity, and care for one another.
Author: Elizabeth Percer
When two earthquakes devastate San Francisco, survivors make their way across the burning city, trying to get to their loved ones. Lives intertwine in unexpected ways as people step in to help strangers and fight to reach their homes and families. A reminder to these characters–and readers–that the things that matter most are too often neglected until a crisis forces our attention back to them.
Everyone Brave Is Forgiven
Author: Chris Cleave
This World War II novel set mostly in London during the Blitz is a reminder not to lose your sense of humor, even if the world is literally falling down around you. Cleave based his characters’ quick-witted dialogue on real letters between his grandparents during WWII (read more about the story behind this book). Dark days may be ahead, but humor is powerful.
Author: Amy Silverstein
This is a hopeful story on a smaller scale. Amy Silverstein first had a heart transplant in her 20s. Now in her 50s, that heart is failing, and she again waits for a new heart. As she waits, her friends rally and take on various tasks–both practical and emotional, sometimes in person and sometimes from a distance.
Her walk through her friends’ contributions is a reminder: we can’t all do everything and we all have limitations, but when people are in need, most of us can do something. On the flip side, if we are the ones in need, it’s okay to accept help.
Author: Emily St. John Mandel
In times of crisis, the practicalities of survival overtake everything. As someone who writes about books, how appropriate is it to continue doing so when people are filled with fear? Mandel addresses this in her fantastic book set in the aftermath of a pandemic. Her characters are still struggling to survive, but a traveling troupe of performers bring art, hope, and entertainment to an otherwise grim world.
Art has always had a place in the world, even in the bleakest of times. It’s okay to continue loving what you love and finding joy in art (or you know, Netflix).
Author: Richard Powers
The Overstory may seem like an odd book to include, considering some of the darker themes of climate change and deforestation. But what I love about this book about trees (but it’s so much more!) is its peek into a wondrous natural world that few of us understand or take time to contemplate. When we’re focused on small things–toilet paper, hand washing, kids home from school–a little wonder can be a welcome respite.
A good nonfiction companion read is Underland, which will take you to truly unfathomable and wondrous places in the world and in time.
Author: Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
Set on the island of Guernsey during the WWII German occupation, many readers find this story about an underground book club to be an absolute delight. Written as a series of letters between a writer in London and a Guernsey resident, this is another great read about the power of literature in dark times, and how human connection is vital and possible even when we’re physically isolated.
Author: Georgia Hunter
Another WWII novel–one of my favorites ever–this is the remarkable tale of the author’s own family in Poland. As the war closed in, family members landed in far-flung locations across the globe, each trying to survive dire circumstances. This is a page-turner that can be bleak and sad–of course, it’s WWII–but this one family’s resilience is ultimately hopeful.
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In the spirit of community, please share your favorite hopeful books to read!