Top Ten Tuesdays are hosted at The Broke and the Bookish. Today's topic is a freebie and I began working on this on inauguration day so I was thinking about the future and trying to retain hope in what is, for many of us, a dark and uncertain time. So I give you my list of top ten books that inspire hope.
1. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Although it's set in a harsh post-apocalyptic world, people are rebuilding society and keeping art alive. I find it the most hopeful and inspiring book I've read in this genre. We can survive anything!
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
Every time I think about this book I want to read it again. It's wonderful in many ways, but it's on this list because A.J. Fikry is a curmudgeon who is determined to be unhappy and drink himself to death, but finds himself in a situation that suddenly makes him care about living again. Because "once a person gives a shit about one thing, he finds he has to give a shit about everything."
3. Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed
Strayed used to write an advice column and they are collected here in a stunning array of beautiful, exquisite essays about many different kinds of life problems. The way she responds is compassionate but true, illuminating beauty of humanity in such a way that it makes me feel like everything is going to be ok. You can get a similar effect from the Dear Sugar podcast, in which she and Steve Almond answer letters wisely in very soothing voices.
4. Far From the Tree by Andrew Solomon
The key to peace is understanding and having compassion for one another, and I have no doubt that would be achieved if everyone in the world read this book. I don't know how to make that happen, but I'll keep doing my part to recommend it at every opportunity.
5. The Arrival by Shaun Tan
I only posted a little about this with short blurbs about various graphic novels I had read at the time. It's a wordless book that must be experienced to be appreciated. It's all about finding oneself in a very unfamiliar, confusing place and making it your new home.
6. Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
Satirical and unapologetically feminist, the young women in this novel struggle against a controlling corporation and battle an oppressive government as they discard the societal constructs that have been thrust upon them. Plus it's hilarious.
7. Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew QuickThis story about a teenage boy planning a violent act was full of pain and anger, but also goodness and humanity. We affect one another in unexpected ways, and this novel illustrated that well. It also did a great job of portraying a caring adult helping a young person who was desperate, something we don't see often in teen fiction.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
A friendship between two Mexican-American teenagers is highlighted in this teen novel, which I think is the first one I read that normalizes being gay. It shows what is possible when parents are supportive and people take the time to understand people they care about, and that gives me hope.
9. Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson
Lawson (aka, The Bloggess) talks about mental illness a lot, constantly reminding us that depression lies and that you're not alone. Those messages shine through here as well in her second memoir, plus it's full of stories that will make you laugh.
10. The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
What inspires hope more than a story about an unprepared young boy growing up while battling evil? Of course he couldn't do it alone, and the messages about friendship and joining together with others to be stronger are always relevant and important ones.
When I thought about this topic, I assumed my list would be populated with lots of books very clearly about people overcoming terrible situations and many of them would, of course, be true stories. Then I remembered how little nonfiction I read and, honestly, how dark my reading tastes are. I don't read very many books that are hopeful in the way I was looking for. But I think all of these showcases the basic goodness of people and the importance of understanding others, being our best selves, and not just knowing what is right, but taking action.