There are some books that simply stay with you. They leave you feeling inspired, joyful, contemplative, and ready to face the world.
To me, these are the books about life – each one a writer’s story of how they see the world and the beauty they find in it. With their hopeful messages about life – and how ultimately, things will work out – they’re ideal to curl up with during troubled times.
To inspire and bring a bit more beauty to your reading list, here are eleven favourite books about life that will rekindle your love for the world…
The Overstory by Richard Powers
A paean to the natural world, Richard Powers weaves together interlocking fables that range from antebellum New York to the late twentieth-century Timber Wars of the Pacific Northwest and beyond. The Overstory is a gateway into the vast, interconnected, and magnificently intricate world that we depend on in so many ways: the world of trees.
“You and the tree in your backyard come from a common ancestor. A billion and a half years ago, the two of you parted ways. But even now, after an immense journey in separate directions, that tree and you still share a quarter of your genes. . . .”The Overstory
The Salt Path by Raynor Winn
When Raynor Winn’s world fell apart and she lost her home and livelihood, she set out on a remarkable journey with her partner. Together they walked the length of the South West Coastal Footpath, which unexpectedly helps them to rebuild their lives in a remarkable way. Winn’s vivid descriptions of the scenery and their experiences on the way make The Salt Path such an inspirational read.
“A new season had crept into me, a softer season of acceptance. Burnt in by the sun, driven in by the storms. I could feel the sky, the earth, the water and revel in being part of the elements without a chasm of pain opening at the thought of the loss of our place within it all. I was a part of the whole.”The Salt Path
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
Paul Kalanithi was at the pinnacle of his career as a surgeon when he was diagnosed with inoperable cancer aged just thirty-six. When Breath Becomes Air is the story of his transformation from a medical student to surgeon, to patient, seeking answers as to what makes a virtuous and meaningful life. The prose and thoughts as he explores questions such as what you do when life is catastrophically interrupted is a compelling read.
“Human knowledge is never contained in one person. It grows from the relationships we create between each other and the world, and still it is never complete.”When Breath Becomes Air
A Whole Life by Robert Seethaler
I’ve mentioned this book on the blog so many times before, and it also features in my memoir of my time living in the Swiss Alps. A Whole Life gently shares the story of one man’s quiet life in the Austrian mountains, in which not much happens and yet everything happens.
“You can buy a man’s hours off him, you can steal his days from him, or you can rob him of his whole life, but no one can take away from any man so much as a single moment. That’s the way it is.”A Whole Life
Into the Magic Shop by Dr James Doty
A neurosurgeon’s beautiful testament to the mysterious connections between our heart and mind, Into the Magic Shop is one of my favourite books on approaching life mindfully and with a kind, open heart.
“There are a lot of things in life we can’t control. It’s hard, especially when you’re a child, to feel like you have control over anything. Like you can change anything. But you can control your body and you can control your mind. That might not sound like a lot, but it’s very powerful. It can change everything.”Into the Magic Shop
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
A heartbreaking yet beautiful book, all of the people I have recommended All Thing Light We Cannot See to have loved it. Long and marvelously pieced together, it’s the story of a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II. I really hope you adore it as I did.
“But it is not bravery; I have no choice. I wake up and live my life. Don’t you do the same?”All the Light We Cannot See
From a Low and Quiet Sea by Donal Ryan
From a Low and Quiet Sea really hit me hard. Starting in Syria and crossing the water to reach Ireland, this story of three men is one of the most emotional books I’ve read, as well as one of the most memorable. I love author Rachel Joyce’s review: “It’s a beautiful, luminous kind of piece – full of mystery, compassion, woven with such skill; heartbreaking and restorative. I will carry these splintered men around with me for a long time, along with the women who have loved them.”
“Trees live, like you and me, long lives, and they know things. They know the rule, the only one that’s real and must be kept. What’s the rule? You know. I’ve told you lots of times before. Be kind.”From a Low and Quiet Sea
A Single Swallow by Horatio Clare
Swallows migrate from Southern Africa to Britain each year, following the same routes and nesting. Horatio Clare’s journey recounted in A Single Swallow takes him from Cape Town, following the migration as the birds fly north, arriving in a Welsh barn to nest in May. How do they know where to go and at what time to fly? The nature writing is beautiful, capturing the movement of the swallows as he describes a journey as old as time which brings the start of summer.
Mornings with Rosemary by Libby Page
A story of an unlikely group of people protesting about the closure of a lido in London is the theme at the heart of Mornings with Rosemary. But it is more than that as it brings people together over a common cause, sparks friendships, and is told in such a joyful uplifting way.
“You’re doing a great job,’ says Erin. ‘It might not feel like it all the time, but that’s okay. You’re allowed to feel lonely, you’re allowed to feel panicked. It doesn’t make you any less of a person.”Mornings with Rosemary
The Gift of Rain by Tan Twan Eng
I first read The Gift of Rain over five years ago, perhaps closer to ten. Although I can no longer remember the finer details of the book – the story of Philip Hutton, an alienated half-Chinese, half-English youngest child of the head of one of Penang’s great trading families – I can clearly remember how it made me felt. As I turned the final page, I knew Tan Twan Eng would be one of my best-loved writers for a long time to come. This book will be a perfect reread for me this year.
“Like the rain, I had brought tragedy into many people’s lives but, more often than not, rain also brings relief, clarity, and renewal. It washes away our pain and prepares us for another day, and even another life. Now that I am old I find that the rains follow me and give me comfort, like the spirits of all the people I have ever known and loved.”The Gift of Rain
Mountain Song: A Journey to Finding Quiet in the Swiss Alps by Lucy Fuggle
Mountain Song is my own memoir of my years spent living alone in the mountains, in picturesque Meiringen in Switzerland’s Berner Oberland. It’s partly a love letter to the mountains and the solace of wild places, but also charts the transformation I went through during that time. I arrived shy and insecure, struggling to grapple with my identity as an autistic woman who has always been very different, and left with the courage and self-assurance I could only get from a lot of time alone.
Which books have rekindled your love for the world recently? I’d love to hear from you – let me know on Facebook. – Lucy x