I think it is safe to say that, for many of us, life in the outside world feels a little raw at the moment. Society is inflamed and burning hot with outrage. Everything feels sore to the touch. Most of the time, I try block it out, I disengage because I don't know how to fix it. I'd say most of my Internet consumption centres around video clips of cute, unlikely animal friendships.
I'm sure some of you feel the same. It's easier to make your world smaller and stick to the things you can control, because if you touch the hurt, if you really look it in its ugly face, you will see your own vulnerability and humanness. I think the only way to fight despair is with compassion and intentionally seeking the good in every day. I think books have the ability to open up our hearts in this way, when we are craving both escape and connection at the same time.
So last night, Penguin Random House hosted a hashtag on Twitter where you could ask a real, live librarian for a book recommendation. I asked for suggestions on beautifully written books that would restore my faith in humanity, and my my did the book geeks of the Internet (90% sporting profile pictures with pleasingly stereotypical horn-rimmed glasses) deliver. The suggestions were too good not to share, so here they are:
Station Eleven, by Emily St John Mandel // An enduring favourite of mine. The world has been wiped out by a virus and only a few survivors remain. The story follows a travelling Shakespeare troupe, who risk everything for art and humanity.
Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, by Beth Hoffman // A story of a little girl who loses her mother, but finds a warm, eccentric new family under the Georgia Sun. This is a sweet, light read that speaks to the power of female friendship.
I'm Still Here, by Clelie Avit // Elisa is in a coma but nobody knows that she is conscious of everything around her. Thibault is in hospital visiting his brother who killed two teenage girls in a drunk driving accident. He finds her room and starts speaking to her, setting off a love story that may save both their lives. Tears!
Wonder by Palacio // August is a boy born with a terrible facial deformity. As he sets off to go to a normal school for the first time, this story is about how he convinces his classmates that he is just like them underneath it all.
A Man Called Ove, by Fredrick Backman // This bestseller revolves around a grumpy old man who is slowly softened as he solves neighbourly crises big and small. It's humorous, unpredictable and completely endearing.
Constellation of Vital Phenomena, by Anthony Marra // 8-year-old Havaa watches her father get abducted by Russian soldiers in Chechnya. Their lifelong friend and neighbour is also watching, and brings Havaa to the one person who can help, Sonja, a tough-minded doctor trying to keep her hospital going. Over 5 extraordinary days, the intricate connection between these three unlikely companions is revealed.
The Enchanted, by Rene Denfield // An inmate on death row listens to the life story of the man in the cell next to him, whose execution has been set. He also listens to the investigator who pieces together his past, while falling in love with the prison priest. Here he finds that this place of terror and brutality can also be enchanted.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Anne Barrow // Juliet discovers a letter from a man she has never met, who came across her name inside the cover of a book. As they exchange letters, she is drawn into his eccentric group of friends, resulting in a story that celebrates the written word in all its forms.
The Last Thousand: One School's Promise in a Nation at War, by Jeffrey E.Stern // OK this one is not a fiction novel, but a true account of the intertwining lives of six members of the Marefat school, an institution built by one of the country's most vulnerable minority groups. It's a nuanced portrayal of the complex history of Afghanistan, American occupation and the ways in which communities rally together.
Do you have a book that you read when you're down or want your faith in humanity restored? Let me know!