Overcoming Adversity: Seven Books to Inspire You During These Trying Times
This pandemic will likely go down in history as one of the most challenging periods of the 21st century. Luckily, there are extraordinary individuals throughout history who have gone through major adversity, and their stories are well-documented in memoirs and biographies.
Now that we’re all stuck inside for the foreseeable future, it’s a great time to snuggle up with a good book. If you are looking for inspiration during this stay-at-home period, check out one of these seven books today. While they won’t make the pandemic go away, they might give you the perspective-shift you need to get through these trying times.
1. Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
When you think about people who went through adversity in isolation, Anne Frank is probably one of the first people to come to mind. While we may all be dreading the thought of 30+ days of social isolation, Anne and her family endured nearly two years of hiding up in their annex. Her diary is a first person account of what it was like to hide from the Nazis during WWII. While her story didn’t end happily, the hope for the future that she shares in her diary may offer the inspiration you need to get through these next few months.
2. The Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela’s story is one of the most compelling of his generation. As the leader of the political revolution in South Africa, he peacefully established a new government and took steps to end apartheid. Mandela’s autobiographical account of his life is an honest portrayal of what it was like to be born in a divided South Africa, work to restore his homeland, spend 28 years in prison, and eventually become president of his newly freed nation.
3. Frida by Hayden Herrera
If you’re an art enthusiast, the subject of this biography needs no introduction. Frida Kahlo is one of the most recognizable names in modern art. Kahlo endured a great deal of suffering in her life, first caused by a horrific accident when she was 18 and then by her husband, who had countless affairs. Kahlo was able to overcome this adversity and leave her mark on the art world, and this biography recounts her artistic triumph.
4. Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow
If you’ve seen the hit musical or listened to the soundtrack, you know that Alexander Hamilton had to overcome a lot of adversity before becoming one of the nation’s most influential founding fathers. If you haven’t, listen to the opening line of the first song on the soundtrack—you’ll get the idea. While Hamilton did not come from the most socially accepted background, through hard work and dedication he was able to rise up and make a name for himself during and after the American Revolution. During this period of staying at home, hopefully reading this biography will inspire you to “not throw away your shot” and pursue your dreams.
5. Virginia Woolf by Hermione Lee
Famous for touting the need for “A Room of One’s Own” in order to be intellectually productive, Virginia Woolf may be the perfect historical figure to get to know during this pandemic. As a leader of the prominent Bloomsbury Group, Woolf’s influence on the modern literary world cannot be understated. In this 750-page showstopping biography, Lee expertly weaves together the true tale of Woolf’s literary prowess and her debilitating struggles with mental illness, painting the picture of a woman who rose above adversity to leave her own mark on the literary wall.
6. The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel
If you enjoy wilderness memoirs like Into the Wild, you’ll love The Stranger in the Woods. The story of the so-called “last true hermit” seems especially appropriate during a time when we are all turning our homes into hermitages. Christopher Knight, the subject of this biography, spent nearly 30 years living alone in the woods of Maine, and this gripping tale recounts the brilliant moves he made to survive his time in isolation. After reading this biography, you might be a little more grateful for your quarantine-mates.
7. Thurgood Marshall: American Revolutionary by Juan Williams
As the first African American Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall is often thought of as one of the architects of race-relations in America. In order to achieve such an illustrious position, Marshall certainly had to overcome a lot of adversity, and this biography documents his storied life, including his groundbreaking Brown vs Board of Education decision. Marshall’s life also has almost nothing to do with social isolation, so if you are looking for an inspirational escape from thoughts of being trapped at home, this is it.
Even though the uncertainty of an outbreak may make life seem bleak right now, there is an upside: you now have more time to read. Picking up one of these autobiographies, biographies, or memoirs may be just the inspiration you need to turn these months of social distancing into something positive.
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Hannah Smith is Joy Organics Director of Communications. She is driven by her passion for providing clear and accessible wellness and CBD education. In 2015, she received her BA in Media, Culture and the Arts from The King’s College in New York City and before Joy Organics, worked as writer and photographer in the Middle East and North Africa. Her work has been featured on Forbes, Vice, Vox, Denver Post, and the Coloradoan.