Books to Read for Difficult Times

Books to Read for Difficult Times

Coping through literature 



Frustrating headlines have the ability to overwhelm and make us lose sight of the things we have control over. Amid the extended period of self-isolation, I, along with others, turn to literature to cope. These lifelong companions wait no matter how long we've left them to gather dust, their pages slowly wilting day by day.


I turn to children's literature for desolate times. Strangely enough, I discovered these titles in my early 20s. As C.S. Lewis would say, “But some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.” I revisit my Puffin In Bloom collection, particularly A Little Princess and Anne of Green Gables, which I curatedand completedback in 2015. These stories of feisty but softhearted women strike a chord with me. A beautiful quote I turn to from time to time from Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic: “There's nothing so strong as rage, except what makes you hold it in—that's stronger.”



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I asked the most voracious readers I know for their picks and they sure delivered.


Isa Garcia, Writer and Author of Found

“When things get hard and messy, I like going back to Cheryl Strayed's Tiny Beautiful Things. Formerly a popular advice columnist known as Sugar, Strayed's book tackles heavy and important truths about being human, imperfect and still wholly loved. She writes about hope, about fighting to find the light and remembering what it means to stay true even when everything else is falling apart.”


Gabby Padilla, Actress

“I recently read Letters To A Young Poet when I felt like I was in the thick of the quarantine haze and reading Ranier Maria Rilke’s words gave me a sense of solace and clarity. By the time I finished the book, it felt like I had made a good friend, one I would need to revisit every now and again.”



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Mags Ocampo, Art Director

“I don't actually reread books very often but I guess if I had to choose something to go back to at this moment, it would be Leslie Jamison's The Empathy Exams. In troubled times, I think the best thing to do is to remind ourselves that apathy and indifference are our worst enemies. The Empathy Exams does a good job of dissecting the concept of kindness and leads its readers down an eye-opening, self-reflective path.”


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Ina Capulong, Business Owner

“The book I turn to during difficult times is Rising Strong by Brené Brown. It’s a book written with so much understanding of our humanity, that it reminds me to bravely face my feelings—of fear, discouragement, shame—so that I may rise above them wholeheartedly. It’s a reminder that there are stories of struggle similar to mine and helps me rise above the feeling of being alone in dark times.


“I also turn to memoirs like Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig and Tragedy + Time by Adam Cayton-Holland. Sometimes, the best way to get out of a rut is to look out and be inspired by the courage of others during their dark moments. Empathy is a great cure for being too myopic about our own problems and reading is one of the best ways to learn and experience it.”


Audrey Pe, WiTech Founder

Becoming by Michelle Obama—perhaps because of all the uncertainty in the world, I’ve sought comfort in the former first lady’s story of overcoming personal hurdles to be the amazing woman she is today. Reading it fills me with hope that I can overcome the roadblocks that have come about, and any person who picks up this book can be inspired to live as intentionally as she does, too.


Any Harry Potter book, to me, is a ‘comfort book.' Stories of magic and mystery provide the perfect break from the stress and uncertainty of present day. These stories remind me that, as Dumbledore said, ‘Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.'”



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Angel Yulo, Editor

“I have been reading this creative non-fiction anthology called The Art of the Personal Essay by Phillip Lopate. I’m already in the Virginia Woolf chapter so that’s about halfway. It’s a romp through time, cultures and the minds that reflected on their days in those contexts. It’s not the moment, as some of them are the most mundane things—the shift of shadows, a walk down the streets, or losing a hat—that make an essay special but the way a moment was taken apart and put back together. During quarantine, our lives seem to be on loop, and I have been able to find comfort in deconstructing moments to differentiate this day from the day before.”



RELATED: I Asked the Most Voracious Reader I Know for Her Ultimate Favorite Books


Which books from your collection aid you during difficult times? Share them in the comments below!



Art Matthew Ian Fetalver


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