Sunday, April 15, 2018

Books for Restoring Your Faith ( In Yourself, In Others, In the Whole, Big, Messy World)

I thought of what to call this list a dozen times over. Books for Reminding You You Aren't Alone, Books to Remind You There Are Worse Things, Books I've Clutched to My Own Chest, and so on.

A few week back I had posted a couple quotes on my Instagram story from Cheryl Strayed's, Tiny Beautiful Things. 

I was nineteen-years-old in a crowded newsroom when my editor set this book on my desk and simply said, "I think you'll like this."

I've read the book four times, each time revealing something new, each time reminding me of a few crucial truths: a full life welcomes everyone, struggle is never a singular experience, and most importantly, we are never truly alone.

After posting the quotes on my Instagram story, I got messages thanking me for sharing,  asking me about the book, or simple recognition that the quote was needed.

So I decided to make this list- a list of books that restore your faith in the workings and ways of this messy world.

Honestly, 99% of books I read do this for me, but these do it something better. These are the book from writers who untangled themselves from their very core and had the courage to write about it.

All of these books have restored my faith in myself, in others, in the sentiment I pour over all I love: "it will all be okay."

Because it will. Because everything you thought you'd never survive, you're now here to tell about. And these are the books from people who are already doing their telling.

1. Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed

This book is the letters written to Sugar of Dear Sugar, an advice column originally published by The Rumpus. The entries are vulnerable, hilarious, and really really real. I mean, these are people anonymously writing in about their biggest worries and problems. Strayed shares with this love and honesty that makes you feel like you are sitting on her sofa with your knees pulled into your chest, asking for guidance. And she gives it flawlessly.

“Don't surrender all your joy for an idea you used to have about yourself that isn't true anymore.” 

“So release yourself from that. Don't be strategic or coy. Strategic and coy are for jackasses. Be brave. Be authentic. Practice saying the word 'love' to the people you love so when it matters the most to say it, you will.” 

“You have to say I am forgiven again and again until it becomes the story you believe about yourself.” 

2. The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan

I cry at everything, but I reaaally cried at this collection of essays. Marina Keegan passed away in a car crash just five days after graduating from Yale. Her work was collected and bound in a book. Her optimism and hope for the world is the stuff of life.

“We don’t have a word for the opposite of loneliness, but if we did, I could say that’s what I want in life.”

“The best years of our lives are not behind us. They're part of us and they are set for repetition as we grow up and move to New York and away from New York and wish we did or didn't live in New York.”

3. Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion

Joan Didion is one of those women that you read her words and sigh with a, "how did she find the words for what I so often feel?" kinda breath. She wrote this collection of essays about her life in California during the 1960's. It's magic.

“See enough and write it down, I tell myself, and then some morning when the world seems drained of wonder, some day when I am only going through the motions of doing what I am supposed to do... on that bankrupt morning I will simply open my notebook and there it will all be, a forgotten account with accumulated interest, paid passage back to the world out there...” 

“We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget. We forget the loves and the betrayals alike, forget what we whispered and what we screamed, forget who we were.”

4. On Writing by Stephen King

You don't need to necessarily like writing or even want to write. I think if you enjoy reading about someone who had the odds against him and the people telling him "no, no, no" and then suddenly, his work gets picked up and he is a household name and all of us are equally scared of red balloons on street gutters, you'll like this one. This book remindsmme you do what you love, period. And you pursue it even when it doesn't seem possible.

“It starts with this: put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn't in the middle of the room. Life isn't a support system for art. It's the other way around.”

“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.”

5. The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls 

I'm emotional even writing about this one. Jeanette Walls leaves it all in this memoir. As a kid, she was raised in less-than-ideal circumstances by parents who were dysfunctional: her father, an alcoholic always promising things just over the horizon, her mother, an unstable artist. Walls grow up trying to navigate the promises of parents and learning to fight and feel for herself. It's one of my favorites.

“I hate Erma," I told Mom...
"You have to show compassion for her..." She added that you should never hate anyone, even your worst enemies. "Everyone has something good about them," she said. "You have to find the redeeming quality and love the person for that."
"Oh yeah?" I said. "How about Hitler? What was his redeeming quality?"
"Hitler loved dogs," Mom said without hesitation.” 

“Once you'd resolved to go, there was nothing to it at all.”

“I felt best when I was on the move, going someplace rather than being there.” 

6. Anything by Anne Lammott (Bird by Bird, Help Wow Thanks, Plan B, and more)

The woman is an unapologetic genius and I find so much comfort in the ways she shares. I haven't read a book of hers I haven't learned from.

“Hope is not about proving anything. It's about choosing to believe this one thing, that love is bigger than any grim, bleak shit anyone can throw at us.” 

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won't have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren't even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they're doing it.”

“We begin to find and become ourselves when we notice how we are already found, already truly, entirely, wildly, messily, marvelously who we were born to be.” 

7. Gift of The Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh 

My mom gifted me this book and it's just everything and more. The writer goes off and spends time, by the sea, reconnecting to her life. Her words make you recognize how abundant and wonderful and forgiving life is. And the importance of trusting your own voice- stepping away from the booming noise of others. It's one of the books I always gift to friends in need of some extra self-love.

“The most exhausting thing in life, I have discovered, is being insincere.” 

“I do not believe that sheer suffering teaches. If suffering alone taught, all the world would be wise, since everyone suffers. To suffering must be added mourning, understanding, patience, love, openness, and the willingness to remain vulnerable.”

I could go on and on. I hope you go and find any bit of lost faith in each of these books, and then I hope you share it with anyone who seems to be needing that same faith-restoring goodness, too.


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