This year’s election has been one of the most divisive, tumultuous races in recent history. Many of us are still battling shock, fear, or a sinister combination of the two–but we are determined to keep fighting.
While petitions and protests have dominated my Facebook feed, I have also heard the rally cry of my fellow writers: we need books more than ever.
We need to read diverse books, and we need to support marginalized authors. Reading has been proven to encourage compassion and improve social skills; by reading stories about and by people who are different than us, we are more easily able to empathize with others (check out this list of resources to find diverse authors).
Books clearly have the power to entertain, educate, and inspire, but words are also an inexhaustible form of comfort. As most of you know, I turn to writing when I need to process my feelings…and if that proves unsuccessful, I read.
“So Matilda’s strong young mind continued to grow, nurtured by the voices of all those authors who had sent their books out into the world like ships on the sea. These books gave Matilda a hopeful and comforting message: You are not alone.”
Books often feel more like friends than bits of paper and ink. Books are also meant to be shared, and so I decided write about stories that I hold close to my heart. I also asked several friends via Facebook and Twitter what books have been comforting in times of grief or hardship, and I am happy to say this became a rather varied list. (Suggestions from others are quoted and credited with permission).
If you are in need of some literary hugs (election-related or not), consider the following titles–and feel free to suggest your own in the comments!
The Harry Potter series by J.K Rowling
The Boy Who Lived has done so much for this generation of readers. At the core of this series is an overwhelming message of love, something we all desperately need. Dumbledore’s Army and The Order of the Phoenix feels especially relevant this year in terms of activism.
A re-reading of this series is long overdue, but I have been listening to the Harry Potter and the Sacred Text podcast (thanks, Samantha!). Casper and Vanessa do a remarkable job, and I am always inspired to apply the episode’s theme to my own life.
“Beauty, grace, and charm my foot. It’s a school for sadists with good tea-serving skills.”
― Libba Bray
The Gemma Doyle Trilogy by Libba Bray
This series is set in Victorian England, but don’t be fooled: it is perfect for Nasty Women who need an extra dose of magic. Following her mother’s death, Gemma discovers she is a sorceress who can travel between the spirit realm and our own. Her story is an honest account of female friendship, grief, and finding her place in the world. I purchased the third installment (The Sweet Far Thing) on audiobook, and my morning commutes have been infinitely more enjoyable.
The Book of Lamentations
Sometimes, I need God to tell me that everything will be okay. And sometimes, I need God to tell me that it’s okay to think everything totally sucks.
Enter Lamentations. The day after the election, I read Lamentations and highlighted every verse that described how I felt. It was incredibly therapeutic, and I was reminded that hope can exist amidst suffering.
The Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer
“These books found me at a very dark time in my life – a space before I was diagnosed with depression & anxiety, yet was experiencing the full extent of the symptoms & didn’t know how to reach out to friends & family to tell them I was suffering. It was so healing for me to escape into a world so very different from my own, someplace where I didn’t need to be part of this body & this mind that I so desperately despised. The books were lifelines for me. Even if my life was crumbling around me, they were always there to disappear into, to forget everything just for a few hours. While I didn’t realise it at the time, in the second book, New Moon, the main character exhibits symptoms of severe depression that I recognised so deeply in myself – & it was partially her family & friends’ horrified reaction to these symptoms that made me realise that what I was feeling wasn’t normal, & I needed to get help.” –Topaz
“Laura felt a warmth inside her. It was very small, but it was strong. It was steady, like a tiny light in the dark, and it burned very low but no winds could make it flicker because it would not give up.”
― Laura Ingalls Wilder
The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder
“The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder!! I read it every single winter around February when winter starts to feel unbearable. It puts my life into perspective. Also, I just love Laura.” -Samantha