Reading has long been a pastime to help us get through times of crisis, whether personally or globally. Reading is also a great thing to do now that we have a bit more time on our hands! Sometimes, when this all gets a bit too much, a more hopeful read is better to turn to, so these are my top five (they are not in any particular order because I can’t decide which is better!) Each one is a reminder of how wonderful the world can be, some are novels, others poetry but each are hopeful and mostly escapist.
- How to Stop Time By Matt Haig.
Matt Haig is renowned for his writings around mental health and positivity. This book is one of his few fictional works which centres around a man who ages much slower than the average human being so has seen considerably more of the past. Haig takes the reader compellingly from the time of witch burnings to Shakespeare to the present day. If you are struggling during these times you may wish also to check out Notes on a Nervous planet (for anxiety) or Reasons to stay alive (for depression). We are all finding our way through these uncertain and changing times in different ways, and some are coping better than others. But know that you are not alone if you are struggling. Scarlett Curtis’ book ‘Its not okay to feel blue and other lies’ also might be useful.
2. The Lord of The Rings By J. R. R. Tolkien
A book centred around companionship and unity, as well as myth, wizards, elves and hobbits, Tolkien wrote the book based on his friendships as well as with his love of medieval mythology.
“The World is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater”J. R. R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
3. The Poetry Pharmacy, William Sieghart
Poetry is often a source of solace during difficult times, and through these books Sieghart seeks to console the emotions with a suitable poem. Simply flick to the feeling of your choosing and have a read. Emilia Clarke is also currently doing readings of these poems on her instagram, along with other actors such as Stephen Fry and Andrew Scott which you can check out to get a taster, and when you buy the book all profits go to her charity ‘Same You’.
4. A Pair of Silver Wings By James Holland
Sometimes a reminder of a past crisis that people got through can bring hope for current ones. This is a really endearing book about friendship and love during the war as well as focusing on some mental health issues.
5. Silas Marner by George Eliot
This is quite a short novel based around someone who feels like an outsider in a new town slowly learning how to love life again. It’s a lovely read that demands its reader to look for hope in new, simple places.
Other honourable mentions:
‘Inferno’ by Dan Brown. This may not be overly hopeful but it is topical. There have been a few religious conspiracy theories around this time about this being about the revelations coming true. This book subtly deals with that through the issue of human overpopulation. It is a really thought provoking book, you can read my review here. It isn’t one for escapism out of the issues we are having today, but if you fancy diving deeper into the implications of scientific discovery and disease this is a compelling fictionalisation of it.
‘Frankenstein’ by Mary Shelley. This is one of my all time favourite books, it focuses around two characters mainly, Dr Victor Frankenstein and his creature, scrutinising what it means to be good or bad. Shelley brilliantly plays with the readers idea of what a monster is and how we define it. If you haven’t read it, it is a classic that is worth reading.
Poems you can read online:
‘Hope is the thing with feathers‘ by Emily Dickinson. A poem about hope as a bird coming and going that is always there even if you don’t notice it. This is a great poem for when hope is needed most.
This poem is interesting too although i’m not sure who the author is or where the source of this poem comes from.
Another book that sounds hopeful, as it is in the name, is Humankind: A hopeful history by Rutgar Bregman which is published tomorrow. I can’t wait to have a read and find out what it is like, apparently it’s a bit like ‘Sapiens’.
That was quite a lot more books than five but I hope at least one of them sparked your interest. This is a difficult time for people all over the world, but I hope you are well and finding ways to find some kind of normality. If there are any other books that have helped you to do so please let me know in the comments, I’d love to find more hopeful books to read!
- If you are considering purchasing any books during lockdown and want to continue to support small hughstreet bookshops please consider buying them from Hive, an online retailer of books that supports small businesses.
- For more on how books have helped in the past, this is a fascinating article from The Conversation about how books helped people keep calm during WW2.