It's not uncommon to be feeling down this summer. If you've found yourself struggling to stay motivated or inspired during quarantine, you can find a remedy in meaningful language and storytelling.
Now's the perfect time to fall in love with reading, so here are 10 books to build your inspirational reading list during this isolation period:
1. "When Breath Becomes Air” by Paul Kalanithi
This memoir holds a special place in my heart. My worn copy is filled with underlines and stars and sketches of the mountains that Kalanithi metaphorically ascends in this story of a surgeon's fight against cancer. It's a moving piece that encourages its readers to strive to live to the fullest, weaving together breathtakingly beautiful moments and sobering reflections on how to discover what matters most to each of us.
2. "Braving The Wilderness” by Brené Brown
This book illustrates how we cultivate belonging and rediscover our individualism. Brené Brown is a professor, lecturer, and author; you might've seen her powerful TED Talks on vulnerability, trust, and understanding. If you're looking for classic guidance and how-to empowerment, Braving The Wilderness is for you.
3. "The Old Man And The Sea” by Ernest Hemingway
Hemingway's style is unmatched: his writing was often minimalistic and understated – a result of his history in reporting – and readers are left to discern and interpret implicit themes. The Old Man And The Sea gracefully affects this style as it details Santiago's fortitudinous 84-day pursuit of a single fish. Over and over, the old man is tragically deterred, but his perseverance never wanes: "But man is not made for defeat," he observes.
This story explores themes of purpose, of strength and focus, and of living intentionally; it's a perfect answer to a reader seeking a better understanding of themselves.
4. "Becoming” by Michelle Obama
I adore Michelle Obama. The feats she's accomplished, the trials she's overcome, and the strides she's made in gender equality and inclusivity are unbelievable. Becoming shares how Michelle worked to build the future she believed in, and her down-to-earth voice empowers her readers to do the same. While it's a memoir written by a political figure, it's much more inspirational than political.
5. "Uplifting Leaders (Who Happen To Be Women)” by Barbara Brown and Margaret Flynn
Did you know that only 7.4% of Fortune 500 companies are led by female CEOs? Uplifting Leaders is a short anthology that shares the stories and advice of 25 outstanding leaders (who happen to be women) in order to empower a new generation of women in business. From healthcare administrators to nonprofit founders and financial management leaders, there are so many unique perspectives to be inspired by.
Plus, the book includes tearable wallet-size cards that carry empowering quotes! How practical is that?
6. "Start Where You Are" by Meera Lee Patel
To most accurately tune into your state of mind, you might be looking for a form of reflection that's a step beyond a story of someone else's experiences. Start Where You Are is an interactive journal that encourages and enables self-exploration in a way that only you will find most meaningful. It's full of elegant art and delicate hand-lettered quotes that truly engage your creativity.
7. "On The Road” by Jack Kerouac
An American masterpiece, On The Road is a story of travel and growth with unbounded and interpretive themes. It's an analytically-rich story because Kerouac's experiences can be understood as starkly different through the lenses of different audiences: to the disillusioned or those with wisdom of age, it's a woeful critique of society, but to the inspired, it explores self-discovery and freedom.
Today, these perspectives are simultaneously relevant, which makes this the perfect isolation read.
8. "Blink” by Malcolm Gladwell
This research-focused book appeals to the scientifically-minded (and anyone interested in their mind, really). Gladwell synthesizes popular psychological topics with contemporary publications to impart lessons of trust, emotion, and judgement that illuminate the workings of our adaptive unconscious. If you've felt lost during quarantine, or if you've felt your emotional intelligence begin to dull, this book could help restore your trust in intuition.
9. "The Golden Rules” by Bob Bowman
Legendary athletes succeed when they're guided by outstandingly wise coaches. Bob Bowman was one of Michael Phelps' swimming coaches, and his motivational book shares the lessons and leadership that allow people to define and achieve their goals. Choosing stories designed to teach us better ways to be ourselves is the perfect way to spend this isolated, introspective period.
10. "But What If We’re Wrong?" by Chuck Klosterman
Musing about our culture and era as it might be understood to 22nd and 23rd-century historians is this book's exercise in pop philosophy. If you're looking to ground yourself amid what sometimes feels like the world's collapse, reading But What If We're Wrong? is a perfect technique.
I find it inspiring to consider that no matter what we're going through right now, we've all built our lives around the idea that each of us will somehow improve our world. Writers, programmers, civil engineers, artists, parents—we all have a purpose, and we're all striving towards a better future. This book reminds you to consider what that future can look like.