We all go through rough patches from time to time. Whether it’s our personal life, our professional situation, or the general state of our endeavors, most of us will face crises at one point or another. Books can be of great help in those scenarios.
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The market is full of self-help books offering cliché platitudes around the “you can do it” mantra. The following reads are nothing like that.
I don’t like watered-down personal development. I favor hard facts with an underlying positivity and practicable lessons.
When times are tough, a combination of honest gloominess, usable wisdom, and meaningful encouragement can guide us through hardship.
The best books for difficult times don’t fake blue sky positivity. They champion growth from unavoidable pain.
On this basis, here are six inspirational books for hard times.
6 inspirational books for hard times
The following are some of my favorite books for hard times. Thanks to their powerful lessons and sincere messages, they can help you overcome adversity.
The Road Less Traveled – Scott Peck (1978)
When it comes to inspiring books for hard times, The Road Less Traveled is a compelling advocate for the theory that life sucks but you have to live it anyway.
It doesn’t paint an overly optimistic image of life. It doesn’t cheer up the reader with fluffy platitudes. What it does is offering real guidance for difficult times.
Scott Peck was an American psychiatrist and a devout Christian. The book’s takeaways are, nonetheless, mostly secular.
The message is clear and simple: first and foremost, we must learn how to love ourselves.
When our journey to self-love is well-advanced, we become capable of loving others.
By spreading our love and devoting our time to others, we grow. And this growth is the most potent remedy to our struggles.
The Road Less Traveled by Scott Peck on Amazon
Feeding Your Demons: Ancient Wisdom for Resolving Inner Conflict – Tsultrim Allione (2008)
Joan Ewing adopted the name “Lama Tsultrim Allione” after becoming a Buddhist scholar in the late 60s.
After a couple of academic stints in India and Nepal, she became one of the first American women to be ordained as a Tibetan nun in 1970.
One of her major fields of study was the ancient practice of “Chöd” – meditation revolving around personal conversations with your inner demons.
In 2008, her book Feeding Your Demons became an international bestseller.
Allione bases here work on one of the only surviving manuscripts of Chöd. She translated and adapted it into a modern meditation guide.
I know, this all sounds a bit outlandish.
Regardless, Feeding Your Demons is a recommendable read in times of crisis.
If you are suffering from some kind of depression, anxiety, or shame, chances are you have a demon in your sub-conscience. Not a fable-like vicious creature, but an internal problem that’s tearing you apart.
You don’t have to buy into the concept of conversing with spirits. You simply have to comprehend the nature of your suffering.
Feeding Your Demons will help you identify the root of your anguish. It will encourage you to sit down and have a chat with your inner demons. By learning about their motives, you might defeat them.
Feeding Your Demons: Ancient Wisdom for Resolving Inner Conflict by Tsultrim Allione on Amazon
Everything is F*cked: A Book About Hope – Mark Manson (2019)
Personal growth blogger Mark Manson achieved mainstream fame with his 2016 bestseller The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck.
It was a refreshing take on the everlasting “what is life’s purpose” debate.
His latest book, Everything is F*cked: A Book About Hope, is an equally enticing read.
It explores various areas of human psychology and especially the feeling of hope.
One key takeaway is the inverse proportionality of material comfort and purposefulness. The safer, wealthier, and more comfortable we become, the more we struggle to find meaning in our lives.
Even in hard times, most of us are much better off than our ancestors. In the 21st century, we take everything for granted. Nevertheless, we struggle to pursue our goals with purpose and tenacity. We desperately seek our place in the world.
Unlike its title, Everything is F*cked has a decidedly positive message.
By understanding the world we live in, we stop worrying and complaining so much. As such, we cultivate hope. And hope, Manson argues, is the ultimate drive.
Finally, I particularly enjoyed one story from this book: the tale of Witold Pilecki.
A Polish resistance fighter during the Nazi occupation, Pilecki let himself get arrested and detained at Auschwitz before it became a death factory. He thus volunteered as a resistance spy inside the camp.
Over time, the Polish resistance became unable to support his spying efforts, and Pilecki himself started to notice the changing tide at Auschwitz. The Nazis were turning the prison into a death camp. He even begged the Allies to bomb the gas chambers. His appeals were in vain. Disguised as a baker, Pilecki escaped and continued his resistance efforts outside.
Unfortunately, this hero did not have a happy ending. After the war ended, the new Communist government executed him as an “enemy of the state.”
Pilecki’s story only became public in the 1990s. Even today, most people have never heard his name. Pilecki serves as a reminder that even the most heroic, selfless, and caring humans don’t always receive a reward.
Consequently, his fate offers an opportunity to re-evaluate our expectations from life and society.
Everything is F*cked: A Book About Hope by Mark Manson on Amazon
A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy – William B. Irvine (2008)
A Guide to the Good Life is another great addition to the “new school” of Stoicism.
Stoic thinking is often associated with a detached, apathetic way of looking at the world. Focus on what you can control instead of suffering from external events.
Irvine takes this motto and digs deeper into the concepts of happiness and satisfaction. The book also explores the Stoics’ visions of pain, anger, and grief.
No matter what kind of hardship you’re facing, ancient Stoic wisdom remains a remarkably effective way to conquer your fears.
That’s why Irvine’s modern interpretation of the ancient Stoics’ definition of a good life is among my favorite books for hard times.
Well-written and concise, A Guide to the Good Life utilizes ageless teachings to triumph over 21st-century woes.
A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy by William B. Irvine on Amazon
Siddhartha – Herman Hesse (1922)
“What you search is not necessarily the same as what you find. When you let go of the searching, you start finding.”
Hermann Hesse’s 1922 masterpiece tells the tale of a wealthy Indian Brahmin named Siddhartha who eschews materialism – and goes on a spiritual journey.
Simple but vivid, the book’s underlying theme is the search for purpose in life.
Throughout his odyssey, Siddhartha delves into Eastern philosophies, eclectic religious streams, and Western individualism.
Originally published in German in 1922, Siddhartha became a global success in the 1950s – when its English translation gained wide-ranging acclaim.
Why is this among the best books for hard times?
Hesse’s fundamental message is the following: by themselves, events, deeds, and beliefs do not mean much. As an accumulation, however, they can forge a path toward enlightenment.
Consequently, Siddhartha’s tale helps us consider our experiences in their totality.
We might have failures here and there, but we have to look at the complete journey to understand its true meaning.
Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse on Amazon
Man’s Search for Meaning – Viktor E. Frankl (1946)
Viktor E. Frankl was an Austrian Jewish neurologist who survived four different Nazi concentration camps between 1942 and 1945.
The famous 1946 memoir Man’s Search for Meaning chronicles his time in captivity – notably at Auschwitz. It also examines prisoners’ reactions to the horrors of Nazi death camps.
Frankl split his book into two parts. The first recounts his experiences, while the second outlines his theories on the meaning of life and humanity.
Frankl argues that even in the face of death, every breath you take is part of the meaning of life. The Holocaust survivor subsequently suggests that someone is always looking down.
Whether it’s your friends, deceased loved ones, or a higher power, the one who is looking down doesn’t want to be disappointed.
In Frankl’s mind, this belief kept him going in the direst moments. Philosophy aside, Frankl’s ghastly yet meaningful stories make this one of the best books for hard times. Even in the most desperate situations, a person can find meaning – by simply surviving.
Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl on Amazon
Useful links on Uplifting Books for Hard Times
- more in the category “Culture”
- read 10 Books That Changed My Life
- more under the topic “Books”
- read 7 Minimalist Skills to Help You Through a Recession
- more under the topic “Philosophy”
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Jack Krier is a writer, photographer, and entrepreneur. On Minimalist Focus, he shares his ideas on minimalism and personal growth, helping thousands of readers improve their lives by focusing on the essentials.