It's no secret that 2020 has been challenging for most of us. It's been a year filled with uncertainty and uneasiness as we tried to navigate an unprecedented event. Frankly, all of us could use a little break and a mood booster so we can welcome the new year with renewed optimism. If you're looking for much-needed inspiration to embrace 2021 on a hopeful note, here are inspirational books filled with stories of resilience that will uplift your spirits.
For those who like slice-of-life tales: A Man Called Ove
We all know an "Ove", the grumpy person who has a short temper, staunch traditional beliefs and a keen dislike for anything noisy which include (but not limited to) pop music, children and the sound of laughter. Maybe it's your neighbour, your elementary school teacher or it could be you. Known as a "bitter" person, Ove keeps to himself until a friendly, outgoing young family becomes his new neighbours. It's the perfect set-up for comedic situations and indeed the book will give you a lot of laughs but it offers much more than that. As Ove begins to open up about his past, he finds the courage to hope again for a good life. It's a story with a perfect blend of poignant and pleasant presented in engrossing prose. A Man Called Ove is a good pick for anyone who wants to read a touching tale with lots of heart.
Memorable quote: "Death is a strange thing. People live their whole lives as if it does not exist, and yet it's often one of the great motivations for living."
For history lovers: Pachinko
Set in the early 20th century, Pachinko tells the story of Korean immigrants in Japan. This historical fiction saga starts with a single decision by a young woman named Sunja who got pregnant out of wedlock. Instead of accepting her married lover's offer of making her his mistress, Sunja instead marries an ill, believed-to-be-dying Christian minister to give her child a "proper name". After their marriage, the two lives in Osaka in hopes of having a better life. However, upon arrival, Sunja is shocked that Koreans are treated poorly and allowed to work only menial jobs that pay too little. As such, Korean immigrants resort to working various odd — and sometimes dangerous — livelihoods, one of which includes running shady gambling places such as pachinko parlours. It's a riveting story filled with rich imagery and dynamic characters who are just trying their hardest to survive and thrive.
By the way, in case you haven't heard, Pachinko will soon be adapted to a drama with Lee Min Ho as one of the leads.
Memorable quote: "Living every day in the presence of those who refuse to acknowledge your humanity takes great courage."
For fans of fantasy: One Hundred Years of Solitude
This Gabriel García Márquez masterpiece is perhaps best known for being a long, confusing book because it features different characters of the same name. But once you become familiar with the main characters' robust family tree, what you'll find is an enchanting, inspirational tale about perseverance, human nature and the complexity of our intertwined history. One Hundred Years of Solitude introduces you to the Buendía clan who is haunted by the past and can't seem to escape a cycle of bad habits and misfortunes that run in the family. Seemingly trapped to relive their ancestors' lives, will members of the Buendía family ever break free of this generational curse? A few pages in and you'll discover that it's not the answer to this question that matters but the journey of each character that's fuelled with hopes of fulfilling their life goals — whatever it may be and whatever the result will be.
Memorable quote: "There is always something left to love."
For those who love reading autobiographical gems: Unbowed
Written by Kenyan social activist and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize Wangarĩ Muta Maathai, this autobiography is one of the most inspirational books to read when you're feeling down about the state of the world and want to make a change. It's a triumphant story of perseverance in the face of an unfavourable situation. Against all odds, Maathai was able to obtain education and eventually receive a PhD, making her the first woman to do so in East and Central Africa. Throughout her life, she continued to be a catalyst for change as she worked to help revive forests while at the same time empowered women planting trees by giving them a livelihood. Her unwavering enthusiasm is really admirable and will inspire you to take action even during these challenging times.
Memorable quote: "What people see as fearlessness is really persistence."
For those who enjoy a classic read: Great Expectations
Most of Charles Dickens' characters suffer from an unfortunate fate and the orphan Pip of Great Expectations is no exception. However, unlike the others, Pip actually had the chance to reinvent himself so he can have a better life. When a mysterious benefactor suddenly comes into his life, Pip formed "great expectations" and wished to live a luxurious life, become famous and marry the beautiful woman he's become obsessed with. Soon, he finds out that there is more to life than achieving what you thought you wanted. Whether you admit it or not, we also have hopes that were crushed. Perhaps, this year, our plans and goals were put on pause and we're naturally disappointed. But Great Expectations reminds us that life goes on and we have to deal with life the way it is and not how we expect it to be.
Memorable quote: "I have been bent and broken, but — I hope — into a better shape."
Which of these inspirational books will you be adding to your to-read list?
(Cover photo from: Nguyen Thu Hoai via Unsplash)
Next, check out these non-cheesy self-help books that people swear by.