By Ivet Koleva

It’s safe to say that times have been rough. With the ongoing pandemic, many of us are in need of an escape – a few pick-me-up words to remind us that everything will be alright. With this in mind, I took it upon myself to empty my Amazon wish list and order some books that have taken over the internet’s bestsellers list. After a solid month or so of going through the stack, I decided to list some books that stood out from the others and made a different story happen within its pages, by using the themes of positivity and encouragement.

Grab your drinks and blankets, here’s what we’ll be reading…

The Courage to Be Disliked – Ichiro Kishimi, Fumitake Koga

“The courage to be happy, also includes the courage to be disliked.”

This book discusses life lessons to find lasting happiness while quitting the people-pleasing.

Initially, I was ready to declare it as another self-help book to add to the bookshelf, but the discussions inside had me going through pages and thinking otherwise. The book isn’t your average bulleted self-help book, rather it’s written in dialogue form to present a conversation taking place between a young man and a philosopher.

Admittedly, this kind of book isn’t everyone’s cup of tea – especially when taking it upon themselves to read through a wishlist of books. However, despite the fact that it may lack in initial excitement, the story carries an aura of authenticity and truth that we are sometimes uncomfortable in realizing, or maybe even disagree with.

Readers will delve into the themes of how we rely too much on others’ opinions, causing our true selves to be buried and drowned by the constant need to satisfy and be perfect in other’s eyes.

The characters aren’t written in a way to capture your heart either: they’re rather quite based on human nature with strengths and flaws. You may like the young man at first, but think he’s foolish or naïve a few pages later. You may be on the side of the philosopher, only to find yourself disagreeing with him a few chapters later.

The beauty and reason to recommend this book is the fact that it offers thought and reflection, an ability for you to have a discussion with yourself. Regardless if you end up loving or disagreeing with some of its perspectives, there is still a thought-provoking quality to the book that allows you to reflect on how you go about living your life.

Gmorning, Gnight!: Little Pep Talks for Me & You – Lin-Manuel Miranda and Johnny Sun

So if I write “relax”, then I’m nervous. Or if I write “cheer up”, then I’m blue. I’m writing what I wish somebody would say, then switching the pronoun to you

Are you finding yourself too busy to sit down and read? From the star and creator of Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Gmorning, Gnight! contains a bunch of short, pick-me up prose poetry pieces that are often as short as a tweet you see on social media.

This book is easy to get through in one or two sittings. If you’re looking for a story to delve into, then this book isn’t the one, and you should save your time and money for the next two options on our list instead.

However, if you’re in need of a laugh, an emotional relief or are a fan of social media poets Rupi Kaur or r.h. sin, then consider picking up this book.

There are also playful illustrations, created by Johnny Sun, that make the pages come alive and make them flow together while the poems go on and on. I personally recommend adding a few sticky notes to the pages with your favorite poems or illustrations so that you can quickly pick up the book, re-read those pages and continue on with your tasks for the day.

The Authenticity Project – Clare Pooley

“Meet force with softness. Recipe for life. Now you understand.’ And, strangely, he did.”

From the author of The Sober Diaries, this book serves a reminder of not living a lie – your reality is not perfect and you shouldn’t strive in trying to portray it, because there is a cost of losing yourself in the process. If there’s truly something holding you back, don’t lie to yourself. You need to start stepping out of your comfort zone to change what isn’t working in your life.

The story begins with a 79-year old artist living a secluded life, mourning after the loss of his wife. The more he thinks about it, the more he realizes that people don’t care to know much about each other anymore.

He decides to do a project – The Authenticity Project. He takes a notebook and writes truths about himself, before leaving it on a table of his local café in South West London. Little by little, the notebook finds its way to the hands of those who feel the need to share things but can’t necessarily bring themselves to do it. From a café owner to an influencer, this notebook ends up connecting people from all walks of life.

This is a book that is personal to the author, Clare Pooley. After her battle with breast cancer and striving to follow her resolution to quit drinking, she was inspired to continue writing after publishing The Sober Diaries. She believes we need to drop the pretentiousness everyday life often instills inside us, and to see how rewarding it can be to put aside the filters, the need for the perfect life, stop the lies we tell ourselves, and to truly let people in.

I highly recommend readers pick up this book: it’s got the right elements to absorb you into following the lives of the characters within the pages but also keep you present enough to question and evaluate your own life. That feeling and reflection, once I found myself on the last page of the book, was more than enough to put it on this list so that others can add this story to their list and bookshelves as well.

The Midnight Library – Matt Haig

“If you aim to be something you are not, you will always fail. Aim to be you…”

This is a book that embodies the words whimsical and quirky. Before I elaborate, I do want to warn that this book contains mentions and thoughts of suicide in the beginning – it opens discussion for mental health and healing so please be prepared if you do decide to add this book to your list. If you’re looking for a light-hearted read then I would wait and choose the other options on the list, but if you’re in need for some reflection, and a charmingly complex and deep story, then this is definitely worth checking out.

The story goes like this: a young woman finds herself miserable and full of regrets. She’s stuck in life and is on the verge of giving up her life. However, she soon wakes up to find that she’s in a Midnight Library. With as little spoilers as possible, it’s a library with an infinite amount of books, and as our protagonist goes through each book, we learn that they each contain a life that could have been if one simply took a different path, or made different choices. This story highlights the themes of second chances and how it’s never too late to start living, and that it’s books themselves that can remind you of that and be there for you when you need help in life.

Matt Haig’s other work includes How to Stop Time and Reasons to Stay Alive. He bases most of his work on his constant fight with his mental health, and the harsh and hopeless years of his life he faced because of it. I won’t mince words, this book begins with heartbreak and harsh blame and guilt, but readers will find themselves comforted and connected to as the story continues. I personally came away with this message to share: Your past is behind you, and you cannot lose yourself in it because you will instead turn your future just as bitter. The only way to learn is to live, and if you needed that similar reminder as I did too, then this book is for your wish list.

There are endless books to choose from, and these were some of my personal favorites this month as we continue to push through the online work and season changing blues. I hope you’re able to find some new stories to add to your bookshelves from this list. Perhaps these stories won’t simply stay in the book for you, but instead bring you some inspiration and realization that you can keep within your mind as you continue to live.

Happy Reading!