The world can be a pretty sh*tty place sometimes. We only have to check our Twitter feeds or turn on the nightly news to hear about more death, more injustice, more reasons to make you feel like you should just give up and curl into the foetal position. But just because things are tough, that doesn’t mean we can give up. In fact, we have to fight harder than ever before to make our voices heard and stand up for what’s right.
It’s certainly not easy, and even though we’ve come so far, we still have a lot of work ahead of us. But in these difficult times, sometimes we just need to escape into a fictional world for a little while. Being constantly switched on to the disturbing and sickening news we’re bombarded with on a daily basis is known to take a toll on people. And that’s why I think so many people find solace in books, and shows, and movies.
One of the most important things about fictional worlds is that, more often than not, they depict stories about overcoming evil and fighting for what’s right. In these dark and uncertain times, we need these kind of stories. We need to be reminded that there is always hope. Friendship and love will outweigh hatred and fear. We all need to be reminded of that at times.
So I’ve compiled a list of book recommendations for when the world feels like sh*t. Because let’s be real: it so often does. Pick up one of these books, get lost in the pages, and you’ll find yourself coming out the other end a slightly different person to when you started it. Whether it’s a realisation that you matter, or that you have the power to be heard, each of these books have messages that we need now more than ever.
“We’ve all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on…that’s who we really are.” — Sirius Black
We all knew The Hate U Give was going to be a tough act to follow, but I absolutely loved On the Come Up—Angie Thomas’s second novel. I’d even go so far as to say that it’s one of my favourite books of 2019. Like Angie’s previous book, On the Come Up again deals with some pretty heavy issues, ranging from racism to police brutality. It’s not easy to read all the time, and nor should it be. Because it’s real. It’s raw. And god, it’s powerful. What I love most about it is its messages about fighting to be heard and how we can all use our voices to tell the world what we stand for. Those are messages we all need to be reminded of at times.
Radio Silence is undoubtedly my favourite book of all time. Not only did it help me through a really tough time in my life, it resonated with me so strongly that I still get emotional thinking about it even three years on. It was just phenomenal. Radio Silence is about a lot of things—the pressures of getting into university, the nuances of sexuality, and parental expectations—there’s one aspect that definitely helps me when I’m feeling like crap. And that’s the core theme that art and creating stuff that matters to you is important. These past few years have made it harder than ever to feel like we can slip into a fantasy world and stop worrying about what’s going on around us for a short time, but Radio Silence tells us that your art matters more now than ever before. Art saves people. Art connects people. Art is often our only solace in this frightening world.
You might think that this one is a bit of an odd choice, but trust me. There’s one thing that we all need in the dark and scary times—humour. And boy, does Gap Year in Ghost Town deliver. What I love most about this book (as well as the sequel, Graveyard Shift in Ghost Town) is that it’s just so damn funny. The type of funny that reminds you no matter your situation and your struggles, you should always try to find something to laugh about. While most of us won’t have to fight a ghost infestation, the core messages about friendship and humour can help us through some of the darkest times.
Red, White & Royal Blue is another one of my favourite reads of 2019. Sure, it was swoony, and sure, it made me want to hang out in palaces in London, but it was also just a very comforting read. And we could all use a comfort read right now. I mean that in the sense that it’s easy to read and quite light hearted most of the time, but it also depicts a world where a woman is president and it doesn’t matter that a prince and the son of America’s leader are in love—in fact, it’s celebrated. This book gives us hope for what might be. It reminds us that the world can still be a loving and accepting place. I hope it is for you too.
Even though the title suggests something quite depressing, this book is anything but. Even though They Both Die at the End is about death, it’s about so many other things too. One of the most significant messages that we can all gain from this powerful, heart-wrenching novel is the importance of living for today. Of being brave enough to be the person you’ve always wanted to be. Of grabbing hold of this one precious life you’ve been given and living every day to the fullest. Because, in the end, we’re all going to die. None of us know if that day is today, or in five years, or even seventy years from now. This book is a reminder to tell the people you love that you love them, and to take all the opportunities you’re given.
And finally, I couldn’t finish this recommendation post without mentioning Harry Potter. I know it’s a pretty obvious choice—and a book a lot of people turn to at hard points in their lives, even if it’s just for nostalgic purposes—but I truly think these books are some of the most hopeful ones out there. It’s a series about good defeating evil and the power of friendship. It’s about recognising that we all have light and darkness inside us, but how we choose to act is up to us. There’s a reason why Harry Potter resonated with so many people. Why it’s still being celebrated over twenty years on. Yes, the movies were great, and yes, the magic is cool. But at its core is an unforgettable story about hope and love.
What are some of the books you turn to when everything feels terrible? Have you read any of the ones I’ve mentioned? What others would you recommend? I’d love to hear your thoughts!