Sometimes, storytelling is a powerful tool to inspire you to weather the storms during life, helping you through hard times, offering comfort and guidance. Whether you need encouragement, personal or career inspiration, a good laugh or a bit of navigation for your life’s troubles, other people’s stories and experiences can offer you invaluable lessons for pushing through darker days.
There are many books about getting through hard times — rich, personal narratives from authors whose books highlight the resilient nature of the human spirit.
We can learn so much from the shared experiences of others. Here are six memoir books about difficult times that encourage and remind you that things are bound to get better no matter what you’re facing.
In this gripping memoir, Jane Hawking details her marriage to the renowned scientist Stephen Hawking. She discusses the round-the-clock care as his body deteriorated from motor neuron disease, to the high-profile divorce that followed several difficult years in the public eye. Captivating, candid and self-reflective, Hawking’s memoir takes the reader on a journey from sacrifice and loss of one’s dreams to a life full of love and hope.
The Road From Coorain by Jill Ker Conway
Australian-American historian and author Jill Ker Conway shares an extraordinary coming-of-age story in her memoir The Road From Coorain. In it, readers follow Conway during her childhood years in the rugged terrain of the Australian outback to her university days in the bustling suburbs of Sydney. Conway overcomes the loss of her father and her mother’s subsequent depression and dependency. We watch her grow up and find self-worth, while rooting a deep commitment to her dreams of a better future. In many ways, Conway draws a picture of her upbringing as both utopia and abyss. Everything was a part of her life’s journey to becoming the first female president of Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts.
Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes
For introverts, saying yes to jumping into new, unfamiliar terrain — from office parties to vacations to regular outings — is not usually in the vocabulary. When Shonda Rhimes, creator of popular television series Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, was challenged by her sister to say yes for an entire year to anything that scared her, she agreed. In her memoir Year of Yes, Rhimes talks about her introverted childhood as the youngest of six children and the transformative power saying yes has had on her willingness to explore, celebrate and find joy in her life.
Ordinary Girls: A Memoir by Jaquira Diaz
Jaquira Diaz’s debut Ordinary Girls is a must-read among books about resilience and victory. Beginning with her younger years in Puerto Rico’s housing projects to the rough inner-city neighborhoods of Miami, Jaquira shares the struggles of her tumultuous home life, abuse, addictions, and her sexual and cultural identities. With its electric lyricism and prose, Ordinary Girls is equal parts despair and shame as it is hopeful and loving. It’s the story of a regular girl who challenges society’s idea of girlhood with intelligence and understanding.
Forward: A Memoir by Abby Wambach
Abby Wambach, the highest goal scorer in the history of men’s and women’s soccer, understands that no amount of skill or talent exempts you from life’s harshest “winters.” In her memoir, Abby begins her story during her younger years playing on the boy’s soccer team, identifying with her sexuality as a teenager and eventually reconciling her professional success with her personal struggles in adulthood. As a women’s rights activist, Abby’s tale of strength is a reminder to face life’s challenges with courage and determination above all else.
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer as he was wrapping up years of study to become a neurosurgeon. In his memoir When Breath Become Air, Kalanithi — a doctor, patient, husband and new father — asks the question: What makes a meaningful life? Although Kalanithi passed away in March 2015 while writing his book, his story and insights have guided many readers in grappling with their own existence and mortality.