The best books for finding hope and inspiration

The Books I Picked & Why

The Peace of Wild Things

By Wendell Berry

Book cover of The Peace of Wild Things

Why this book?

While this book of poems, first published in 1964, does hark back to a past era, the poems themselves are timeless. There’s an underlying sense of peace, which gives me solace when I feel bleak and filled with a nameless anxiety. Despite the sorrows, there’s grace in these poems, and in the world Berry speaks of — a simpler world than the one we live in today. Yet, each time I read them, I’m enriched with comfort and hope that frees me from the melancholy of living in a modern world that appears to be losing its way.

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New and Selected Poems, Volume One

By Mary Oliver

Book cover of New and Selected Poems, Volume One

Why this book?

Like nature itself, poetry allows quiet reflection and a deep peace into our lives. Like Mary Oliver, I too, find an almost divine rapture in the sheer glory of Nature’s elemental wildness. In this collection, Oliver's mystical connection to nature combined with her simple language and clear imagery create poems that are profoundly beautiful. During these past years of the global pandemic lockdown, I was unable to restore my soul by visiting the South African wilderness that is so close to the city I live in. Instead, through contemplation of Oliver’s poetry and writing my own, I was able to re-connect with the bliss and strength that the natural world so generously offers us.

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The Prophet

By Kahlil Gibran

Book cover of The Prophet

Why this book?

Gibran’s masterpiece is a divinely inspired poem that I find so emotional, so moving and so full of wisdom, that “On Marriage” was read at my wedding and “On Dying” was read at my beloved husband’s funeral nearly twenty-five years later. Every time I read this book — and I’ve read it many times already — I’m moved to tears. There is no religious dogma here, only the words of a soul that understands all that an ordinary life has to offer. From clothing to criminality, from the joys of love to the pain of loss, and from the laws of man to the laws of G-d, The Prophet addresses our doubts and our fears, leaving us calm and silenced by a deep acceptance of all that this earthly life is.

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Words Under the Words: Selected Poems

By Naomi Shihab Nye

Book cover of Words Under the Words: Selected Poems

Why this book?

Nye’s poems are at once complex and accessible. Even the poems that are easy to read offer hidden depths, reflecting the powerful connections that we share as a family and as part of both local and global communities. She strips away the differences in culture and value, reminding us that to be fully human we, like Fowzi the fool (from the poem “Different Ways to Pray”), still need to talk to our version of G-d as easily as we talk to goats. Of Palestinian-American heritage, Nye’s gentle, insightful words offer the hope that somehow, we’ll find a way to be kind to those who are different from us.

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She Walks in Beauty: A Woman's Journey Through Poems

By Caroline Kennedy

Book cover of She Walks in Beauty: A Woman's Journey Through Poems

Why this book?

In She Walks in Beauty, Caroline Kennedy contemplates the wisdom of different poetic voices as they journey through major life events in a woman's life (whether love and marriage, death and grief or the joys and sorrows of motherhood). By the end of the book, Kennedy distills both bitter and sweet flavours into a celebration of life that often feels unattainable as we live through challenging times. With both compassion and sensitivity born from her own troubled family history and through her love of poetry reflected in this collection, Kennedy offers hope and consolation to others travelling along a difficult road.

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