The best books with real life stories of people overcoming adversity

Karen Slater Author Of My Journey Through Hell: Finding My True Worth
By Karen Slater

Who am I?

I am Karen Slater the author of My Journey Through Hell. It’s a memoir of addiction and generational abuse. A story about my dysfunctional childhood and the negative consequences that took me to hell and back. The books I love the most are the stories that inspire me. The true stories of real people overcoming tragedy and adversity give me such hope and motivation to keep on doing what I do and reach other people still struggling. I like to think these are the books that radiate courage and optimism and let others know that we all have our crosses to bear but we can bear them nonetheless.

I wrote...

My Journey Through Hell: Finding My True Worth

By Karen Slater,

Book cover of My Journey Through Hell: Finding My True Worth

What is my book about?

Karen grew up believing she was worth nothing, told by her parents on a daily basis she was a useless excuse for a human being. She was beaten and abused and exposed to the dangers of a rough council estate in Newcastle’s West End. 

Her life became a drunken blur as she spiraled out of control and eventually there was only one way out. She was found just in time and in intensive care she watched a slowing heart monitor and begged her God to let her die. As she drifted in and out of consciousness spoke to her, told her that she had something to live for, a purpose, because why should people be made to suffer the way she had? She had to live, had to talk to the abused, help the victims of domestic violence, those who had been raped, and the alcoholics and the addicts. The day she left hospital Karen Slater bought some exercise books and some pens and began to write. This is her story, her message to the world.

The books I picked & why

Shepherd is readers supported. When you buy through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors (learn more).

Stolen Time: One Woman's Inspiring Story as an Innocent Condemned to Death

By Sunny Jacobs,

Book cover of Stolen Time: One Woman's Inspiring Story as an Innocent Condemned to Death

Why this book?

This is my all-time favourite book. I heard the author tell her story and her resilience over a zoom conference and I immediately knew that my life would never be the same. I didn’t know how but I knew I would be different.

Stolen Time is about a woman wrongly convicted for murder who spent 17 years incarcerated, five of those years were spent in solitary confinement on death row. Her partner was also sentenced and in fact executed two years before Sunny was exonerated. It's the beautiful way Sunny speaks that made this my all-time favourite read. It’s a love story with real tragedy but told in the most resilient and forgiving way. I found it totally inspiring. Sunny taught me that no matter what the circumstances we have a duty to love and forgive no matter what if we want to live free. No one can steal our spirit. I never realised it was a choice, I could remain imprisoned in my own mind or be free like Sunny was. I myself had always felt trapped. Trapped by the rules of society and trapped by domestic abuse. Sunny’s example let me see that I have the power over restriction and empowerment not my environment.

The other greatest gift I received from this beautiful soul was to give everything a time. To honour my feelings but after a time let them go. I started setting a timer and allowed my feelings to surface but after 15 minutes they had to go. Whether that was resentment, sadness, or frustration they all had the same time. So simple and yet incredibly effective. Another tool in my spiritual toolbox for dealing with life. Priceless.

The Monster I Loved: The true story of a young girl and her father's betrayal.

By Shannon Clifton,

Book cover of The Monster I Loved: The true story of a young girl and her father's betrayal.

Why this book?

The Monster I Love is written by Shannon Clifton by the same publisher as myself Fortis Publisher and it is the true story of this beautiful young woman who was subjected to the worst abuse from the very person that should have been looking after her the most, her father. 

He stole her innocence and childhood and even took her on the run with him whilst heavily pregnant with his child. She paid the ultimate price for loving her dad who became the ultimate monster in her life. This young woman is the strongest woman with the most resilience I’ve ever come across. To go through such abuse at such a young age and yet empower herself to be the best version of herself today made me incredibly proud to be a woman. After her father got sentenced Shannon took back her power and has become a fabulous champion for survivors to now thrive. A hard-hitting story that some parts stay with you forever but a true courageous story of the resilience of the human spirit.

Behind the Mask

By Tyson Fury,

Book cover of Behind the Mask

Why this book?

The thing I love about Tyson's story is he makes it so relatable to ask questions that others are too afraid to answer. He talks about his triumphs but especially his tribulations. He single handily put mental health on the horizon up for discussion and this man being a giant and talented boxer showed men in particular that it was alright to hurt at times to get lost and to fall apart. Up to then, most celebrities were too proud to go deep and talk about their struggles. Not Tyson, this is the greatest gift you can give.

Honesty and integrity. Not being afraid of being shamed or judged but allowing the world to know that it's ok to talk about this. Not only OK but necessary. I admired the man and his family even more from that very read. It was fabulous looking into the mind of the best Heavyweight in the world too. Just an ordinary man doing extraordinary things. 

One Day My Soul Just Opened Up: 40 Days and 40 Nights Toward Spiritual Strength and Personal Growth

By Iyanla Vanzant,

Book cover of One Day My Soul Just Opened Up: 40 Days and 40 Nights Toward Spiritual Strength and Personal Growth

Why this book?

This book I believe saved my life, I had just been discharged from Newcastle Royal Victoria Infirmary from the consequences of an alcohol relapse. I was broke spiritually mentally and physically. I was house-bound and needed to recuperate and recover and so I searched my little library and this book stood out on the shelf. I had purchased it only months before but had not yet read it, I was hoping it would keep my mind occupied whilst recovering. Wow, It not only kept my mind occupied but I believe it saved my life and my real recovery began. 

Again, a true story of resilience but with inspiring and motivating tools to tap into my being and make my own dreams come true. I can honestly say I have lived authentically ever since reading this book. The prayers and affirmations I printed my favourite and read them every day for 1 whole year. I found the courage to take back my power as Iyanla had and after I read her story, I wrote my own book. Such a gift. Opening up my own soul changed my world.

A Piece of Cake: A Memoir

By Cupcake Brown,

Book cover of A Piece of Cake: A Memoir

Why this book?

Wow, this story I found incredible. It was probably one of the very first true stories involving addiction and dysfunction that I had ever read. A memoir of descent into teenage prostitution and drug addiction, orphaned at 11 years old Cupcake entered into the child welfare system and moved from one disastrous place to another. Incredibly frank I found her world harrowing and terrifying and yet through it emerged a woman who turned her entire life around and showed me that anything is possible if you want it enough. Sometimes you just have to read about someone who has had it hard and changed every single thing about the circumstances they found themselves in. Cupcake went from child prostitute to solicitor and if that’s not inspiring, what it? They always make me feel alive when I read such stories. 

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in spirituality, England, and World War 2?

5,215 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about spirituality, England, and World War 2.

Spirituality Explore 151 books about spirituality
England Explore 637 books about England
World War 2 Explore 866 books about World War 2

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Confession of a Buddhist Atheist, Britain's Pilgrim Places, and The Alan Clark Diaries: In Power 1983-1992 if you like this list.