The best books with real life stories of people overcoming adversity

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.

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The books I picked & why

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

Karen Slater Why did I love 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.

By Sunny Jacobs,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Stolen Time as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'In a world of one, I am alone, more alone than I have ever been in my life.Locked up in a box within a box where no one can enter and I cannot leave. I am to await my death.' In 1976 a twenty-eight-year-old mother of two and her partner were wrongfully sentenced to death by the Florida courts for the murder of two police officers. Sunny Jacobs would not taste freedom again for seventeen years, by which time her two children were estranged, her parents were dead and her beloved partner, Jesse Tafero, had been executed. Sunny spent five…

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

Karen Slater Why did I love 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.

By Shannon Clifton,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Monster I Loved as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Shannon Clifton has waived her right to anonymity in this highly acclaimed, dark but deeply inspiring book. Raped by her father from age six and pregnant at eleven and again at thirteen, he kidnapped her and went on the run as the net eventually closed in around him.Shannon's story is not an easy read; she goes into graphic detail about her sexual, physical and mental abuse, which included being burned with an iron, hit with a hammer and even stabbed. Her father told her "it was something all fathers do with their daughters," and for a time she believed him.…

Book cover of Behind the Mask

Karen Slater Why did I love 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. 

By Tyson Fury,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Behind the Mask as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The UK's bestselling boxing book since records began. WINNER of the Telegraph Sports Book of the Year.
'One of sport's most heart-warming stories' SUNDAY TIMES, SPORTS BOOK OF THE YEAR
'A must-read for any boxing fan.' WORLD BOXING NEWS
'If you know someone who's a fan of the People's Champion, then they'll love this.' TALKSPORT

The extraordinary story of the rise and fall and rise again of Tyson Fury...


A Manchester lad from Irish Traveller stock, born three months premature and weighing just a pound at birth,…

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

Karen Slater Why did I love 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.

By Iyanla Vanzant,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked One Day My Soul Just Opened Up as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Iyanla Vanzant is the much-loved and bestselling author of "In the meantime" and "Until today!" Through her work, millions of readers have found the inspiration to make profound changes in their lives. Calling on both personal experience and her work with others, Iyanla's "One day my soul just opened up" is a message of empowerment both for women and men, encouraging us to tap into our strengths and make our dreams come true. Through a forty day and forty night programme of exercises and readings, Iyanla guides us through our daily obstacles towards greater emotional and spiritual health.

Book cover of A Piece of Cake: A Memoir

Karen Slater Why did I love 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. 

By Cupcake Brown,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked A Piece of Cake as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Phenomenal woman' The Oprah Magazine
'Dazzles you with the amazing change that is possible in one lifetime.' Washington Post


This is the heart-wrenching true story of a girl named Cupcake Brown.

Orphan, runaway, addict, all before she was twenty. That's when things got really interesting...

Cupcake was just eleven years old when, orphaned, she entered the child welfare system. Moved from one disastrous placement to the next, like so many, she was neglected and sexually abused.

She fed her appetite for drink and drugs by selling the only thing she had. Her body. Before long she had stumbled head…

You might also like...

Holy Food: How Cults, Communes, and Religious Movements Influenced What We Eat - An American History

By Christina Ward,

Book cover of Holy Food: How Cults, Communes, and Religious Movements Influenced What We Eat - An American History

Christina Ward Author Of Holy Food: How Cults, Communes, and Religious Movements Influenced What We Eat - An American History

New book alert!

Who am I?

For me, history is always about individuals; what they think and believe and how those ideas motivate their actions. By relegating our past to official histories or staid academic tellings we deprive ourselves of the humanity of our shared experiences. As a “popular historian” I use food to tell all the many ways we attempt to “be” American. History is for everyone, and my self-appointed mission is to bring more stories to readers! These recommendations are a few stand-out titles from the hundreds of books that inform my current work on how food and religion converge in America. You’ll have to wait for Holy Food to find out what I’ve discovered.

Christina's book list on the hidden history of America

What is my book about?

Does God have a recipe? Independent food historian Christina Ward’s highly anticipated Holy Food explores the influence of mainstream to fringe religious beliefs on modern American food culture.

Author Christina Ward unravels how religious beliefs intersect with politics, economics, and, of course, food to tell a different story of America. It's the story of true believers and charlatans, of idealists and visionaries, and of the everyday people who followed them—often at their peril.

Holy Food explains how faith pioneers used societal woes and cultural trends to create new pathways of belief and reveals the interconnectivity between sects and their leaders.

Holy Food: How Cults, Communes, and Religious Movements Influenced What We Eat - An American History

By Christina Ward,

What is this book about?

Does God have a recipe?

"Holy Food is a titanic feat of research and a fascinating exploration of American faith and culinary rites. Christina Ward is the perfect guide – generous, wise, and ecumenical." — Adam Chandler, author of Drive-Thru Dreams

"Holy Food doesn't just trace the influence that preachers, gurus, and cult leaders have had on American cuisine. It offers a unique look at the ways spirituality—whether in the form of fringe cults or major religions—has shaped our culture. Christina Ward has gone spelunking into some very odd corners of American history to unearth this fascinating collection of stories…

  • Coming soon!

5 book lists we think you will like!

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