The best books that demonstrate the power of the human spirit

Who am I?

I’m most drawn to stories of overcoming. My own childhood was about exactly that-overcoming a multi-generational inheritance of family separation and orphaned children. When I wrote my first book about that story, A Chance in the World, an unanticipated magic unfolded: I began to receive stories of strangers from all across the world who wrote to tell me their own story of overcoming. Each and every day I hear from someone and the steady stream of those stories of overcoming affirms something I have to come to learn: we all have a story and none of us look like that story.

I wrote...

The Lighthouse Effect: How Ordinary People Can Have an Extraordinary Impact in the World

By Steve Pemberton,

Book cover of The Lighthouse Effect: How Ordinary People Can Have an Extraordinary Impact in the World

What is my book about?

Our polarized, divisive culture seems to be devoid of genuine heroes and authentic role models. But I wanted to suggest that we are simply looking in the wrong places. In this sequel to my first book, I chronicled the stories of ten seemingly ordinary people I met along my life journey who left me with lighthouse lessons that are valuable for all of us. Their stories of overcoming and of resilience will make you reflect on the lighthouses in your own life and will remind you that the greatest heroes are alongside us – and within us.

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The books I picked & why

Watership Down

By Richard Adams,

Book cover of Watership Down

Why did I love this book?

At first glance, it appears to be a book about rabbits but it’s much more about humanity.

Watership Down was my childhood favorite story. Its themes of home, overcoming incredible obstacles, and finding a few good friends along the way are lessons I still carry with me. When I first read it as a young boy, I was lost in the gaps of the foster care system.

This book gave me a vision – and a plan – for how to overcome it. Those lessons apply to all of us and are desperately needed in a world that too often bends towards cynicism and chaos.

By Richard Adams,

Why should I read it?

11 authors picked Watership Down as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of the best-loved children's classics of all time, this is the complete, original story of Watership Down.

Something terrible is about to happen to the warren - Fiver feels sure of it. And Fiver's sixth sense is never wrong, according to his brother Hazel. They had to leave immediately, and they had to persuade the other rabbits to join them.

And so begins a long and perilous journey of a small band of rabbits in search of a safe home. Fiver's vision finally leads them to Watership Down, but here they face their most difficult challenge of all .…

Book cover of The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America

Why did I love this book?

The contrasts in this historical non-fiction book, starting with the title, is why this book makes my list.

It takes you back to another time in America and intersects the worlds of inspiring world fairs, an expanding industrial city (Chicago), and innovative architecture. Larson also intersects two other worlds: the good and bad of humanity and he does this through the stories of America’s best-known architect at the time Daniel Burnham and the nation’s first known serial killer, H.H. Holmes who uses Burnham’s World Fair as his hunting ground. Whoa!!!

You’ll put this book down with some epiphanies and affirmations about society and the human beings who drive it, for better or for worse.

By Erik Larson,

Why should I read it?

17 authors picked The Devil in the White City as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Chicago World Fair was the greatest fair in American history. This is the story of the men and women whose lives it irrevocably changed and of two men in particular- an architect and a serial killer. The architect is Daniel Burnham, a man of great integrity and depth. It was his vision of the fair that attracted the best minds and talents of the day. The killer is Henry H. Holmes. Intelligent as well as handsome and charming, Holmes opened a boarding house which he advertised as 'The World's Fair Hotel' Here in the neighbourhood where he was once…

Book cover of Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption

Why did I love this book?

One of Stephen King’s most famous stories, I am always inspired and moved by Andy Dufresne’s refusal to accept the terms and the condition of his imprisonment.

The subtlety and sophistication of his protest and his ultimate defeat of his captors and tormentors is an important reminder of the power of persistence. But there is another message in this story that is just as powerful and that is the beauty of the friendship.

By Stephen King,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The No. 1 bestselling author Stephen King's beloved novella, Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption - the basis for the Best Picture Academy Award-nominee The Shawshank Redemption - about an unjustly imprisoned convict who seeks a strangely satisfying revenge, is now available as a standalone book.

There's a guy like me in every state and federal prison in America, I guess - I'm the guy who can get it for you.

And new convict Andy Dufresne wants two things from fellow prisoner Red: a small rock-hammer for carving stones and a giant poster of Rita Hayworth.

So begins this mesmerising tale…


By Laura Hillenbrand,

Book cover of Unbroken

Why did I love this book?

If it’s possible to have lived multiple lives in a single lifetime, then Louis Zamperini did it.

I am a big fan of The Greatest Generation and Unbroken is the story of that generation, the deep beliefs they held, and the many sacrifices they made, not for themselves but for the generations that would follow them. You can’t miss the examples of selflessness, perseverance, and faith that jump out at you from the very first chapter.

By Laura Hillenbrand,

Why should I read it?

14 authors picked Unbroken as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the author of the bestselling and much-loved Seabiscuit, an unforgettable story of one man's journey into extremity. On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood. Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared. It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane's bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft and pulling himself aboard. So began one of the most extraordinary odysseys of the Second World War. The lieutenant's name was Louis Zamperini. In boyhood,…

Book cover of The Color of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother

Why did I love this book?

Even a casual glance at today’s headlines will show how race continues to be a perplexing issue in our society. And it shouldn’t be. But we need examples of how to navigate the complexities of race and McBride’s powerful memoir shows us how.

His deep loveand appreciationfor his mother and coming to terms with her story while still standing in his own truth as a Black man is instructive and inspiring…and a reminder that there is nothing greater than love.

By James McBride,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Color of Water as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

_______________ 'A triumph' - New York Times Book Review 'A startling, tender-hearted tribute to a woman for whom the expression tough love might have been invented' - The Times 'As lively as a novel, a well-written, thoughtful contribution to the literature on race' - Washington Post _______________ MORE THAN TWO YEARS ON THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER LIST _______________ From the New York Times bestselling author of Deacon King Kong and The Good Lord Bird, winner of the National Book Award for Fiction, came this modern classic that calls one of the best memoirs of a generation and that…

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