The best books to get you through troubling times

Kenneth R. Rosen Author Of Troubled: The Failed Promise of America's Behavioral Treatment Programs
By Kenneth R. Rosen

Who am I?

As a journalist and author and a young father, I’ve come to seek more vigorously things that make me smile, things I can cherish and appreciate. My most recent book is dedicated to “the troubled, in trouble, and once troubled.” In promoting the book, I’ve often said I still feel fairly troubled—which is true. Demons never die, we just live to learn with them. So while reading the below books I’ve discovered hallowed moments which fill a person to the brim. After each of these reads I felt that I could surmount most anything.


I wrote...

Troubled: The Failed Promise of America's Behavioral Treatment Programs

By Kenneth R. Rosen,

Book cover of Troubled: The Failed Promise of America's Behavioral Treatment Programs

What is my book about?

I knew firsthand the brutal emotional, physical, and sexual abuse carried out at "troubled-teen" programs. I lived it. In Troubled, I recount the lives of four troubled teens on their own scarred journeys through several programs into adulthood. Based on three years of reporting and more than one hundred interviews with other teens, their parents, psychologists, and health-care professionals, Troubled combines harrowing storytelling with investigative journalism to expose the disturbing truth about the massively profitable, sometimes fatal, grossly unchecked redirection industry. Not without hope, I believe Troubled ultimately delivers an emotional, crucial tapestry of coming of age, neglect, exploitation, trauma, and fraught redemption.

The books I picked & why

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A Gentleman in Moscow

By Amor Towles,

Book cover of A Gentleman in Moscow

Why this book?

I brought a paperback copy with me on an overseas long-haul flight. My friend recommended it after I returned from reporting in Ukraine. From the opening pages, the pithy repartee had me, for the first time in ages, stitched. Holding and reading Towles’ book in public was a pleasure all my own, like being swaddled next to a fire as a friend recounted his life in full, learning from how he handled drudgery, disappointment, fellowship, and love. It left me feeling like I’d made a new friend. I didn’t want to share it with anyone. I never wanted it to end.

A Gentleman in Moscow

By Amor Towles,

Why should I read it?

16 authors picked A Gentleman in Moscow as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The mega-bestseller with more than 2 million readers, soon to be a major television series

From the #1 New York Times-bestselling author of The Lincoln Highway and Rules of Civility, a beautifully transporting novel about a man who is ordered to spend the rest of his life inside a luxury hotel

In 1922, Count Alexander Rostov is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, and is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. Rostov, an indomitable man of erudition and wit, has never worked a day in his life, and…


We Need to Hang Out: A Memoir of Making Friends

By Billy Baker,

Book cover of We Need to Hang Out: A Memoir of Making Friends

Why this book?

When I first moved overseas, I hadn’t thought about leaving my friends behind, or what role they played in my life. We had largely spent our lives apart, ever-connected if remote, and that seemed to fit us just fine. Then something akin to culture shock took hold and I needed them more than ever. They were there, in their Zoom boxes, and on telephone calls. I was reminded to check in with them often—to keep the good thing we had going.

We Need to Hang Out: A Memoir of Making Friends

By Billy Baker,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked We Need to Hang Out as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this "entertaining mix of social science, memoir, and humor, as if a Daniel Goleman book were filtered through the lens of Will Ferrell" (The New York Times Book Review) a middle-aged man embarks on an entertaining and relatable quest to reprioritize his ties with his buddies and forge new friendships, all while balancing work, marriage, and kids.

At the age of forty, having settled into his busy career and active family life, Billy Baker discovers that he's lost something crucial along the way: his friends. Other priorities always seemed to come first, until all his close friendships became distant…


A Place of My Own: The Architecture of Daydreams

By Michael Pollan,

Book cover of A Place of My Own: The Architecture of Daydreams

Why this book?

I’ve owned a number of homes. Most were small, one or two were fairly large. When I set about building my own writing shed I had a clue where to begin, but most frequently—when bashing a nail, jigsawing a piece of wood—I knew very little about why I was making one decision over another much beyond practical considerations. A window could only fit here, and the door must swing this way, lest it hit that support beam. Having a companion to that process, letting not my hammer but the Earth fine-tune my space gave that writing shed life far beyond its function.

A Place of My Own: The Architecture of Daydreams

By Michael Pollan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Place of My Own as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A captivating personal inquiry into the art of architecture, the craft of building, and the meaning of modern work

“A room of one’s own: Is there anybody who hasn’t at one time or another wished for such a place, hasn’t turned those soft words over until they’d assumed a habitable shape?”

When Michael Pollan decided to plant a garden, the result was the acclaimed bestseller Second Nature. In A Place of My Own, he turns his sharp insight to the craft of building, as he recounts the process of designing and constructing a small one-room structure on his rural Connecticut…


Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son's First Year

By Anne Lamott,

Book cover of Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son's First Year

Why this book?

My son was born around a time of great tragedy and upheaval. I was never so uncertain or nervous or worried or perplexed about my role as a father in the months and weeks before his arrival. I was certain and cautious and uplifted by this coming change. Then he slid onto the birthing room floor and I bawled endlessly. To chronicle a child’s first year, I would soon learn, is not an easy task. But witnessing it, hand-in-hand, is a beautiful and immensely enriching experience. For those who want children, for those who don’t want children, and those who want to reminisce and laugh and cry.

Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son's First Year

By Anne Lamott,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Operating Instructions as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This is the journal of the birth of Anne Lamott's son Sam, and their first year together. Coping with being a recovering alcoholic and a single mother, Anne had to face the fact that her best friend since childhood was dying of cancer.


Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day

By Ben Loory,

Book cover of Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day

Why this book?

I first heard Loory’s mirthful story “The Man and The Moose” while sitting in my car in my southern college town. He read it on an episode of This American LifeIt was a Wednesday ritual of mine, sitting in that car and listening to stories and giving my entire being to be within them, to be completely enraptured and emphatic for at least that one hour. After hearing the story, I told it to whoever would listen. I remember the story and his voice and the way in which the inanimate became animated, the unpersonafiable personified. That story was a treasure and lives with me. It will, as with the others in this collection, live with you, too.

Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day

By Ben Loory,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Loory's collection of wry and witty, dark and perilous contemporary fables is populated by people - and monsters and trees and jocular octopi - who are united by twin motivations: fear and desire. In his singular universe, televisions talk (and sometimes sing), animals live in small apartments where their nephews visit from the sea, and men and women and boys and girls fall down wells and fly through space and find love on Ferris wheels. In a voice full of fable, myth, and dream, "Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day" draws us into a world of delightfully wicked…


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