The best books to help process big emotions

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m deeply passionate about helping others find ways to work through their emotions. After surviving a mass shooting in 2015 the first place I turned to was the library. I quickly found myself frustrated and lacking when I couldn’t find books to help me understand what I was going through and what to expect next. It was terribly discouraging as I found it difficult to express myself to my loved ones. When I started to find books like the ones on this list, it opened a world to me that I had to be a part of – books that help people process difficult emotions. 


I wrote...

Numb to This: Memoir of a Mass Shooting

By Kindra Neely,

Book cover of Numb to This: Memoir of a Mass Shooting

What is my book about?

Kindra Neely never expected it to happen to her. No one does. Sure, she’d sometimes been close to gun violence, like when the house down the street from her childhood home in Texas was targeted in a drive-by shooting. But now she lived in Oregon, where she spent her time swimming in rivers with friends or attending classes at the bucolic Umpqua Community College.

And then, one day, it happened: a mass shooting shattered her college campus. Over the span of a few minutes, on October 1, 2015, eight students and a professor lost their lives. And suddenly, Kindra became a survivor. This empathetic and ultimately hopeful graphic memoir recounts Kindra’s journey forward from those few minutes that changed everything. 

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Magic Fish

Kindra Neely Why did I love this book?

The Magic Fish felt like a beautiful stain glass window into the life of first-generation immigrants. Every time I pick it up, I read it straight through and from that first read it has had a permanent place on the shelf of books I have to pull from for inspiration or to recommend. I think it uniquely captures this experience in a way that is so personable, it’s impossible not to like. When the characters found a way to communicate through stories it felt like a triumph. 

By Trung Le Nguyen,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked The Magic Fish as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Tiến loves his family and his friends…but Tiến has a secret he's been keeping from them, and it might change everything. An amazing YA graphic novel that deals with the complexity of family and how stories can bring us together.

Real life isn't a fairytale.

But Tiến still enjoys reading his favorite stories with his parents from the books he borrows from the local library. It's hard enough trying to communicate with your parents as a kid, but for Tiến, he doesn't even have the right words because his parents are struggling with their English. Is there a Vietnamese word…


Book cover of Where We Live

Kindra Neely Why did I love this book?

I won’t lie, this is a difficult one for me to get through having survived a mass shooting myself. As an anthology, it serves as a powerful testimony to the survivors of the 2017 Las Vegas shooting which took the lives of 60. What I think is unique about this anthology is that several artists and authors collaborated on pieces that share social perceptions on a myriad of issues surrounding mass shootings in the U.S. Where We Live serves as a near time capsule dedicated to the effects of the deadliest single incident mass shooting.  

By Mike Allred, Brian Michael Bendis, Ivan Brandon , Kurt Busiek , Amy Chu , Kelly Sue DeConnick , Neil Gaiman , Kieron Gillen , Mike Mignola , Mark Millar , Greg Pak , James Robinson , Gail Simone , Brandon Graham , Rob Williams

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Where We Live as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

On October 1, 2017, Las Vegas, Nevada suffered the worst mass shooting in modern American history, resulting in 58 deaths and over 500 injured. It broke my heart. Las Vegas is my home. I felt like something needed to be done to help in a unique way." - JH WILLIAMS III, Artist & Curating Editor

This "unique way" was the genesis of the WHERE WE LIVE anthology-a riveting collection of both fictional stories and actual eye-witness accounts told by an all-star line-up of the top talent working in comics today. All the creators have graciously volunteered their time and talent…


Book cover of Spinning

Kindra Neely Why did I love this book?

I received a copy of Spinning as a birthday gift a few years ago. It’s always great to get a book from a friend that they personally pick out for you based on what they think you’ll like. I find this to be one of the most relatable memoirs that I’ve picked up in the last few years. I think the author’s experiences – although unique to their life – speaks deeply to many young women growing up with the pressure to embody the ideal of their gender and the punishing isolation that can come from those expectations. I return to this title often, when I feel a lack of courage to be myself, and it reminds me that fitting into those expectations will not rid me of whatever insecurities or discomfort I feel.

By Tillie Walden,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Spinning as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 13, 14, 15, and 16.

What is this book about?

Download a FREE sampler of SPINNING by Tillie Walden!

It was the same every morning. Wake up, grab the ice skates, and head to the rink while the world was still dark.
Weekends were spent in glitter and tights at competitions. Perform. Smile. And do it again.
She was good. She won. And she hated it.
Poignant and captivating, Ignatz Award winner Tillie Walden’s powerful graphic memoir captures what it’s like to come of age, come out, and come to terms with leaving behind everything you used to know.


Book cover of The Wendy Project

Kindra Neely Why did I love this book?

Although shorter than the other books on my list, I think the story and art is none the less impactful. The Wendy Project deals with grief, especially grief in younger readers with a gentle understanding. I loved the unique approach to the whole book as well. The book is the journal of the main character Wendy, who receives it and starts to draw in it during the events of the story. I found The Wendy Project in my hands at a time when I was struggling to acknowledge my own grief, and it certainly nudged me to face it.  

By Melissa Jane Osborne, Veronica Fish (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

16-year-old Wendy Davies crashes her car into a lake on a late summer night in New England with her two younger brothers in the backseat. When she wakes in the hospital, she is told that her youngest brother, Michael, is dead. Wendy, once a rational teenager, shocks her family by insisting that Michael is alive and in the custody of a mysterious flying boy. Placed in a new school, Wendy negotiates fantasy and reality as students and adults around her resemble characters from Neverland. Given a sketchbook by her therapist, Wendy starts to draw. But is The Wendy Project merely…


Book cover of Heartstopper: A Graphic Novel: Volume 1

Kindra Neely Why did I love this book?

As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I would recommend Heartstopper to any person of any age who is questioning or has family or loved ones who are questioning. What speaks to me most is that while the characters are going through the throws of discovering themselves and dealing with the unpleasant aspects of bullying, they are surrounded by friends and family that love and support them. Struggles are often met with healthy solutions, though not forced upon the characters. I think this is a beautiful and delicate work that shows the freedom and happiness that comes with not only loving others, but yourself. 

By Alice Oseman,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Heartstopper as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 13, 14, 15, and 16.

What is this book about?

*Now an acclaimed live-action Netflix series!* Boy meets boy. Boys become friends. Boys fall in love. A bestselling LGBTQ+ graphic novel about life, love, and everything that happens in between.

'Absolutely delightful. Sweet, romantic, kind. Beautifully paced. I loved this book.' RAINBOW ROWELL, author of Carry On

Charlie and Nick are at the same school, but they've never met ... until one day when they're made to sit together. They quickly become friends, and soon Charlie is falling hard for Nick, even though he doesn't think he has a chance.

But love works in surprising ways, and Nick is more…


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A Sparrow Falls

By Vicki Olsen,

Book cover of A Sparrow Falls

Vicki Olsen Author Of A Sparrow Falls

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Air Force brat World War 2 junkie Gallivanter Beret-wearing Francophile Book hoarder

Vicki's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

In this book set against the backdrop of a changing America, Sarah must find the courage to confront the ghosts of her past and come to terms with her future. Sarah, a young woman from the rural town of Tolerance, Arkansas, has endured an impoverished and painful childhood.

But now, as the innocence of the 1950s transforms into the turbulent 1960s, Sarah must find the strength to overcome her traumas, forgive those who have wronged her, and discover her true self. With its moving and often disturbing narrative, A Sparrow Falls is an evocative account of a young woman's journey…

A Sparrow Falls

By Vicki Olsen,

What is this book about?

A moving, sometimes disturbing, beautifully written book...Amazon Customer Review
Set in Arkansas as the innocence of the 1950s morphs into the turbulent ‘60s, A Sparrow Falls is an evocative account of a young woman emerging from an impoverished and traumatic childhood as she finds the inner strength to overcome her past. Te ghosts of the past and come to terms with her future is in the strength to forgive those who have wronged her?
Content Advisory: This book is intended for mature audiences and contains child sexual abuse and disturbing imagery.


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