The best books for when life throws you a curveball

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a librarian, writer, and proponent of the death positive movement. I’ve found some people assume that being death positive means a certain callousness. For me the opposite is true: I’m an anxious ball of feelings both for myself and towards others, and the death positive mindset helps me cope better with life’s curveballs. I can say with a degree of certainty that we’ve all been pitched some doozies lately, so I wanted to offer up some books that nourish in times of darkness without turning away in denial.

I wrote...

Book cover of Dark Archives: A Librarian's Investigation Into the Science and History of Books Bound in Human Skin

What is my book about?

In Dark Archives, Megan Rosenbloom seeks out the historic and scientific truths behind anthropodermic bibliopegy―the practice of binding books in this most intimate covering. Dozens of such books live on in the world’s most famous libraries and museums. Dark Archives exhumes their origins and brings to life the doctors, murderers, and indigents whose lives are sewn together in this disquieting collection. Along the way, Rosenbloom tells the story of how her team of scientists, curators, and librarians test rumored anthropodermic books, untangling the myths around their creation and reckoning with the ethics of their custodianship.

In Dark Archives―captivating and macabre in all the right ways―Rosenbloom has crafted a narrative that is equal parts detective work, academic intrigue, history, and medical curiosity: a book as rare and thrilling as its subject.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of It's Ok That You're Not Ok: Meeting Grief and Loss in a Culture That Doesn't Understand

Megan Rosenbloom Why did I love this book?

I am like the Johnny Appleseed of this book; I’ve given it to the closest friends and the most casual acquaintances from very different walks of life, whether they are the person suffering a loss or a person supporting someone suffering one because guess what? We’ll all be both at different points in our lives. We can also define loss and its accompanying grief broadly; this book helped me show up for a friend during her divorce, for instance. If I could mandate a national book club that compelled us all to read one book, I’d pick this one.

By Megan Devine,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked It's Ok That You're Not Ok as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?



When a painful loss or life-shattering event upends your world, here is the first thing to know: there is nothing wrong with grief. "Grief is simply love in its most wild and painful form," says Megan Devine. "It is a natural and sane response to loss."

So, why does our culture treat grief like a disease to be cured as quickly as possible?

In It's OK That You're Not OK, Megan Devine offers a profound…

Book cover of Like a Mother: A Feminist Journey Through the Science and Culture of Pregnancy

Megan Rosenbloom Why did I love this book?

I wish I’d read this book before I had my child because it centered me through the upheaval of early parenthood better than other more didactic books. Garbes looks at pregnancy unflinchingly but also with curiosity and empathy. She’s the smart, candid mom friend you wish you had.

By Angela Garbes,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Like a Mother as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A candid, feminist, and personal deep dive into the science and culture of pregnancy and motherhood

Like most first-time mothers, Angela Garbes was filled with questions when she became pregnant. What exactly is a placenta and how does it function? How does a body go into labor? Why is breast best? Is wine totally off-limits? But as she soon discovered, it’s not easy to find satisfying answers. Your obstetrician will cautiously quote statistics; online sources will scare you with conflicting and often inaccurate data; and even the most trusted books will offer information with a heavy dose of judgment. To…

Book cover of Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds

Megan Rosenbloom Why did I love this book?

Change on the personal and societal level is hard, relentless, and can feel demoralizing. Brown’s work is grounded outside of the white supremacist capitalist patriarchy and prioritizes self-care, community, joy, and curiosity while taking inspiration from the natural world and its rhythms and long arcs toward revolution. You may not have thought you needed a strategy book rooted in the science fiction writing of Octavia Butler, but fortunately, life can provide positive surprises, not just negative ones. I expect I’ll return to portions of this book again and again when I need to fill my cup.

By Adrienne Maree Brown,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked Emergent Strategy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the tradition of Octavia Butler, radical self-help, society-help, and planet-help to shape the futures we want.

Inspired by Octavia Butler's explorations of our human relationship to change, Emergent Strategy is radical self-help, society-help, and planet-help designed to shape the futures we want to live. Change is constant. The world is in a continual state of flux. It is a stream of ever-mutating, emergent patterns. Rather than steel ourselves against such change, this book invites us to feel, map, assess, and learn from the swirling patterns around us in order to better understand and influence them as they happen. This…

Book cover of Year of Zines: In Which Sarah Mirk (That’s Me) Somewhat Obsessively Tries to Make a Zine Every Day for a Year

Megan Rosenbloom Why did I love this book?

What I love about Mirk’s book is the physically productive response to anxiety, the unselfconscious approach to creating physical art and words, and how the physical creation is so personal yet so universal. The dedication of creating a zine a day is monkish in its attention and yet also achievable in a way that is inspiring. Make art for your own sake, because it’s good for you even if it’s not “good”. Use it to get to know and love yourself better.

Book cover of Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities

Megan Rosenbloom Why did I love this book?

The world is hell, so now what? By now we all know how easy it is to fall into despair. “Optimists think it will all be fine without our involvement; pessimists take the opposite position; both excuse themselves from acting.” Solnit’s arguments and examples of a galvanizing hope are not naïve. They are nuanced, realistic, and give us something to cling to like a life raft as we scan for dry land.

By Rebecca Solnit,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

At a time when political, environmental and social gloom can seem overpowering, this remarkable book offers a lucid, affirmative and well-argued case for hope.

This exquisite work traces a history of activism and social change over the past five decades - from the fall of the Berlin Wall to the worldwide marches against the war in Iraq. Hope in the Dark is a paean to optimism in the uncertainty of the twenty-first century. Tracing the footsteps of the last century's thinkers - including Woolf, Gandhi, Borges, Benjamin and Havel - Solnit conjures a timeless vision of cause and effect that…

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American Flygirl

By Susan Tate Ankeny,

Book cover of American Flygirl

Susan Tate Ankeny Author Of The Girl and the Bombardier: A True Story of Resistance and Rescue in Nazi-Occupied France

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Susan Tate Ankeny left a career in teaching to write the story of her father’s escape from Nazi-occupied France. In 2011, after being led on his path through France by the same Resistance fighters who guided him in 1944, she felt inspired to tell the story of these brave French patriots, especially the 17-year-old- girl who risked her own life to save her father’s. Susan is a member of the 8th Air Force Historical Society, the Air Force Escape and Evasion Society, and the Association des Sauveteurs d’Aviateurs Alliés. 

Susan's book list on women during WW2

What is my book about?

The first and only full-length biography of Hazel Ying Lee, an unrecognized pioneer and unsung World War II hero who fought for a country that actively discriminated against her gender, race, and ambition.

This unique hidden figure defied countless stereotypes to become the first Asian American woman in United States history to earn a pilot's license, and the first female Asian American pilot to fly for the military.

Her achievements, passionate drive, and resistance in the face of oppression as a daughter of Chinese immigrants and a female aviator changed the course of history. Now the remarkable story of a fearless underdog finally surfaces to inspire anyone to reach toward the sky.

American Flygirl

By Susan Tate Ankeny,

What is this book about?

One of WWII’s most uniquely hidden figures, Hazel Ying Lee was the first Asian American woman to earn a pilot’s license, join the WASPs, and fly for the United States military amid widespread anti-Asian sentiment and policies.

Her singular story of patriotism, barrier breaking, and fearless sacrifice is told for the first time in full for readers of The Women with Silver Wings by Katherine Sharp Landdeck, A Woman of No Importance by Sonia Purnell, The Last Boat Out of Shanghai by Helen Zia, Facing the Mountain by Daniel James Brown and all Asian American, women’s and WWII history books.…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in pregnancy, loss, and romantic love?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about pregnancy, loss, and romantic love.

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