100 books like Bearing the Unbearable

By Joanne Cacciatore,

Here are 100 books that Bearing the Unbearable fans have personally recommended if you like Bearing the Unbearable. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Man’s Search for Meaning

Michael Gervais Author Of The First Rule of Mastery: Stop Worrying about What People Think of You

From my list on illuminating the path towards mastery.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a performance psychologist, I’ve spent my career supporting high-performers on their path toward mastery. I founded Finding Mastery, a high-performance psychology consulting agency. Our primary focus is helping leaders, teams, and organizations solve the most dynamic and complex human performance challenges.

Michael's book list on illuminating the path towards mastery

Michael Gervais Why did Michael love this book?

Frankl’s concept of finding meaning in suffering and the idea that our primary drive in life is not pleasure but the discovery and pursuit of what we personally find meaningful deeply resonates with me.

The book underscores the belief that even in the most difficult of circumstances, we have the freedom to choose our attitudes and responses, a concept that is central to high-performance psychology.

By Viktor Frankl,

Why should I read it?

41 authors picked Man’s Search for Meaning as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of the outstanding classics to emerge from the Holocaust, Man's Search for Meaning is Viktor Frankl's story of his struggle for survival in Auschwitz and other Nazi concentration camps. Today, this remarkable tribute to hope offers us an avenue to finding greater meaning and purpose in our own lives.


Book cover of Men We Reaped: A Memoir

Sarah L. Sanderson Author Of The Place We Make: Breaking the Legacy of Legalized Hate

From my list on memoirs to see the world through someone else’s eyes.

Why am I passionate about this?

I chose to study creative nonfiction during my MFA program so I could learn what makes great memoirs work, but I first fell in love with the genre as a teenager, when I picked up Angela’s Ashes off my mom’s bedside table. I’m grateful for the way memoir gives me a window into the lives of people of other races, religions, abilities, experiences, and even other centuries. While my book The Place We Make isn’t only a memoir—it’s a blend of memoir and historical biography—it was my desire to both understand the view through my research subject’s eyes, and analyze how I was seeing the world myself, that drove me to write it.

Sarah's book list on memoirs to see the world through someone else’s eyes

Sarah L. Sanderson Why did Sarah love this book?

Men We Reaped blew me away.

Not only does Ward provide an incredibly personal and achingly beautiful glimpse of a culture I was unfamiliar with—a rural, impoverished Black community in the Deep South—but she does so with an innovative structure that simply dazzled me.

One strand of the book opens at the beginning of Ward’s life, while the other strand picks up at the end of her tale, with the most recent of five harrowing deaths due to gun violence that she and her community have endured. Each part of the story then alternately proceeds toward the same point, forwards along her childhood and backwards through each death, until both strands wind up in the middle of the story. It’s brilliantly executed. 

By Jesmyn Ward,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Men We Reaped as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

_______________ 'A brutal, moving memoir ... Anyone who emerges from America's black working-class youth with words as fine as Ward's deserves a hearing' - Guardian 'Raw, beautiful and dangerous' - New York Times Book Review 'Lavishly endowed with literary craft and hard-earned wisdom' - Time _______________ The beautiful, haunting memoir from Jesmyn Ward, the first woman to win the National Book Award twice 'And then we heard the rain falling and that was the blood falling; and when we came to get in the crops, it was dead men that we reaped' - Harriet Tubman Jesmyn Ward's acclaimed memoir shines…


Book cover of Wave

Melanie Bishop Author Of My So-Called Ruined Life

From my list on inhabiting unthinkable loss.

Why am I passionate about this?

When my father died in 1998, bladder cancer, I was 41 years old and privileged to be his primary caregiver for five weeks. My first major loss and it was as though a mack truck had been driven through my chest. Ten years later, my mother died, after nine years of dementia, which is like losing someone twice. That was a more ravaging grief. Twelve years later, my nephew died, a month away from his 36th birthday. And in 2022, one close friend of mine took his own life and another died of cancer at age 57. Grief is the subject I gravitate toward in the books I read and the essays I write. 

Melanie's book list on inhabiting unthinkable loss

Melanie Bishop Why did Melanie love this book?

This book is about the most horrifying loss imaginable: the author loses her parents, her husband, and her two young sons all at once, in the tsunami in the Indian Ocean, the day after Christmas, 2004. She and her family were spending the holiday in Sri Lanka when the wave hit and overtook the jeep in which they were attempting to flee. I can’t come up with a better justification for suicide than this—she’s lost everyone; she wonders why she was spared, just to suffer these losses every minute of every hour of every day. The book is both a horror story and a testament to human strength. I assure you, you won’t be able to put it down. 

By Sonali Deraniyagala,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Winner of the PEN/Ackerley Prize 2014

The book opens and we are inside the wave: thirty feet high, moving at twenty-five mph, racing two miles inland. And from there into the depths of the author's despair: how to live now that her life has been undone?

Sonali Deraniyagala tells her story - the loss of her two boys, her husband, and her parents - without artifice or sentimentality. In the stark language of unfathomable sorrow, anger, and guilt: she struggles through the first months following the tragedy -- someone always at her side to prevent her from harming herself, her…


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

Colin Campbell Author Of Finding the Words: Working Through Profound Loss with Hope and Purpose

From my list on helping cope with grief and loss.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve sat in many grief circles and listened to fellow grievers share their pain at being abandoned or misunderstood by their friends and families as they grieve. Often we suffer the secondary loss of community because our culture has not taught us how to grieve or how to be a friend to those in grief. My wife and I found some invaluable tools that helped us communicate our needs to our community, and keep them close on our grief journey. One of those tools is grief books. I’ve read dozens of them, and while everyone responds to grief books differently, I think these five books are the very best.

Colin's book list on helping cope with grief and loss

Colin Campbell Why did Colin love this book?

Devine does a wonderful job of validating our feelings and our needs as we grieve.

It is filled with many wonderful pieces of wisdom about grief. The most helpful insight she offered me was the distinction she drew between the healthy pain of grief versus the unnecessary and unhelpful suffering that so often accompanies grief.

She provides practical advice on how to be kind to ourselves as we grieve. We can’t “fix” our grief and loss, but we can be kind to ourselves on this difficult journey.

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?

As seen in THE NEW YORK TIMES * READER'S DIGEST * SPIRITUALITY & HEALTH * HUFFPOST

Featured on NPR's RADIO TIMES and WISCONSIN PUBLIC RADIO

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 The Tender Land: A Family Love Story

Melanie Bishop Author Of My So-Called Ruined Life

From my list on inhabiting unthinkable loss.

Why am I passionate about this?

When my father died in 1998, bladder cancer, I was 41 years old and privileged to be his primary caregiver for five weeks. My first major loss and it was as though a mack truck had been driven through my chest. Ten years later, my mother died, after nine years of dementia, which is like losing someone twice. That was a more ravaging grief. Twelve years later, my nephew died, a month away from his 36th birthday. And in 2022, one close friend of mine took his own life and another died of cancer at age 57. Grief is the subject I gravitate toward in the books I read and the essays I write. 

Melanie's book list on inhabiting unthinkable loss

Melanie Bishop Why did Melanie love this book?

It is fair to say that this is my favorite memoir I’ve ever read. I’m shocked it didn’t make bestseller lists when it came out. Finneran is a poet, who through the language, attention to detail, and strategic pacing of key scenes, makes readers see and feel what she wants us to see and feel. This book offered me, as a teacher of college writing, numerous perfect examples of how scenes can be developed to drop readers into a moment, to transport them. Finneran focuses the memoir on how her brother’s suicide affected her whole, big, Catholic family. The Tender Land, a Family Love Story is a portrait of a family who has lost something huge. Devastating content aside, this is a memoir that you will delight in, sentence by sentence, for its language. Highly recommend this remarkable book. 

By Kathleen Finneran,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An extraordinary memoir of a family haunted by tragedy: “I’ve read very few contemporary novels that can rival Finneran’s nonfiction.” —Jonathan Franzen

A superb portrait of family life, this “absorbing and thoughtful” memoir is a love story unlike any other (Library Journal). The Finnerans—Irish Catholic parents with five children in St. Louis—are a seemingly unexceptional family whose lives are upended by a catastrophic event: the suicide of the author’s fifteen-year-old younger brother after being publicly humiliated in junior high school.
 
A gentle, handsome boy, Sean Finneran was a straight-A student and gifted athlete, especially treasured by every member of his…


Book cover of In Love: A Memoir of Love and Loss

Mark Steven Porro Author Of A Cup of Tea on the Commode: My Multi-Tasking Adventures of Caring for Mom. And How I Survived to Tell the Tale

From my list on books that do not flinch when dealing with difficult circumstances.

Why am I passionate about this?

Family history has always fascinated me. I didn’t want mine to be buried with my loved ones. So, out of curiosity, I asked relatives lots of questions. If unsatisfied, I sought answers elsewhere. I traveled as far as Celle San Vito, Italy, where my grandfather was born, to solve a one-hundred-year-old mystery, and I filmed it for others to enjoy. I’ve memorialized momentous family events in poems, handmade greeting cards, memory books, screenplays, a documentary, and now, in my memoir A Cup of Tea on the Commode. The books on my list are about “family.” I’ve been moved by each, and I hope they move you as well.

Mark's book list on books that do not flinch when dealing with difficult circumstances

Mark Steven Porro Why did Mark love this book?

Amy’s story is filled with many welcome laughs to break up the many dramatic moments. And I thank her for that.

It’s a beautiful yet tragic love story. After a terminal diagnosis, her husband chose to leave this world with dignity. Amy supports his decision, knowing she’ll spend the rest of her days alone. It raises many questions. “What would I do in this situation?” Could I make the same sacrifice? Could I support my spouse if she chose the same?

I love that we are with them every step of the way. In our country, why can’t we decide how and when to leave this world when faced with a terminal diagnosis? We do this with our pets. I don’t know why we can’t do this for our loved ones instead of draining them of their dignity and the family of their finances. 

By Amy Bloom,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked In Love as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

New York Times Bestseller

A poignant love letter to Bloom's husband and a passionate outpouring of grief, In Love reaffirms the power and value of human relationships.

In January 2020, Amy Bloom travelled with her husband Brian to Switzerland, where he was helped by Dignitas to end his life while Amy sat with him and held his hand. Brian was terminally ill and for the last year of his life Amy had struggled to find a way to support his wish to take control of his death, to not submerge 'into the darkness of an expiring existence'.

Written with piercing…


Book cover of Welcome to the Grief Club: Because You Don't Have to Go Through It Alone

Colin Campbell Author Of Finding the Words: Working Through Profound Loss with Hope and Purpose

From my list on helping cope with grief and loss.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve sat in many grief circles and listened to fellow grievers share their pain at being abandoned or misunderstood by their friends and families as they grieve. Often we suffer the secondary loss of community because our culture has not taught us how to grieve or how to be a friend to those in grief. My wife and I found some invaluable tools that helped us communicate our needs to our community, and keep them close on our grief journey. One of those tools is grief books. I’ve read dozens of them, and while everyone responds to grief books differently, I think these five books are the very best.

Colin's book list on helping cope with grief and loss

Colin Campbell Why did Colin love this book?

This book is a wonderful practical guide to grieving that is accompanied by charming illustrations from the author. This might make it sound child-like or cutsie, but it’s not at all.

It’s an honest and fierce guide that doesn’t use any cheesy aphorisms or simplistic clichés about grief. It tells it like it is, but with kindness and hope. It helped me feel not so alone.

By Janine Kwoh,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Welcome to the Grief Club as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Welcome to the Grief Club--a place where one human who experienced a terrible loss, Janine Kwoh, is at the door to welcome other humans who are grieving. It is not an instruction manual, or a step-by-step playbook, or a memoir. It is, rather, a fresh, empathetic approach to all of the surprising, confusing, brutal, funny, and downright bizarre parts of grief. Combining her own experiences with grief--the author's partner died when both were in their late 20s--with what she learned from others in her "grief club," Kwoh uses brief writings and observations, hand-drawn illustrations, and diagrams to explore all the…


Book cover of All the Honey

Colin Campbell Author Of Finding the Words: Working Through Profound Loss with Hope and Purpose

From my list on helping cope with grief and loss.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve sat in many grief circles and listened to fellow grievers share their pain at being abandoned or misunderstood by their friends and families as they grieve. Often we suffer the secondary loss of community because our culture has not taught us how to grieve or how to be a friend to those in grief. My wife and I found some invaluable tools that helped us communicate our needs to our community, and keep them close on our grief journey. One of those tools is grief books. I’ve read dozens of them, and while everyone responds to grief books differently, I think these five books are the very best.

Colin's book list on helping cope with grief and loss

Colin Campbell Why did Colin love this book?

This is a collection of poems, most of which were written shortly after the death of her son by suicide. They are all about grief and love. They feel so true and honest and heartbreakingly naked.

Reading these poems makes me want to write poems about my own grief, because her words are so exactly right and to the point. I feel seen in these poems. She inspires me to articulate my own feelings, and have my own honest encounter with my grief.

By Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In All the Honey, Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer holds both fine, honest sensuality and slow explorations of soul. What is shared here is a way forward in life, a fierce openness that refuses nothing—that knows damage and healing, darkness and radiance, sorrow and winged resurgence, reflection and laughter and learning.


Book cover of Open House

Regina Buttner Author Of Absolution

From my list on women taking back their power from controlling men.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was raised in a loving but strict Catholic family in the 1970s, when girls like me were still expected to grow up to become traditional wives and mothers, rather than go to college and pursue a career. In a Pre-Cana class intended to prepare me and my fiancé for marriage (it didn’t work so well, as evidenced by our rancorous divorce twelve years later), I learned the concept of “family of origin,” and the profound impact a person’s upbringing has on them as an adult. I became fascinated by the psychic baggage each of us carries around, and how it affects our personal relationships and life choices.

Regina's book list on women taking back their power from controlling men

Regina Buttner Why did Regina love this book?

Samantha is the woman I used to be—a devoted and eager-to-please wife who is an expert at turning a blind eye to the cracks in the facade of her marriage. Getting to know Sam in the pages of this novel was a lifeline for me at a very difficult time in my personal life. I was delighted to see how she opens both her home and her heart to unconventional friends and experiences, and in the process, discovers a surprisingly joyous new life for herself.

By Elizabeth Berg,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

BONUS: This edition contains an excerpt from Elizabeth Berg's Once Upon a Time, There Was You.

In this superb novel by the beloved author of Talk Before Sleep, The Pull of the Moon, and Until the Real Thing Comes Along, a woman re-creates her life after divorce by opening up her house and her heart.

Samantha's husband has left her, and after a spree of overcharging at Tiffany's, she settles down to reconstruct a life for herself and her eleven-year-old son. Her eccentric mother tries to help by fixing her up with dates, but a more pressing problem is money.…


Book cover of Cry, Heart, But Never Break

Robin Hall Author Of The Littlest Weaver

From my list on picture books for healing from loss.

Why am I passionate about this?

All my life, books have been a safe space for me to explore emotions, recognize that what I’m experiencing is universal, and see that we can cope with difficult situations. As I pursued my MFA in Writing, I studied and wrote books that address heavy topics in hopeful ways. As Matt de la Pena says, “I can’t think of a safer place to explore complex emotions … than inside the pages of a book.” The picture books I have chosen address the heavy topic of loss in sensitive, hopeful, and empowering ways. I hope these books will touch your life as much as they’ve touched mine.

Robin's book list on picture books for healing from loss

Robin Hall Why did Robin love this book?

“In the far north, in a small snug house, four children lived with their beloved grandmother,” begins this gentle tale. I’ve never made it through this book without crying. I bet you’ll cry, too.

Translated from Danish, Glenn hits the chord of loss with universal truths shared by a visit from Death himself. He’s a respectful visitor who leaves his scythe outside to not scare the children when he comes for their grandmother.

Death has a “heart as red as a beautiful sunset and beats with the great love of life.” He tells them of opposites, of dark and light, of sorrow and delight, of grief and joy. “What would life be worth if there was no death?” 

By Glenn Ringtved, Charlotte Pardi (illustrator), Robert Moulthrop (translator)

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Cry, Heart, But Never Break as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Aware their grandmother is gravely ill, four siblings make a pact to keep death from taking her away. But Death does arrive all the same, as it must. He comes gently, naturally. And he comes with enough time to share a story with the children that helps them to realize the value of loss to life and the importance of being able to say goodbye. Glenn Ringtved is a best-selling and award-winning Danish children's author, whose books have been widely translated. Charlotte Pardi is a well-beloved Danish illustrator, who has created numerous books since her first picture book in 2000.…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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