100 books like When Bad Things Happen to Good People

By Harold S. Kushner,

Here are 100 books that When Bad Things Happen to Good People fans have personally recommended if you like When Bad Things Happen to Good People. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Book cover of Educated: A Memoir

Penny Lane Author Of Redeemed: A Memoir of a Stolen Childhood

From my list on people breaking from their pasts to claim their lives back.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an adult child of an alcoholic father and an abusive and dysfunctional stepmother who ran away from home at sixteen and fell into the wrong crowd in my search for love and family. Yet after years of hard personal work, I have overcome and triumphed over these obstacles to become stable, happy, and successful, in a good marriage, raising a great son in a loving, stable home. I’ve gone on to help and inspire others to do the same, including writing the book Redeemed, A Memoir of a Stolen Childhood.

Penny's book list on people breaking from their pasts to claim their lives back

Penny Lane Why did Penny love this book?

I identified with Tara Westover while reading her memoir because of her secluded and restrictive upbringing. Like her, my upbringing made me feel left out, “other,” different from normal kids, not allowed the usual activities that other kids could do and kept from learning and growing in my own way.

I didn’t understand how these rules affected me until I saw my angst in her own words of isolation, yearning, and rebellion. It gave me hope that our desire for self-fulfillment and actualization is universal and stronger than the people who try, for good reasons or bad, to keep us down.

It is an amazing book. I could barely put it down. 

By Tara Westover,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

THE MULTI-MILLION COPY BESTSELLER

Selected as a book of the year by AMAZON, THE TIMES, SUNDAY TIMES, GUARDIAN, NEW YORK TIMES, ECONOMIST, NEW STATESMAN, VOGUE, IRISH TIMES, IRISH EXAMINER and RED MAGAZINE

'One of the best books I have ever read . . . unbelievably moving' Elizabeth Day
'An extraordinary story, beautifully told' Louise O'Neill
'A memoir to stand alongside the classics . . . compelling and joyous' Sunday Times

Tara Westover grew up preparing for the end of the world. She was never put in school, never taken to the doctor. She did not even have a birth certificate…


Book cover of Britt-Marie Was Here

Debbie Chein Morris Author Of We Used to Dance: Loving Judy, My Disabled Twin

From my list on getting through life’s challenges.

Why am I passionate about this?

At the age of fifty-three, I was suddenly thrust into the role of primary caregiver for my disabled twin sister who was unable to sit, stand, feed herself, eat solid foods, or communicate. Up to that point, that role had been my mother’s with the help of home-attendants; but my mother was aging and the care provided by the ever-changing attendants was wanting. I was forced to place Judy in a nursing home. The challenge left me overwhelmed with the responsibility of overseeing her care and there were days I wondered if I could go on. With the support of family and friends, I was able to make it through.

Debbie's book list on getting through life’s challenges

Debbie Chein Morris Why did Debbie love this book?

Britt-Marie Was Here is a book of fiction. Nonetheless, it speaks to me as an example of persevering to get through life’s challenges.

Backman is a master of character development and I easily connected with the protagonist. I, like Britt Marie, have found myself outside my comfort zone, slowly moving forward to figure out how to navigate my new position in life.

For Britt Marie, it was living on her own in a new place, with new people, after leaving her husband upon whom she depended for everything; for me it was becoming a primary caregiver and decision-maker for my disabled twin sister.

Very different positions and yet sharing the challenge of accepting our new situation in life. I didn’t want the book to end.

By Fredrik Backman,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Britt-Marie Was Here as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The New York Times bestselling author of A Man Called Ove, My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, and Anxious People captivates readers with this “warm and satisfying” (People) story “about a woman rediscovering herself after a personal crisis…fans of Backman will find another winner in these pages” (Publishers Weekly).

Britt-Marie can’t stand mess. A disorganized cutlery drawer ranks high on her list of unforgivable sins. She is not one to judge others—no matter how ill-mannered, unkempt, or morally suspect they might be. It’s just that sometimes people interpret her helpful suggestions as criticisms, which is certainly not…


Book cover of Emma's Laugh: The Gift of Second Chances

Debbie Chein Morris Author Of We Used to Dance: Loving Judy, My Disabled Twin

From my list on getting through life’s challenges.

Why am I passionate about this?

At the age of fifty-three, I was suddenly thrust into the role of primary caregiver for my disabled twin sister who was unable to sit, stand, feed herself, eat solid foods, or communicate. Up to that point, that role had been my mother’s with the help of home-attendants; but my mother was aging and the care provided by the ever-changing attendants was wanting. I was forced to place Judy in a nursing home. The challenge left me overwhelmed with the responsibility of overseeing her care and there were days I wondered if I could go on. With the support of family and friends, I was able to make it through.

Debbie's book list on getting through life’s challenges

Debbie Chein Morris Why did Debbie love this book?

As soon as I began reading Emma’s Gift, I was hooked.

Though the author’s relationship to Emma – mother-to-child – is different from my relationship to my twin sister, having a family member with a disability made the connection. The challenges of the situation and the difficult decisions that Kuperschmit had to make resonated with my own.

The honesty and bearing of emotions were necessary for both of us to tell our story. I could hardly put the book down, awed by Kuperschmit’s beautiful and eloquent descriptions of what she was going through.

We shared an understanding that there is a real person underneath the disability and I was thankful throughout for Kuperschmit’s skill in showing her readers that, even with an “atypical” child, there is the ability to love and be loved.

By Diana Kupershmit,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Emma's Laugh as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

As Diana surveyed her newborn baby's face, languid body, and absent cry, she knew something was wrong. Then the doctors delivered devastating news: her first child, Emma, had been born with a rare genetic disorder that would leave her profoundly physically and intellectually disabled.

Diana imagined life with a child with disabilities as a dark and insular one-a life in which she would be forced to exist in the periphery alongside her daughter. Convinced of her inability to love her "imperfect" child and give her the best care and life she deserved, Diana gave Emma up for adoption. But as…


Book cover of Once More We Saw Stars: A Memoir

Debbie Chein Morris Author Of We Used to Dance: Loving Judy, My Disabled Twin

From my list on getting through life’s challenges.

Why am I passionate about this?

At the age of fifty-three, I was suddenly thrust into the role of primary caregiver for my disabled twin sister who was unable to sit, stand, feed herself, eat solid foods, or communicate. Up to that point, that role had been my mother’s with the help of home-attendants; but my mother was aging and the care provided by the ever-changing attendants was wanting. I was forced to place Judy in a nursing home. The challenge left me overwhelmed with the responsibility of overseeing her care and there were days I wondered if I could go on. With the support of family and friends, I was able to make it through.

Debbie's book list on getting through life’s challenges

Debbie Chein Morris Why did Debbie love this book?

In May of 2015, two-year-old Greta Greene was hit in the head by bricks falling from a nearby building while sitting on a bench with her grandmother. She died shortly after.

I remember hearing of it on the news and wondering how the parents and grandmother could survive such a trauma. Jayson Greene’s book tells us how. For me, it was a reminder that, even when the worst happens and we find ourselves in the dark of the tunnel, the light can shine again.

Reading this book I realized that this family made it through the same way I got through my own trauma: one step at a time, one day at a time; sometimes even just one small moment at a time.

By Jayson Greene,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Once More We Saw Stars as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'A gripping and beautiful book about the power of love in the face of unimaginable loss'
Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild

'Extraordinary . . . both heartbreaking and life-affirming . . . you will find your heart magically expanded'
Mail on Sunday

'Unimaginably poetic . . . I learned a lot reading this book and have passed it on to others'
Jessie Cave, Red Magazine

'Greene's account of his loss is remarkably uplifting. It's hard-won proof that love can survive our worst fears and our darkest, most desperate emotions'
Daily Mail

'This minutely observed memoir will surely be helpful to…


Book cover of Zen Judaism

Brenda Shoshanna Author Of Jewish Dharma: A Guide to the Practice of Judaism and Zen

From my list on Zen and Judaism.

Why am I passionate about this?

A lifelong practitioner and teacher of both Zen and Judaism, I am also a psychologist, who has constantly grappled with human needs, suffering, and the craving for meaning. The focus of my life has been to integrate the profound teachings of East and West and provide ways of making these teachings real in our everyday lives. An award-winning author, I have published many books on Zen and psychology, and have been the playwright in residence at the Jewish Repertory Theater in NY. Presently, I offer two weekly podcasts, Zen Wisdom for Your Everyday Life, and One Minute Mitzvahs. I also provide ongoing Zen talks both for Morningstar Zen and Inisfada Zen, workshops, and other talks for the community.

Brenda's book list on Zen and Judaism

Brenda Shoshanna Why did Brenda love this book?

Zen Judaism is a frank reflection on the tensions between reason and faith in today’s context of knowledge. This book includes logic, ethics, philosophy, phenomenology and the need to inject Zen-like meditation into Judaism.

By Avi Sion,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Zen Judaism is a frank reflection on the tensions between reason and faith in today’s context of knowledge, and on the need to inject Zen-like meditation into Judaism. This work also treats some issues in ethics and theodicy.


Book cover of Religion and Its Monsters

Steve A. Wiggins Author Of Holy Horror: The Bible and Fear in Movies

From my list on bringing horror and religion into conversation.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up religious but loving scary things—horror movies, scary comic books, Dark Shadows, and The Twilight Zone. Even the music of Alice Cooper. While I’m no longer religious, I have a doctorate in religious studies and I still have a fascination with media that cause fear. I also write horror stories. Beyond Holy Horror I have written two more books on religion and horror and I read every book about this odd combination as soon as I can get my hands on it. I believe you should never judge people by their tastes in media—they can be decent folk even if they like horror.

Steve's book list on bringing horror and religion into conversation

Steve A. Wiggins Why did Steve love this book?

Religion and Its Monsters started this whole conversation.

Timothy Beal successfully transitioned from an author of academic books to an author of trade books, and this one shows how he did it. He selected two unexpectedly compatible subjects and demonstrated that they lurk in the same mental spaces.

I was inspired by this book to allow myself to reclaim my childhood interest in monsters as an adult. If serious scholars wrote about such things, why shouldn’t I read about them?

Unfortunately, Beal never followed up with another book on the topic.

By Timothy K. Beal,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Religion and Its Monsters as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Religion's great and powerful mystery fascinates us, but it also terrifies. So too the monsters that haunt the stories of the Judeo-Christian mythos and earlier traditions: Leviathan, Behemoth, dragons, and other beasts. In this unusual and provocative book, Timothy K. Beal writes about the monsters that lurk in our religious texts, and about how monsters and religion are deeply entwined. Horror and faith are inextricable. Ans as monsters are part of religious texts and traditions, so religion lurks in the modern horror genre, from its birth in Dante's Inferno to the contemporary spookiness of H.P. Lovecraft and the Hellraiser films.…


Book cover of Your Soul's Plan: Discovering the Real Meaning of the Life You Planned Before You Were Born

Lois Cloarec Hart Author Of Walking the Labyrinth

From my list on beginning a metaphysical awakening.

Why am I passionate about this?

My passion for metaphysics was ignited by an odd sequence of events that followed my husband’s death in 2001. He had been profoundly affected by progressive multiple sclerosis. Yet, beginning the night after his death and for the twenty-two years since, he has reached out to me time and again. I take great comfort in knowing that he's still somewhere, and very much his former vibrant, funny, loving self. Even though my life has moved on, and I met the woman who would later become my wife, my late husband remains very much a part of my life and spiritual education. As to who I am—only time will tell.

Lois' book list on beginning a metaphysical awakening

Lois Cloarec Hart Why did Lois love this book?

By the time I read Courageous Souls, I had, through a combination of reading and metaphysical experiences, developed a deep belief in the survival and reincarnation of souls.

So, encountering the ten personal stories contained within the book did not introduce me to anything new. What it did, however, was dive deeper into questions that have plagued philosophers and theologians.

Why do some people stumble through life, and others float blithely above universal chaos? How do we square the concept of a loving Creator with all the evils which escaped Pandora’s Box, and haunt humanity? Is it possible that we truly choose personal adversities to be part of our lifetime? And if so, why?

This book further expanded my growing understanding of the spiritual soul choices that guide all incarnations.

By Robert Schwartz,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Your Soul's Plan as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Would you like to understand the deeper spiritual meaning of physical illness, parenting handicapped children, drug addiction, alcoholism, the death of a loved one, accidents, deafness, and blindness?
 
Your Soul’s Plan (which was originally published under the title Courageous Souls: Do We Plan Our Life Challenges Before Birth?) explores the premise that we are all eternal souls who plan our lives, including our greatest challenges, before we are born for the purpose of spiritual growth. Through compelling profiles of people who knowingly planned the experiences mentioned above, Your Soul’s Plan shows that suffering is not purposeless, but rather imbued with…


Book cover of The Sweet Spot: The Pleasures of Suffering and the Search for Meaning

Dimitris Xygalatas Author Of Ritual: How Seemingly Senseless Acts Make Life Worth Living

From my list on the things that make us human.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an anthropologist and cognitive scientist who studies some of the things that make us human—but not the obvious ones. I am mostly interested in those things that may appear puzzling or pointless, but fill our lives with meaning and purpose. Growing up in Greece, I read National Geographic Magazine and reveled in the documentaries of Jane Goodall, David Attenborough, and Jacques Cousteau, which sparked in me a passion for exploration through the combined lenses of personal experience and scientific scrutiny. In my own research, I have spent two decades studying ritual by conducting several years of ethnographic research and bringing scientific measurements into real-life settings.

Dimitris' book list on the things that make us human

Dimitris Xygalatas Why did Dimitris love this book?

This book relates to a lot of what I’ve learned in my own research about rituals. Contrary to conventional wisdom, it argues that we humans are not hedonists by nature. Yes, we desire comfort and we pursue all kinds of pleasures. But we also often embrace struggle, effort, and even fear and pain, and those are in fact the things that make our lives truly meaningful. From watching horror films and climbing mountains to raising children and performing painful rituals, Paul Bloom argues that, in the right context, suffering can be part of a life well-lived.

By Paul Bloom,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

“This book will challenge you to rethink your vision of a good life. With sharp insights and lucid prose, Paul Bloom makes a captivating case that pain and suffering are essential to happiness. It’s an exhilarating antidote to toxic positivity.” —Adam Grant, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Think Again and host of the TED podcast WorkLife

One of BehavioralScientist's"Notable Books of 2021"

From the author of Against Empathy, a different kind of happiness book, one that shows us how suffering is an essential source of both pleasure and meaning in our lives

Why do we so often seek…


Book cover of One God Clapping: The Spiritual Path of a Zen Rabbi

Brenda Shoshanna Author Of Jewish Dharma: A Guide to the Practice of Judaism and Zen

From my list on Zen and Judaism.

Why am I passionate about this?

A lifelong practitioner and teacher of both Zen and Judaism, I am also a psychologist, who has constantly grappled with human needs, suffering, and the craving for meaning. The focus of my life has been to integrate the profound teachings of East and West and provide ways of making these teachings real in our everyday lives. An award-winning author, I have published many books on Zen and psychology, and have been the playwright in residence at the Jewish Repertory Theater in NY. Presently, I offer two weekly podcasts, Zen Wisdom for Your Everyday Life, and One Minute Mitzvahs. I also provide ongoing Zen talks both for Morningstar Zen and Inisfada Zen, workshops, and other talks for the community.

Brenda's book list on Zen and Judaism

Brenda Shoshanna Why did Brenda love this book?

Like a Zen koan or a Jewish folk tale, One God Clapping presents a series of stories, each containing a moment of revelation that is never simple or contrived. This book is a bold experiment in the integration of Eastern and Western ways of looking at and living in the world.

By Sherril Jaffe, Alan Lew,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked One God Clapping as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From Zen Buddhist practitioner to rabbi, East meets West in this firsthand account of a spiritual journey.

Rabbi Alan Lew is known as the Zen Rabbi, a leader in the Jewish meditation movement who works to bring two ancient religious traditions into our everyday lives. One God Clapping is the story of his roundabout yet continuously provoking spiritual odyssey. It is also the story of the meeting between East and West in America, and the ways in which the encounter has transformed how all of us understand God and ourselves.

Winner of the PEN / Joseph E. Miles Award

Like…


Book cover of The Palliative Society: Pain Today

William Byers Author Of How Mathematicians Think: Using Ambiguity, Contradiction, and Paradox to Create Mathematics

From my list on thinking, creativity, and mathematics.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm a mathematician but an unusual one because I am interested in how mathematics is created and how it is learned. From an early age, I loved mathematics because of the beauty of its concepts and the precision of its organization and reasoning. When I started to do research I realized that things were not so simple. To create something new you had to suspend or go beyond your rational mind for a while. I realized that the learning and creating of math have non-logical features. This was my eureka moment. It turned the conventional wisdom (about what math is and how it is done) on its head.

William's book list on thinking, creativity, and mathematics

William Byers Why did William love this book?

It’s a little weird that this book should find a place on my list. It’s a book about how society has become resistant to anything that is difficult and painful and the kinds of people that we have become as a result. But mathematics is difficult! To understand mathematics you have to think hard, sometimes for a long time. Moreover understanding something hard is discontinuous, it requires a leap to a new way of thinking. You have to start with a problem and this problem might be an ambiguity or a contradiction. A is true and B is true but A and B seem to contradict one another. When you sort out this problem you will have learned something.

The moral here is to embrace things that are difficult if you want to learn significant new things. “No pain, no gain.” You don’t have to worry about some super AI…

By Byung-Chul Han, Daniel Steuer (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Our societies today are characterized by a universal algophobia: a generalized fear of pain. We strive to avoid all painful conditions - even the pain of love is treated as suspect. This algophobia extends into society: less and less space is given to conflicts and controversies that might prompt painful discussions. It takes hold of politics too: politics becomes a palliative politics that is incapable of implementing radical reforms that might be painful, so all we get is more of the same.

Faced with the coronavirus pandemic, the palliative society is transformed into a society of survival. The virus enters…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in suffering, Judaism, and rabbis?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about suffering, Judaism, and rabbis.

Suffering Explore 15 books about suffering
Judaism Explore 88 books about Judaism
Rabbis Explore 24 books about rabbis