We recently asked subscribers of the BuzzFeed Books newsletter to tell us about a book that restored their faith in humanity. There’s something here for everyone, so take your pick — and get ready to be inspired.
1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
There's a reason this book is a classic. It tackles such important themes of acceptance and love, and is chock-full of life lessons big and small. I cried from the sheer beauty of the whole damn book.
(Also recommended by Eman Fatima and Abdurrahman Hafizh.)
2. Life of Pi by Yann Martel
After young Pi is orphaned by a shipwreck, he's set adrift alone on the ocean, with only a tiger for company. His struggle for survival tests his spirit and psyche, tapping into all the mysteries of the human condition. From the harrowing start to the mind-blowing finish, this book is a powerful testament to humanity's ability to persevere.
(Also recommended by Melissa Zellner.)
3. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
Having taught high school English for many years, I've encountered many inspiring novels, but The Nightingale by is by far the best book that I have ever read. The novel is a well-reasearched, beautifully written work of historical fiction, centered around two sisters living in France during World War II German occupation. Both are amazingly courageous, but in very different ways. Filled with mystery, heartbreak, courage and inspiration, The Nightingale will not only stay with you long after you read it, it will also change how you see the world.
You must must must must MUST read this book! Malala's story is as unbelievable as it is inspirational: She survived a point-blank gunshot to the head, continued in her fight for girls' right to education around the world, and, at the age of 17, became the youngest ever recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. She is an unstoppable force for good and this book allows us all to learn from her incredible wisdom.
5. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
From the Olympics to WWII to a crash-landing in the ocean and months of torment in a Japanese POW camp, Louis Zamperini’s story is one helluvah ride. A great testament of courage and hope.
(Also recommended by Lindsay W.)
6. Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder
Whenever a friend is a little lost, or trying to figure out what to do with their life, I send them Mountains Beyond Beyonds, the incredible story of Dr. Paul Farmer. His ambition? Attempting to cure the entire world of disease, one patient at a time, starting in the poorest towns in one of the poorest countries in the world, Haiti. Here's proof that we can all dream a little bigger — there's no challenge too great.
7. Wonder by R.J. Palacio
One incredibly moving aspect of this book is its message on kindness. Through the eyes of August Pullman, we see what it’s like to be on the receiving end of dirty looks, terrified stares, and ugly words. Because it's told from multiple points of view, we also get the chance to tap into the mind of a bully, a friend, and a loved one during these events. The ending of this book and the way the characters dealt with these situations is what restored my faith in humanity. We can ALWAYS choose kindness.
(Also recommended by Annmarie McIlvain, Ann Zhao, Ashley B., and Gab R.)
8. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers
"The moving memoir of a college senior who, in the space of five weeks, loses both of his parents to cancer and inherits his eight-year-old brother."
When I read this, I had no idea what I was getting into — it was so much more than it seemed from the start (make sure you read everything, even the ISBN/Library page small print) and frequently left me in tears.
—AJ Via, Riverhead, NY
9. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
Owen Meany is about a small boy with a high-pitched voice who is just "different" from his peers. I will never forget the thrilling, inspiring ending where every aspect of his differentness comes together in a perfect, heroic storm.
It makes me laugh and cry every time I read it. I started to believe in God again because of this book.
10. Letter To My Daughter by Maya Angelou
This book captures that soaring poetic wisdom and grace that was the late Maya Angelou's trademark. Her essays and reflections range from heavy to humorous, exploring her childhood, her travels, her foibles, and her faith. Letter reminds us that, though there is darkness in the world, we each have the strength and spirit to overcome more than we ever could have imagined.
Favorite quote: "You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them."
11. Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom
This book made me remember that there is good in the world. It's about the most amazing man and his journey through death. The way that he saw the world and how positive he was even on his death bed was incredibly inspiring and made me want to better myself in every way. It made me cry, made me laugh, made me angry, and, most importantly, made me think.
—CarolLinn Hawkins Wells, ME
12. A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
This book is infuriatingly heartwarming and charming and loveable! It's about a total grump named Ove who is an old, mean, loner. He has nothing to live for besides policing his neighbors and arguing with strangers until he meets a young family that needs his help. He takes it upon himself to help this young family and becomes the most sweet and loyal friend to them and others who need him. Such a gem of a book!
—Christina A. Tretinjak
13. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
In its devastating exploration of young Pecola Breedlove's quest for beauty, The Bluest Eye exposes the power and pain of our obsessions. Although it's incredibly sad, the book gives me faith with the realization that bad people aren't really bad — they're just messed up. At heart, there is strength and goodness in us all.
14. Tenth of December by George Saunders
Tenth of December is a series of short stories by George Saunders, who is a sage. Saunders writes about all our deepest, darkest, most inarticulable fears — death, irrelevance, being a bad person, disappointing the people we love — that drive people to do the worst things. He puts those fears in his characters, but he imbues his stories with compassion and humor. I'm not sure the stories exactly restore my faith in humanity, but they helped me develop a peace with it.
—Natalie San Luis
15. If I Stay by Gayle Forman
"17-year-old Mia has no memory of the accident; she can only recall what happened afterwards, watching her own damaged body being taken from the wreck. Little by little she struggles to put together the pieces — to figure out what she has lost, what she has left, and the very difficult choice she must make."
We don’t see how lucky we are until our luck is peeled away — until everything we love is taken away. If I Stay made me realize all these things. Read this book to change the way you look everything you take for granted, to change the way you look at your loved ones, to change the way you look at life.
16. We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas
We Are Not Ourselves is a big novel, historical in scope, about an Irish girl who grows up in New York with an alcoholic mom and dad, moving up to a quiet, suburban life raising a son with her scientist/professor husband and struggling to adapt to the role of housewife and mother. This is one of the only books I’ve ever read that resulted in actual crying — I was at work, waiting to punch in, reading in my car, and had big fat salty tears rolling down my cheeks when I turned the last page. It was absolutely beautiful, devastating writing, will sucker-punch any parent right in the belly and heart. I want to find Mathew Thomas and give him a long, hard hug.
—AJ Via, Riverhead, NY
17. The Master Butchers Singing Club by Louise Erdrich
I generally don't subscribe to that "things happen for a reason" business, but the fierce and fateful architecture of this story — bringing together a German immigrant butcher, his family, and the circus sideshow performer who enchants and changes them all — made me reconsider. The novel's early-20th century small town setting and complex characters are utterly enchanting, and force you to appreciate all the tangled ways in which people pass through each of our lives.
18. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
This book is a reminder that there is good in everyone and that, no matter how messed up the world can be, we can have hope that things will work out in the end.
One of the most heartbreaking books I've ever read.
19. Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks
This was one of our recent book club picks. This fictional story is based on the real village of Eyam, England, that lost most of its people during the bubonic plague. Anna, the lead character, endures so much loss in a year yet is ultimately able to overcome.
(Also recommended by Debbie Burns-Walton.)
20. In the Courtyard of the Kabbalist by Ruchama King Feuerman
In the Courtyard of the Kabbalist was a revelation in terms of seeing both sides of the difficult and seemingly endless struggle between Israel and Palestine, men and women, old and new, and offering a solution, one that only exists in each and every human heart.
21. The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay
The story of the young Peekay — whose life is changed by the wonderful mix of characters who take him under their wing, offer friendship, family and love — is one I will never forget. Set in South Africa between 1939 and 1951, this is a book that deals with issues such as WWII, racial prejudice, and religious persecution, but, at its core, is a story about life and what it means to be a decent, happy human being in circumstances so far beyond our control.
22. Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
After she's killed in a terrible accident, Sam finds herself waking up the next morning, faced with the chance — and burden — to re-live the last day of her life seven times. She soon realizes how much power she truly holds over her own life, and how even the smallest changes might affect everyone else around her.
23. Deep Down Dark by Héctor Tobar
This account of the 2010 Chilean mine accident has everything you'd expect from a thriller — grit, action, suspense, longing, doubt, anguish, and, ultimately, triumph. Tobar brings the struggles of Los 33 to life, revealing the incredible roller coaster of events and emotion that transpired over the 69 days they were trapped underground. Equally as important, he follows the different ways in which the men have reckoned with their experience in the aftermath. This book left me shaken yet hopeful.
24. Orhan's Inheritance by Aline Ohanesian
"When Orhan’s brilliant and eccentric grandfather, Kemal Türkoglu, is found dead, submerged in a vat of dye, Orhan inherits the decades-old business. But Kemal has left the family estate to a stranger thousands of miles away, an aging woman in a retirement home in Los Angeles. Intent on righting this injustice, Orhan unearths a story that, if told, has the power to undo the legacy upon which Orhan’s family is built, a story that could unravel his own future."
This book taught me so much — about resilience, sacrifice, Turkish history, the past's impact on the present, and, above all, our capacity as humans to listen, learn, and love.
25. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
"January 1946: writer Juliet Ashton receives a letter from a stranger, a founding member of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. And so begins a remarkable tale of the island of Guernsey during the German occupation, and of a society as extraordinary as its name."
It was so interesting to read a story told through letters, and this book just filled me with hope.
26. I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak
This lesser-known Markus Zusak book details the life of unambitious, underage cab driver Ed Kennedy and how his life changes after he stops a (pretty incompetent) bank robbery. Soon, he starts receiving cryptic messages on cards about people he can help. Exquisitely worded, beautifully written, and stirring up so many emotions all at once, I am the Messenger gives offers one simple message: You don’t have to be great to help others. This book might just manage to shift your own perspective in life.
27. China Dolls by Lisa See
An interesting and distinctive depiction of WWII through the eyes of three best friends dancing their way through lives of fame, each with their own secrets, baggage, and insecurities but bound together by a similar heritage. A surprising twist reveals how one friend betrayed by another found it in her heart to forgive, making their relationship stronger than ever. This book is a true celebration of friendship, a lesson on how one can let go of all the negative and embrace a traducer.
I love how Stephen King talks about his wife in this book. He made me believe love exists and relationships still work. His writing also made me think about how I judge character, that not everyone is born into what he or she may be experiencing right now. And that people all have the capacity to excel and better themselves.
29. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
Their Eyes Were Watching God is nothing if not inspirational. It shows the quiet, steadfast beauty of one woman rising against the odds and living her life to the fullest. Hurston's lively dialogue and prose practically leap off the page to conjure Janie Crawford and her remarkable, resilient spirit before your very eyes.
30. The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters
A comet is heading toward earth and the planet has essentially six months to live. Detective Hank Palace refuses to let this disturb him from looking for killers and maintaining peace amidst the chaos. He prefers to lean into the unpleasantness of humanity's end, while still remaining an open, empathetic, and caring human being. He restored my faith in humanity and inspired me to try to be good as well, no matter what hardships come my way.
31. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
Whenever I feel bad or sad or just down, I reread chapters from different books in the series and remind myself that happiness can be found even in the darkest times — if one only remembers to turn on the light.
It gives you a sense of hope that even when everything goes to shits, all will be well.