There are some great biographies and memoirs publishing this month. On our Best Books of November list we have a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, a 2021 National Book Award Finalist, best-selling authors and books that are sure to become bestsellers. For this article though, I've picked books that all touch on a specific theme: hope. Whether grappling with war, winter, disease, or the destruction of land, the heart of each of these memoirs resides in the author’s capacity for hope.
Make no mistake, their hope falters. It’s called into question. It’s derided. It’s overwhelmed by reality. These writers are human after all. But in reading these books, I discovered that I was buoyed by their words and felt more certain than ever that it's possible to grow from hardship, from loss, and that we can be better to ourselves, our planet, and to each other.
The Book Collectors: A Band of Syrian Rebels and the Stories That Carried Them Through a War by Delphine Minoui, translated by Lara Vergnaud
If you want to read something hopeful and about the power of literature and the power of good deeds, read this book. Part memoir, part history, Delphine Minoui shares the story of a group of refugees who scour bombed-out buildings in Syria for books and build a library, even as gunfire rains down. This is a harrowing story and one that shows just how vital and life-saving books can be for individuals, for communities, for cultures, and for the world.
Be My Guest is a moving and thoughtful meditation on the benefits of hospitality—on caring for guests (both old and new), and the generosity, humanity, and goodwill that comes from that. Priya Basil’s voice is warm and inviting as she takes you through the places she’s lived—Kenya, India, Germany—and how creating a community at the dinner table is what it’s all about.
Earth Keeper: Reflections on the American Land by N. Scott Momaday
In the Earth Keeper, Pulitzer Prize winner and Kiowa tribe member N. Scott Momaday revisits the reservation he grew up on and shares his stories and those of his ancestors to call for the preservation and celebration of our lands. He argues that we must be keepers of the Earth and shows us why we must protect and cherish it before it’s too late.
Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times by Katherine May
As the days grow shorter, the temperatures drop, and this pandemic continues to engulf our communities, Wintering is a book that I’ve turned to for solace. This special book is about the revolutionary—yet not at all, it’s evolution and innate, after all—idea of wintering. Animals hibernate and the rest of the natural world retreats to take time for restoration and rejuvenation in the cold, quiet months, so why shouldn't we? There are many reasons why Katherine May retreats and explaining why will compel you to plan, stock-up, and embrace the quiet rather than fight it. There is a lot of comfort in this book and yes, even in winter, warmth. And if you're anything like me, your copy will be dog-eared, underlined, and marked-up in no time.
No Time Like the Future: An Optimist Considers Mortality by Michael J. Fox
With a thoughtfulness that can be rare in celebrity memoirs, Michael J. Fox peels back the curtain on his recent struggles living with Parkinson’s. Significant health setbacks (major surgeries, broken limbs, re-learning how to walk, endless rehab) challenged the very notion of hope for the award-winning actor, and yet within these pages you will find exactly that: hope and the strength to persevere.
Michael J. Fox, a Pulitzer Prize winner, chefs, and refugees provide glimpses of hope in these powerful memoirs.