Share 12 Good Books That Get Us Through Hard Times

12 Good Books That Get Us Through Hard Times

We are passionate readers who love nothing more than discovering fantastic books and sharing them with friends. We recommend books that move us to laughter and tears—and everything in between. Trust us when we say, "You've got to read this!"

When we’re going through a hard time, there are a lot of coping mechanisms we can turn to—funny movies, tearjerkers, vodka tonics, beloved songs, chocolate, and of course, books. In that spirit, we at Off the Shelf offer these 12 books for your consideration. They have brought us comfort and solace because of their wisdom and humor, their insights and perspective, their spirit and language. They are books we love and we share them with you in the hopes that should you need it, they might bring you some comfort, too.


A Man Called Ove
by Fredrik Backman
You’ve heard of Ove by now, Swedish curmudgeon and all around grump. When new neighbors move in, instead of turning inward, he’s forced to engage with this new family. The next thing you know, dammit, instead of quietly killing himself as planned, he re-enters the world. A MAN CALLED OVE is a story of love and connection, of turning toward each other instead of away. It’s sweet and funny and unexpected, and it will bring you to tears—all things that make me feel better. — Wendy
A Man Called Ove
Fredrik Backman

“If you like to laugh AND feel moved AND have your heart applaud wildly for fictional characters, you will certainly fall for the grumpy but lovable Ove (it’s pronounced “Oo-vuh,” if you were wondering).”  

Read Ariele Stewart’s review here.

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The Book of Joy
by Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu with Douglas Abrams

Sometimes when challenging times occur, I find solace walking through a quiet bookstore looking around for some thought or idea that may provide comfort. This past week a quote popped out at me from a jacket sleeve. It said “We grow in kindness when our kindness is tested” – Archbishop Desmond Tutu. And I thought quietly to myself, yes—I want some of that to wrap myself in right now. — Stuart

The Book of Joy
Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu with Douglas Abrams

Sometimes when challenging times occur, I find solace walking through a quiet bookstore looking around for some thought or idea that may provide comfort. This past week a quote popped out at me from a jacket sleeve. It said “We grow in kindness when our kindness is tested” – Archbishop Desmond Tutu. And I thought quietly to myself, yes—I want some of that to wrap myself in right now. — Stuart

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12 Good Books That Get Us Through Hard Times

By Off the Shelf Staff | November 17, 2016

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Tiny Beautiful Things
by Cheryl Strayed
TINY BEAUTIFUL THINGS has gotten me through good times, bad times, breakups, decisions, and moments where all I needed was someone to tell me it was all going to be fine. It’s helpful and inspiring on a practical level, but what makes it more relevant and crucial in this moment is that it reveals fundamental truths about being a person. Though we’re different, many of us are the same in the ways that matter. We care about our families, we fear for our futures, we wonder if we’ll find love or a new job or get over that one thing that still keeps us up at night. These letters and their resonance are proof of that, and I find comfort in knowing that there are people out there who are reading this book and seeing that as well. — Julianna
Tiny Beautiful Things
Cheryl Strayed

Cheryl Strayed, author of WILD, is as candid and compassionate as ever as “Sugar,” the formerly anonymous online columnist at The Rumpus. TINY BEAUTIFUL THINGS is a striking collection of “Dear Sugar” columns, the gentlest tough-love advice you’ll ever need to hear.

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Pride and Prejudice
by Jane Austen
With its country balls, empire gowns, and witty, intelligent heroines, PRIDE AND PREJUDICE is a delightful romp to a time and place we love to romanticize—but can you blame us? We all want a Mr. Darcy in our lives. There’s a good reason why Austen’s masterpiece has so many adaptations. — Kerry
Pride and Prejudice
Jane Austen

In one of the most universally loved and admired English novels, a country squire of no great means must marry off his five vivacious daughters. Jane Austen's art transformed this effervescent tale of rural romance into a witty, shrewdly observed satire of English country life.

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Wishful Drinking
by Carrie Fisher

Reading this laugh-out-loud memoir makes you realize that no matter how messed up everything is, there’s always vodka and then of course—the repercussions. — Chris

Wishful Drinking
Carrie Fisher

Reading this laugh-out-loud memoir makes you realize that no matter how messed up everything is, there’s always vodka and then of course—the repercussions. — Chris

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Wonder
by R. J. Palacio
When I need to be comforted about humanity, I read WONDER. It’s moving and the ending is always good for a long, cathartic cry. It’s a book that inspires empathy, tolerance, and kindness; it makes me want to be a better person. — Sarah Jane
Wonder
R. J. Palacio

August Pullman was born with a facial difference that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting fifth grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid—but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face. This moving portrait of one community’s struggle with empathy, compassion, and acceptance is the most inspiring book I have read in years.

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I Capture the Castle
by Dodie Smith
This delightful novel is the perfect escapism when news, weather or even people seem a little too much to bear. Seventeen-year-old Cassandra’s family of eccentrics live in a nearly dilapidated, but oh-so-bohemian castle in 1930’s English countryside and the book captures six charming months of her diary entries as she comes of age. It’s enchanting small-stakes for anyone who loved Downtown Abbey, and a necessary pairing for comfort tea and toast. — Elizabeth
I Capture the Castle
Dodie Smith

I Capture the Castle tells the story of seventeen-year-old Cassandra and her family, who live in not-so-genteel poverty in a ramshackle old English castle. Here she strives, over six turbulent months, to hone her writing skills. She fills three notebooks with sharply funny yet poignant entries. Her journals candidly chronicle the great changes that take place within the castle's walls, and her own first descent into love. By the time she pens her final entry, she has "captured the castle"--and the heart of the reader--in one of literature's most enchanting entertainments.

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The Price of Salt
by Patricia Highsmith
Reading THE PRICE OF SALT as a teenager was like seeing a reflection of how I felt inside for the first time. Therese and Carol’s romance gave me hope for my future. For the first time, I saw it was possible to embrace and express a part of myself that had previously made me feel so confused, so ashamed, and so alone in the world. Now, more than ever, I reflect back on how I felt when I first read this book and am inspired to work toward a more equal and accepting future for LGBTQ youth. — Erica
The Price of Salt
Patricia Highsmith

More than sixty years after it was published, this groundbreaking novel is going Hollywood with Carol. Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara are superbly cast as a pair of star-crossed lovers in 1950s New York whose relationship becomes fodder for blackmail. While the script was written fifteen years ago, the female-driven storyline struggled to find support. Skeptics were disproven when the premiere got a standing ovation at Cannes and was nominated for the Palme d’Or.

Release date: December 18, 2015

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Hyperbole and a Half
by Allie Brosh
My best friend introduced me to Allie Brosh’s blog several years ago and I remember sitting in her basement, collapsed in laughter. Her corresponding book is not only an equally hilarious collection of her best entries but also an accurate, moving, and hysterical depiction of living with depression. Allie is the best friend we all need. — Kerry
Hyperbole and a Half
Allie Brosh

“I have read very few books in my life that compelled me to laugh so loudly in public that it made the people around me visibly uncomfortable. Allie Brosh’s HYPERBOLE AND A HALF is one of them.”

Read Sarah Jane Abbott’s review here.

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A Thousand Splendid Suns
by Khaled Hosseini
I discovered Khaled Hosseini's A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS at a confusing time in my life: my college years. Whenever I pick up this harrowing yet ultimately triumphant story—which is often—I'm warmed by the notion that two women from vastly different upbringings can unite and overcome an oppressor. But most importantly, whenever I revisit this book my life has changed tremendously from the last time I read it, reminding me always to keep going no matter the circumstances. — Tolani
A Thousand Splendid Suns
Khaled Hosseini

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Bachelor Brothers' Bed & Breakfast
by Bill Richardson
THE BACHELOR BROTHERS’ BED & BREAKFAST is a charming tale of middle-aged fraternal twins who run a bed-and-breakfast catering to bibliophiles. Sign me up! Interspersed among the humorous antics of the brothers and their guests (Animals! Musical eggcups! Morris dancing!), are delightful suggested reading lists. This book is witty, endearing, thoughtful, ridiculous, and a warm bath (with a glass of wine on the side of the tub) for a harried soul. — Allison
Bachelor Brothers' Bed & Breakfast
Bill Richardson

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Uglies
by Scott Westerfeld
When I was in the 8th grade, I read UGLIES for the first time and fell in love with Scott Westerfeld. The next four years were almost impossible, and I clung to books, particularly Scott Westerfeld’s dystopian series about a teenage girl being forced into action and then rising up and taking control of her life to fight an oppressive government. Now, with so many other books surrounding me, I am back to Scott Westerfeld and UGLIES, because I need something to cling to, and I know these books already pulled me through a time I once thought I wouldn’t survive. — Erin
Uglies
Scott Westerfeld

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