I’m not a big fan of traditional self-help books, but I love a novel or memoir with a strong undercurrent of self-discovery. Whether the author/main character comes to terms with a personal loss, their body image, finds their confidence, or reconciles a key piece of their identity, I always find that those books engender the most empathy and introspection in me.
I’ll give my same disclaimer as I did in my last post about self image: not all of these books are predominantly about body image or self image, they are nuanced and complex pieces of fiction and non-fiction, but those themes do factor into them.
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by: Mindy Kaling
Blurb: “Mindy Kaling has lived many lives: the obedient child of immigrant professionals, a timid chubster afraid of her own bike, a Ben Affleck-impersonating Off-Broadway performer and playwright, and, finally, a comedy writer and actress prone to starting fights with her friends and coworkers with the sentence ‘Can I just say one last thing about this, and then I swear I’ll shut up about it?’ In Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? , Mindy invites readers on a tour of her life and her unscientific observations on romance, friendship, and Hollywood, with several conveniently placed stopping points for you to run errands and make phone calls. Mindy Kaling really is just a Girl Next Door – not so much literally anywhere in the continental United States, but definitely if you live in India or Sri Lanka.”
Wintergirls by: Laurie Halse Anderson
Blurb: “Lia and Cassie are best friends, wintergirls frozen in fragile bodies, competitors in a deadly contest to see who can be the thinnest. But then Cassie suffers the ultimate loss – her life – and Lia is left behind, haunted by her friend’s memory and feeling guilty for not being able help save her. In her most powerfully moving novel since Speak, award-winning author Laurie Halse Anderson explores Lia’s struggle, her painful path to recovery, and her desperate attempts to hold on to the most important thing of all – hope.”
A Thousand Splendid Suns by: Khaled Hosseini
Blurb: “A Thousand Splendid Suns is a breathtaking novel set against the volatile events of Afghanistan’s last thirty years – from the Soviet invasion to the reign of the Taliban, to post-Taliban rebuilding – and puts the violence, fear, hope, and faith of this country in intimate, human terms. It is a story of two generations of characters brought jarringly together by the tragic sweep of war, where personal lives – the struggle to survive, raise a family, and find happiness – are inextricable from the history playing out around them. Propelled by the same storytelling instinct that brought millions of readers to The Kite Runner, A Thousand Splendid Suns is at once an incredible chronicle of three decades of Afghan history and a deeply moving story of family and friendship.”
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by: Junot Diaz
Blurb: “Oscar is a sweet but disastrously overweight ghetto nerd who – from the New Jersey home he shares with his old world mother and rebellious sister – dreams of becoming the Dominican J.R.R. Tolkien and, most of all, finding love. But Oscar may never get what he wants. Blame the fuku – a curse that has haunted Oscar’s family for generations, following them on their epic journey from Santo Domingo to the USA. Encapsulating Dominican-American history, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao opens our eyes to an astonishing vision of the contemporary American experience and explores the endless human capacity to persevere – and risk it all – in the name of love.”
Eat, Pray, Love by: Elizabeth Gilbert
Blurb: “In her early thirties, Elizabeth Gilbert had everything a modern American woman was supposed to want – husband, country home, successful career – but instead of feeling happy and fulfilled, she was consumed by panic and confusion. This wise and rapturous book is the story of how she left behind all these outward marks of success and set out to explore three different aspects of her nature against the backdrop of three different cultures: pleasure in Italy, devotion in India and on the Indonesian island of Bali, a balance between worldly enjoyment and divine transcendence. For more than a decade, Eat Pray Love has touched the world and changed countless lives, inspiring and empowering millions of readers to search for their own best selves.”