3 Books That Will Restore Your Faith In The Human Spirit

These raw, smart, honest books inspire with narrators who stand up for what they believe -- and who they want to become.
  • Let the Tornado Come
    There's a brilliant moment early on in <a href="http://search.barnesandnoble.com/books/product.aspx?EAN=9781476734866" target
    Courtesy of Simon & Schuster
    There's a brilliant moment early on in this lyrical memoir, where 30-something Chin is at a stuffy banquet in Massachusetts, failing to hew to conversational expectations (hello, how are you?, what is the weather like?) as a doctor's wife. She mentions to her husband's colleague that she's writing a memoir, and they sniff back, "At your age?" The moment passes, yet Chin thinks, "I could have told him that by the time I was six, I'd known violence the way some kids know bedtime stories." Only after Chin has reached a certain level of stability in her life -- her husband has a new job at a hospital, she has the means and time to write -- does she begin to suffer from a debilitating series of panic attacks. The result is a heart-wrenching story of her anxiety and anger, and the therapeutic horses that started her on a path of healing -- including flashbacks of the abusive home where she grew up and of running away repeatedly. There's a maturity and a wisdom to this memoir, from its braided structure that gracefully threads Chin's painful past with her present troubles, to her beautiful turns of phrase. You feel, along with her, how panic turns her into a shell, separating her from her life and her husband: "He just stood there looking, the way you focus on a thing moving in the woods, trying to understand what it is."
  • Make Your Home Among Strangers
    In Jennine Cap&oacute; Crucet's <a href="http://search.barnesandnoble.com/books/product.aspx?EAN=9781250059666" target="_blan
    Courtesy of St. Martin's Press
    In Jennine Capó Crucet's winning debut novel, young Lizet, a Miami native and the daughter of Cuban immigrants, is accepted at the exclusive Rawlings College in upstate New York. There, the landscape is foreign -- snow -- and the students are astonishingly oblivious of their privilege. Lizet is unprepared for the college's rigors and torn back home to Miami where her father has left the family, and her mother is embroiled as an activist for (real-life) Ariel Hernandez, a Cuban boy whose mother died on the raft that brought them both to America. A smart, complicated bildungsroman about the change in Lizet's consciousness, she encounters the larger, indifferent world, Crucet builds two very different universes in Florida and New York, revealing the human cost of displacement through bewitching prose: "They knew what me going away signified," she writes, "but hadn't said anything because they just didn't know what to say."
  • Girl in the Woods
    On the second day of college, 18-year-old Matis is raped by a classmate in her dorm room. Struggling with fear and depression
    Courtesy of William Morrow
    On the second day of college, 18-year-old Matis is raped by a classmate in her dorm room. Struggling with fear and depression, as well her university's institutional indifference, she drops out, leaving her sheltered childhood behind. She takes to the woods, resolving to hike the Pacific Coast Trail. Though openly reminiscent of Cheryl Strayed's Wild -- down to the symbolism of her chosen pen name -- Matis -- makes her journey wholly her own, from Mexico all the way to Canada. Along the way, she renders the hippie subculture of her fellow hikers in vivid prose -- despite the occasional tip over into florid poesy -- and is at her sharpest when she looks at her flailing search for approval in the arms of men or under the watchdog eye of her mother, hoping to find the path to confidence. After a run-in with caged animals at a zoo near the trail, she writes, "Great as these creatures were, they had no power to free themselves and reclaim their bodies...I had the power to move out of the cage he put me in, to escape the trap." An achingly honest read that's both timely -- and timeless.

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