Three Books I Come Back To When Life Gets Tough

Blog Post Title 30th July, 2021

Life doesn’t always play ball with our plans. We encounter all sorts of catastrophes, from our mental health to the laptop breaking down or losing our job. 

Sometimes we deal with those challenges well, and we’ll get over the experience fast. But at other times, they grind us down; and we need some extra support to get over them. 

Last week I wrote that I grab a book when life gets tough. It’s not the only strategy I use to improve my resilience but my favourite one. And today, I wanted to share three books that I go to when life throws roadblocks in my way.

My Three Go-to Books When Life Gets Tough.

Many books have helped me over the years to make life bearable when the tough gets going. I read or listen to romance books or YA stories to simply distract myself from daily life. Or I choose a non-fiction book to learn more about the challenge I am facing. 

However, there are three books that I come back to time and time again. They are

  • Rachel Kelly’s “Singing in the Rain”
  • Clarissa Pincola-Estes’s “Women Who Run With The Wolves”
  • Erich Fried’s “Love Poems”

Rachel Kelly is a journalist who experienced severe depression some years ago. She is now determined to support others with tips and tricks on living well with challenging mental health.

Clarissa Pincola-Estes is a Jungian Psychoanalyst and storyteller who combines her scientific learning with the storytelling traditions of her ancestors. 

And last but not least, Erich Fried is a poet and translator who fled Austria when the Nazis took over and made a life in London. He is most famous for his anti-war poetry and political activism, but his love poetry is underrated and beautiful. 

Let’s have a closer look at their books

1. “Singing in the Rain” by Rachel Kelly

Rachel Kelly has researched many strategies for living with depression. She seems to be a very open-minded woman who incorporates anything from food to creativity. I haven’t come across another book that gives you so much to choose from, but maybe I haven’t looked close enough.

“Singing in the Rain” is a workbook that gives you “52 Practical Steps To Happiness”. You can use it over a year doing one chapter a week. After that, I found it helpful for reference because I catch myself slipping with helpful habits when I get stressed. 

When life gets tough, I often feel like I do not have the energy to incorporate self-care habits. Of course, that is not a helpful strategy. Everybody needs self-care, especially when life is challenging. However, my mind then seems to go empty, and I suddenly can’t remember what to do to feel better. 

Then I grab “Singing in the Rain”. I find plenty of ideas calming myself down, motivating myself, and bringing things back into perspective. The brilliant thing is that you can use the book as a proper “workbook”. Rachel Kelly created it to write in it, cut some things out (I know it’s sacrilegious 😉 ) and to draw.  

And if nothing else, I look at the illustrations, which always make me smile 🙂

2. Women who run with the wolves by Clarissa Pinkola-Estes

I grew up with Grimm’s, Anderson’s and Hauff’s fairy tales. We had many old and newer versions of their beautiful lessons in life because that is what fairy tales used to be: Life lessons for young adults, not entertainment for children. It taught young women that you sometimes have to throw your frog prince at the wall (no, not kiss him. He only demanded that in the original version, and she didn’t do it showing him her boundaries) and young men to master challenges to get to where they want to be. All these stories taught me what Neil Gaiman so wonderfully said: “Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” ― Neil Gaiman, Coraline

And Clarissa Pinkola-Estes uses that knowledge in “Women Who Run With The Wolves” together with her psychoanalytical education to show women that there is a wild side in them. This wild side helps women to master challenges if they manage to integrate the wild side into their lives. She had collected fairy tales from all over the world. There is La Loba who teaches that you can create something new from the bones of your lost dreams. And the seal woman who teaches that you need to take care of your needs otherwise you dry out and might get lost in life. And many more.

I find her stories very empowering. When life gets tough, it is often because I haven’t nurtured my wild, creative and spiritual side. Pinkola-Estes reminds me that I cannot ignore this side. It is pivotal not only for my health and sanity but for those around me too. It is a book I can dive into time again because it houses lessons for all stages in a woman’s life. 

3. “Love Poetry” from Erich Fried

I grab Erich Fried’s poetry when life throws challenges at me because his use of language is just so beautiful. I can lose myself in the images he conjures and enjoy language without thinking too much. I believe poetry speaks to our emotions. Poetry teaches life lessons on a deeper level and something about it makes me immediately feel better. 

Here is an example. Probably his most famous one:

What It Is (English translation of Was es ist)

It is nonsense
says reason
It is what it is
says love

It is calamity
says calculation
It is nothing but pain
says fear
It is hopeless
says insight
It is what it is
says love

It is ludicrous
says pride
It is foolish
says caution
It is impossible
says experience
It is what it is
says love

Poetry source AllPoetry

Doesn’t that make you smile? It makes me smile and feel better no matter what life throws at me. 

Do you have books you come back to when life gets tough?

These were three books I go to when life throws challenges at me and I’ve forgotten to take care of myself or to incorporate my wild side. I am wondering, though, if I am the only one who has books she comes back to for support. 

What about you? Do you have “sanity-saving” books that are like companions on your life’s journey? I would love to hear about them. 

If you want to buy any of these books:

You can purchase these books at HIVE Books an online book store that supports high street books stores in the UK with which I am affiliated via WebGains. Clicking is for free, however, if you choose to buy I get a commission.

Singing in the Rain” by Rachel Kelly

“Women Who Run With The Wolves” by Clarissa Pinkola-Estes

Love Poetry” by Erich Fried

Good vibes your way

and remember:

You can do it!


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