Recommend a book - fiction or non-fiction- dealing with the uncertain, endless posibilities of life
May 30, 2008 6:47 PM   Subscribe

What should I read? Recommend a book (fiction or non-fiction), life affirming, something to be read after a heartbreak/letting go. Possibly involving fate/destiny, and the uncertainty/infinite possibilities of life.
posted by rbf1138 to Society & Culture (27 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Dark Nights of the Soul - Thomas Moore
posted by idiomatika at 6:59 PM on May 30, 2008

Atlas Shrugged. Hell, it worked for me.
posted by jabberjaw at 7:08 PM on May 30, 2008

Here's a suggestion that actually fulfills all of your criteria! I recommend These is My Words, by Arizona author Nancy Turner. Don't worry about the title, this is very well written. This book will not let you down!

The story is about a young pioneer woman, and is written as if the book is her journal. It's based on actual journals from the author's family. Sarah has a rough life, but she is so capable and spirted that you are left feeling strong. There's humor in the book, too, which you'll need if you're dealing with heartbreak. If Sarah could handle all of those things, you can certainly face the stuff you're going through. Plus, there are two other books after this one, so you won't be left high and dry!

This is just a very smart and totally life-affirming book. I really hope you check it out. You're going to get too many answers on this thread, but please consider this one!
posted by belau at 7:18 PM on May 30, 2008

The first book that springs to mind is The Time Traveler's Wife -- I absolutely loved it and it really fits the fate/destiny/uncertainty/infinite possibility bill.
posted by kate blank at 7:22 PM on May 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, by Haruki Murakami.
posted by WPW at 7:27 PM on May 30, 2008

Definitely High Fidelity by Nick Hornby.
posted by self at 8:06 PM on May 30, 2008

This is perhaps an odd answer, but I read Camus' The Plague when I was in a place similar to where it sounds like you are, and it was just what I needed.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 8:11 PM on May 30, 2008

How about A Prayer for Owen Meany?
posted by Madamina at 8:17 PM on May 30, 2008

2nd on Time Traveler's Wife.

Also: The Butterfly and the Diving Bell is probably the most uplifting book I've ever read (I didn't see the movie based on it, so can't comment there) -- I usually hate "inspirational" books, but absolutely loved this one. Heartily recommend to all.
posted by bah213 at 8:31 PM on May 30, 2008

Little, Big deals with these themes, and is a great read, besides.
posted by jtron at 8:49 PM on May 30, 2008

"A Heart-Breaking Work of Staggering Genius", by Dave Eggers.
posted by msalt at 9:21 PM on May 30, 2008

When Things Fall Apart, by Pema Chodron.
posted by RedEmma at 9:24 PM on May 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

something to be read after a heartbreak/letting go.

If romantic: How to Survive the Loss of a Love.

If otherwise: When one door closes another door opens - but it's 'Hell in the Hallway'.
posted by ericb at 9:30 PM on May 30, 2008

Ditto jtron: Little, Big.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 9:46 PM on May 30, 2008

Msalt beat me to it.
posted by The Esteemed Doctor Bunsen Honeydew at 11:12 PM on May 30, 2008

I know where you're coming from, and the right book can definitely perk things up. The first book that came to mind is Cloud Atlas, for a number of reasons. First, it's incredibly well written- it's won a number of prestigious book awards and made a lot of short lists (plus it's recommended pretty much every other week somewhere on Metafilter, which is an endorsement in itself). Second, it directly deals with some of the themes you're looking for, and in a very sophisticated and interesting way. Finally, as was my experience of the novel, it has the potential to be both engrossing and life-affirming, and these will both be very good things right now.

I love Murakami, but, FWIW, I don't think he would be a good author to read at this moment. Almost every one of his protagonists (esp. in Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World) is lonely, isolated, and cold. I still love his protagonists, and there is usually talk of their 'emotional systems' and whatnot, but, putting myself back to my last break up, I am glad I didn't pick any Murakami off the shelf.

A short novel that made some of the top ten lists last year was Out Stealing Horses. It's the story of an old man living in a cabin, recollecting his childhood. I won't go into the plot, because what's important is that when you read the last line, I bet you'll cry and it will be good, if you catch my drift. A very life affirming book with a take home message about dealing with loss.

While we're on the subject, OSH reminds me of the book I actually did read after a break up that helped: Nicholson Baker's A Box of Matches. There aren't themes about fate in this one, but Baker has a kind of meditative prose that makes daily minutia incredibly vital and clear. This book helped me concentrate on my life, its order, the way I held cups and tied shoes. That kind of focus was important for me at the time, kept me grounded. I think I also read Hesse and it wasn't a good fit.

I hope this helps, good luck and godspeed!
posted by farishta at 1:16 AM on May 31, 2008

What about This Book will save your Life (A.M. Homes)? Refreshingly surreal fiction, definitely about fate/destiny, infinite possibilities and quite life-affirming.
Also, Walden always works for me, but YMMV.
posted by The Toad at 1:53 AM on May 31, 2008

Seconding 'This Book will save your Life' (ignore the self-helpy title - it's just a great piece of fiction). I was coming through similar difficult stuff a few months ago and found this on the bookshelf at work. Read it in one go and felt deeply stirred and soothed. Exactly what I needed at that point.
posted by freya_lamb at 2:24 AM on May 31, 2008

Susan Hill's novel In the Springtime of the Year deals sensitively with bereavement/lost love.
posted by davemack at 3:22 AM on May 31, 2008

Thirding Little, Big. It's the book I always go back to. With A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius as runner up.
posted by cocoagirl at 6:38 AM on May 31, 2008

i'll second "cloud atlas." it's incredibly weird, but it really adds up to something wonderful. if nothing else, it will distract you from your distress.
posted by thinkingwoman at 7:22 AM on May 31, 2008

Two suggestions, both Paulo Coelho.

The Alchemist and Veronika Decides to Die

Surprisingly, both are life-affirming
posted by moonshine at 8:44 AM on May 31, 2008

Slightly off specification, but if you broaden your net to inlude poetry I would very much point you towards Four Quartets by T. S. Eliot . . . it's all of the things you mention in your question couched in such beautiful, powerful, wonderous language that you could let it wash over you through a lifetime of pain and joy and still find depths and resonances every time you read it.

When I was at my lowest ever ebb in life it helped me, and brought me to tears at a time when I'd felt nothing but emptiness for months, by first echoing my deepest fears and doubts and then turning them into . . . something else . . . something that was in its own small way a start from which to turn back to life, other people and all that / they entailed . . .
posted by protorp at 1:06 PM on May 31, 2008

His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman.
posted by elisynn at 12:26 AM on June 1, 2008

What is the What by Dave Eggers. It's the story of one of the Lost Boys of the Sudan. It deals with loss and puts everything in perspective.

As far as simply being life-affirming goes; I found Bill Clinton's Giving to be quite inspiring. And if you really want to be inspired by someone's life, read Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder. It's the story of Dr. Paul Farmer, who should be getting the Nobel Peace Prize any day now. I think his struggle is about not accepting tragedy as fate. These last two are not specifically about loss, but would be good reads if you're trying to look ahead and forge your new path.
posted by HE Amb. T. S. L. DuVal at 12:48 AM on June 1, 2008

I give Good in Bed by Jennifer Weiner to all my friends post-breakup. It's light and chick-lit-y, which is sometimes all you can handle at the time. This is not the typical kind of book I read, but it sure kept my mind busy for a few days after getting dumped.
posted by jrichards at 6:54 AM on June 2, 2008

I can't believe I missed this thread oh so many months ago.

I fully believe that Prozac and Wally Lamb's "She's Come Undone" saved my life during a terrible break up in college. Now, I've read it since, and it didn't hold up as well as I had hoped, but at the time, I was so moved by this book that I wrote the author. The main character went through so much and she was so well written that I actually thought to myself "If she can live through this, I can live through my shit."

Wally Lamb wrote a female character so naturally that I had to keep looking at his picture to remember that author is male. (And a wonderful guy, too. This was pre-Oprah bookclub, and he took the time to type--yes, on a typewriter--a reply to my letter.)

Well, it has been ages since you asked this question, rfb, and I hope that you are in a much happier situation now and that you good some helpful responses from the more punctual Mefites.
posted by thebrokedown at 2:18 AM on October 18, 2008

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