Finding Hope in Hopeless Times
‘Man’s Search for Meaning’
By Viktor E. Frankl
Frankl spent three years in Nazi concentration camps. His memoir shows that even when everything is stripped away from you, you have the freedom to choose how you feel. Another lesson he includes in the book: Even when you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, find a reason to keep going.
Pocket Books, 2006, 192 pages
Ideas Have Consequences
‘How the West Won’
By Rodney Stark
Subtitled “The Neglected Story of the Triumph of Modernity,” Stark’s book on Western history examines Western ideas, such as free will, rationality, liberty, and the scientific method, while pointing out some mistaken beliefs about these developments. He showed us that early European scientists believed in God as the designer of a rational universe. He also concluded that the adaptation of technology by nations such as China doesn’t make them equivalent to Western modernism and its “commitment to freedom, reason, and human dignity.”
Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2015, 464 pages
A Forgotten Epic Poem
By Lucan, translation by Jane Wilson Joyce
This epic poem, written by Roman poet Lucan between A.D. 61 and A.D. 65 and left unfinished, is about the Roman civil war between Julius Caesar and the Roman Senate, led by Pompey, “how Rome’s high race plunged in her vitals her victorious sword.” Full of drama and action—the battle scenes are incredibly described, though at times indulging in the Roman obsession for gore.
Those who enjoy military history or the epic poetry of “The Iliad” or “The Odyssey” should try this forgotten classic. Look for a poetic version.
Cornell University Press, 1993, 368 pages
Ancient Wisdom About Leadership
‘The Six Secret Teachings’
The Chinese classic Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” has found great popularity for its application to the business world. Less known is this 11th-century military treatise attributed to Jiang Ziya, a top general to King Wen. Its advice, offered through various strategies, can be applied to how to be a good parent, a good boss, and, more generally, a good leader who’s strong, yet caring and considerate at the same time.
Featured in “The Seven Military Classics of Ancient China,” Basic Books, 2007, 592 pages
When Less Is More
‘Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids’
By Kim John Payne and Lisa M. Ross
More relevant than ever, “Simplicity Parenting” takes aim at all that’s overloading our senses and, more specifically, those of our children. The authors persuasively argue that it’s simplicity that “will provide your child with greater ease and well-being.” This is a book that every parent needs to read.
Ballantine Books, 2010, 400 pages
Tales for Our Time
‘Young Goodman Brown and Other Short Stories’
By Nathaniel Hawthorne
Though Hawthorne died in 1864, the seven short stories in this collection still speak to us today. In “The Birthmark,” the quest for perfection of female beauty ends in tragedy. “Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment” explores our fascination with youth and the desire to be forever young. Though we can draw several meanings from “Rappaccini’s Daughter,” one crucial lesson is that when men use science to become gods, the result can be death and destruction. “Young Goodman Brown” raises questions regarding sin and the very nature of reality itself.
Dover Publications, 1992, 128 pages
A Heartwarming Tale
‘The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey’
By Susan Wojciechowski, illustrations by P.J. Lynch
This beautifully written tale depicts a journey of hope brought forth by the simple request of a young widow and her son to a “gloomy” woodcutter at Christmastime. This story is an absolute treasure (Note: it may be too heavy for little ones).
Candlewick, 1995, 40 pages
Christmas Eve Reading
‘The Night Before Christmas’
By Clement C. Moore, illustrations by Ted Rand
This is a sturdy board book that will stand the test of time, and the illustrations are just right. Other noteworthy editions to look out for are Jan Brett’s version and the nostalgic Little Golden Book publication, which is illustrated by Corinne Malvern.
North-South Books, 2004, 32 pages