Despite all my talk of taking breaks lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the power of perseverance. It is an age-old idea that comes up in so many stories- from high fantasy to contemporary to memoirs! I’ve been mulling over what makes a character get up off their knees and live to fight another day; I’ve been thinking about what makes memoirs so memorable and impactful; I’ve been considering what makes us root for these stories and find them so inspirational. I decided to share some of the best examples. Let’s power through this!
Lord of the Rings– okay, yes, this sort of ends in Frodo’s failure and yes, he very nearly gives up… but this list isn’t necessarily about protagonists persevering. Because, at the end of all things, we have Sam, fighting to keep hope alive. What’s so beautiful here is how it isn’t just an individual’s struggle in the face of evil- ultimately it is friendship that gets us through.
Skyward– not many characters have Spensa’ tenacity- and that’s why I love her! But as with Lord of the Rings, this isn’t a story that’s just about gritting your teeth and getting on with it, this is a story about learning to work with others and trust your squad to have your back.
Dark Matter– thinking more about sci fi, I had to include this unusual story of time travel. What I love about the main character is no matter what variation of him it is, no matter how many times he is put through the mill, he still picks him up and keeps going.
Holes– this is a quintessential MG story about picking yourself up when fate is against you. Yet, what Sachar shows here is that even when cursed, you can find a way to change your destiny.
Between Shades of Grey– one of Sepetys strengths as a writer is finding areas of history often neglected in media- and that is what makes the story of Lithuanian exile to Siberia under communism doubly powerful. Though this doesn’t offer much in the way of optimism, I still see this as a remarkable tale of human endurance in the face of immense suffering.
Always and Forever– I was delighted to find an unusual subject covered in the last of the Lara Jean series: what happens when you don’t get what you want. In typical Lara Jean fashion, she finds a way to follow her heart to a new dream, and I think that’s a lovely message.
A Little Princess– moving on to a more traditional story about not giving up, no matter how bad things get, I simply had to include this classic for this list!
Chinese Cinderella– I read this years ago, but it left such an impression that I’ll never forget it. A story about struggling to find self-worth, when deemed worthless by everyone around her, this is one of the most uplifting memoirs I’ve ever read.
Man’s Search for Meaning– another of my favourites, Viktor Frankl has the ability to bring light into the darkest subjects. His visionary book- that is part Holocaust memoir, part exploration of psychology- gives hope for the survival of the human spirit, against all odds.
In Order to Live– an inspirational memoir about escaping from North Korea, this goes beyond mere physical survival, instead exploring what it is to break your mind free from the shackles of indoctrination.
And that’s all for now- have you read any of these books? Do you have any favourite books about perseverance? Let me know in the comments!