More Ways to March On- Inspiring Books About Perseverance!

orangutan list

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

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

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

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

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

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!

36 thoughts on “More Ways to March On- Inspiring Books About Perseverance!

  1. I haven’t read Always and Forever, Lara Jean (I only read the first one), but I also like the idea of addressing not getting what you want, which feels infrequent in YA. YA is SO optimistic somehow that everyone gets their dream job, dream college, dream date, etc.

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    1. Ah I really agree! I feel like I’m most ya books everyone gets their dream come true, which, not to be a downer, just isn’t true to life. I think it would be good if there were more books about not getting what you want exactly, but finding a way through and discovering an alternative


  2. You started with my all time favorite fiction! While individual characters may stumble, the heroic characters all seem to share the ethos of “I don’t see how this could possibly turn out well, but I’m going to do what’s right regardless.” But it’s not complete hopelessness because “Bilbo was meant to find the ring…” (aka Something/Someone transcendent is working behind the scenes to make this come out right in the end…not entirely unlike Purim with Esther’s “If I perish, I perish” speech followed by a bunch of amazingly convenient “coincidences” providing deliverance).

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  3. Hmmm….I’m sure I’ve read books about perseverance….but I’ll always remember Gone a With the awind….I’ll never go hungry again….that stuck with me

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  4. Very cool list! I always think of Cool Hand Luke when it comes to perseverance although in his case, it may be better labeled as flat-out defiance. Haha. But I think the two are often linked together. Thanks for sharing!

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  5. I think part of the appeal of LotR is that the characters are fighting what the Elves call “the long defeat.” Tolkien is hearkening back to a medieval view where it was seen an honorable and necessary to fight for what is right, even if you think you aren’t going to win.

    As an example, I think Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas’s pursuit of Merry and Pippin when they are captured by the orcs is one of the most moving scenes because of how it illustrates that concept. Gimli feels hopeless and says they will starve soon if they do not find their friends. Thus, they will have to give up, lest all they can do is sit down with Merry and Pippin to die. Aragorn responds that if all they can do is die along with Merry and Pippin, they must do so. What courage! What friendship! Aragorn knows it is right to try to rescue his friends from torment, and so he decides he’s going to pursue them to the very end, with or without hope. And that basically sums up the entire book. You do the right thing, even if you don’t hope to succeed.

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  6. I’m so happy to see Dark Matter make your list! The main dude and all his incarnations were truly relentless. He definitely needed a break from himself at the end there 😂.

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  7. For me, LOTR was always a success. Because, in the end, it’s not really about Frodo destroying the ring. Not only does he manage to literally save the whole world, but he preserves the Shire in its’ innocence & joy. And even though, yes, he does end up sailing into the west and “dying” in a matter of words, he does so to alleviate his own pain. Admitting that you’re in pain and then doing something productive about it is often one of the hardest things in the world to do. Seeking help is astronomical to some people, and to Frodo, it must have seemed an unbelievable thing. What’s this tiny hurt, he must think, compared to all the pain & suffering the rest of Middle Earth underwent before the ring was destroyed? Finally coming to terms with the fact that he needed help, the kind of help that he could not get on Middle Earth, is powerful to me. The fact that he finally says, “No. I’ve had enough. I’d like to rest and heal now.” is so big. Honestly, I could write an entire essay on how important Frodo’s decision to leave the Shire is, haha.

    BUT ALSO YES SAM! The underlying theme of friendship throughout LOTR, and how, ultimately, THAT’S what saves the world is just–ugh. I have so many words to describe my feelings, and yet none of them are fitting.

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    1. Oh yes that’s true. And also true! I wonderfully put. Haha I understand- I don’t see that part as him failing perse- just a symbolic death, but I get what you mean about it being about him healing and moving on- that’s a beautiful thought.

      Ahh yes!! I know!! It’s so amazing!! I know the feeling haha!

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  8. Ahh, I remember having to read Chinese Cinderella for school! Still remember that scene where the main character’s brothers make her drink their pee 🤢 But you’re so right that Adeline’s journey is so admirable! It’s a classic story about overcoming abuse, neglect, and sexism! I also love how Always and Forever, Lara Jean ended!
    I’ve been so excited to read Skyward for so long, and it’s actually gonna be my next read! so excited to read my beautiful copy, because i have a feeling I’m going to love it 😍

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