by Beth Cronk, Litchfield head librarian
One thing I’ve learned from being in a book club and from being a librarian is that different stories inspire different people. Some people like a very gentle, heartwarming story. Some like a spiritual message, whether fiction or nonfiction. Some like a story about overcoming adversity, which can come in many different forms. Some like a true story. And others are encouraged by a self-help book or something philosophical rather than a story.
I find it interesting that what is disturbing or boring or schmaltzy to one person can be inspiring to another. One person will have a miserable experience while reading or watching something, while another will find strength for facing their own difficulties by seeing how someone else has dealt with hardship. And of course, some people just dislike self-help, philosophy, or theology.
I happen to love self-help books. I like to pick them up and read just a little to see what insights someone else has come up with. Recently a patron suggested to me that I’d like Brené Brown, so I checked out her book Daring Greatly, just because it was one that wasn’t checked out. Her new and old books are currently bestsellers, and most of the copies in our library system are checked out. She has one of the top-five most-watched TED Talks online.
Brown isn’t really a feel-good self-help guru. She’s a researcher at the University of Houston, so her books are a combination of her findings and how she and other people try to apply them to their lives. Her work is about vulnerability, shame, and courage. And the person who suggested her books to me was right: I found Daring Greatly to be inspiring. Brown talks about how fear of shame at work holds people back from doing their best work, how a good approach to parenting is to be the kind of adult you want your child to grow up to be, and how connection and gratitude help you be more courageous. I have a lot to think about after reading this one.
Another thing I’ve checked out lately that I thought was inspiring was the movie The Martian. You might expect a story about an astronaut being left for dead on Mars to be depressing. But even though he has no way to communicate with his crew or people on Earth, he doesn’t sit around dwelling on the hopelessness of his situation. He gets to work, he solves problems, and, most importantly, he keeps his sense of humor. His humor in the face of disaster was my favorite thing about the movie, which you’ll also find in the book that the movie is based on.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is one of those novels that some find gloomy while other people find it uplifting. I finally read it this past year and I thought it was remarkably moving and inspiring. Liesel lives in Nazi Germany with foster parents after her brother dies and her Communist parents disappear. Her new family lives in poverty and the fear of discovery because they’re hiding a Jewish man. The book is narrated by Death, and Death comes to many of the characters in the book. Despite all of this grimness, the power of love and the power of words shine like lights through the story. And once again, there is humor in the midst of tragedy. Incidentally, I was very disappointed in the movie version.
I think that the Hunger Games series are among the few examples of movie versions that are better than the books they're based on. I loved the first two books in the series, but the first three movies get to me even more; they make me believe in the power of sacrifice, love, and freedom. But then I tend to prefer the big truths of life to be told through fantasy stories. The library has just gotten the last movie in the series, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2, and there is a long waiting list on it at the moment. We’d be glad to reserve it for you.
Your reaction to a book or a movie is likely to be different than your neighbor’s, which is why the library offers such a wide variety of materials. I hope you’ll stop in to find something that is inspirational to you.