American writer and progressive political activist Anne Lamott is known for exploring themes of loss, single-motherhood, alcoholism, depression, and spirituality with self-deprecating honesty and humor. She’s the author of seven novels as well as several bestselling books of nonfiction, including Operating Instructions, Hallelujah Anyway, and the classic book on craft, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. Her latest work, 2021’s Dusk, Night, Dawn, offers readers a guide to finding joy and hope in hard times.
On what inspires her, Lamott told The Dallas Morning News:
“I try to write the books I would love to come upon, that are honest, concerned with real lives, human hearts, spiritual transformation, families, secrets, wonder, craziness—and that can make me laugh. When I am reading a book like this, I feel rich and profoundly relieved to be in the presence of someone who will share the truth with me, and throw the lights on a little, and I try to write these kinds of books. Books, for me, are medicine.”
Sharing some of her favorite books for finding hope on Goodreads, Lamott included a tender portrait of America’s political right, an illustrated collection of Rumi’s poetry, and a women’s guide to mindful eating. Find her recommendations below, and complement with the soul-filling bookshelves of Elizabeth Gilbert, Glennon Doyle, and Oprah Winfrey.
Strangers in Their Own Land by Arlie Russell Hochschild
“I have been foisting this on everyone since the election. A famed sociologist from Berkeley spends months visiting the Louisiana Bayou and getting to know the people who live there—their values, problems, minds, hearts, lives, and dreams. What they tell us in their conversations and how Hochschild changes by listening to them give me hope for our country.” -AL
Happy All the Time by Laurie Colwin
“This is a beautiful, hilarious, big-hearted novel about four really good, slightly odd mixed-up people (like us) as they form couples: shy, worried, and brave. I have given away THOUSANDS of copies.” -AL
Praying for Sheetrock by Melissa Fay Greene
“This is one of my favorite nonfiction books ever. It’s about a small backwoods county in Georgia in the 1970s struggling to be included in the progress for civil rights and about the idealists who lead the cause against entrenched racism. It’s a story that reads like a novel, filled with eccentrics and ordinary folks. Lovely in every way. If you read it, you will owe me forever.” -AL
The Illustrated Rumi by Jelaluddin Rumi
“I love Rumi so much. I can open this book to any page, read any one of his poems, study any one of the illustrations, and feel spiritually rejuvenated—or at least a little less cranky and self-obsessed.” -AL
Women Food and God by Geneen Roth
“This is the most profound and helpful book on healing from the tiny, tiny, tiny issues around eating and body issues that some of us have had for, oh, most of our lives. Charming, wise, funny, and deep.” -AL