At Least It’s Not as Bad As…: 10 Books That Can Inspire Gratitude in Hard Times

Life has been tough for me lately! I can’t go into detail because my struggles involve someone I love whose struggles run deeper than mine and I don’t have his permission to share, but it’s made it a little hard to keep on schedule with posting. When times are tough, it helps—nay, is necessary—to be thankful for the good things in my life, and I encourage you to do the same. Here are 10 books that can help you with that, all of which I’ve read, recommend, and found deals on…and suggestions for what they might make you grateful for.

Ten Perspective-Giving Books, and Their Deals

Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortensen

Three Muslim girls, with heads wrapped, read a book under the words: Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace...One School at a Time"Can make you grateful for: access to a good education

Summary, from Amazon:

Anyone who despairs of the individual’s power to change lives has to read the story of Greg Mortenson, a homeless mountaineer who, following a 1993 climb of Pakistan’s treacherous K2, was inspired by a chance encounter with impoverished mountain villagers and promised to build them a school. Over the next decade he built fifty-five schools—especially for girls—that offer a balanced education in one of the most isolated and dangerous regions on earth. As it chronicles Mortenson’s quest, which has brought him into conflict with both enraged Islamists and uncomprehending Americans, Three Cups of Teacombines adventure with a celebration of the humanitarian spirit.

Deal: $3.46 on


The Fault in our Stars, by John Green

Can make you grateful for: good health

Summary, from Amazon:

Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten. Insightful, bold, irreverent, and raw, The Fault in Our Stars brilliantly explores the funny, thrilling, and tragic business of being alive and in love.


The movie is $2.99 on Amazon. You can get the book for $3.79 from

Austenland, by Shannon Hale

Can make you grateful for: not having the drama of being single

Summary, from Goodreads:

Jane Hayes is a seemingly normal young New Yorker, but she has a secret. Her obsession with Mr. Darcy, as played by Colin Firth in the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, is ruining her love life: no real man can compare. But when a wealthy relative bequeaths her a trip to an English resort catering to Austen-crazed women, Jane’s fantasies of meeting the perfect Regency-era gentleman suddenly become realer than she ever could have imagined.

Decked out in empire-waist gowns, Jane struggles to master Regency etiquette and flirts with gardeners and gentlemen; or maybe even, she suspects, with the actors who are playing them. It’s all a game, Jane knows. And yet the longer she stays, the more her insecurities seem to fall away, and the more she wonders: Is she about to kick the Austen obsession for good, or could all her dreams actually culminate in a Mr. Darcy of her own?


You can get a paperback copy for $3.87 on


Why Marriages Succeed or Fail, by John Gottman

Can make you grateful for: not having the difficulties of marriage

Summary, from Amazon:

Psychologist John Gottman has spent twenty years studying what makes a marriage last. Now you can use his tested methods to evaluate, strengthen, and maintain your own long-term relationship. This breakthrough book guides you through a series of self-tests designed to help you determine what kind of marriage you have, where your strengths and weaknesses are, and what specific actions you can take to help your marriage.

You’ll also learn that more sex doesn’t necessarily improve a marriage, frequent arguing will not lead to divorce, financial problems do not always spell trouble in a relationship, wives who make sour facial expressions when their husbands talk are likely to be separated within four years and there is a reason husbands withdraw from arguments—and there’s a way around it.

Dr. Gottman teaches you how to recognize attitudes that doom a marriage—contempt, criticism, defensiveness, and stonewalling—and provides practical exercises, quizzes, tips, and techniques that will help you understand and make the most of your relationship. You can avoid patterns that lead to divorce, and—Why Marriages Succeed or Fail will show you how.

Deal: It’s $3.79 on

Sybil, by Flora Rheta Schreiber

Can make you grateful for: sanity

Summary, from Barnes & Noble: More amazing than any work of fiction, yet true in every word, it swept to the top of the bestseller lists and riveted the consciousness of the world. As an Emmy Award-winning film starring Sally Field, it captured the home screens of an entire nation and has endured as the most electrifying TV movie ever made. It’s the story of a survivor of terrifying childhood abuse, victim of sudden and mystifying blackouts, and the first case of multiple personality ever to be psychoanalyzed.

You’re about to meet Sybil-and the sixteen selves to whom she played host, both women and men, each with a different personality, speech pattern, and even personal appearance. You’ll experience the strangeness and fascination of one woman’s rare affliction-and travel with her on her long, ultimately triumphant journey back to wholeness.

Deal: $5.56 at Barnes & Noble.




Sky Jumpers, by Peggy Eddleman

Can make you grateful that: the nations of the world haven’t fumigated the earth with nuclear bombs and left behind only pockets of civilization surviving in craters forever lidded with dense, radioactive clouds.

Summary, from Goodreads:

Twelve-year-old Hope lives in White Rock, a town struggling to recover from the green bombs of World War III. The bombs destroyed almost everything that came before, so the skill that matters most in White Rock—sometimes it feels like the only thing that matters—is the ability to invent so that the world can regain some of what it’s lost.
But Hope is terrible at inventing and would much rather sneak off to cliff dive into the Bomb’s Breath—the deadly band of air that covers the crater the town lives in—than fail at yet another invention.

When bandits discover that White Rock has invented priceless antibiotics, they invade. The town must choose whether to hand over the medicine and die from disease in the coming months or die fighting the bandits now. Hope and her friends, Aaren and Brock, might be the only ones who can escape through the Bomb’s Breath and make the dangerous trek over the snow-covered mountain to get help. For once, inventing isn’t the answer, but the daring and risk-taking that usually gets Hope into trouble might just save them all. 

Deal: It’s $3.46 on


The Fifth Wave, by Rick Yancey

Can make you grateful that: aliens haven’t besieged Planet Earth with four waves of pandemics on a scale the globe has never seen before, and are now inflicting the fifth wave, which makes you lose everyone in your family except your little brother, who gets kidnapped by the aliens.

Summary, from Goodreads:

After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one. Now, it’s the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth’s last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker. Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie’s only hope for rescuing her brother-or even saving herself. But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up.

Deal: It’s $1.99 on Amazon.



Obernewtyn Chronicles, by Isobelle Carmody

Can make you grateful that: you don’t have a powerful mental ability that makes you an outcast

Summary, from Goodreads:

For Elspeth Gordie freedom is-like so much else after the Great White-a memory. It was a time known as the Age of Chaos. In a final explosive flash everything was destroyed. The few who survived banded together and formed a Council for protection. But people like Elspeth-mysteriously born with powerful mental abilities-are feared by the Council and hunted down like animals…to be destroyed. Her only hope for survival to is keep her power hidden. But is secrecy enough against the terrible power of the Council?

Deal: The paperback is $2.67 on Amazon.




The Maze Runner, by James Dashner

Can make you grateful that: you’re not a teenage boy who wakes up amnesic in a maze from which there appears to be no escape.

Summary, from Amazon:

When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his name. He’s surrounded by strangers—boys whose memories are also gone. Outside the towering stone walls that surround them is a limitless, ever-changing maze. It’s the only way out—and no one’s ever made it through alive. Then a girl arrives. The first girl ever. And the message she delivers is terrifying. Remember. Survive. Run.

Deal: This book and book 2 in the trilogy, The Scorch Trials, are $10.44. That’s about $5.20 per book.





See…so many things to be thankful for! You’re welcome! Let me know what you think in the comments below.

Book Review: Sybil, a Fascinating Read, and an Update on my Crazy Life!

I mentioned before that my oldest son came down with vestibular neuritis a few months ago. He was hit, back in June, with an extreme wave of dizziness that wouldn’t go away, and constant vomiting. It worsened, as we took him to the urgent care clinic and then the ER, into a horrible migraine. He was released the next day with the diagnosis of a complex migraine and multiple tests ordered. While he appeared neurologically normal, the doctors were worried that the cause of his symptoms was a brain tumor. Over the next two weeks, we had a couple of MRI’s done, a couple of EEG’s, and some hearing tests, which revealed that he didn’t have a brain tumor or meningitis, but he did have vestibular neuritis, which is a permanent condition affecting his balance. He recovered relatively quickly, meaning that by the end of the summer he was at least able to ride his scooter for a little while. He was even able to drive his dirt bike for about fifteen minutes a couple of weeks ago.

Then, about five days ago, he had a relapse. It took everyone off guard because he’d recovered so well. My mother, who came down with this same disorder a couple of years ago, didn’t get totally back to normal for a year. He was hit with a really bad migraine and more vomiting and dizziness. Needless to say, he missed a few days of school. He wasn’t doing great grade-wise before, but after that episode, and the profound discouragement that followed, his grades tanked. So now I’m working hard to implement his new, more involved treatment plan, meet with his teachers and school administrators to see if we can get him back on track academically. I’ve been doing this while also working (I coordinated an important event that took place this past Thursday and Friday, and had the magazine that I’m the managing editor of sent out to 72,000 university alumni) and taking care of my husband and other son. Life is never dull for me!

But that doesn’t mean that I haven’t had time to read, and even work on my book writing. I’ve mentioned before that I’ve written two books, and am in various stages of getting them beta-read or critiqued and then revising them. While that’s been going on, between critique group pow-wows and meetings with one of my beta-readers, I’ve started the research phase for a third book. Tentatively titled My Other Minds, it will be the story of a young man who’s been diagnosed with multiple personality disorder, but who knows that the other “personalities” that inhabit his body alongside him are in fact alien souls from a far-off planet. They’ve told him, when he’s himself, that they’ll leave once they find other suitable minds to inhabit, but he doesn’t want to condemn other people to his same kind of craziness. He doesn’t want to lose himself either, which he’s sure to do if they stay any longer. So, he tries to figure out a way to do both.

My research so far has meant reading everything I can on multiple personality disorder, which has meant studying books like I’m Eve by Chris Costner Sizemore and Sybil by Flora Rheta Schreiber. The latter is the one I’m reading right now. It tells the story of Sybil Dorsett, a real woman who had 16 distinct personalities. Some of them were female, some were male, all were of varying ages younger than herself (as reported by those personalities). It’s fascinating. The author tells Sybil’s story with the flourish of a finely-polished fiction writer, while describing Sybil’s almost unbelievable sickness clinically and in detail.

I don’t read a lot of biographies, and when I do, they tend to be biographies of people who’ve suffered from various neurological phenonema, like Brain on Fire. I write, too, about characters who experience some of the fantastical possibilities I imagine those phenomena could evoke. I wonder what this says about me in light of what me and my family have been going through recently.

Book Review and Deal: Brain on Fire is a Fascinating Read

Oh boy, have I been reading like crazy lately…and busy!  I just finished Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan. When I read non-fiction, which isn’t often, I love books like this. It was fascinating.


What Is Brain on Fire About?

Brain on Fire is the memoir of a young woman who suddenly wakes up in a hospital room, strapped to her bed and unable to move or speak, with no memory of how she got there. “Days before,” says the back cover, “she had been on the threshold of a new, adult life: at the beginning of her first serious relationship and a promising career at a major New York newspaper.” It’s the story of her abrupt and unexplained descent into madness, her month in it, of which she has no memory but which she pulled together from the journals of family members, doctors’ notes, and surveillance footage, and recovery from it.

It is both fascinating and well-written.  Susannah details many of her weird behaviors, like how she became violent, psychotic, and bent on escape after she woke up, and how she repeatedly held her arms out in front of her body like a zombie, not sure why but unable to control the movement. She also became, by turns, paranoid and catatonic. She also  explores the various hypotheses put forward by doctors to explain it, and the incredibly convoluted journey towards diagnosis and treatment.

What’s the Deal?

You can get a used copy in good condition on Thriftbooks for $3.99.

Who Would Like Brain on Fire, And Why?,

As mentioned, anyone who likes well-written books, especially those like I’m Eve and Sybil will like this book. It’s a book that reveals the fragility of the human mind,. It makes you at once so very thankful for the sanity that you enjoy while also heartsick for Susannah and her family.

Can you recommend other memoirs of people with mental or neurological illnesses?