As the coronavirus pandemic continues to challenge our world and disrupt our lives, our new normal can feel stressful and difficult. But social distancing can also offer opportunities to recharge our bodies and brains, and one way to optimize your time is to read a book that calms your mind, sparks joy, and inspires resilience. 

We asked our Thrive community to share the inspiring books that are keeping them optimistic and strong during this time. Which of these will you read this week?

Imagine It Forward

“I’m currently reading Beth Comstock’s Imagine it Forward, which I started a couple of weeks ago when we began social distancing. It is full of ideas to help unlock my own creativity. It’s incredibly inspiring to read during this time.”

—Nick Peacock-Smith, business partnerships, Brooklyn, NY

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone

“I just finished reaching Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb. It was irresistibly honest, transformative, and heartwarming. Gottlieb takes readers on a deep and personal journey as a therapist and a patient of a therapist. I chose this book right now because it allowed me to escape back to our less-than-perfect reality. This book reminded me that none of us are immune from hard times, and that tough times pass, and help us grow as individuals.”

—Alyssa Swantkoski, executive assistant, Denver, CO

Verified Strangers

“I’ve been reading Lena Dunham’s Verified Strangers on Vogue’s website, along with my coworkers, friends, and family. It’s a serialized romance novel, and she’s publishing it as she writes it. Vogue releases a chapter a day Monday through Friday, and she’ll keep writing ‘for as long as it takes.’ Twice a week, the readers can vote on which direction it should go in. It’s nothing cerebral, and definitely cheesy, but we’re really enjoying it! It’s a great escape and it’s been wonderful to rally around something as a group that isn’t work-related.”

—Rebecca Taylor, COO, Central NJ

The Little Prince

“Last night, I finished re-reading The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. What a wonderfully inspiring odyssey, reminding us to rekindle our inner child, let go of our obsession with statistics and control, and listen to our heart over all other externalities.”

—Lisa Cirenza, artist, London, UK

The Boys In the Boat

“One of the most inspiring reads for me was The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown. The person in the book gets abandoned by his parents at an early age and has to learn how to survive on his own. He puts himself through college by joining the rowing team, and he and his rowing buddies work extremely hard at perfecting their craft. They are so successful that they even earn a chance to compete in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. They learned how to push through and rise above their challenges, which is a lesson we could all use right now.”

—Larry Freshler, HR director, Spokane, WA

The Splendid and the Vile

“I cannot put down The Splendid and the Vile, Erik Larson’s book on Churchill during the Blitz. It’s a captivating lesson in resilience and leadership.”

—Samantha Boardman, M.D., psychiatrist and founder of Positive Prescription, New York, NY

Against All Odds 

“This inspiring book, written by Craig Challen and Richard Harris, tells the true story of the Thai cave rescue. Challen and Harris are two doctors who led the rescue. This is a heroic and inspiring story, and really puts my challenges into perspective. Reading it has given me the energy to fight through these challenging times.”

—Nick Peacock-Smith, business partnerships, Brooklyn, NY

24/6: The Power of Unplugging One Day a Week

“I’ve been reading 24/6 by Tiffany Shlain. She shares the power of taking a social ‘Shabbat’ one day of the week. I felt the timing was appropriate, and it’s a great reminder to make time to be present.”

—Jennifer Ettinger, entrepreneur, Cleveland, OH

Every Breath

“I was in my sitting room and came across a novel written by Nicholas Sparks. I began to read it and quickly became enthralled with the story. I ended up reading the whole book in one sitting. The novel allowed me to escape and gave me hope that the universe continues to work in our lives, regardless of how hopeless the situation seems to us.”

—Gerry Tucker, human resources, Austin, TX

Man’s Search for Meaning

“My choice for an inspirational read is Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. It teaches you how to be resilient by leading you through a story of real humans who realize that no matter the circumstances, the choice of reaction always belongs to them.  When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”

 —Alla Adam, career and startup coach, Chicago, IL

Running with Sherman 

“In this book, Christopher McDougall tells the story of a community that develops around Sherman — a rescue donkey — who goes from being unable to walk to racing in the most storied burro race in America. It sounds strange, but it is such an excellent read. It is life-affirming, entertaining, and completely inspiring. It’s exactly what we need during this difficult time.”

—Aubrie Fennecken, nonprofit consultant, Brooklyn, NY

Inner Engineering

“I’m currently reading Inner Engineering by Sadhguru. My professional experience is in child psychotherapy, but when I took time off to be with my young children, I became a certified yoga teacher. I have taught breathwork, yoga, and meditation for the last three years. I picked up the book to further deepen my inner work during this time. Uncertainty can definitely feel challenging, and can bring up things that we may have been ignoring. However, this downtime can really allow us to look at those things and use them to create the shifts we need.”

—Chelsi Williamson, yoga and meditation teacher, Nashville, TN


“During these stressful days, I like to turn towards stoicism, as it helps me realize that although I cannot control the situation around me, I can control how I react to it. Some of these books include Meditations by Marcus Aurelius,, Letters From a Stoic by Seneca, and Discourses and Selected Writings by Epictetus.”

—Eric Sangerma, co-founder of Truly Scaled, Barcelona, Spain

The Telemore Effect

“I have been exploring the ways Boomers are handling behavioral health challenges, especially anxiety and stress during the current shift toward social distancing. I came across The Telemore Effect by two research scientists at the University of California San Francisco School of Medicine. Their book is based on extensive research, and it is an important and relatively easy read for those interested in how to live a better, healthy life.”

—Wayne Clark, retired behavioral health director, Carmel Valley, CA

A Gentleman in Moscow

“I just finished reading A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles for my book club.  We chose this book before the virus was rampant in the U.S., but it seems to have been a timely choice. It tells the story of a former aristocrat who is forced into house arrest at a plush hotel in Moscow in the 1920s shortly after the revolution, and follows his life through decades of change in the U.S.S.R. His adaptability, sense of humor, and the impact he has on those around him ensures that he perseveres over a random and often brutal system. We could do worse than to aspire to handle our current situation like Count Rostov!”

—Martha Fluke, customer experience, St. Louis, MO

In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speed 

“In these challenging, uncertain times, I refer back to one of my favorite books by Carl Honoré. We have been asked to slow down, and this is exactly what this book is all about: slowing down in everything we do, whether it’s life, work, food, medicine, leisure, or raising our children. Perhaps the biggest lesson from the coronavirus pandemic is to focus on what’s most important, and this book is a good starting point.”

—Milena Regos, creator of Unhustle, Lake Tahoe, CA

The Plague

“I am currently re-reading The Plague by Albert Camus, which tells the story of the townspeople of Oran on the coast of Algeria, and how they reacted to being forced into quarantine. Each person responds in their own way, either by resigning themselves to fate, seeking to blame, or discovering reserves of courage and hope. It is a pertinent reminder that we have a choice — to find the best in ourselves, or to deny what is best in us and lose hope.”

—Paul Adam Mudd, author, U.K.

The Success Principles

“My quarantine book for these past couple weeks has been Jack Canfield’s The Success Principles. I’ve been loving it because it covers how to manage your growth even through times of uncertainty. The most profound part to me was, the idea of ‘effect + response = outcome.’ We can’t control COVID-19, but we can control our response to adjust our outcome.”

—Lauren Hyland, coach and small business consultant, Pittsburgh, PA

The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton

“I’m reading about the life of George Moses Horton, a poet who taught himself how to read, published a book before he knew how to write, and published two books while enslaved in the American South. He accomplished so much against the odds that his story is an inspiration for trying times.”

—Alisha C. Taylor, engineering program manager and life coach, Greenville, SC

When Things Fall Apart

 “This short book has lessons about finding peace and resilience during difficult times, and explains how to go against our usual habits and actually lean into our fears and anxieties in order to find peace. It does this with a good dose of humor and levity. I read a chapter each morning, and when I get to the end of the book, I start over. There is no other solace-producing book I’d want as my social distancing companion right now!”

 —Deirdre Maloney, organizational trainer and facilitator, San Diego, CA

Are you reading a book right now that’s helping you stay resilient? Share it with us in the comments!

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  • Marina Khidekel

    Chief Content Officer at Thrive

    Marina leads strategy, ideation and execution of Thrive's content company-wide, including cross-platform brand partnership and content marketing campaigns, curricula, and the voice of the Thrive platform. She's the author of Thrive's first book, Your Time to Thrive. In her role, Marina brings Thrive's audience actionable, science-backed tips for reducing stress and improving their physical and mental well-being, and shares those insights on panels and in national outlets like NBC's TODAY. Previously, Marina held senior editorial roles at Women's Health, Cosmopolitan, and Glamour, where she edited award-winning health and mental health features and spearheaded the campaigns and partnerships around them.