A Book You Found Helpful: Staff Picks for the TPL Reading Challenge 2020

May 21, 2020 | Jennifer B

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These days, many of us are getting by with a little help from our family and friends, but also...books! If you're looking for some comfort, insight or support right now, give one of these timely reads a try.

Also, we're hosting our next Reading Challenge Online Book Discussion on Tuesday, May 26 at 5 pm. We'll be talking about this category: "a book you found helpful." Everyone is very welcome to join! We'll be holding more Reading Challenge events throughout the year.


May 27 Update

If you missed last night's event, you can watch the replay on our Facebook page (no account required!) or see a list of ebook recommendations from our staff and participants.


Staff Recommendations

All of these recommendations are available as ebooks.

Calm the f down

Calm the F*ck Down: How to Control What You Can and Accept What You Can't So You Can Stop Freaking Out and Get On with Your Life by Sarah Knight

I think we all experience moments in our lives when we feel like everything and anything is coming at us all at once. I found this humorous and honest self-help book very helpful, especially during this challenging time. 

– Elsa, Senior Services Specialist


A paradise built in hell

A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities that Arise in Disaster by Rebecca Solnit

I'm finding this really helpful right now for wrapping my head around all of the difficult challenges our communities are facing. Solnit does a great job of explaining how disaster pushes us to think outside ourselves, making people more altruistic and helping us re-imagine how we relate to and care for another. 

– Sam, Librarian


Sisu the finnish art of courage

Sisu: The Finnish Art of Courage by Joanna Nylund

I distinctly remember that every page of this book has some useful tip. Even if I only had five minutes to read, and did not read it in order, there was a homemade tea to try or a reason to go for a walk. 

– Jennifer McB, Library Assistant


The boy the mole the fox and the horse

The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy

This is a wonderful book about being kind, brave and forgiving to yourself and others. The illustrations are beautiful and the message is just what we need these days. 

– Catherine, Services Specialist


Essential rumi

The Essential Rumi by Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi with Coleman Barks 

I haven't been reading as much as I thought I would, and as much as I would like, because I've been finding it hard to stay focused these days. I've been dipping in and out of poetry because the medium doesn't feel as challenging as committing to a whole book and there's something about these themes that feel grounding and comforting. 

– Amena, Librarian

I'm with the bears

I'm With the Bears: Short Stories from a Damaged Planet by Mark Martin, Bill McKibben, et al. 

Because COVID-19 is currently dominating all media, I feel that Earth Day was only covered in passing this year. So, I reread this collection I enjoyed a few years back. Some of the stories are dystopic and can seem a bit depressing, but it's made me realize that our collective efforts to support each other while we fight the spread of the virus does make me optimistic that the world could do the same to change the trajectory of our environmental future. 

– Kurt, Library Assistant


Curated closet

The Curated Closet: A Simple System for Discovering Your Personal Style and Building Your Dream Wardrobe by Anuschka Rees

I've read a lot about fast fashion, and I've definitely been guilty of impulse-buying things I don't want or need. The idea that we wear 20% of our clothes 80% of the time implies a staggering amount of excess and waste. Unlike other "minimalist wardrobe" books, this one isn't prescriptive. This book helped me figure out what I like, why I like it, and which items are right for me. In particular with so much retail closed right now, it's a great time to evaluate our needs and wants.

– Amy, Communications Officer


Joy at work

Joy at Work: Organizing Your Professional Life by Marie Kondo & Scott Sonenshein

This gave me the motivation (and a plan) to finally tackle organizing my home office and making it a happy place. Until now I've used the "creative chaos" excuse to keep putting it off, but now I'm inspired. 

– Pauline, Librarian


Northanger abbey

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

A friend of mine has just read this and wanted to discuss over the phone. I said I would reread it (thank you, Overdrive!) and it has been marvelously diverting to immerse myself in a delightful romance set in the Bath of yesteryear, and look up English words I don't know, such as curricle and tippet!

– Muriel, Librarian


Confessions of a shopaholic

Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella

Years ago when my partner was ill and we were both up at 3:00 in the morning, riddled with anxiety, our solace was Sophie Kinsella. Read along with a cup of tea and and a digestive biscuit!

– Mo, Public Service Assistant


Dory fantasmagory

Dory Fantasmagory series by Abby Hanlon

Read-aloud chapter books are definitely helpful! We listen each day and it helps to have stories that everyone in the family finds funny. A series on Overdrive that I recommend is Dory Fantasmagory by Abby Hanlon. Dory is a six year old whose best friend is a monster named Mary who lives under her bed. Her imaginary life is rife with pirates, banana-phones, and evil robbers. In real life, she likes to wear her nightgown all day and wants to spend more time playing with her older brother and sister. 

– Susan, Services Specialist


Breathe like a bear

Breathe Like a Bear: 30 Mindful Moments for Kids to Feel Calm and Focused Anytime, Anywhere by Kira Willey

Short and simple mindfulness exercises for kids and grownups! Taking a deep breath helps me feel focused and gives my body a break from feeling tense all day. 

– Natalie, Librarian


The happiness equation

The Happiness Equation: Want Nothing + Do Anything = Have Everything by Neil Pasricha

There are a number of books I'm finding helpful in this situation. I've read The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer and The Secret Prayer by Joe Vitale before and I return to them again and again. The Happiness Equation teaches us to be grateful for everything in our lives. It brings peace and self discovery to this difficult moment. 

– Grazyna, Senior Library Assistant


The plague camus

The Plague by Albert Camus

I've found Camus' The Plague to be very helpful during all of this. There's a clarity to this tale which has helped make the current situation more bearable. 

– Michael, Librarian


How to do nothing

How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy by Jenny Odell

For those facing the pressure to be always available and productive right now, Odell's advice is simple: take some time to do nothing. To Odell, that nothing is something important. Getting to know the places, spaces and species around you in a deep way is a life-changing act of creation. 

– Jennifer B, Librarian


Recommendations from the Facebook Group

These are just some of the recommendations from our Facebook TPL Reading Challenge 2020 discussion group. Thank you for sharing!


Join the Discussion

What did you read for this category? Let us know in the comments below, or join our Facebook group!

Remember to take part in our next Reading Challenge Online Book Discussion on Tuesday, May 26 at 5 pm. Christie and Jennifer, our host librarians, will be sharing fiction and non-fiction recommendations for "a book you found helpful." Follow along and share your input! If you miss it, you can always find out when we're hosting our next Reading Challenge event on our webpage.


Updated May 27, 2020 to add link to  the online discussion replay on our Facebook page and list of ebook recommendations from our staff and participants.