Photo courtesy of We Fed an Island

4 Books That Will Inspire You to Do Great Things

4 Books That Will Inspire
You to Do Great Things

It’s easy to get despondent in the world today. There is no shortage of news that can make you feel hopeless at times. But these stories are never the full picture. For every hurricane, there are the people determined to save the lives of strangers. For every innocent person thrown in jail, there is a wave of justice fighting to free them. These four books all tell true stories of people who are transcendentally inspiring—whether they make us want to fight harder for justice, scream louder for equal rights, or help those who need it most. The people behind these stories are reason to hope—and inspiration to act.

  • <em>We Fed an Island: The True Story of Rebuilding Puerto Rico, One Meal at a Time</em><br> by José Andrés

    We Fed an Island: The True Story of Rebuilding Puerto Rico, One Meal at a Time
    by José Andrés

    In the fall of 2017, four days after Hurricane Maria destroyed huge swaths of Puerto Rico, chef José Andrés went to the island to help. “It was like nothing I’d seen before,” he wrote us in an email. People lacked food, clean water, electricity. They’d lost their homes. Many had lost family members. Andrés knew people needed food—and food is exactly what he does. So, amid the decimated homes, flattened palm trees, and utter devastation, he and a group of volunteer chefs started cooking. On the first day, they served 1,000 meals; on the second, twice that many. And in the three months that followed, they cooked and served 3 million meals. We Fed an Island is a story of humanity and culture and also of courage. Andrés’s “clarity of purpose put him at odds with almost every institution involved in relief efforts on the island,” writes Luis A. Miranda Jr. in the foreword. “He did not want to hear about bidding processes, meetings, or excuses about why scaling up could not be done. And he did not take NO for an answer.” This book dives into a part of America that has deep roots and a beautiful history—but one that is so often overlooked and undervalued. Perhaps more importantly, this book underscores a crucial part of being human: We need to be there for each other.

  • <em>In Praise of Difficult Women: Life Lessons from 29 Heroines Who Dared to Break the Rules</em> <br>by Karen Karbo

    In Praise of Difficult Women: Life Lessons from 29 Heroines Who Dared to Break the Rules
    by Karen Karbo

    This collection of biographical essays was written for those who need a reminder that there is no greater aspiration than to be yourself. Each of the twenty-nine essays profiles one iconic woman. Author Karen Karbo homes in on how difficultness isn’t a flaw but a sign of strength and fortitude. “A difficult woman is a woman who doesn’t believe the expectations of the culture in which she lives are more important than what she knows the be true herself,” Karbo writes. She tells the stories of women we look up to, from Ruth Bader Ginsberg to Nora Ephron to Hillary Clinton, unveiling how, although their determination may have rankled others at times, it led them to fulfillment and success. It also led them to make a huge impact on the world. Karbo writes about these women with such acuity, you feel close to them. It’s as if she threw a dinner party, invited the world’s most incendiary women, and gave us a seat at the table.

  • <em>Nevertheless, We Persisted</em> foreword <br>by Senator Amy Klobuchar

    Nevertheless, We Persisted foreword
    by Senator Amy Klobuchar

    Nevertheless, We Persisted explores a commonality among us: Adversity is something we all face—and we all have the strength to overcome it. (The title comes from a comment made by Senator Mitch McConnell in reference to Senator Elizabeth Warren speaking on the senate floor.) The book is a collection of essays written by a diverse group of public figures, from activists to politicians to athletes, each one highlighting courage and gumption and what it takes to move past the adversity life has thrown at them. The writing is deeply personal, which makes the stories relatable (if sometimes hard to read). It’s hard to choose a favorite, as each essay offers a raw telling of an obstacle (hatred, oppression, abuse of power), but one of the pieces that resonated deeply was Senator Amy Klobuchar’s foreword on why it’s so vital to persevere. She writes that although it may not be welcome, adversity is part of life: “So the only way we can make a difference—in our lives and in the world around us—is to keep working, keep fighting, and keep persisting.”

  • <em>Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption</em> <br>by Bryan Stevenson

    Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption
    by Bryan Stevenson

    Written by activist and civil rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy tells the story of one of his first cases in the late 1980s. It’s the story of Walter McMillian, a man sent to death row for a murder he did not commit. The case garnered nationwide attention and pulled Stevenson deep into a fight against racism, systemic biases, political corruption, excessive punishment, mass incarceration, and false convictions. Stevenson compiles examples of injustice while lending personalized context and empathy through the telling of his experience and McMillian’s maddeningly unfair circumstances. “Walter made me understand why we have to reform a system of criminal justice that continues to treat people better if they are rich and guilty if they are poor and innocent,” he writes. Just Mercy is a beautifully written, heartbreaking, and emboldening facet of Stevenson’s life’s mission of shedding light on truth. He also founded the Equal Justice Initiative and recently opened the Legacy Museum and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, which commemorate racial violence against African Americans, Jim Crow, and mass incarceration in the US. Intelligent, irreverent, and tenacious, Stevenson is a force of empathy and justice who is leaving an indelible mark our nation’s history with every person he liberates and proves innocent. (You can listen to Stevenson on a recent episode of The goop Podcast.)