7 Books About Overcoming Obstacles
There’s something about stories of triumph that really resonate with me. Perhaps it’s because I sometimes feel that the odds are stacked against me and need the inspiration, or perhaps it’s because stories of beating the odds remind me of how lucky I am to have the life I do. While I’m not clear on what it is, exactly, that draws me to these stories, I find myself returning to them over and over again. The following 7 books are only a small number of the books chronicling a person’s path to success, but they vary wildly in the challenges the writers had to overcome. I hope you are as inspired by the following books as I was.
20/20 host Elizabeth Vargas penned a memoir about her battle with alcoholism, beginning with her anxiety as a child and her whirlwind career as a television anchor. Filled with insecurities, Vargas turned to alcohol first to unwind, then to cope with the stresses of life. In this breathtakingly honest memoir, she shares her deepest and darkest moments, including when and how she disappointed her children, her bouts with alcohol poisoning, her time in rehab, and the impact her drinking had on her marriage. In it, she takes full responsibility for her actions and makes no effort to paint herself in a positive light, making this an incredible read.
This book sold out on Amazon within 4 days, so it became clear to me early on that I was not the only one this one resonated with. Regina’s story is equally heartbreaking and inspiring. Etched in Sand is about the Calcaterra family, who were forced to endure a horrific childhood filled with bouncing from foster home to foster home and the abuse of their mother and foster parents. Regina was forced to help feed the family by stealing food, and they were consistently failed by social services. But far from being a woe-is-me tale, Regina forged onward and carved her place in history. Today, she is a public policy expert and advocate for placing older children in foster homes.
Growing up in the church of Scientology, Leah Remini never considered her childhood a hardship, even when she was forced to do labor as a child. She eagerly joined the church, along with her mother, and remained a devout follower until Tom Cruise came along. For Remini, her struggles began when she started to question the church and her path to leaving was wrought with lost friendships, difficult questions, and the need to re-find herself. She tells her story with humor, but it’s clear that her life as a Scientologist and her subsequent fleeing of the church has left deep scars that she is still working on healing.
Having seen both the movie and read the book, I can attest to the fact that both are well-done, but the book is, as expected, better than the movie. Unbroken tells the story of Louis Zamperini, an accomplished athlete who military plane crashed into the ocean, resulting in his capture by the Japanese, where he remained in prison camp. He ultimately made it home again, but not after enduring the torture and starvation that could have broken his spirit. His success upon returning is astounding and this is a story that will have you rooting for Louis from the very first pages.
At the tender age of 24, Susanah, a reporter for the New York post, began a downward spiral. She began behaving erratically, blowing things out of proportion, and doing things she knew she shouldn’t be doing. Unsure of what was happening, she was convinced she was having a psychotic break. Her symptoms fit a variety of conditions – schizophrenic, bipolar, a psychotic break – and diagnosing her was a challenge. This book is her reconstruction of what happened to her over the course of two years and is based on interviews, journal entries, and videotapes from her sessions. It’s both horrifying and fascinating and will make you wonder: could this happen to you?
10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works by Dan Harris
Dan Harris was an anxious man, which is not uncommon in the world of television reporters. In his quest to calm down, he sought out a variety of techniques but ultimately landed on meditation. A self-proclaimed skeptic, he was not confident that it would work but after giving it a go, he began a lifelong love for the practice and finally managed to tame that voice in his head. I, myself, began meditating after reading this book and I have to say, Harris has a point.
There are not many who don’t know Elizabeth’s story – kidnapped, chained, and raped, she made national headlines as the country searched for her. In this 2013 memoir, she shares the trauma she endured, the pain it caused her, and how she managed to remain hopeful during her captivity and at the trial of her kidnappers. Now married, Smart is a stunning example of how even those who face insurmountable odds can overcome them.
What book about overcoming the odds inspired you?