7 Inspirational Reads To Carry You Into The New Year

This time of year we find ourselves thinking about the year to come; what will we accomplish, where will we end up, what experiences will we make with this fresh start? We also reflect upon the year we are leaving behind, and consider where and who we were this time last year. What goals did we have then, and which ones are we still working to achieve? What new goals do we hope to accomplish this year? Lots to think about. With so much to consider, and seemingly endless possibilities, we begin to look for inspiration to guide us in the right direction.

Inspiration can be found in a lot of places: friends, family, movies, songs, and quotes by famous people to cite a few sources. You can also, however, gain plenty of inspiration from reading about the trials and tribulations of literary characters, whether fictional or not. If reading is a favorite pastime or hobby of yours, consider checking out these seven inspirational novels and short stories to help you reflect on your life and determine your resolutions this New Year.

1. Different Seasons: Hope Springs Eternal (Stephen King)

Different Seasons is a collection of short stories by award-winning author Stephen King. Among these stories are Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption and The Body, both of which were adapted into the major motion pictures The Shawshank Redemption (1994) and Stand By Me (1986), respectively.

Shawshank tells the story of Andy Dufresne (pronounced Doo-frane), a man who was wrongfully convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison, only to be subjected to violence and corruption as he deals with his fellow inmates and the prison staff. Throughout his time in prison, however, and through all of the injustices he is forced to suffer, Andy never loses site of the ability of hope to empower the human spirit.

The Body tells the tale of four Oregon friends who set out in search of a dead body in the outskirts of their rural town. Along the way, they learn about each other’s home life and find inspiration in each other to remain true to their selves and to their dreams, no matter how hard their individual situations.

2. Invisible Man (Ralph Ellison)

Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man is not so much about a man who is literally invisible, but rather tells the tale of a black man in 1920s and 1930s America who must deal with the racial impurity and social injustices of the times in which he lives. The unnamed narrator notes that he is invisible simply because others refuse to see him, which has driven him to hide from the world and reflect upon his story.

As the narrator describes the injustices and hardships he has been through that have lead up to this point in his life story, he reflects that he is now able to go back into the world with a newfound sense of self identity that will allow him to honor his individualism, while simultaneously keeping his responsibilities to his community.

3. The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck)

John Steinbeck’s ode to Dust Bowl America has become one of the timeless American novels, winning the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, and later the Nobel Prize for Steinbeck in 1962. The story follows a family of tenant farmers who, burdened by the economic depravity and agricultural shortcomings of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl era, decide to head out for California in search of a place to call home and find a future.

4. The Diary of a Young Girl (Anne Frank)

Published posthumously by her father Otto, Anne Frank’s diary, which was kept while she and her family were in hiding from Nazi Germany in the Netherlands, chronicles her experience leading up to her capture, after which Otto was the only survivor. The complexity of Anne’s writings (she was only 15 years old when she died in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp) have resonated a spirit of compassion and humanitarianism ever since they were published after the War, owing especially to her youthful age and the severity of the situation in which she was involved.

In spite of her struggle, and the broader struggle of European Jews at the time, Frank remains incredibly optimistic and endearing, stating that, “In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can’t build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery, and death. I see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness, I hear the ever approaching thunder, which will destroy us too, I can feel the sufferings of millions and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think that it will all come right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquility will return again.”

5. The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexander Dumas)

Alexander Dumas’ dramatic adventure story centers on a young merchant sailor named Edmond Dantes, who is betrayed and framed as a traitor by his fiancé’s cousin and wrongfully imprisoned for life without a trial. After six years in prison, he meets fellow inmate Abbé Faria tunneling accidentally into his cell, who tells him of a hidden treasure on the island of Monte Cristo while they tunnel their way to freedom. Dantes eventually escapes and discovers the treasure, taking the title of Count and returning to take revenge on those who betrayed him twenty years earlier.

Dantes time in prison, and the knowledge that he is an innocent man, drives him to almost commit suicide before Faria comes tunneling into his cell. The character of Faria offers Dantes newfound hope and encouragement, and inspires him to learn and to escape his imprisonment. He represents man’s (and mankind’s) ability to rise up and to overcome any worldly injustices and obstacles that keeps him from living a fulfilled life.

6. 12 Years A Slave (Solomon Northup)

This memoir by Solomon Northup, published shortly before the Civil War, chronicles the story of the author, a free man born in New York state who was tricked into going to Washington D.C. There he was kidnapped and sold into 12 years of slavery in the South, eventually escaping with the help of friends and family he was able to contact in New York. Solomon’s writings detail the savagery and violence of the slave trade in the South, but his journey and struggle offers a powerful testament to one’s ability to overcome great oppression and remain free in spirit.

7. The Pursuit of Happyness (Chris Gardner)

Chris Gardner’s autobiographical account of his early years trying to make a career in finance on the streets of 1980s San Francisco is a touching and inspiring story of determination, love, and the pursuit of success in America. Gardner found he and his son living homeless on the streets shortly after taking an entry-level position, and, resolving never to abandon his child, spent nearly a year living in shelters and hotels while attempting to secure work. Gardner eventually achieved great success and his memoir was adapted into a feature film in 2006, preserving his enduring story of love and determination for the modern generation.