10 Books that Build Empathy
One of my favorite things about reading is that I can feel what another person is going through even though I never lived through their experiences myself. I hope this helps me to be more compassionate and understanding with others. The following books are about people whose lives are very different from mine, but I could live their story through their words.
unPlanned by Abby Johnson. Abby Johnson joined Planned Parenthood because, from the bottom of her heart, she wanted to help women in crisis. She wanted to help women gain access to affordable birth control and, in turn, reduce the number of abortions. But one day when she was called into room where the abortions were performed, that all changed.
The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield. Rosaria was a women’s lib activist, English professor, and a Lesbian. A minister and his wife, rather than condemning her, began to show her hospitality and love her right where she was, and that was the beginning of a life change.
Woman living under the Taliban
The Dressmaker of Khair Kahnan by Gayle Lemmon. Muslim women in Afghanistan were required to dress modestly, but they could moved freely about the city, go to college, and hold jobs. That all changed when the Taliban took over. Suddenly they needed to cover completely, take a male escort with them everywhere, and stay at home. Many families became destitute as the the women’s income they depended on to survive was cut off. This remarkable story tells about some sisters who were able to find a way to work while staying within the Taliba’s rules.
OK for Now by Gary Schmidt. Doug’s family moves to a new town, and Doug is prepared to hate it. That was before he started visiting the library and before he started his job at the grocery store. A few people made all the difference when everyone else was skeptical of him and his family.
Handicapped - Cerebral Palsy
Out of my Mind by Sharon Draper. Melody has cerebral palsy and has to be fed, dressed, and taken to the bathroom. She has never spoken a word. She drools and screeches, and many people think she is mentally retarded, but she is simply hampered by her body. This book gives an entirely new perspective on what it’s like to live with serious handicaps.
Terminally ill cancer patient
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalinithi. Dr. Kalinithi was on the verge of completing his residency as a neurosurgeon when he was diagnosed with cancer. In the face of his own death, he grapples with question, “What makes life worth living?” This book is surprisingly hopeful.
Still Alice by Lisa Genova. Alice, a distinguished Harvard professor, starts to have some memory lapses and becomes confused one day while on a run. She is diagnosed with early-onset dementia. The book details her journey of going from an intelligent adult to dealing with the complications of Alzheimer's disease.
Parents of an autistic child
Love That Boy by Ron Fournier. On a journey to understand his son who is diagnosed with Asberger’s syndrome, Mr. Fournier takes his son on a road trip around the country to visit some of the President’s homes and historical sites. In the process he learns as much as his son.
One dealing with infertility
Every Bitter Thing is Sweet by Sarah Hagerty. This is the story of the author’s pursuit of God, especially through the pain of her infertility and the challenges with their four adoptions.
Tough home life
Hillbilly Elegy by J. D. Vance. The author tells his story of growing up in rural Ohio as a hillbilly transplant. Although J.D.'s grandparents left the hills of Kentucky to escape poverty, they did not escape their problems. Alcoholism, drug abuse, abusive relationships, and divorce plagued the family. J.D. was able to escape and eventually graduated from an Ivy League school, but he is one of the few. He wrote this book with an honesty and poignancy that I love. I found it so helpful to read an insider's view on what really goes in so many homes in white working-class America. Warning: There is some swearing/hillbilly language in the book.
What books would you add to this list?
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