During my first couple of weeks, I had no idea how to find novels to read in rehab. In the literary world, there’s a perception that any serious novel is gloomy. Cynicism is seen as high-brow, while hope is considered naive. As someone who takes literature seriously, I subscribed to this view. However, reading Dostoevsky in rehab seemed like a bad idea. I needed hope, not existential dread.
I’m glad that I decided the depressing classics were off-limits, because I learned that hopeful novels can be far more rewarding than difficult literary tomes. There are some great hopeful novels to read in rehab, which will scratch your literary itch while making you feel good about life.
Here is a list of 5 hopeful novels to read in rehab.
1. The Humans, by Matt Haig
Matt Haig knows all about hope. He wrote the book Reasons to Stay Alive after battling severe anxiety and depression. His fiction is also very deep and poignant in an uplifting way. The Humans follows an alien who is sent to Earth to prevent man from a mathematical discovery that will ultimately destroy them. He infiltrates a family, posing as the husband and father, unaware that he is about to learn about the beauty in what it means to be human. This is a great sci-fi novel that will touch and inspire you while making you feel better about humankind.
2. Of Human Bondage, by W Somerset Maugham
At first glance, Of Human Bondage does not seem like the kind of light novel to lift your spirits. The main character is an artist with a club foot, who struggles to find happiness. But as it progresses, it becomes a story of hope for those among us who believe we are just too cynical to ever find it.
3. The Death of Ivan Ilyich, by Leo Tolstoy
Another title you might not expect to see on this list, The Death of Ivan Ilyich follows a man who feels like his life has been wasted as he learns he is dying. However, this knowledge gives him the chance to reflect and discover some meaning in life, even as he faces his inevitable death.
4. Island, by Aldous Huxley
Aldous Huxley is best known for his dystopian novel, Brave New World. However, he also wrote a novel about a society he viewed as utopian. Island is set on an island that is almost wholly independent, and sometimes reads more as an idealistic treatise than a work of fiction. Nonetheless, it is enjoyable and there is plenty to learn about living a life in pursuit of a real happiness that is not connected to consumerist principles.
5. East of Eden, by John Steinbeck
John Steinbeck wrote some of the saddest novels of all time, but he also wrote a few incredibly hopeful stories. East of Eden is one such example. It follows two connected families as they go through life, sometimes thriving, sometimes struggling. It contains a beautiful message about choice and meaning making in life.
Reading serious and gloomy literature during rehab is not recommended. That does not, however, mean you should stay away from fiction. The above are my recommended novels to read in rehab. Give them a try and find your own hopeful stories to scratch your literary itch.