‘Change’ is a loaded word for many of us. My own relationship with change has always been to long for it in advance of it happening, to fight it when it does, and to embrace it only right before the cycle begins all over again.
But one thing that always makes change a little more bearable is the knowledge that, whatever the type of change you’re going through, someone somewhere has probably written a book about it.
So what better time than spring – the Official Season of Fresh Starts – to bring you a list of the very best books about change? From internal growth – coming-of-age, changing relationship dynamics, and renewed mindsets – to external shifts, like socio-political upheaval, new homes and entering uncharted territory, these books cover all the bases. They remind us that change is essential to growth, and that perspective is everything.
1. Born Confused by Tanuja Desai Hidier
Dimple Rohitbhai Lala is on many cusps – between cultural tradition and her own volition, school, and college, a Dimple-approved old boy and a parent-approved new one. While that fuzzy area between leaving school and starting college seems a very specific kind of change, there are a number of lessons Dimple learns that are pretty universal. Namely that friendships must grow as people do, that to change your values is not to accept defeat, and that the chaos of change does not necessarily end in calm, collected resolution – often it just settles into slightly more manageable chaos.
2. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernières
Set in 1941 on the Greek island of Cephalonia during the Greco-Italian war, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin is concerned with many different types of changes. With a multi-character narrative that goes back and forth across time and place, the horrors of war being contrasted with everyday life in Cephalonia serves as a gripping background to a number of personal and interpersonal dramas. Italian Antonio Corelli is infatuated with Pelagia, Pelagia is engaged to Mandras, Carlo is struggling with his homosexuality and the death of his beloved. This epic novel is about how war can change how and whom we love, and how these loves can create and reshape our histories.
3. Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín
Brooklyn captures the piercing pain of homesickness and feeling very small in a big world with stark honesty. Eilis Lacey emigrates from Ireland to New York in the 1950s, alone and not knowing what awaits her. As soon as Eilis conquers her fear of the unknown and settles into her new life, however, she gets pulled right back into her old one. Brooklyn is about choices and serves as a reminder that while the past may be out of your hands, the future is yours to build.
4. Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding
We can’t ever talk about fresh starts without mentioning Bridget Jones, queen of drastic self-improvement tactics and overambitious New Year’s resolutions. Bridget, 30-something, works in publishing, lives in London, would like to stop smoking and dating losers, is so relatable because her life, much like anyone’s, rarely ever goes according to plan. Witnessing Bridget deal with every curveball – sometimes gracefully, sometimes not – feels like being seen, flaws and all.
5. The Baghdad Clock by Shahad Al Rawi
In 1991 in Baghdad, a young girl and her best friend meet for the first time in an air raid shelter during the first Gulf War. From then on, they share everything with each other – dreams, disappointments, fears, and firsts. In the background of the girls’ lives are a close-knit community and a city whose nooks and crannies they know like the backs of their hands, both slowly disappearing as a result of the war. Through a child’s perspective and using elements of magical realism, Al Rawi explores her protagonist’s internal turbulence at a time in which uncertainty is a way of life and stability a myth.
6. Forever in Blue: The Fourth Summer of the Sisterhood by Ann Brashares
This book will have more of an impact if you’ve read the 3 preceding books in the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, but it still does great all by itself. Carmen, Tibby, Lena, and Bridget are off on their final summer apart before they go away to college and begin spending the rest of their years apart as well. Being apart from your friends is difficult because it means coming to terms with what that distance may or may not change. The sisterhood teaches us to have faith in the friendships we hold closest to our hearts and to trust that they can endure the scariest thing of all: the unknown.
7. The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
Cisneros’s graphic novel is told in a series of vignettes through the voice of Esperanza Cordera, a young girl growing up in Chicago’s Hispanic quarter. Readers learn all about Esperanza’s community and culture through the eyes of a child, which are much clearer than those of adults. Central to Mango Street is an overwhelming sense of community and loyalty, and Esperanza’s experiences of growing up, finding her purpose, awakening her sense of independence and agency, are all intrinsically tied to the eponymous Mango Street and all its inhabitants.
8. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
Marjane Satrapi’s autobiographical graphic novel blends personal and public histories into one, each one shaping and sustaining the other. In her striking, candid illustrations Satrapi remembers her childhood in Iran, her move to Europe and eventual return back to Iran. Born to politically active Marxist parents and growing up during the Iranian Revolution, Satrapi’s own life is intertwined with an extremely volatile phase of her country’s history. Satrapi endures many drastic changes – geographical, political, personal – yet remains intrinsically unchanged.
Change can be intimidating, daunting, and downright scary. Let these books help you on your way to not only dealing with change but conquering it as well.