So much of our culture stokes our desire and our greed, because that’s what fuels the economy, not thankfulness and gratefulness.
The books below are defiantly counter-cultural, because they will help you to feel satisfied and whole. Sure, there’s longing and striving inside these books, but I think overall the reader will walk away from these books feeling a strong satisfaction and wellness about the world.
The books below are not “What Terrible Lives These Characters Lead! Be Thankful You’re Not Like Them!”
That’s not true thankfulness.
That’s actually a type of smugness.
You can read Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian and think, “Boy, I’m sure glad that I’m not getting scalped and tortured in the hardscrabble West!” But I don’t think most people would select that book from a line-up if they were looking for something to help them feel more thankful.
True thankfulness is feeling grateful for everything that you have without comparing yourself to anyone else. Comparison is the death of thankfulness.
The books below help you feel genuine thankfulness about your life. They have characters who are thankful, a celebration of the beautiful parts of the world, and a right prioritization about what constitutes the good life.
|I start with Wendell Berry because everything he writes, from his poetry to his nonfiction to his fiction, exudes a kind of well-ordered approach to the world. |
In this novel, Jayber Crow, there’s a solid sense of what it takes to live the good life, and Jayber is grateful for the world, for the patterns of farming, and for the simple things.
It’s impossible to read without feeling a sense of satisfaction for the bedrock elements of beauty in our own lives.
|Isn’t it strange that a book describing a couple who are dead on the beach can make you feel more alive?|
Yet Jim Crace accomplishes just that. By detailing the very specific and beautiful way that nature takes care of decomposing bodies, this book ultimately celebrates what makes us human.
I guarantee you’ll feel more appreciative of life after reading this.
|If you can set aside the giant squid, Sasquatch, and space aliens, Busy Monsters is ultimately a celebration of marriage. That’s the beating heart: undying love for a spouse. It makes me feel grateful for the institution of marriage, and the commitments you make inside matrimony. |
Besides, every single sentence in this book is a carnival, and if you can avoid feeling envy for such a mastery of the English language, you will feel deep thankfulness for the beauty of words.
|There’s such a beautiful, funny, charismatic energy to this book, specifically from the main character Mr. Blue.|
From giving millions of dollars away to the poor, to celebrating poverty by living in a cardboard box, Mr. Blue never falls prey to petty coveting and lust for wealth. He is the perfect picture of thankfulness.
It’s an unabashedly religious book, but ultimately it has such an exalted vision of the human life, of all that is possible and glorious, that you can’t help but be infected by it.
|Jack Gilbert is a mensch. A true mensch. |
I’ve posted one of his poems to the left — “A Brief for the Defense.” It’s a poem from his Collected Poems that offers a defiant happiness in the face of the sadness of the world. This joy in spite of tragedies is a hallmark of a thankful life. As Gilbert says:
Have stubborn gladness.
Give thanks even for the end.
Admit there will be music despite everything.
|Is there another book with such power to make you marvel at the natural world? |
When you read Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, you are filled with wonder and gratefulness for the glory that is nature.
Annie Dillard has such a curious mind, and writes so beautifully, you want to wander out to a meadow and make snow angels in the grass.
If nothing else, she teaches you to be thankful for the world we live in.