10 Books About Starting Over | Books

TonHis idea of ​​a new beginning, a new beginning, has a captivating appeal that makes it an enduring trope in literature. In addition to temporarily escaping from reading, books also suggest that life beyond the story may also be lived in a different way. All of these narratives embody a utopian ideal: somewhere, there is something better worth starting over. But utopia literally means no place. There’s a caveat here; start looking for a fresh start and you may get nowhere.

The idea of ​​a second life can also create a delayed life experience. I know this too well.When I grew up as a Jehovah’s Witness, Positive encouragement to look forward to new beginnings. I believe that God will destroy the wicked and save his true followers, who will start over in heaven on earth. When I can no longer accept this as a comfortable belief, I know a new beginning is necessary, as I describe in my book The Last Days. I have abandoned religion, but I still believe in the power of books. I believe literature provides the best answers and the harshest warnings; here are some of them.
1. Anne Tyler’s Ladder of the Years
One day, middle-aged wife and mother Delia Grinstead left her family on a beach vacation with almost nothing and took the elevator to a new town with only $500 in her pocket. Lacking possessions and history, Delia was able to strip away all aspects of her life and discover what was important to her. She finds it impossible to completely waive your obligations. We learned that new beginnings are more complicated than they seem.

2. Free: Lea Ypi’s coming of age at the end of history
A beautiful memoir about growing up in Albania in Enver Hoxha and its aftermath. Ypi details her childhood love of communism: the order it brought, the sense of belonging it created. It was only when the old regime fell that she began to question what it meant to be free, finding that often unstable moments created opportunities for change. Free shows that reaching a fresh start can take a long time and a lot of effort.

3. Charmaine Wilkerson’s Black Cake
An incredible family saga spanning 60 years, continents and time, forming a multi-layered book of secrets and heritage. After the death of their mother, twins Byron and Benny are confused by two artifacts she left behind: a recording and a traditional black Caribbean cake. As the story unfolds, the twins learn that their mother rethinks life without them, and they must completely reimagine how they think of her.

4. The remainder of Tom McCarthy
Our protagonist, whose memory has been affected by his injury, sets out to reconstruct a room he thinks might exist. Initially, he noticed a crack in the wall, alerting him to another crack, so he decided to hire someone to rebuild the entire room. The whole building starts there, and finally the actors are called in to recreate specific emotions and events that may or may not happen again. Having lost his memory, he should be free to start over, but he is haunted by these fragments of the past. McCarthy created a story about the impossibility of escaping from memory as long as the fragments remain.

5. John Freeman’s Dictionary of Destruction
Language, Freeman argues, has been weaponized, but also dulled. The Dictionary of the Undoing attempts to redefine what it means to be a moral citizen by guiding readers through a series of alphabetical ideas that lead to direct action. This seemingly simple starting point sparks a powerful debate, as each word builds on the others, creating a resounding call to action. In the wake of the pandemic, as human rights continue to broadly unravel and the climate emergency tightens, this is a prescient book that shows how language can guide us toward new beginnings.

An almost impossible new beginning… The Year of Magical Thinking in Vanessa Redgrave’s adaptation at the National Theatre. Photo: Tristram Kenton/The Guardian

6. Joan Didion’s Year of Magical Thinking
After the death of her husband John Dunn, Didion takes readers into her grief experience and the madness it brings, showing how near impossible it is to escape such a huge loss. Instead, over time, she was sure he would come back. All the hallmarks of Didion’s writing are here: her rigorously honed eloquence, her pared-down prose. It’s also a surprisingly quiet book. Sadness both haunts and haunts the page. It’s an almost impossible step towards a new beginning.

7. Katherine Lacey’s Pugh
In an unknown town, an unknown, ambiguous narrator wakes up in a church. When the townspeople found out about the man, they named him Pew. Pew either refused or couldn’t speak, and this disturbing silence is a mystery one wants to solve: Is Pew male or female? Running away or running towards something? In the absence of signifiers and explanations, Pew becomes a cipher, first a cipher they cannot crack, then a zero to which they project their fears. Lacey’s book explores the expectation that if it doesn’t make people uncomfortable at first, it should be explained. It also raises questions about silence and how it is weaponized.

8. The Minister and the Murderer: Stewart Kelly’s Book of Aftermath
The Biography of Murderer-turned Church of Scotland minister James Nelson, The Priest and the Murderer, is not just about Nelson’s reinvention, but about the power that books have. As it unfolds, the doubling happens; Nelson hides from Kelly, and Kelly seeks out the God he abandoned for atheism. This book shows the complexities of new beginnings and asks if it is possible after a horrific crime. In Kelly’s case, is his return to God a beginning or a repetition?

9. Jesse Ball’s Suicide Therapy
A Cure for Suicide opens with a man sitting in a chair talking to a woman. He had only recently learned to call a chair a “chair,” and immediately set the scene for a book about trauma, loss, language, and the interplay of each with memory. Every day women wipe out the man’s memory in an attempt to erase his grief—which leads to the book’s central question: Is it advisable to start over? Ball never gives the reader an answer, he invites us to think. There are no easy answers; new beginnings may or may not be welcome.

10. Abandoned Island: Life in a Post-Human Landscape, Carl Flynn
Flynn travels to some of the weirdest places on Earth to see how nature recovers after humans. Flynn studied what these beginnings might look like under natural conditions. It’s not a book about humans, but it turns into a book of hope that shows that our interventions in the natural world need not be catastrophic. Under the right circumstances, we can start over.

Ali Millar’s The Last Days is published by Ebury. To help The Guardian and The Observer, buy your copy from Guardianbookshop.com. Shipping charges may apply.

Leave a Comment

%d bloggers like this: