9 Books to Read in Times of Uncertainty

Between curfews and quarantines, you’ll probably have a lot more time on your hands than you’re used to. Rather than fritter that time away by stressing over the unknown or scrolling through ominous news headlines all day, why not take this time to enrich yourself and inspire your work in these times of uncertainty?

While you might think that you’ll get more done with this time – maybe get back into the workout routine you’ve been neglecting, or finally have the chance to repaint the living room – our minds like to play tricks on us in times of crisis. Some of us might default to self-sabotaging, negative storytelling, or fretting about the future. To escape this cognitive pit, it helps to get out of your own head and gain some perspective.

To help me get out of my head and get perspective, I’ve been taking wonder walks through the woods by my house, talking to my daughters and trying to see the world through their eyes, and doing lots of reading.

Below are 9 books I recommend, each for different reasons, to gain perspective in these times of uncertainty. They range from nonfiction books geared toward entrepreneurs to more philosophical books critiquing our culture, from politically charged personal essays to poetry collections. I invite you to watch the video for my interpretation of how these books apply to our current state of crisis, but I’ve summarized my takeaways in the text below as well.

Happy reading, and please comment with your thoughts on these texts, our times, or other literary suggestions!

UNCERTAINTY: Turning Fear and Doubt into Fuel for Brilliance

By Jonathan Fields. Published by the Penguin Press.

In this powerful book, Jonathan Fields explores the power of uncertainty to fuel creativity and crack us open to new possibilities. Fields integrates personal reflection, some of the most definitive research in cognitive science, and interviews a slew of flourishing creatives and CEOs who repeatedly face risk to understand how fear, anxeity, and doubt all offer a profound opportunity to reshape our work. Best of all, he offers sound advice about crafting rituals and developing “certainty anchors” to help us navigate uncertainty.

The Principles of Uncertainty

By Maira Kalman. Published by the Penguin Press.

This work by New York Times columnist, children’s book author, and illustrator Maira Kalman is a whimsical graphic memoir. The book is a seemingly random collection of Kalman’s writings and illustrations that weave together to paint a picture of her life, travels, and worldview. I highly recommend this book for light and uplifting reading to remind you that not all is fire and brimstone despite the widespread anxiety of our times.

A Guide for the Perplexed

By E. F. Schumacher. Published by Harper Perennial Modern Thought.

From the Oxford-trained economist and author of the New York Times Best Seller Small is Beautiful, E. F. Schumacher, A Guide for the Perplexed navigates our cognitive terrain to examine how we relate to the world around us, and to one another. Schumacher explains how we are so much more than the materialistic creatures pop culture would have you believe us to be, and how even when faced with great adversity as we are now, we are driven to live a life of transcendence and meaning. Though this book was originally published in 1977, I believe Schumacher prescient observations hold true today.

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