Happy New Year! Was there ever a year more happily left in the dust? As we say goodbye to a universally tragic and trying year, we may be looking ahead with some trepidation. Will 2021 bring us the respite we so desperately need? Can we continue to find the strength to rise up to the challenges of life during a pandemic and the resulting economic and personal hardships? As our reserves of hope and resilience run a bit low, we can glean inspiration from others who have faced unexpected and shocking situations and come out the other side happier and healthier in both body and mind. Let us look to stories of those who found themselves in difficult circumstances, from unfulfilled dreams to the horrors of war, and learn from their tenacious audacity to dream and to survive.
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When Aron Ralston decided to hike the Blue John Canyon in Utah, he figured it would be an easy and fun break from his usual rigorous mountaineering trips. But as he climbed into a narrow canyon, the boulder he was holding onto came free and pinned his right arm. Trapped with very little water and food, Ralston was faced with almost certain death. After five days, bolstered by memories of his loved ones, he came to a drastic solution. Ralston’s horrifying and inspiring tale of the strength of the human spirit, Between a Rock and a Hard Place, was adapted to film under the title 127 Hours.
In her influential memoir Eat, Pray, Love, author Elizabeth Gilbert left everything behind in order to find what truly mattered. After realizing that her supposedly successful life left her unfulfilled, Gilbert left her husband, her home, and her career and set off on an incredible journey to discover herself. Through Italy, India and Bali, she sought out pleasure, spirituality, and a balance of the two. Gilbert’s inspirational tale invites readers to look at themselves and discover what truly brings them happiness and fulfillment. The 2010 film adaptation starring Julia Robers can be checked out using our Library to Go service today!
As a child, Jeannette Walls and her siblings learned early on to take care of themselves, unable to rely on their eccentric parents. Free spirited and rarely employed, the Walls’ parents went where life took them and dragged their children along. They taught them to live in the present and accept every adventure life had to offer. But they also lacked the stability to make their children feel safe. As an adult, Walls must come to terms with her immense love for and her anger at her parents and their choices. Jeannette Walls’ heartfelt memoir, The Glass Castle looks at the blessing and the curse that is family and what it takes to heal childhood trauma. Starring Brie Larson, Woody Harrelson and Naomi Watts, the 2017 film adaptation can be checked out with your library card through hoopla today.
In 2002, feeling aimless and stuck in a rut, Julie Powell began a blog documenting her attempt to cook every recipe out of Julia Child’s classic cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. What began as an interesting way to pass the time became a life changing experience. As she cooked, Powell caught the infectious joy of Julia Child and found the strength to change her life. Powell eventually published her blog as the book Julie & Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously. Four years later, Julia Child, with the help of her husband’s grandnephew, wrote her autobiography My Life in France, which chronicled the transformative years of her life between 1948 and 1954 when she lived in France with her husband. These two books inspired the 2009 film Julie & Julia which contrasts the inspiring stories of these two women whose lives were profoundly changed by their passion for cooking.
On September 23, 1939, as pianist Wladyslaw Szpilman played a Chopin recital for Polish Radio, Nazi forces opened fire on the station. The station would not go back on the air for six years. During that time, Szpilman was forcibly moved into the Warsaw Ghetto, narrowly escaped deportment to the Treblinka extermination camp, avoided capture by Nazi forces on multiple occasions, lost everyone he knew and loved to the war, and was saved from certain death by a Nazi officer who appreciated his musical talent. Published under the title The Pianist: The Extraordinary Story of One Man's Survival in Warsaw, 1939–45, Szpilman’s devastating story shows the strength of the human spirit in the face of incomprehensible cruelty and madness. The Academy Award-winning 2002 film adaptation can be checked out using our Library to Go service.
While cheering on his girlfriend from the sidelines of the Boston marathon, Jeff Bauman saw a suspicious man in the crowd. And then the bomb went off. Bauman ended up losing both of his legs but his report to the police was integral to their investigation. Stronger by Jeff Bauman is the true story of his painful recovery and the strength it takes to survive terrible circumstances. The 2017 film adaptation starring Jake Gyllenhal can be checked out on DVD using our Library to Go service today!
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Trail by Cheryl Strayed is the true story of one woman's nearly impossible solo hike along the Pacific Crest trail and how this back-breaking 1100 mile trip brought her back from the brink of despair. The 2014 film adaptation earned both Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern Academy Award nominations. You can check out the DVD using our Library to Go service.