5 books that will make you feel everything is possible

If you are already a subscriber of my newsletter, you know that I am in the process of completely changing my life at 35 years old. And while I love everything about the path I am taking, jumping into the unknown was scary. And I did not know a lot of people who really did that. So I did what I always do: I researched and found some books narrating how people changed their lives for the better. And while most of them are purely fictional, they still made me feel like everything was possible.

Here are my 5 picks in different genres.

1 – Educated, by Tara Westover (Une éducation pour la version française) – Memoir

I was pretty blown away by this one, as it is a true story. The author grew up in a Mormon radicalist household in Idaho, prepping for the end of the world. She never went to school, to the doctor, or had any real friends. Her whole childhood was spent learning how to be a future “good wife”, submissive and obedient. She did not even exist legally, as she had no birth certificate. At 16, she left the house to get an education. In her quest for knowledge, she had to juggle a system she has no idea how to navigate (think about the cost of a U.S. education when don’t even have a bank account), codes she has to learn after years of only socializing with her violent brothers, and her true self to find.

This book is a heartfelt coming-to-life story about a woman who took every bit of courage she could muster to throw herself into a life she had no idea about. Now, Dr Tara Westover, PHD in history, lives in the UK and has received several fellowships to study at Harvard and Cambridge.

If you like this style of memoir , I also recommend Beautiful Country, a memoir of an undocumented childhood, by Qian Julie Wang.

2- The year of the hare, Arto Paasilinna (Le lièvre de Vatanen, en français) – Adventure/nature writing

This is another book that took me by complete surprise and made me fall in love with Paasilinna’s writing.

While on duty, Vatanen, a journalist from Helsinki, hits a hare with his car.  He goes to check on the little creature, leaving his coworker inside. And there, in the middle of the bushes, he realizes that his life is not what he expected and that he won’t go back to it. After waiting for a few hours for his coworker to leave him, he decides to start walking in the direction of the north of Finland, bringing his new big-eared buddy along the way.

This book is a naive little story about the power of solitude and how little decisions can change your life in the fabulous setting of the Finnish wilderness.

If you like nature writing but want a less absurd book, you can also read Wild by Cheryl Strayed (Wild en français), a true story about a woman who decided to hike 1700km on the Pacific Crest trail to find herself.


3 – The bookshop around the corner, by Jeny Colgan (La charmante librairie des hours heureux, gratuit avec l’abonnement Kindle) – Chicklit/feel good

When I need a cute feel-good about people who want a life change, my go-to is always Jenny Colgan.

In The Bookshop Around the Corner, we follow Nina, an exhausted librarian from Birmingham. After a reorganization, Nina is let go of her beloved job and decides to create a mobile library in a small village in the Scottish Highlands. Between a new way of life, people she can barely understand, and the weather, Nina has to find who she is to be joyful again.

If you like this story, keep in mind that Jenny Colgan did almost the same in at least 3 different set up, and that there are plenty of books about people who quit everything to open a bookstore in Scotland/Ireland/village in Britain. And I love them all.

If you want a slightly different story, I enjoyed It’s never too late to free the Unicorns, by Melodie Miller (Il n’est jamais trop tard pour libérer les licornes, gratuit avec l’abonnement Kindle). We follow Manon, financial director of a Parisian event agency who has to quit her very organized life to join a coliving in Ibiza.


4- She who became the sun, by Shelley Parker-Chan (Celle qui devint le soleil)- Fantasy (light fantasy)

1345, China. Famine is striking every village under the Mongol occupation, and for the Zhu family, life is almost impossible. When a fortune teller meets the 2 children left alive, he promises greatness and wealth for the son Chongba. For their daughter, nothingness. But when the father dies, this is Chongba, who crumbles under the stress and lets himself die. So she, who is not even named, decides to take his identity and take a first step towards the greatness that was promised to that name by becoming a monk.

I would classify that book as historical fiction/ light fantasy, as in the 1st book, there is not a lot of magic, and it’s not the center of the story (I have yet to read the second one).


5- Martin Eden, by Jack London (Martin Eden en français) – Classics

Classic authors are usually very fond of stories about somebody who decided to change their life (that’s almost 75% of French literature). One of my favorites, however, is Martin Eden, by Jack London.

In this novel, we are following the young Martin Eden, who grew up in Oakland’s poor neighborhood and always dreamt of being a writer. He soon becomes a successful author. But with that success comes recognition and power, and he struggles to find himself in all of that.

Martin Eden is a beautifully written semi-autobiography of the risks of a class transfuse.


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