What You Can Read in Troubling Times

No doubt about it, these are troubling times. Tired of the pandemic, tired of politics and hate and war? Even novels include troubles that can be painful to read when you feel like the plane of life is going down. Never fear, here are things you can read in troubling times. Things that will soothe your soul.


Remember studying poetry in school? Unless you already loved words, you probably didn’t enjoy the poetry you had to analyze. That’s worse than unfortunate, because there is great beauty and peace and inspiration in some of those poems.

“If,” by Rudyard Kipling

“Phenomenal Woman” by Maya Angelou

“The Hill We Climb” by Amanda Gorman

Smart” by Shel Silverstein

What poetry do you find inspiring or uplifting?

Read Picture books

There are so many great picture books. If you have children, you probably have a favorite or two. If you don’t have children, don’t be ashamed. They can be meaningful reads. 

The cover of the worrysaurus shows a comical, worrying, dinosaur-like creature sitting on a rock, the perfect read for troubling times

On a hot and sunny morning under lovely clear blue skies, a little Worrysaurus was opening his eyes.

The Worrysaurus
written by Rachel Bright, illustrated by Chris Chatterton

The cover of the Day I swapped my dad for two goldfish shows an illustration of a young boy showing off his goldfish to a disapproving mother, a romp that you can read in troubling times.

One day my mom went out and left me at home with just my little sister and my dad.

The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish
written by Neil Gaiman , illustrated by Dave McKean

The cover of Commander Toad in Space is an illustration of a green rocket with a one person bubble holding, who else, Commander Frog.

There is one ship, 

one mighty ship,

long and free,

that goes across the skies.

Commander Toad in Space written by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Bruce Degen

This is a delightful play on Star Wars. A little more advance than a regular picture book and a whole lot of fun for a Star Wars fan to read. 

Do you read picture books? Which one is your favorite?

Read Middle Grade Books

As with picture books there are so many great middle grade books, I couldn’t possibly list them all, but here are a couple to get you started.

Illustrated cover of Matilda is a colorful illustration of a young girl sitting on a crate reading and thinking about a book with lots of books on the floor around her.

Matilda’s brother Michael was a perfectly normal boy, but the sister, as I said, was something to make your eyes pop.

Matilda by Roald Dahl 

The cover of a wrinkle in time has the title and author name against a starry night sky with illustrations of the Mrs Ws along one side, children floating thru space above it, and the children approaching a tall building with a very large door.

It was a dark and stormy night.

In her attic bedroom Margaret Murry, wrapped in an old patchwork quit, sat on the foot of her bed and watched the trees tossing in the frenzied lashing of the wind.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle

Meg and her brother travel through time and space to save their father but Meg can save him only if she digs deep enough inside. I’ve written about this book before as the movie that wasn’t. Except now it has been a movie.

Ease Your Worry Lines

Find the type of reading that helps you, calms you, makes you smile. It’s what you can read in troubling times. Reading those books won’t take away your worries, won’t ease other people’s suffering, but it will put your head in a better place. And when your head is in a better place, you’ll be think more clearly, be the calm sea for someone else.

 What are your go-to reads for the days when the world is too heavy?

Women Empowering Women

Women empowering women is a strong and beautiful act. How does this happen? Women lift others with their voices through song, art, dance, speech, poems, stories, and mentorship and so many other ways including small acts of kindness.


Feminist art emerged in the 1960s. From sculpture to paintings to drawings and performances, these artists highlight societal and political differences associated with gender identity.  Here’s a list of 15 artists to get you started.

Tammy Mike Laufer (תמרמייקלאופר) [CC BY-SA 4.0 ]


Poetry, or words that make music in your heart, has many forms. And there are thousands of strong women poets. Below are two examples.

“Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou

“You are more than beautiful” by Rupi Kaur


2014 Emma Watson gave this fabulous speech at the UN launcing the HeForShe campaign.

There are many, many TED talks about women’s rights and empowerment. Here’s a list of 3,000 titles.


There are many nonfiction books and many fiction books that tell the story of women empowering other women or themselves. 

Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, Margarot Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale, and Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things To Me,  are a very small sample.


Songs of celebration to songs of protest, music has always been a means of communicating messages and feelings.  Below is a sampling across the decades.

1958 Here’s a sample “Songs of the Suffragettes” sung by Elizabeth Knight, released in 1958 by the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. Listen Here!

1963 Lesley Gore, “You Don’t Own Me”

1967 Aretha Franklin, “Respect ”

1978 “I Will Survive” Gloria Gaynor

1983 “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” Cyndi Lauper 

1993 “I’m Every Woman” Whitney Houston

2003 “Miss Independent” by Kelly Clarkson

2011 “Who Says” by Selena Gomez

2015 Girl in a Country Song Maddie & Tae 

Women Empowering Women

We’ve touched on just a few examples of women empowering women. Women mentor, they inspire through random acts of kindness, they start charities, and still that’s only a small taste of all the ways we empower each other. What examples of women empowering women inspire you? How do you empower other women?

Achieving and Pursuing

Although Mr. Longfellow lived in the 1800s, I think his words about achieving apply today as well. Achieving Inspirational quote from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, lynettemburrows.com


The doing can be anything that your heart desires as long as you are achieving, pursuing, laboring, and waiting. I think he means let fate be what it might, whether you face failure, obscurity, or fame and success. It’s the achieving and pursuing that is worth doing.

What do you think Mr. Longfellow means?

A Meeting of Minds: the Alchemy of Science, Art, and Poetry

I have belonged to a local writer’s group for many years now. In this group, we have a colorful mosaic of like-, yet, different-minded folk. There are young and mature members, males and females. Some members write with a literary style, some have a dense, elaborate style, some are more minimalist. Yet, we have a meeting of the minds in that we are all striving to improve our work. More than that, we take disparate ideas from science, art, and poetry, and like alchemists, blend them into something different, something called science fiction.

It is my great pleasure to share with you the works of two of my writer’s group members: Karin L. Frank and Jan S. Gephardt. Not only have they had a meeting of minds that yielded science fiction, they added science, art, and poetry to the alchemist bowl resulting in a rare gem, a chapbook called A Meeting of Minds: Poems from the Two Cultures.

About Karin

Karin’s bio sets the tone:

Karin L Frank, A Meeting of the  Minds: the Alchemy of Science, art, and Poetry, lynettemburrows.com

Karin L. Frank (KL Frank) wrote her first story at the age of four and submitted it to her kindergarten teacher. No literary review accepted it but it was published on the family refrigerator.

Karin has since gone on to many adventures. She  writes insightful, literary poetry and science fiction. Recently she has published a chapbook of science fiction poetry, A Meeting of Minds: Poems from the Two Cultures. When she went looking for an illustrator to provide the art for her book, she had to look no farther than our writer’s group and Jan S. Gephardt.

About Jan

Photo of Jan S Gephardt, Artdog Observations, A Meeting of the  Minds: the Alchemy of Science, art, and Poetry, lynettemburrows.comJan is an artist, writer, and educator. She has been involved in fine arts, education, marketing, and many other adventures during the time that I’ve known her. Jan participates in multiple blogs, but her blog home is Jan S. Gephardt’s Art Dog Observations and Jan S. Gephardt’s Art Dog Studio. As an artist, I believe her finest work to be her paper sculptures. You can see one (imperfectly, photos don’t do it justice) here and at her shop on DeviantArt. Her pen and ink drawings are wonderfully detailed (I have one hanging in my office!) and reflect Karin’s words with a different kind of poetry.

Jan was quicker than I to post a blog review of Karin’s delightful chapbook. So here is a portion of Jan’s blog and a little peek into the blending of poetry, art, science, and  fiction:

Thursday, July 5, 2012

A Meeting of Minds . . . and Media

Image of cover of A Meeting of the  Minds: the Alchemy of Science, art, and Poetry, lynettemburrows.com by Karin L Frank, A Meeting of the  Minds: the Alchemy of Science, art, and Poetry, lynettemburrows.com
Karin L. Frank’s chapbook, A Meeting of Minds, is full of beautiful, intellectual poetry . . . and
also my artwork!

Last winter I had a pleasant opportunity to create a series of ink drawings to illustrate a poetry chapbook by a friend of mine, Karin L. Frank.

My first thought, when my friend approached me, was, “a poetry chapbook? Seriously?”

Ah, but then I read the poems.

Several had already been published in other—as in, “mainstream”—print media, such as the Kansas City Star or Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction.

I’d already known that my friend wrote interesting science fiction (prose), but the marriage of sophisticated science concepts with the poetry art form produced something rich and extraordinary indeed.

Karin titled her chapbook A Meeting of Minds: Poems from the Two Cultures, a reference to C. P. Snow’s concept of the sciences and the humanities as being two different “cultures” in “the intellectual life of the whole of Western Society.”

My holistic view of the world sees the two as integrally linked as the sides of a coin—not a strange thought to science fiction readers and writers. But the rest of Western society appears to see more of a chasm between the two . . . .    READ MORE

The strokes of the pen, of ink into words, of dots and lines into images is a transmutation that results in more than a bar of gold, it’s a fascinating Meeting of Minds.

Photos and illustrations are the property of Jan S. Gephardt and Karin L. Frank. You may not use or reproduce the images in this post without permission from the owners of the copyrights.

If you’re interested in other book reviews check out my Going to Mars: Word-by-Word posts.

What meeting of minds, or mix of cultures,

have fascinated you?

Thank you, Jan and Karin, for allowing me the privilege of sharing your work.  And thank you, readers, for following this blog, for commenting when you have time.  I cherish your words and the opportunity for us to have . . . a meeting of minds.