What is an extended stay in prison like? It is, at times, like a nightmare. An eleven year-long one for me. One of those that is tough to wake up from, to find freedom in.
Or, to count the days, over 4,000 days.
A nightmare that you never really get to wake up from but move through in progressions. It isn’t all bad: God is graceful and in the nightmare are also those lucid moments of joy, accomplishments of yourself or others, and the stretches of apparent normalcy.
And in that aspect, prison life and suffering is very much like human suffering generally. Our shared human experience is guaranteed to include suffering. Its one of the things that makes us all more alike than different.
And for many of us, suffering is not just an occasional thing. For many of us, it may feel like a nightmare. In the midst of the good and the joy of life, comes the sharp and terrible pains.
So right now, you may be living in one of your nightmares. Cancer, accident, death, divorce, multiple sclerosis, hunger, homelessness, I am getting sick writing this list. So I will stop there. You get it. And you might be in the midst of a nightmare right now.
Maybe you are sick of hearing people say, “I’m sorry,” or trying to relate to you, but you feel like no one can relate. I know I felt like that many times over the last 11 years. When my uncle died of multiple sclerosis, when one of my best friends died of stomach cancer, or the daily knife of waking up knowing I robbed two children of a father for eleven years.
When we are in this place of pain, we reach out.
One place I found not just comfort, but strength, was literature.
Here is a list of books that we recommend that will help inspire, motivate, educate, and empower. Some of which got me through 11 years in prison.
- We Are the Luckiest: The Surprising Magic of a Sober Life
- Wintering: How to Survive when Life is Frozen
- No Happy Endings, Nora McInerny
- It’s Okay To Laugh: (Crying is Cool Too), Nora McInerny
- The Long Walk to Freedom, by Nelson Mandela
- Man’s Search for Meaning, Victor Frankl
- Prison Angel Faith of My Fathers | JM
- Born Again | CC
- I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
- Just Mercy | Bryan Stevenson
- Tattoos on the Heart
- The Problem of Pain, Mere Christianity
- This Naked Mind, Annie Grace
- Atomic Habits, James Clear
Note: Ordering these Books for People in Institutions
If you are thinking about ordering any of these books for inmates you know, my recommendation: do it. Don’t wait. It could help them in many ways. All prisons allow softback books to be delivered from sites like Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Many prisons will reject hardback books or books sent from your personal residence.
These are the books that I relied on while on the journey of my prison nightmare. I hope that you or someone you know can find some comfort, power, and strength in them as I did, no matter the context of the struggle.