New Year, New You: 8 Books to Get You Inspired – by Tenikah Beveney

With a humorous look back on 2020, Tenikah recommends eight brilliant books to inspire a new year of growth and kindness.

A new year brings new hope and 2021 is no different. After a year that can only be described as literally a living hell, we all have our fingers, toes, eyes, nose and practically every part of our body crossed, that this year will ‘be our year’. Or at least an improvement on the nightmare that was 2020.  

Although we are stuck in lockdown with no definitive end to the ordeal, the human race has always and will always continue to thrive regardless of what life throws at us. No pandemic will get us down and certainly not 2021. Now you may be thinking, where is this blind faith and optimism coming from? Surely the political things that have happened in January so far is a sign that it can only go downhill from here. I say no. I refuse to let another year go down the drain because of things outside of my control. I will commit to doing what’s best for ME this year. Whether that be taking some me time to replenish and revitalise my mind and body or working towards setting physical goals, nothing and no one will stop me.  

As mentioned in Leon’s previous blog, the key to achieving your resolutions is to avoid wishful thinking when you set them. You must set realistic goals or ladders from the beginning. For example, one of my goals is to read more. Now instead of choosing a random unachievable number, my goal is simply to read more than last year. Realistic! But something that can help you to achieve your personal goals is to be encouraged by some inspirational wisdom.  

I guarantee at least one of these books will inspire you. Whether that be physically, mentally or creatively.  These eight books can become your personal trainer, edging you towards your goals and helping you on your journey to becoming better versions of yourselves. I’m yet to find a person who can’t be inspired by good writing or a breath-taking story. So, bear with me as I give you a whistle-stop tour of my favourite eight books that help me feel inspired.  

  1. Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig.  

Now this list I am comprising is not in any particular order, having said that, this book will always be my number one. As someone who deals with mental health on a daily basis, this book has truly changed my life. It’s shown me that there is always hope, there is someone who loves you and things will get better. Matt Haig’s recollection of his struggles with mental health has somehow made me understand my own personal journey more, but also manages to highlight that every experience is different. Even on my down days, this book makes me laugh, smile and see the beauty in life. It is a Sunday Times Bestseller, and for good reason. On the cover, Joanna Lumley even calls it: ‘A small masterpiece that might even save lives.’  

‘This book is bloody invaluable. Buy it. Read it. Treasure it.’- @ThatTennantGuy 

‘Never have I been so amazed by a book.’ – @x_Fliss_x (Haig, 2016) 

  1. Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur. 

This beautiful collection of poems will always be an enjoyable and inspiring read. With her own delicate sketches in-between, these poems will leave you feeling creative, empowered and moved. They detail the everyday experiences of the modern woman with an appreciation for femininity enriched through-out. Another Sunday Times Bestseller, if this book doesn’t leave you in the mood for creative writing or feeling empowered, then I don’t know what will. 

  1. Rapthology: A Lesson in Life and Lyrics by Jermaine Scott (Wretch 32). 

A bit of an odd choice but hear me out. This one is for the creative writers. Even if you’re not a writer, read on as I will explain how it can be worthwhile to you. Part memoir, part lesson in creativity, part explanation of cultural history this book is a must read. I picked it up because I like Wretch 32’s songs (guilty pleasure, I know) but I was blown away by the creativity both in the book itself and behind the lyrics in his songs. This was meant to be a night-time read but believe me when I say it got me up writing poetry at three in the morning. He discusses lyric writing, using his platform as a popular music artist to inspire a generation. Breaking his lyrics down, he explains how he put them together, discussing language devices, literary techniques and backstories along the way. He even refers to Shakespeare and Prost and I’ve learned some new poetic devices! For those of you who are not creative writers, it still is an inspiring read. He talks about his childhood growing up in Tottenham and how he became who he is today. His personal story is truly inspirational and moved me to tears on multiple occasions. I didn’t think I could possibly love him more, but he’s found a way. 

  1. Finding Joy by Gary Andrews.  

Director and Illustrator Gary Andrews had begun to create daily drawings as a way of reflecting on his day. When he tragically lost his wife, Joy, to Sepsis in 2017 the daily drawings became a way to deal with his grief and to let his friends and family know that he and his two children were doing okay. Since then the illustrations have touched the hearts of thousands and they have been curated into the book titled Finding Joy. Somewhere in-between a picture book and graphic novel, it explores how Gary and his children have learnt to cope with everyday life after losing such a wonderful soul and how they have found joy again. This book made me laugh and cry. I did a play once with Gary a few years ago and he as a person is truly inspirational and driven. This book is something special and I knew from the first few pages that this was going to be one of those books you come back to again and again. 

  1. I am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World by Malala Yousafzai.  

Based on the true story of a girl who stood up to terrorists to defend the right for girls to have an education, she is the embodiment of empowerment, inspiration and determination. Malala is the youngest person ever to win a Nobel Peace Prize, and this account of her life and remarkable courage is more than enough to show you that anyone can make a difference.  

  1. Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams. 

Queenie is a quirky and humorous novel, but it deals with real cultural issues of race, gender and sexuality. The book is many things, but it mainly is about the empowerment of women and the importance of friendships and family. Queenie as a character is far from perfect and she’s a reminder that none of us are, but that’s okay. Part of the beauty of life is that we’re all different, we all make mistakes but learning to love oneself is an important step to self- enlightenment. Something we all need reminding of now and then. Think Bridget Jones but with an undertone of real contemporary issues.  

  1. He Said, She Said by Kwame Alexander. 

Now this is actually a YA romance novel, but I think it is an interesting read nonetheless. The whole story is geared around students sparking a social protest in response to arts programs being cut in their schools, due to a lack of local funding. The story is a wonderful reminder of how powerful the will of the people can be. What starts off as an idea becomes a large-scale operation and it just goes to show that no voice is too small. We all have the potential to incite change.  

  1. My Friend Fear by Meera Lee Patel. 

A wonderfully curated book, My Friend Fear takes us on an inspirational and almost spiritual journey of self-help, self-discovery and self-acceptance. It even contains stunning watercolour artwork by Meera which could honestly be hung in a museum or printed on a canvas to spread warmth into your home. The pages are filled with inspirational quotes and miniature poetic stories that leave you feeling uplifted. It explores the topic of fear, her own experiences with it and how we could learn to live, accept and perhaps even grow to love it, using it to unlock untapped potential within ourselves.   

Honourable mentions: Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, How to Stop Feeling Like Sh*t by Andrea Owen and A Promise Land by Barack Obama.  

Whilst that January ‘new hope’ feeling is still buzzing around, why not take hold of it and throw yourself into reading these little golden nuggets of inspiration? Go out and achieve those things you wanted to achieve this year, and let the uplifting words and stories support you along the way. Strive for progress, not perfection and remember to do what makes YOU happy. 

About the Author – Tenikah Beveney

I am a Creative Writing MA student. I’m overseeing the festival’s Instagram account and website. I tend to write across various forms but predominantly poetry, theatre scripts and young adult fiction. My favourite book is The Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde and I have a passion for all creative arts alongside creative writing. Mainly theatre, dance and photography. Find me on instagram @tenikah_beveney and on twitter @tenikay_imany.

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