Hemmingway once said, “The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.” The astonishing stories below prove him right, giving all of us a measure of courage to confess our mess and begin stepping bravely through the wreckage.  

All the Pretty Things by Edie Wadsworth

Poverty. Hunger. Alcoholism. Abandonment. Through no invitation of her own, these became Edie’s childhood companions. It’s no wonder, then, that they snuck up on her again in adulthood and burned her life right to the ground. Thankfully, the story doesn’t end there. If you’ve ever hungered for home, forgiveness, and the safe embrace of a father’s love, this one’s for you. Daughters of alcoholics will find this especially compelling; just be sure to mind your triggers.

“Maybe heartache can be the birthplace of the most beautiful things.” 

Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown

By now you might know that we love us some Brené Brown around here, and for good reason. Her work and words around courage, vulnerability, and shame regularly gut and gift us. Braving the Wilderness isn’t so much a story of vulnerability as it is a call to belonging and connection through it. I normally steer you to the library for your books, but buy this one because you’ll find something to underline on every page.

“The wilderness is where all the creatives and prophets and system-buckers and risk-takers have always lived, and it is stunningly vibrant. The walk out there is hard, but the authenticity out there is life.”

Coming Clean by Seth Haines

I’m not sure which is greater: The vulnerability it took Seth to write this story, or the vulnerability it took his wife, Amber, to let him tell it. Either way, Coming Clean is one heck of a confession. Seth writes bluntly here through the first 90 days of his alcohol sobriety. Along the way he illuminates how we can all face the pain we’d rather run from because Jesus is faithful to meet us when we do.  

“Your sin is not the thing. The thing is under the sin. The thing is the pain. Sin management without the redemption of life’s pain is a losing proposition.”

Fallen: Out of the Sex Industry and Into the Arms of the Savior by Annie Lobert

I devoured this in two days. It was, without question, the most gripping, eye-opening memoir I have ever read. Ever. Trigger warnings abound, so be sure to read the full description before diving in. Here’s an excerpt:

“In Fallen, Lobert writes about her sixteen-year journey being owned by a violent pimp who took every dollar and beat her multiple times within inches of her life. After more than a decade and a half of countless arrests, rapes, life-threatening calls, and utter loneliness, the freedom she had once sought became her prison. Then after being diagnosed with and treated for cancer, Annie eventually found herself at death’s door from a drug overdose. That’s when she finally surrendered to the love of a beckoning Savior.”

Freefall to Fly by Rebekah Lyons

If you know or suspect that anxiety and depression have a grip on your life, take Rebekah’s hand through this vulnerable memoir of transformation. In it Rebekah shares her journey from Atlanta, Georgia to Manhattan, where she was blindsided by crippling depression and anxiety. Overwhelmed by the pressure to be domestically efficient, professionally astute, and physically attractive, Rebekah finally realized that freedom comes only by facing our greatest fears and fully surrendering to God’s call on our lives.

“Each of us must find our own path to trotter down as we seek to live out our purpose. We must find those God-gifts that make us uniquely us, and then pair them with a burden that those gifts fit like a key. When we do, rescue will flood into our lives. And in the deluge, we’ll begin to discover meaning.”

How to Fix a Broken Record by Amena Brown

We all have lies, past failures, and negative messages on repeat in our heads. Some of them play heart deep. When cranked up loud enough, all of them can keep us from speaking up, pursuing our dreams, and growing closer to God. In How to Fix a Broken Record, spoken word poet Amena Brown writes honestly and smartly about all the ways her inner records have drown out the voice of God, and how she learned to hear him again. If you like a writer who keeps it real, Amena is your girl.

“Failure doesn’t want to be our assassin. It wants to teach us the hard things. The aftermath of when we fail is life’s best x-ray. It tells us where we are broken, wounded, diseased. It tells us where we’ve been ignoring our hurt, our wants, our needs. It shows us who we are, who we’ve been, who we can be. Failure reminds us there is just as much strength in a beginning as there is in finding the ways to a new path when we’ve reached an unexpected ending.” 

Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton

Glennon knows the feel of rock bottom. Alcoholism put her there once. Bulimia did, too. Say nothing of her husband’s infidelity. Through it all she learned that the way up is always through searing pain, and that only by confronting it can we reclaim the lives we were born to live.

“You are not supposed to be happy all the time. Life hurts and it’s hard. Not because you’re doing it wrong, but because it hurts for everybody. Don’t avoid the pain. You need it. It’s meant for you. Be still with it, let it come, let it go, let it leave you with the fuel you’ll burn to get your work done on this earth.”