Surviving Storms: Finding the Strength to Meet Adversity is Mark Nepo’s latest book of essays. His approach is both as a spiritual teacher and as a student of life. Nepo is also a poet and philosopher. So, when you blend all these elements, you sense his writing style.

Like a good teacher, Nepo organizes Surviving Storms into small bite-size chunks gathered into larger sections. He lays out the situation, discussing various typical kinds of adversity. These vary from individual to global and reflect our US politics and the Covid-19 pandemic, among other issues.

But this isn’t a book on history or politics. Instead, it’s about our inner spiritual and emotional journey. The external storms which cause adversity are the waves that cause us to dive deeper. And Nepo aims to offer guidance in turbulent waters.

Nepo uses many tools to illustrate his point. He might tell part of his life story or share one of his poems. In another chapter, he uses word derivations to illuminate meaning. Or he adds quotes from famous figures. Then he ties these writing devices together with thoughts, reflections, and recommendations.

My conclusions

Like any book of essays, I found some more approachable and relevant to me than others. I loved the one about Leonard Cohen’s song, Hallelujah, since it’s a favorite of mine. And others either went way over my head or didn’t resonate. This generally reflects my experience with spiritually inclined books like this. Upon reading it a second time, I anticipate the most meaningful essays would differ.

Once or twice I thought Nepo “jumped the shark” with his perspectives. And other times, I read a section repeatedly, never understood it, and ultimately decided to move along. This is the nature of spiritual reading, in my experience. Just as every blind date isn’t your eventual perfect spouse, spiritual ideas are often hit or miss. Feeling this way isn’t an indicator of a book’s quality.

Imagine you’re looking for a timely and relevant exploration of storms and survival, both literal and figurative. In that case, Mark Nepo’s new book is an excellent way to delve deeper into the topic.

Pair with a lighter book, like The Butterfly Effect by Rachel Mans McKenny.


Thanks to NetGalley, St. Martin’s Press, and the author for a digital advanced reader’s copy in exchange for this honest review. The expected publication date for this book is Tuesday, September 6, 2022.