There are days when I feel low about the state I find my life in. Whenever that happens, I tend to go read just one paragraph* to make me appreciate what I have.
"A lot of good things had happened that day. He hadn't been thrown in the hole. The gang hadn't been dragged off to Sotsgorodok. He'd swiped the extra gruel at dinnertime. The foreman had got a good rate for the job. He'd enjoyed working on the wall. He hadn't been caught with the blade at the search point. He'd earned a favour from Tsezar that evening. And he'd bought his tobacco.
The end of an unclouded day. Almost a happy one. Just one of the 3,653 days of his sentence, from bell to bell".- One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
* sure, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of excerpts from other books that could be said to be more potent, more evocative, and more graphic about human suffering. But the sheer simplicity and clarity of this one, and the way in which it brought down everything to a few simple, basic requirements hit my 15-year old cocky self like no Gogol or Dickens or anybody else ever had. And that initial impact has been hard to shake off.