“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived” – Henry David Thoreau, “Walden”
Have you ever noticed that a lot of personal development blogs include lists of books “you’ve gotta read” if you want to achieve success? If so, have you also noticed these lists usually contain the same ten or twelve books on them?
This duplicity leads me to believe one of three things is going on: Either these are the only good books ever written (obviously they aren’t); that the bloggers recommending these reads don’t stretch their “literary wings” too much; or finally, (and probably the most realistic senario) this same list gets plagiarized over and over again by bloggers trying to make self-imposed publishing deadlines, which can be tough for those of us writing 2 or 3 times a week whilst juggling a job, family, career, personal commitments etc.!
I’m not sure which (if any) of these explanations is accurate but if I had to guess, I’d go with # 3 (Also known as “Deadline Crunch”!) which I can totally relate to.
It’s 5:12 a.m. on a Saturday morning, and I’m sitting here all bleary-eyed, staring at my first cup of coffee while trying to punch out a few words before the day – and all the responsibilities that go with it – officially begins… yawn!
So there you have it: A confession that we bloggers need a wee bit of help hitting our deadlines, and “borrow” some good ideas from one another to make it happen – especially when time is tight.
To be honest, we only do this because we don’t want to break the commitment we’ve made to our loyal (and most appreciated) regular readers. But when we bloggers do borrow an idea, we like to put our own unique stamp on “whatever-it-is” we are blogging about, so as to give our thoughts and perspective on the topic at hand.
So when it comes to great books, here is my biggest recommendation: Remember that “Man does not live (or thrive) on “Self-Help” books alone!”
I tell ya, if I were to ever write a list of books you’ve “gotta” read, it would include only a handful from the list of 10 – 12 “standbys”, those being ones that really resonated with me.
My list would also feature some “Non-Self-Help” titles including classic literature and books that are just about great story telling, because in my book, (pardon the obvious pun) reading is about learning, growing, and stretching our experiences in life – because if all we ever read are books on how to be “successful”, then we’re’ missing out on a lot of good stuff.
I also love the classic tales of love, hate, fear, courage, adversity and the whole human experience in general as told by others; so without incorporating these into our reading repertoire, we miss out on a major part of the life experience.
And if I’m being honest, I’ve learned more about life from reading great pieces of fiction or literature than I ever did from a tattered copy of “Think and Grow Rich” – and while it is a good book (and it is, I’ve read it 6 times) I have to admit that for me, it’s pretty dated in both it’s language and logic.
And that’s the point; this is MY opinion of the book, not gospel; and somebody else may feel that it’s the best book ever, because to them it is! That’s because in the hands of readers, each book takes on a different meaning, which is what’s so awesome about books – it’s all about personal meaning and interpretation.
What’s more is that as I’m typing this, titles of books that have influenced my life– self-help, fiction and literature – keep popping into my head, so I guess I’ll be making that list after all! Looks like my plan for a “Quick Saturday morning post” just went out the window!
So without further adieu, here are a few of the books that have challenged me, made me think, engrossed me, educated me, but above all, made me stretch myself to become a better and more interested student of life, and in no particular order. I hope you check out one or two of them, and enjoy them as much as I did; each one changed my life in one way or another.
Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez & Vicki Robin – The best book ever on finding a work-life balance, with a big dose of social conciousness tossed in. The truth is that this book is so life-changing that I wrote an entire post about it!
Awaken the Giant Within by Anthony Robbins – Tony Robbins second book which, much like Unlimited Power, focuses on how anyone – regardless of background, education, social standing, etc. – can use the power of their mind to create an amazing life. This book really opened my eyes to what I was capable of achieving if I was willing to make the commitment, and do the work.
Walden by Henry David Thoreau – My favourite book ever. Thoreau published Walden in 1854 after moving to the woods to “live deliberately” in order to discover what life is really all about, rather than to fall into the trap of “quiet despair” that “the mass of men” fell into. As brilliant today, as when it was written.
The Magic of Thinking Big by David J. Schwartz – Quite simply, this is an easy to read handbook for anyone who wants to up their game in any area of their life. Practical yet powerful advice that can be applied immediately to make lasting and measurable changes. I love this book so much.
Great Expectations* by Charles Dickens – All Dickens’s staple topics are here, being love & rejection, class distinction, and the triumph of good over evil; but for me, it’s really the rich characters that make this story so remarkable. Besides the orphaned Pip, we’ve got the convict Magwich, the whacky “left at the alter years ago” spinster Miss Havisham and her fickle, cruel niece Estella, all whose stories intertwine to tell a fascinating and very intriguing story, with what I thought was a surprise ending. A must read for anyone who loves a great story! *Recommend “The Modern Library Classics” version of this book
The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey – I have a love/hate relationship with this book. I love, love, love the actual habits; they are groundbreaking rules that act as a compass to guide us in our daily lives, and are nothing short of brilliant. However this book is so dry and slow it takes real patience and tenacity to make it through. Reading this book is like running up a very long stairway made of porridge to grab the gold coin at the top. It’s a long, tough, hard slog, but if you can stay the course, the reward is well worth the effort.
A Movable Feast by Ernest Hemingway – In the movie “City of Angels”, celestial being “Seth” (Nick Cage) peers over Maggie’s (Meg Ryan) shoulder as she’s reading this book. When caught, he quietly reads her a passage, then explains to her that he (Hemingway) “He never forgets to describe how things taste” to illustrate Hemingway’s genius with prose. (see clip here) After that, I was hooked! I went right out and bought and read the book, which chronicles Hemingway’s life in Paris in the 1920’s, surrounded by friends, gin, food, more gin, all told in a way that only Papa could tell. I love, love, love Hemingway!
The Hunchback of Notre Dame* by Victor Hugo – If your only reference for this cautionary tale comes from the movies, then trust me when I say (a) you don’t know the story, and (b) you are missing out! Oh sure, there’s Quasimodo the sad, sorry bell ringer who lives in the tower at Notre Dame and eventually is shown kindness by the beautiful gypsy girl Esmerelda; and there’s the jealous, crazed Archdeacon Frollo who is really nuts, but these really only tell about 10% of the whole story. This tale has so many layers, nuances and subplots that are all carefully woven together, and towards an exciting – yet truly heartbreaking – climax, that I couldn’t believe the ending, and believe me when I say it’s not a feel-good one at that. But what it is, is brilliant prose and remarkable story-telling. I’m not kidding when I say I cried at the end, and still get emotional when I think about it – a sign of truly brilliant writing. Do yourself a favour, and read this book. *Recommend “The Modern Library Classics” version of this book
Seven Strategies for Wealth And Happiness by Jim Rohn – If you are looking for a “no frills” place to start your personal development, look no further than this little gem. Jim Rohn was Tony Robbin’s mentor, and the source of many of the philosophies that he teaches; but when you hear them come from Jim Rohn, they come off more like homespun, folksy “horse sense” which is just plain simple and easy to understand, with very little grey area. This book also has a terrific little goal setting portion that I’ve incorporated into my own system, and can say has made a huge difference in my goal achievement.
How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie – This book should be a prerequisite read for anybody who ever talks to other people, has interactions with other people, or who needs other people for anything in their lifetime. No – seriously; it’s a handbook of ways to communicate that are both effective and respectful to those folks we interact with every day. I can’t think of a single person who wouldn’t benefit at least a little from this book’s unique and important insights about the human psyche. Well worth seeking out!
For Whom The Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway – More Hemingway, but this one is a work of fiction set during the Spanish Civil War, much of it loosely based on what he’d seen and experienced while as an ambulance driver during this tumultuous period in history. The story tells the tale of Robert Jordan, a dynamiter who, while working with guerrillas, is assigned to blow up a bridge during an attack on the city of Segovia. The characters are rich, (Especially the strong, elderly Pilar, who is the (de facto) leader of the guerrilla forces) and the story solid. Easily one of Hemingway’s best works.
Seeds of Greatness by Dr. Denis Waitley – Makes my list because it’s the book that started it all for me. Early on, when I lacked direction and was struggling in life I found this book and it changed everything for me. It basically said “Hey, you aren’t a screw-up! You just learn differently from other people! Let’s explore what you CAN do, and take it from there” And while it didn’t actually say these things, that was the message I took from it, way back in 1985 when I first read it. Oh, and I’ve never looked back… What? You don’t believe me? Check out some of what it made me believe I could do, and then did, here.
Seabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand – If you’ve seen the movie Seabiscuit, you were probably inspired by the feel-good tale of how, in 1938, a crooked little horse with a bad hoof captured the world’s heart and attention by winning what was dubbed the “Match of the Century”, along with jockey Red Pollard and trainer Tom Smith. But as with most films, the true – and far grittier – aspects of this tale were glossed over or completely ignored. The book also tells the human stories, and they are grim at times; from the transient, alcoholic jockeys who ingest tapeworms to keep their weight down, to the hard life of the trainers, all of whom after lives of complete dedication and service, emerge with very little. This is a heartbreaking read on so many levels, but again, brilliant storytelling.
E 2 (Squared) by Pam Grout – Recommended to me recently, I’m only halfway through but can say this is a great book, complete with 9 “exercises” for those who want to manifest great things into their life. Although there’s really not much new here, Pam Grout’s style of writing is hilarious, so you actually are being entertained and enticed to read more and more whilst learning these life-changing philosophies. I’m really enjoying it, and would already recommend it to others. Come to think of it, I just did.
Take a look and let me know what you think of my list! Did I miss anything, or would you add anything to it? Let me know in the comments below!
Fish… Over and OUT!