We all need inspiration and motivation in life whether you’re a fledgling entrepreneur, an aspiring professional, or a person merely seeking to grow and improve. When considering what books to read, many young people don’t know where to start. It’s only later in life, they begin the readers’ journey when it’s too late to apply the knowledge deciphered from great books.
This blog covers a list of books that have changed my life stimulating my own personal growth and adventure.
1 The Obstacle Is The Way – Ryan Holiday
“There is no good or bad without us, there is only perception. There is the event itself and the story we tell ourselves about what it means”.
For the novice reader, this one is ideal. It’s short, easy to read yet littered with insightful and inspiring anecdotes. Coping with adversity and overcoming obstacles are aspects of life we all find difficult. This book delves into stoic philosophy and teaches you how to make life’s challenges your friend. It pushed me to look more deeply into the Stoic philosophy studying the meditations of Marcus Aurelius and Epictetus.
Their outlook is both admirable and courageous and I constantly seek it out during any trialing periods in my own life.
2 The Long Road To Freedom - Nelson Mandela
“What counts in life is not the fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead”.
This book is intimidating at first glance. A book covering over 600 pages tends to have that effect. However, once you immerse yourself into the book then it becomes profoundly engaging. Personally, I thought Nelson Mandela was a bit of a sissy preaching non-action in the face of aggression. I was wrong.
He didn’t believe in violence unless there was no other recourse to protect yourself. Nelson did whatever he could to protect his people and achieve equality. He even organized gun running to help black South Africans fight back against the brutality of the White South African police. Nelson epitomized what we consider great leadership. Humble yet confident. Strong yet kind. Powerful yet selfless.
3 The Alchemist - Paulo Coelho
“The simple things are also the most extraordinary things, and only the wise can see them”.
I read this book many years ago when searching for my own life purpose. I first heard about it from in a video where Will Smith mentioned it as a book he lives by and one which everyone should read. So I checked it out, renting it from my local library. I read it in 24 hours! It’s a short fable about a young shepherd who travels the world to fulfill his dreams. Inspiring.
4 Unbroken - Laura Hillenbrand
“Where there’s still life, there’s still hope”.
This book was one recommended to me by a friend. I always like to read books which were turned into films as it shows that book must have something special about the storyline. The old axiom holds true, though - the book is always better than the film. Unbroken covers the true story of Louis Zamperini whose plane was shot down in the Pacific Ocean during World War 2.
His consequent tale of survival through horrific circumstances is inspiring and thought me that shit happens but it’s only in optimistically tackling challenges can we get through it.
5 The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari - Robin Sharma
“There are no mistakes in life only lessons. There is no such thing as a negative experience, only opportunities to grow, learn and advance along the road to self-mastery”.
Like most young boys, I dreamt of having all the money, cars, and women a man could wish for when I grew up. But, as you emerge into adulthood, you begin to realize that superficial things do not buy you happiness and there is much more to life. Then an extraordinary thing happens. Not only do you become happier but life becomes much more enriching and exciting.
The high you get post shopping spree is replaced by the high of progress and achieving your goals. You fall in love with the process rather than the outcome. You no longer judge the opposite sex (or yourself) by looks or superficial beauty. What’s behind the mascara drives attraction. Belfies turn your head but turn it the opposite direction.
The monk who sold the Ferrari was a book I read to escape the superficial world advertising has sold us. While a fable about a lawyer who quits his job to find himself, it mirrors Robin’s own life story of discovering his purpose in life. A story about finding inner peace and joy in the simple things in life.
6 Outliers The Story of Success - Malcolm Gladwell
“He was an underdog and a misfit, and that gave him the freedom to try things no one else even dreamt of”.
Whatever it is about me, I always seem to root for the underdog in sports, films or life. As a kid, I would always root for the villain which batman was fighting. I always hated the way Batman always won. I think we all love an underdog. Someone you would never expect to win but somehow does against all the odds. It’s inspiring and reverberates that success is possible for us too.
Outliers is an inquest into why the successful in business and sports are often outsiders in society or underdogs. Their differences don’t just make them unique but make them stronger as they know adversity. It makes them work twice as hard to prove themselves. Hard work pays. Practice leads to mastery. I’ve read all of Malcolm’s books but this one is my personal favorite.
7 1984 - George Orwell
“He, who controls the past, controls the future. He who controls the present, controls the past”.
This one is an oldie but a goodie. It charts the story of a post-apocalyptic state where “big brother” monitors everything you say and do. It’s said George was inspired to write this book after World War 2 following stories of Stalinism. It highlighted to me the importance of protecting your mind and not allowing advertising, negative people, or the media to influence your thoughts.
Listening to nonstop stories of murder, robbery and crime rates on the news creates fear and anxiety. In this way 1984 mirrors society nowadays where news is circulated to make people afraid and live a cautionary life. I used to love reading the tabloid when I was younger as it was juicy and exciting. Now I just see it for the garbage it is. We must be careful what we let into our minds. Garbage in, garbage out.
8 Animal Farm - George Orwell
“All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others”.
Greed, selfishness and exploitive behavior are characteristics of some leaders at the top of corporations and businesses. So when the animals on a farm overthrow their human ruler and self-govern, then they would not yield to such human weaknesses, right? Read and find out.
A short, engrossing and thought provoking read. You will never look at a farm animal the same again.
9 The Growth Mindset – Carol Dweck
“In a growth mind-set, challenges are exciting rather than threatening. So rather than thinking, oh I’m going to reveal my weaknesses, you say, wow, here’s a chance to grow”.
There is something fundamentally wrong with our education system. Essentially we’re all thought our talent lies in certain subjects or we have certain skills and there is just nothing we can do about it. We are not good at maths. We are, the way we are. Change is not possible. Our personality isn’t that binary, however. Carol describes this as the fixed mind-set way of teaching.
We are thought that we are naturally good or bad at something rather than that skill being the result of our own hard work and perseverance. I was somebody who told myself, “I’m not really a computer person”. This book challenged me to look at myself and cultivate a growth mind-set believing I can learn anything if I work hard at it.
Now I code websites, have learned complex computer programs like Photoshop, and am daily flipping old fixed mind-set beliefs.
10 The Meaning Of Life - Viktor Frankl
“The last of human freedoms. The ability to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances. The ability to choose one’s own way”.
When it comes to life-changing books, I think this one is on everyone’s top 10 lists. We complain about our lives or not earning enough money yet there are so many out there with nothing. Living in a democratic society, freedom is something we are blessed with. However, freedom is also out of our control in a sense. If we were kidnapped tomorrow or living in North Korea would we still be free?
Viktor Frankl was a concentration camp survivor living a life in captivity where his freedom was out of his control. Or so it would appear. Living in a concentration camp made him a witness to his own mortality and that of those around him. The first people to die were those who lose hope for the future succumbing to the depressive environment they were forced to live in. But Viktor learned that freedom was not a physical state but rather a state of mind.
We can control our reaction to a given environment. We can find hope. They cannot control our mind if we don’t let them into it. He discovered that the holocaust survivors were the ones who never lost hope and never gave in or gave up.