“In case of good books, the point is not to see how many of them you can get through, but rather how many can get through to you.” – Mortimer J. Adler
Our modern world is moving a mile a minute. We are hustling every day, rushing from meeting to meeting, checking social media on the way to the gym and multitask our everyday life around our working schedule. If we want to check the news, we check Facebook; if we want to be motivated, we check Pinterest or Instagram, hoping to find a beautiful picture with an inspirational quote. If we feel really adventurous that day, we watch a video on YouTube while taking the Train home from the office. But reading a book? Actually sitting down with one and reading? Who has time for that nowadays?
But let me tell you: in this world where everything is in constant movement, there is so much value in just stopping for a second and letting everything pass you by. Opening a book, letting it take you on a journey to a fictional world, to another place in time, can make all the difference that you need in a day. Even if it is just one chapter, one page or only one sentence.
In this article, I would like to share with you a couple of books that might get through to you, like Mortimer J. Adler so beautifully put it. Regardless of having read them, everyone knows the literature classics like The Great Gatsby, A Tale of Two Cities or Nineteen Eighty-Four.
Reading them seems almost like a cultural rite of passage. But there are so many gorgeous books out there that are mostly overlooked. If you already know the books I am recommending here, great! But if not, give them a try. Maybe you will find a book that really resonates with you and that you can brag about the next time you meet your friends. Stray a little from the reading path everyone else is following and explore a little left and right. You might find something that intrigues you, that really resonates with you on a deeper level.
You alone know where to go and what you want to achieve in your life.
So, get out there and read what you think benefits you the most. Some of these books are more recent, some of them are a little bit older. However, I believe that they all have some timeless and invaluable life lessons to share that you might want to incorporate into your mindset. Treat yourself: read a book and take some time just for yourself and your personal development every day!
1. My Life and Battles by Jack Johnson
Jack Johnson (1878-1946) has been referred to as the first African American heavyweight champion of the world and was probably one of the best boxers that ever walked this earth. This memoir and collection of personal stories was originally written for a French magazine in 1911 and published as a book in 1914. It covers Johnson’s colorful life and battles inside and outside the boxing ring. Despite all the hardships he had to face due to racism and other political and cultural tensions, Jack Johnson was a man who always wore a proud smile on his face:
“No one understands him, this man who smiles. Well, the story of the fight is the story of a smile. If ever a man won by nothing more fatiguing than a smile, Johnson won today.” – Jack London
While reading these memoirs, you really get a feeling for this highly sensitive and intelligent man with a taste for drama: He wrote these stories as he saw himself, but also in the way he wished to be perceived by others.
2. Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
You might already know this one for it is one of Viginia Woolf’s most popular novels. Clarissa Dalloway is a fictional high-class lady who lives in a post First World War England. Reading about a day in the life of Mrs Dalloway is highly intriguing because just like her, we all feel our obligations weighing down on us no matter in what era we live in. Sometimes you just begin to wonder what the hell you are doing with your life as you struggle not only with circumstance, but mostly with yourself.
3. No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July
Miranda July is mostly known for her work as a film director and screenwriter; if you haven’t watched Me and You and Everyone We Know (2005), I can definitely recommend it. But this woman is a talented storyteller regardless of the medium she uses. In this highly acclaimed collection of short stories, she lets a wide variety of characters come to life. And most of the time, she describes ordinary people who strife and long for the extraordinary. Sometimes, a single moment can make all the difference. But while reaching for your dreams, you should not abandon your wellbeing.
4. The Moral Sayings of Publius Syrus: A Roman Slave by Publius Syrus
Sometimes the most valuable lessons don’t come from big philosophers, but from the most ordinary people, for they are the humblest.
Originally, Syrus (fl. 85-43 BC) was a Syrian slave who was brought to Italy. There, he was able to receive his master’s favor with his wit and wisdom. He started a career as a playwright but unfortunately most of his work was lost over time. What remains of Syrus is a big collection of one-line quotations that represents his highly valuable and timeless moral system. Here are some of my favorites:
- The mightiest rivers are easy to cross at their source.
- Many receive advice, few profit from it.
- Never promise more than you can perform.
Some very powerful quotations that could still be taken into consideration in the modern times that we live in.
5. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
“Most adults, […], understand the difference between a book that will hold them spellbound for a rainy Sunday afternoon and a book that will put them in touch with a part of themselves they didn’t even know existed” – Mark Haddon
Putting yourself in the shoes of someone else is an important lesson to be learned. I was highly fascinated by Haddon’s Novel about a 15-year-old boy living in Swindon, Wiltshire who discovers that his neighbor’s dog was apparently murdered. Narrated in the first-person perspective, Christopher John Francis Boone describes himself as a “mathematician with some behavioral difficulties.”
And though the book never spells it out, Christopher is a teenager with Asperger syndrome. But like Haddon stated in interviews, this mystery novel is not mainly about autism or disease, but about being different, about being the odd one out and perceiving the world in a different way than anybody else. And if for Christopher, the incident of his neighbor’s dog is mostly a mystery that he must solve like Sherlock Holmes, there is so much more to this story and to this intriguing character.