8 Life Changing Books
Books open the door every time we knock. They inspire us to live, to dream, and to change the world. Their pages are constant-a cheerleader, a support, and a friend. Sometimes, we come to a time in life, when we want a book to speak to our heart.
Some books possess a unique, transcendental quality that carries through to the ages, with messages that speak to the very core of a shared human experience. I have come across a few of these books in my lifetime, and I want to share them, in the hopes that they might inspire someone else.
Each month, I will research and share books in different categories to inspire you to find joy, love, and personal growth. This month I have chosen 8 books that provide life-changing lessons.
8 Life Changing Books:
1. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
This book is about findings one's life purpose, and talks about how the universe conspires to help us in our journey. The story is told from the eyes of a young shepherd, who starts on a journey to seek worldly riches and see the world, but along the way, he finds something much greater - himself. This book explores themes of self-reliance, love, and the importance of chasing our dreams. This book illuminates what it means to find our true purpose in life, because if the entire universe is with you, then who could be against you?
2.When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times by Pema Chodron
I read this book at one of the lowest points in my life, and it gave me the resolve to realize that painful experiences can teach us something great. Pema draws from Buddhist teachings to teach how drawing closer to pain can actually help us be at ease with challenges in our life, and give us the opportunity to grow and develop a sense of compassion. The book begins with a quote about a universal experience tied into difficult experiences, "Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to truth." She goes,
"Embarking on the spiritual journey is like getting into a very small boat and setting out on the ocean to search for unknown lands. With wholehearted practice comes inspiration, but sooner or later we will also encounter fear. . . Like all explorers, we are drawn to discover what's waiting out there without knowing yet if we have the courage to face it."
3.One Day My Soul Opened Just Opened Up by Iyanla Vanzant
Iyanla is well known in the self-help genre. Before I knew her in this light, I discovered this book one day in a bookstore. Upon reading the dedication in the book, it struck me that there was something unique about this book, the dedication reads,
"This book is dedicated to the Ego, the part of us that continues to worry, lives in doubt, is afraid, judges other people. . . "
The book presents a challenge of a 40 day journey of 30 minutes a day of self-reflection to explore themes in spiritual awakening and personal growth. The book is extremely successful in considering how we think about ourselves and what barriers exist to our personal empowerment.
4.The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle
This book presents a life philosophy of living in the present moment, as a way to handle life's problems and engaging more fully in living each moment. The book is life-changing in that it presents a different perspective on how to handle day to day life situations, and gives techniques that are very easy to implement. Although the method is easy to learn, the changes it can produce on life-changing. Although I did not agree with everything in the book, I felt the premise provided a new way of seeing things and created a way to add mental space in a fast-moving world.
5.The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere by Pico Iyer
I love the book, “The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere” by Pico Iyer because it reminds me we can find stillness anywhere. The author left his busy life in NYC as a successful writer for Time magazine, to simplify his life and as he explains, “learn how to make those joys less external and ephemeral.” He spent a year in a small room in Kyoto, Japan, but then discovered that finding himself was less about a destination, and more about an internal shift in his mind influencing his attitudes, and perceptions. Iyer explains,”The idea behind Nowhere-choosing to sit still long enough to turn inward-is at heart a simple one. . . our solutions our peace of mind-lie within.” Iyer describes why stillness is so important in modern day life: "The need for empty space, a pause, is something we have all felt in our bones; it's the rest in a piece of music that gives its resonance and shape."
In the first chapters, Iyer describes visiting Leonard Cohen, who was living as a monk at Mt. Baldy Zen Center as a practical experience to live a better life:
“Leonard Cohen had come to this Old World redoubt to make a life-an art-out of stillness. And he was working on simplifying himself as fiercely as he might on the verses of one of his songs, which he spends more than ten years polishing to perfection. . . Being in this remote place of stillness had nothing to do with piety or purity, he assured me; it was simply the most practical way he’d found of working through confusion and terror that long been his bed follows.”
6.Make Your Bed: Little Things that Can Change Your Life and Maybe the World by Admiral William McRaven (RET)
This book is based on Navy Seal Admiral William H. McRaven's commencement speech that went viral with over 10 million views, you can see here.
In the title of his book, McRaven talks about his habit of making the bed each morning, as a way to get a small win that builds momentum, leading to greater success. Admiral McRaven discusses the value of teamwork, perseverance, respect, and hope. He gives examples from his Navy Seal training, which he refers to as a lifetime of lessons crammed in six months. The book is aspirational in that it gives the reader a true sense of how McRaven not only developed a sense of grit. From his recollections, we gain a deeper understanding of the true meaning of success, which includes overcoming failure and respecting & working with others.
7.The Last Lecture
"We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand." -Randy Pausch
After discovering he has terminal cancer, Randy Pausch gives a lecture titled "Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams." This book, titled after the reflective lecture often given by professors imparting their wisdom, reminds us that achieving our dreams is about the way we lead our lives. Randy Pausch believes that "if you lead your life the right way, the karma will take care of itself, the dreams will come to you." The Last Lecture is a book of life lessons Randy Pausch wanted to leave his children.
8.Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl By Anne Frank
The soul needs human stories about triumph and people whose lives changed the course of history. My favorite childhood, coming of age book, was Anne Frank. This book gives a personal account of the Holocaust, and its account will still with you forever-and change how you see your place in history. The words in her journal will forever give a face and a name to the historical evil that embodied this period in history. In college, I had the incredible opportunity to meet Hannali Goslar, the childhood friend of Anne Frank. As Goslar talked about her life and her relationship to Anne Frank, I realized how much adversity she and other survivors of the holocaust had overcome to fill more than a few lifetimes for most people. Her strength, tenacity, and perseverance inspired me. I admired her for sharing her story to the world. At the end of the lecture, many of us went up to speak with her and asked for her autograph on the ticket. She graciously signed, but asked of the autographs, what use did they really have? In this small exchange, she taught me that true strength has many layers-one being humility.
Books often provide a window into answers to life's greatest questions. For a brief time, we can forget the daily grind of our lives and feel immersed in the life of another human being, or take a time machine to observe life in a different time period. Their pages can transport us into the lives of different people, and offer a glimpse of hope and strength. Feel free to share other life-changing books in the comments below. This blog will revisit this topic and consider