What Are 5 Different Books (Regardless of Genre/Type) That You Thoroughly Enjoyed, or Greatly Benefited From, & Why?
I recently answered this question, and I want to share my answer with you today. I’d also love to hear your answer to the question, so either name your five books in the comments below or answer the question on Quora!
Now, get ready for a diverse list!
Hardly anyone mentions these authors in the same sentence, but I honestly couldn’t imagine — or don’t want to imagine — what my life would look like without their influence.
These are the five books that (almost) instantly came to my mind when asked the question.
But let’s start with The Revolution from Within, by Jiddu Krishnamurti:
Krishnamurti was a simply extraordinary man, and trying to describe what my life looks and feels like after reading him is like trying to explain a rainbow to someone who’s never seen one.
But essentially, his chief concern was showing people that they did not need to rely on any authority outside of themselves — that self-knowledge is the only path to peace, creativeness, and joy. “Don’t follow me,” he says, look inwards and seek out the answer for yourselves.
He taught me that change either happens now, instantly, or it will never happen. Someone who is greedy and who wants to become less greedy will always be greedy, because the whole time they are trying to become less greedy they still allow greed to enter into their thoughts.
“If we take this journey together, and simply observe as we go along the extraordinary width and depth and beauty of life, then out of this observation may come a love…which is a state of being free of all demand…and we may perhaps be awakened to something far more significant than the boredom and frustration, the emptiness and despair of our daily lives.”
Wow, The Fountainhead, incredible. Which is strange, because I don’t think Ayn Rand was a particularly good writer! That is to say, her characters are cardboard, they don’t talk like real people, and they are either all Good or all Evil. There is no in between for Rand.
Regardless, The Fountainhead shook me out of my complacency and helped me form a vision of what I wanted my one and only life to look like. It gave me a personal power and strength that few books ever have.
It’s essentially about an architect, Howard Roark, who endures poverty and humiliation (and worse) because he won’t abandon his artistic vision. Amazing, amazing book.
“That’s the sort of thing I want you to understand. To sell your soul is the easiest thing in the world. That’s what everybody does every hour of his life. If I asked you to keep your soul — would you understand why that’s much harder?”
This is pretty much the definitive book on habit formation, and it’s a mega-bestseller that deserves every one of its 3,000,000+ sales. It lacks a certain intimacy or warmth, but it is VERY strong on the science and the motivation.
One thing that comes to mind immediately that was very influential in my case was his assertion that we should be far more concerned with our current trajectory than with our current results or situation.
As long as we’re doing what we need to do — today — in order to get better, to improve, we’re goig to make amazing progress over time. Just don’t quit! Small actions add up and then, one day, we look back and we don’t even recognize ourselves.
“If you get 1% better every day for one year, it goes like this: 1.01 to the power of 365 = 37.78 times better at the end of the year.”
Albert Camus called Weil “the only great spirit of our time,” and I would have to agree. Or, at least, she was certainly one of them. She barely had anything published in her own lifetime (she died of malnutrition in Britain while refusing to eat more food than the French were allowed to have during Nazi occupation), but she was in no uncertain terms: brilliant.
I probably think about her 200+ times a year, and am frequently reminded by her that things like Goodness, Love, Beauty, Justice, etc are the only ends. Everything else…everything…are simply means to those ends.
“There is not, there cannot be any other relation between a human and God except love. What is not love has no relation to God.”
“Stuff your eyes with wonder, live as though you’re going to die within the next ten seconds, see the world; it’s more beautiful than any dream that’s made or paid for in factories.” Or something like that. I may not remember every word, but I absolutely remember where I was when I first read it. It’s never left me since.
It’s a short book, set in a dystopian future where “firemen” don’t fight fires, but they burn books. One fireman, Guy Montag, accidentally ends up reading a book and becoming suspicious of his superiors and the bases of his whole life. Bradbury’s love of books is on Every. Single. Page. It’s just…ah! So phenomenal.
Oh yea, there’s also a mechanical hound with a syringe for a tail that ends up chasing Montag after he’s discovered reading books and a woman who gets burned alive because she refuses to leave her books….please read Fahrenheit!!!
“People don’t talk about anything. They name a lot of cars or clothes or swimming pools mostly and say, how nice! But they all say the same things and nobody says anything different from anybody else.”
There’s one other book I might put ahead of Fahrenheit 451 in my personal pantheon, but those 5 are ones you can’t really go wrong with.
Hope this list was helpful!
All the best,
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