Books are an enormous part of our lives. They are a source of escape, knowledge and even enchantment. They add color, richness and inspiration. Where would we be in a world without books! Some times we read a book that has a profound effect on us – we use it to go back to again and again, finding new joys in it or rediscovering old ones. Sometimes those books speak to us so loudly that they motivate us to be better, to strive for something or teach us invaluable lessons. These are my best motivational books of all time.
1.) Jonathan Livingstone Seagull – Richard Bach
It is told from the point of view of a seagull who becomes an outcast from his flock because he can’t conform. This book speaks to us of being brave enough to question widely accepted norms and explores the pain that this can sometimes bring. This tiny book teaches us about life’s quests, learning to be true to our hearts, enduring pain and confusion but ultimately finding all that we need within ourselves.
2.) Schindler’s Ark – Thomas Keneally
The book on which the film ‘Schindler’s List’ was based. It tells the story of Oskar Schindler, a German industrialist, and how his actions during World War II saved as many as 1200 Jews. The remarkable and most inspiring part of this is that Schindler was an extremely flawed character – a corrupt, heavy drinking womaniser. His character is not that of the altruistic angel of mercy that some would expect and normally marks out a hero . It reminds us that not all things are black and white or good or bad. It is a story of triumph over impossible odds, courage and hope.
3.) To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
In 2009 a British National newspaper ran a poll to find the most inspirational books of all time. The bible was beaten into second place by this book. It is told through the eyes of a child whose matter of fact tone contrasts deeply with the moral and very adult themes in the story. It is not only beautifully written and timeless but forces us to question our own judgements and prejudices on many levels.
4.) The Tao of Pooh – Benjamin Hoff
A.A. Milne’s characters are used as a vehicle to introduce the reader to Taoist principles and tenets with heart warming results. ‘Winnie-the-Pooh’ and ‘The House at Pooh Corner’ are widely classified as children’s books but many adults turning to them again after fond childhood memories have found depths and meanings that escaped them before. Each of the characters in Winnie-the-Pooh exhibit very different traits and most people will identify strongly with one or the other of them. It reminds us we don’t have to be perfect, beautiful or clever to play our part.
5.) Whale Rider – Witi Ihimaera
Written by a New Zealand Maori this magical and haunting book speaks loudly of our need for acceptance and love and the common quests for seeking out identity both culturally and amongst our peers. It is also a book about breaking down boundaries and prejudices and so ultimately breaking free. That all things are possible is one of its messages.
6.) The Prophet – Kahlil Gibran
One of those books to be kept by your side as a invaluable comfort in times of confusion, pain and stress. It is one of those magical books that seems to speak to you directly and though you may have read it 100 times you will still find something you had never noticed before when you most need it, as if put there especially for you. It helps to clarify and simplify many things that bog us down – our work, our relationships and life and death in general.
7.) Miracles on the Water – Tom Nagorski
The story of the torpedoing and subsequent sinking of the SS City of Benares during World War II. The ship was carrying, amongst others, 90 children aged as young as 5 as part of an evacuation scheme from the U.K. Wars are never short of incredible stories of heroism and self-sacrifice but what is particularly special about this story is the remarkable courage and fortitude of very young children already traumatized and separated from their families. Two teenage girls hung onto an upturned lifeboat for many hours overnight in violent seas as one by one others lost their grip and were lost to the sea. Six of only 13 child evacuee survivors endured 7 days adrift in a badly under equipped lifeboat.
If you want reminding of what the human spirit can endure and overcome read this book.
It is incredible how the written word from a complete stranger can comfort us, inspire us and strike us so forcibly that we believe anything is possible. Everybody’s list of the best motivational books of all time will be very different as we, as humans, tread so many different paths. Books that relate closely to our own sufferings and experience can be the biggest motivators of all. Extraordinary feats of human endurance, remarkable tales of heroism – they all play their part but sometimes it is the most ordinary of people, facing the most common of problems which make drive us to face up to and defeat our own demons.