Every single one can get through to you.
These days, a lot of people focus on reading a specific number of books a year.
Yet, there’s a big fallacy in the quantification of reading. Mortimer J. Adler, an American philosopher, recognized this thinking error as early as 1940 when he wrote:
“In the 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.”
Not all books are created equal, and most of the books on our want-to-read lists are not worth our time. I know because in the +170 books I read since 2017, most were mediocre.
What follows is a collection of five cherry-picked, timeless masterpieces that are worth every minute of your time. Every single one holds the potential to get through to you.
Viktor Frankl — Man’s Search for Meaning
This one is tough to handle. But if you manage to get through the lines of cruel reality in German concentration camps, you’ll pick up incredible life lessons.
Yes, you’ll also learn about Frankl’s psychological theory, logotherapy, which contends that humans are motivated by the search for meaning, not pleasure (Freud) or power (Adler).
But this masterpiece goes far beyond understanding holocaust or psychological theory. It’s one of the rare books that will change your perspective on life.
‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ will teach you how you can choose your response even in unbearable circumstances.
Plus, as Viktor Frankl was 100% confident he would anonymously publish this book, his lines are self-detached and ego-free, making reading it even more relatable.
“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
Paulo Coelho — The Alchemist
Coelho’s books were sold more than two million times in over 80 languages, and ‘The Alchemist’ is officially the most translated book of all time.
The key concept behind this book is to follow your dreams and let your heart guide you. This teaching sounds simple. Yet, the implicit hints towards the importance of your pasts give the book an additional depth.
Here’s a personal story to demonstrate the power of your past:
When I was a child, I wrote tiny stories on the pages of my Diddle diary every day. On my 13th birthday, I stopped this habit thinking it’s a childish thing to do. Fast forward to today, and I’m back on writing every day.
Reconnecting with your roots is a full circle of transformation. Because too often, we silence our deepest desires to follow society’s rules.
Yet, if your heart keeps on nudging you into another direction, you’ll only find happiness if you follow this pull. By reading Coelho’s classic, you’ll dare to listen to your inner voice and allow it to guide you through life.
“The secret of life, though, is to fall seven times and to get up eight times.”
Hermann Hesse — Narcissus and Goldmund
Literature Nobel Prize winner Hesse is best known for his books Siddhartha and Steppenwolf. And while all of his books revolve around an individual’s search for authenticity and self-knowledge, I loved this one the best.
‘Narcissus and Goldmund’ is a story of a young man, Goldmund, who quit a Catholic monastery school and wanders through Medieval Germany in search of life’s meaning.
The novel is both a journey and an awakening that will take you over the course of many decades and through brutally honest human emotions.
Even though this book has many layers — philosophy, existentialism, religion — it reads way easier than Hesse’s other books. And since the words are so relatable, this book will linger with you after it’s closing page and make you glad you’re a reader.
“I call that man awake who, with conscious knowledge and understanding, can perceive the deep unreasoning powers in his soul, his whole innermost strength, desire and weakness, and knows how to reckon with himself.”
John Strelecky — Big 5 for Life
It feels wrong to put a literary assassination attempt on the same list with Nobel Prize winners. But as the metaphor in ‘Big 5 for Life’ is so powerful, it will get through to you; I ask you to overlook its poor writing style.
So here’s the metaphor:
Imagine, somebody would catalog every one of your days, and on the day before you die, display the entire catalog in the museum of your life.
While this concept sounds romantic, the museum of life would look depressingly sad for an average person. From our 15 hours and 39 minutes awake time, most knowledge workers spend two thirds in front of screens.
So, after reading this book, you’ll reconsider how you spend every single minute of your time. You’ll understand the only shortcut to live the life of your dreams is to fill your days with activities worth portraying.
“Imagine what it would be like to walk through that museum toward the end of your life. To view the videos, listen to the audio, look at the pictures. How would you feel knowing that for the rest of eternity, that museum would be how you were remembered?”
Elizabeth Gilbert — City of Girls
If you didn’t like her previous novels ‘The Signature of All Things’ and ‘Eat Pray Love’ you still might love this one. It’s a wise women’s ode to female self-determination and sexual liberation.
City of Girls is set in the 40s in New York City and joyfully tells the story of an emerging adult born into a rich family. Surprisingly, the main character doesn’t follow social expectations but bluntly follows her free will.
This masterpiece is as close to multi-orgasmic as a book can get: once you start reading, you don’t want to stop anymore.
Gilbert’s writing is alive, intoxicating, vibrant, and lush. And by reading this page-turner, you’ll not only laugh out loud but also become motivated to live your best, authentic life.
“But I had never been an ardent fan of society, so I didn’t object to seeing it challenged. In fact, I delighted in all the mutiny and rebellion and creative expression.”
— Vivian in Elizabeth Gilbert’s City of Girls
I won’t tell you knowledge is useless unless applied. I’ll also skip quoting Ratna Kusnur, who said, ‘Knowledge trapped in books trapped in books neatly stacked is meaningless and powerless until applied for the betterment of life.’
These masterpieces don’t require you to filter out action items to apply them to your life. These books are no self-help fluff.
Instead, these five books unfold their power because you read them. Their wisdom will stay with you long after finishing them.
So, what are you waiting for?
Pick the book that resonated the most with you, order it, start reading, and witness how the pages will get through to you.
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