As an avid reader, I want to make a thing of doing a reading list every now and again. I think it’s safe to say that we could all read more. Now that the evenings are getting darker and colder it’s a great time to stay in with a good book.
The theme of this list is inspiration. I read all kinds of books: fiction, non-fiction, long, short, new and old, so hopefully my lists will reflect that and there will be something for everyone.
There are some minor spoiler alerts. Well, not real spoilers, but if you want to be completely oblivious to plotlines and overall themes then I suggest you stop reading this now.
Oh, to just curl up with a comfy blanket and a steaming cup of hot chocolate. Let’s get started! Here are five books that I have read and that you should read, too.
1. The Alchemist
by Paulo Coelho
This summer, when on vacation in Greece, I finally got around to reading The Alchemist. Originally written in Portuguese by Brazilian author Paulo Coelho, it’s a surprisingly light read: it looks like something that’s meant for teenagers or even children. Coelho has published several novels, but this is the most famous one.
The Alchemist is about a shepherd boy that embarks on a search for treasure. Surprisingly, it’s the simplicity and lack of complicated plotlines and overanalyzed character that is the strength of the story. Coelho seems almost defiant of people’s expectations of what a great novel should be.
There are countless wisdoms woven into the story. It’s a larger than life novel that strives for much, which is why this book isn’t for everyone. The cynic won’t appreciate the style and message. But for an open-minded dreamer this book could be just the push they need when they’re at a crossroads, to finally make the decision to go for their dreams.
2. Miracle in the Andes
by Nando Parrado
I think it’s safe to say that Miracle in the Andes is the most inspirational book I’ve ever read. It’s about the aftermath of a plane crash in the Andes in 1972. The author, Parrado, was one of the survivors that lived to tell his incredible story by, at first, enduring under horrible circumstances and finally, by finding a way out from the vast, frozen mountains.
Here is a passage from the book:
The temperature dropped so low that night that the water bottle that we carried shattered from the cold. Huddled together in the sleeping bag, we kept ourselves from freezing, but we still suffered terribly. In the morning we placed our frozen shoes in the sun and rested in the bag until they thawed. Then, after eating and packing our things, we began to climb. The sun was bright. It was another perfect day.
It is not a book for the faint hearted. At times, the horror is almost unbearable, even reading at home in your comfortable chair, knowing that they survived. The story will haunt you long after you finish it. But it’s so worth it, for even though Parrado doesn’t shy away from describing suffering and loss, his message is one of love and hope.
3. You are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life
by Jen Sincero
If you want to be inspired, but don’t want fiction, then You are a Badass is for you. On the Internet, it’s one of the most hyped self-help books. It has a relatable, conversational tone, a “get real” style, like your best friend was talking to you. Sincero makes you want to get started. This is the kind of thing you should get as an audiobook, so you can do organizing, cleaning and jogging while you’re listening to it (because you’ll want to!).
Sincero covers many different areas in her book, for example money and relationships. She has certain unconvincing moments, mainly when she writes of the power of thoughts and the Universe, but all in all it’s a balanced book. My favorite quote is this: “In order to kick ass, you must first lift up your foot”. Because the moment you take action and actually do something is the moment you start to make your dream a reality.
4. A Million Little Pieces
by James Frey
A Million Little Pieces is a personal, semi-autobiographical novel about overcoming addiction. I had been meaning to read it for a long time and when I finally started this summer, I finished it fast. It’s a very interesting read, and I certainly didn’t expect getting so sucked into a story that takes place at a rehabilitation clinic.
The overall story theme is compassion, life choices and the human psyche. The text lacks quotation marks, and the format is such that it’s sometimes difficult to tell if something is spoken out loud or it’s just a thought. You get used to it, though.
Back in the day, A Million Little Pieces was recommended by Oprah and went on to cause controversy. Some people were upset because they realized that the story might not be true in every sense, but it did not matter much to me. Frey’s writing is appealing and the story is honest in itself. Without revealing too much about the ending, the book certainly fits this list’s theme of Inspiration.
5. Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar
by Cheryl Strayed
Strayed used to write a popular column called Dear Sugar for The Rumpus.net, where people would send their questions and she replied to them. Tiny Beautiful Things is a selection of some of those columns. There are all kinds of subjects: love, friendship, work and dreams, and Strayed peppers her advice with stories from her own life.
I read this book sometime in the spring. It was a good choice because I was having a stressful time, and needed something light and uplifting, yet meaningful. Tiny Beautiful Things is all that, and the format allows you to read small bits at a time. It’s not one of those long works of fiction where taking breaks from reading means you end up forgetting important details about characters and plotlines.
Strayed seems to be the kind of person who has done everything. She is never short of a vivid memory to that she uses to prove her point, and she does it with courage, never afraid of vulnerability. Even though she sometimes goes overboard with that, Strayed has a unique voice. Her writing is entertaining and enjoyable with a twist, and I don’t think anyone would regret picking up this book.