Being 25 is hard. It took me longer than most 20-somethings, but after hitting a quarter of a century, I too realized that I am nowhere near where I want to be in life. Everything seems wide open, but choosing a future is tough. This is a crucial phase in my life and I don’t think I’m alone in not having a clue what I want to do with the rest of it.
If you’re a 20-something too and you’re sometimes frustrated, or have a tough time motivating yourself, then this is for you. Because no matter how hard it gets, there are always plenty of sources to get new motivation from. Today, I’d like to share with you some of my favorite ones: books.
I recently went through all the books I’ve read in my life so far, to pick out the ones that motivated and inspired me the most. I hope you’ll pick up one or two of these, and that they’ll change your life the same way they changed mine.
Here they are.
Summary: A young shepherd boy in Southern Spain has the same dream about a hidden treasure in Egypt, over and over again, which eventually leads him to investigate it. He learns that one day, everyone finds out what their destiny is and that it requires passion and desire to make your destiny become a reality. Along the journey to find the treasure he meets new and strange people, some of which become his friends and touch his heart. The combined teachings of his companions finally lead him to a realization that is much bigger than even the treasure itself.
When you want something, all the universe conspires to help you achieve it.
Summary: In his fourth year at Hogwarts, the school hosts the legendary Triwizard Tournament, for the first time in 202 years, where three wizards from three schools compete in grueling trials for fame and glory. Technically too young to compete, Harry mysteriously ends up as the fourth participant and soon has to face challenges he doesn’t feel remotely ready for. With luck, friends, bravery and skill he perseveres until the end, only to find he finally has to take responsibility not only for who he is, but also for the entire wizarding world.
It matters not what someone is born to be, but what they grow to be.
Summary: Pippi Longstocking is an estimated 9 years old (though no one knows for sure), has superhuman strength, and lives in a rainbow-colored house with her monkey, Mr. Nilsson, and her horse Old Man. She takes care of herself entirely, as her father, a famous seafarer, has been lost at sea for a few years, after dropping her off in the village, because he thought life at sea was too dangerous for her. Although Pippi has no manners, can’t do math and neither read, nor write, she lives an extraordinary life, filled with adventures, mostly involving the neighbors’ kids and shows that living by the world’s rules is hopelessly overrated. She never ceases to shock adults, but is living proof that you can make the world what you want it to be, without fitting any template the world would call normal.
I have never tried that before, so I think I should definitely be able to do that.
Summary: Artemis Fowl is just 12-year old, but is already following in his father’s footsteps as a notorious, underground crime lord. Driven mostly by greed, he kidnaps a fairy police officer, in order to blackmail the fairies into giving him their gold. But as he gets to know his prisoner, it is slowly revealed that there is a deeper meaning behind his seemingly evil plan. The battle between good and evil is not as black and white, as it seems, and starts to transcend the borders of fairies vs. humans.
Confidence is ignorance. If you’re feeling cocky, it’s because there’s something you don’t know.
Summary: The book begins with the legendary white picket fence painting punishment, which Tom turns into a fun afternoon of hustling his friends out of their little treasures and belongings, in order to let them paint the fence for him. He then courts his classmate Becky, witnesses a murder with his best friend Huck, becomes a lonely pirate on an island, returns to start a treasure hunt and gets himself and his crush into serious danger. Though he faces social and moral issues and crises all through his adventures, he’s still led to the conclusion that his way of approaching things might not be so bad at all.
The less there is to justify a traditional custom, the harder it is to get rid of it.
Summary: After a short introduction the narrator ends up stranded in the desert, because his airplane crashes. He meets a strange little boy, who came to earth after traveling around the universe and exploring several asteroids. As the days go by and the narrator tries to fix his plane, the prince recounts stories from his travels and his former life on his own asteroid, which highlight and critique lots of elements of society, all the while showing the identity crisis many of us go through at some point, exactly because of those less-than-good parts of society.
And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.
Summary: This incredibly funny and ironic novel re-invents the lives of Carl Friedrich Gauß, famous German mathematician, and Alexander von Humboldt, biologist, adventurer, scientist and explorer. It does away with boring facts and figures, and quickly tells the stories of their discoveries, most of which with humorous (and made up) twists. The narrative perspective switches between the two, eventually having them meet and become long-term pen pals.
That was the moment when he grasped that nobody wanted to use their minds. People wanted peace. They wanted to eat and sleep and have other people be nice to them. What they didn’t want to do was think.
Summary: When the curator of the famous Louvre in Paris is murdered, Harvard professor and expert in symbolism and cryptography Robert Langdon is called to help. Against the French police’s efforts, who suspect Langdon to be the murderer, and thanks to the help of local police cryptographer Sophie Neveu, the two are soon lead to a safety deposit box at a bank, which contains a cryptex, yet another mysterious item containing more riddles and codes to crack. The chase after the seemingly religious killer, who seeks to find the Holy Grail for his master, leads them to Britain, Scotland and the point where friend can’t be told from foe. They finally discover that there’s a much bigger plot in progress, which might erase the world’s most powerful church, and, as it comes full circle, brings them right back to the beginning.
Men go to far greater lengths to avoid what they fear than to obtain what they desire.
Summary: Ebenezer Scrooge is rich beyond measure. Sadly, the only thing the old man is preoccupied with is turning money into more money, which leaves him roaming the streets alone, clenching his fists, yelling at workers, children and the less fortunate. That night, the ghost of his former business partner appears, warning him of the terrible (same) fate he is about to suffer, if his habits of greed and selfishness don’t change. He tells him that he’ll be visited by the three ghosts of Christmas (past, present and future), which then take him on a tour of various Christmas scenarios. The grief and horror he witnesses transform him over night, and he decides not to waste another second and right his wrongs, feeling blissful at having been granted another shot at life.
There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humor.
Summary: After both Katniss and Peeta make it out of the 74th Hunger Games alive, they’re supposed to visit all the districts of Panem on a victory tour. This instantly turns dark, as people seem to take inspiration in how Katniss broke the rules to make it possible for two people to win, instead of just one, and a rebellion dwells underneath the surface. To nip this in the bud, the Capitol comes up with a terrible twist: All participants for the next year’s Hunger Games are to be drawn from a pool of previous victors, dragging Katniss and Peeta right back into the arena. Deadlier and trickier than ever before, the struggle for survival forces the tributes to join forces, and once again the grand scheme only unfolds to Katniss (and the reader) in the final pages of the book.
I wish I could freeze this moment, right here, right now and live in it forever.
Summary: When Meggie spots a stranger in front of her father Mo’s house, who’s a bookbinder, weird things begin to happen. Dustfinger, as the stranger and apparently old friend of Mo is called, seems to be a troublemaker, whom aunt Elinor isn’t happy to see, when the three arrive at her house full of books, where Mo has some work to do. Soon Meggie discovers that the perpetual presence of books in her life is no coincidence, as her father can make them come to life when reading out aloud…
Books have to be heavy because the whole world’s inside them.
Summary: In 1922, Nick Carraway takes a new job and moves to West Egg, a fictional village on Long Island. When he visits his cousin Daisy and her husband Tom, he meets the attractive, but cynical Jordan Baker, and soon finds out that the lavish lifestyle they all lead comes at many a terrible price, including infidelity, depression, alcoholism and identity crises. The mysterious millionaire owner of the mansion next door, Jay Gatsby, soon invites Nick to one of his extravagant parties, which Jay himself never attends. When Nick discovers they all have a shared history of romance, including his cousin Daisy and Jay, he tries to help reunite two estranged lovers, which ends in disaster.
Let us learn to show our friendship for a man when he is alive and not after he is dead.
Summary: This book introduces Sherlock Holmes and his companion and biographer Dr. John Watson, starting off with them meeting via a mutual friend and deciding to share the flat at 221B Baker Street, in order to save money. Next to Holmes obvious quirks, like experimenting with drugs and playing the violin in the middle of the night, Watson notices many guests come and go, who turn out to be Holmes’s clients.
When a Scotland Yard messenger arrives and requests help with a new murder case, Watson eventually persuades Holmes to investigate the crime scene and Holmes invites him to tag along. As the two analyze and interpret the odds and ends of the murder, the plot thickens and a second murder takes place. The hunt finds a sudden end in Holmes’s apartment, with the second part of the novel explaining the entire story leading up to the murderer’s malicious actions and capture, including how Holmes deciphered minute details and thus identified the suspect.
What you do in this world is a matter of no consequence. The question is what can you make people believe you have done.
Summary: Since the book is a collection of short stories, it’s divided into 9 major parts, many of which have sub-chapters, the first and foremost being the story giving the book its title.
It reveals how Arkad, the richest man in Babylon, owes much of his wealth to simply saving 10% of his income each year. This is followed by the “Seven Cures for a Lean Purse”, a series of seven lessons on how to save money and “The Five Laws of Gold”, which lay out a simple philosophy for investing. Then, “The Clay Tablets from Babylon” draws lessons from the fictional translation of five ancient, Babylonian tablets by an English archeology professor. The other five parables are more singular in their nature and each hold one or two more lessons to be learned about building wealth.
Advice is one thing that is freely given away, but watch that you only take what is worth having.
Summary: Phileas Fogg is a rich English gentleman of the old school, with discipline like clockwork and few pleasures, one of which is engaging with his friends at the Reform Club. When his friends discuss an article in The Daily Telegraph, stating it is now possible to travel around the world in 80 days, thanks to a new railway line in India, he takes a £20,000 (£1.6 million today) wager and sets off with his newly hired valet, Jean Passepartout (whose last name translates to “passport”). Using mostly trains and steamboats, the two make new friends, face lots of setbacks, get lost, find each other again, and even gain an entire day (which eventually helps them win the bet), returning to London at the same time, exactly 80 days later.
Anything one man can imagine, other men can make real.
A book a day keeps the worry away
Just reading a few pages in one of these can make the difference between having a slow, boring day, and feeling inspired to take action. These are just some of the books to read in your 20s, so now I want to know: what’s YOUR favorite motivational book?
Let me know in the comments and tell me which one of these you want to pick up first.
This post is an edited version of an article that originally appeared on Four Minute Books.