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20 Brilliant Books To Influence And Inspire You

20 Brilliant Books To Influence And Inspire You

You don’t need to head for the contemporary Best Sellers shelf for an excellent read. I’ve always taken the stance looking for acknowledged classics within the literary canon is a near certain way to find books which deserve to be on your bookshelf. This tactic has worked well for me over the years, and the following 20 are from my collection. All make for dramatic reading, and I consider each one to be a classic worthy of anyone’s time. If you love reading, or want to take it up, these are all perfect texts for new inspiration.

1. Down and Out in Paris and London – George Orwell

    George Orwell is famous for 1984 and Animal Farm, but long before these two came this semi-autobiographical tale (published in 1933) which dabbled with his views on social injustice. Set in the late 1920s, a young Orwell is living near penniless in a seedy hotel in Paris. Keeping him out of destitution are a series of jobs in the kitchens of several hotels; the absurd working conditions are vividly recounted with an impartial eye and great humour. Eventually he relocates to London and hits poverty head on, with unusually inspiring results.

    2. The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat – Oliver Sacks

      Neurologist Dr. Sacks recalls a selection of some of the most mystifying disorders to have afflicted humans, in a million seller first published in 1985. The eponymous patient (who does indeed mistake his wife for a hat) has a form of visual aphasia. Other patients Dr. Sacks administers to are stricken with seemingly baffling issues; “disembodied” people, alien limbs, tourettes syndrome, startling mathematical abilities, and phantom limbs all abound. It’s all related with great morality and, frankly, every bookshelf should have a copy.

      3. In Cold Blood – Truman Capote

        Perhaps the most famous book on this list, In Cold Blood catapulted Capote to stardom back in 1966. Rightly so, too, as his investigative piece on the murder of the Clutter family in 1959 is a thrilling, and simultaneously frightening, portrayal of killers Richard Hickock and Perry Smith. Their motives are laid bare and it makes for an incredible character study, all of it presided over by Capote’s clinical writing style.

        4. The Plague – Albert Camus

          As rats pour into the streets to die, Oran comes under the grip of a virulent plague. Authorities cut the town off from the rest of the world and the fight for survival begins, with Oran’s inhabitants questioning their place in life when surrounded by the threat of imminent, arbitrary death. The Plague (1947) can be seen as an existential novel, but Camus rejected the term and preferred the concept of “absurdity” in life.

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          5. The Age of Reason – Jean-Paul Sartre

            Here is a story of personal conflict, with middle aged university professor Mathieu bumbling through numerous areas of his life. Already struggling with money problems, he suddenly has to fund an abortion for his mistress Marcelle. Amongst this personal turmoil are his students and friends, all of them distorting Mathieu’s vulnerable state of mind as attempts to solve his woes.

            The Age of Reason (1945) is a perfect showcase of Sartre’s sensational writing style, and is also an existential classic.

            6. The Mandarins – Simone de Beauvoir

              Simone de Beauvoir is every bit as legendary as her long-term partner Sartre, with her writing taking in polemics, novels, philosophy, and feminism.

              This roman à clef was published in 1954 and immediately found high praise. It follows the lives of several French intellectuals (the characters likely being based on Sarte, Camus, and de Beauvoir, amongst others) who consider their place in society after the impact of the Second World War. It’s a stylish, intelligent novel based around a sense of morality and self-awareness.

              7. The Ballad of the Sad Cafe – Carson McCullers

                As a writer she wasn’t prolific, but her impact on the literary scene was impressive. It’s a quirky novella from 1951, and McCullers wastes no time challenging the reader’s concepts of gender roles. Protagonist Miss Amelia Evans possesses numerous masculine traits, with her cousin Lymon and local hoodlum Macy (who is baffled by Evan’s dismissal of his advances) being dominated by her unusual attributes. Dabbling with themes of loneliness, masculinity, and feminism, it makes for a unique read.

                8. The Metamorphosis – Franz Kafka

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                  The Metamorphosis, published in 1915, is the story of Gregor Samsa. He heads off to bed one evening as normal, but awakes to find he has transformed into a “monstrous vermin”. This has often been presumed to be a giant beetle of some sort, which has been the case in numerous stage adaptations. After the transformation Samsa finds himself increasingly rejected by his shocked family, who dismiss him based on his appearance. It’s moving stuff, and a defining novel for many writers (notably Sartre and Camus).

                  9. Cancer Ward – Alexander Solzhenitsyn

                    Russian author Solzhenitsyn (another Nobel Prize winner, this time in 1970) suffered through endless issues in his life, but one notable moment was turned into an allegory about the state of Soviet Russia. This is Cancer Ward, from 1967, and it landed him in trouble with the authorities. The allegory aside, it also stands as a devastating, but inspiring, narrative for cancer patients. It’s the intriguing characters who drive the story, with a fabulous array of debates leading the patients towards their ultimate demise, or liberation.

                    10. Moscow Stations – Venedikt Yerofeev

                      Yerofeev writes about a very drunken man (likely to be himself) who is capable of tremendous intellect and wit, but is drowning himself in vodka. It’s set in Russia during the 1960s and finds our protagonist, Venya, recently fired for accidentally revealing his drinking habits at work. He subsequently sets out to see his son in Petushki, but his drunken antics lead him increasingly astray.

                      Written circa 1969, it wasn’t published until twenty years later. Eventually Moscow Stations made it to the West, was developed into a play, and found its author some success. It’s an obscure find, so dedicated readers should check independent book stores for this.

                      11. The Last Shots – Yuri Bondarev

                        A best seller in Russia from 1959, Bondarev’s novella on the Second World War is now a very obscure find (independent book stores may have copies). It’s an excellent book, with the sense of humanity making for a riveting war novel. Rather than focusing on the “good” or “evil” people, it is instead a look at the psychology of war. Young protagonist Captain Novikov displays all the fear, uncertainty, and bravery of people forced into an impossible situation, and the story is all the more incredible as a result.

                        12. Voices From Chernobyl – Svetlana Alexeivich

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                          Russian journalist Svetlana Alexeivich’s work is an extensive collection of monologues regarding the Chernobyl Disaster of April 1986. As the Russian government have remained so reticent about the incident, this is one of the few sources available which exposes the true results of the radioactive fallout. Her interviews reveal a shocking world within the areas stricken by the disaster – namely Ukraine and Belarus. It’s a difficult read, but Alexeivich’s investigative work shows off numerous moments of tremendous human bravery.

                          13. The Man in the High Castle – Philip K. Dick

                            This prolific American science-fiction author penned novels which would become films such as Blade Runner and Minority Report, but The Man In The High Castle is his best novel. Published in 1962, it considers the aftermath following the Nazi’s success in World War II. Displayed is a different world of fascist regimes and inequality, but It’s written very intelligently, doesn’t kowtow to sensationalism, and is enthralling as a result.

                            14. The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath

                              This was Plath’s only novel, and in it she semi-autobiographically covers a character’s descent into mental illness. Plath, who suffered from probable clinical depression, turns the book into a deeply personal and revealing portrait of a talented woman fighting an overwhelming condition. It’s cultural impact was such The Bell Jar was adapted into a 1979 film.

                              15. Death and the Penguin – Andrey Kurkov

                                A modern classic from 1996, Ukrainian author Kurkov spins a tale about an obituary writer (Viktor) for a newspaper in post-Soviet Russia, and his pet penguin Misha. An initially lucrative writing deal, as time passes it becomes apparent Viktor’s writing is being used by devious sources to bump off individuals he writes about – this in turn threatens the humble protagonist and his unusual pet.

                                16. The Good Earth – Pearl S. Buck

                                  One of the most important female writers of the last 100 years is Pearl S. Buck (she won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1938), and it is this book which made her name. It’s a fantastic work of fiction and a sweeping novel about family life in a quiet village in China, before the conflict of World War II changed the world.

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                                  17. The Worst Journey in the World – Apsley Cherry-Garrard

                                    This masterpiece was published in 1922 and has since been hailed by National Geographic Adventure as the best travel book ever. It is Apsley Cherry-Garrard’s detailed account of his time with the 1910-1913 British Antarctic Expedition, headed by Captain Robert Falcon Scott, and is a captivating explanation of the legendary journey. A must read.

                                    18. Miracle in the Andes – Nando Parrado

                                      In 1972 a plane carrying an amateur rugby team crashed violently into the Andes. Stranded in the freezing conditions, to stay alive survivors resorted to eating the flesh of friends killed in the crash. Following two months in the wilderness Parrado, along with Roberto Canessa, decided to make a heroic trek out of the Andean cordillera, with the first obstacle being a 15,000 ft mountain.

                                      Much has been written about the Andes Plane Crash, but this truly inspiring 2006 text is from survivor Parrado and offers a first-person insight into the tragedy.

                                      19. The Marsh Arabs – Wilfred Thesiger

                                        Here we have a hugely enjoyable literary portrait of life in Iraq’s marshes during the 1950s, although Thesiger’s account of his life with the Madan wasn’t published until 1964. At the time this was a way of life which had been unchanged for thousands of years in Southern Iraq. English explorer Thesiger became well respected by the marshes’ inhabitants due to his medical skills, and he was able to spend many years in this fascinating culture learning its way of life.

                                        20. Over The Edge of the World – Laurence Bergreen

                                          Acclaimed historian Laurence Bergreen writes of a terrifying attempt to find the Spice Islands. The voyage was spearheaded by Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan, and in 1519 he set sail from Spain with an impressive fleet of 270 men and five ships. Three years later one decrepit boat returned, complete with just 18 survivors. These lucky few completed the first circumnavigation of the globe, and their story makes for dramatic reading.

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                                          Alex Morris

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                                          Last Updated on October 15, 2019

                                          How To Be Successful In Life? 13 Tips From The Most Successful People

                                          How To Be Successful In Life? 13 Tips From The Most Successful People

                                          What is success to you? How to be successful in life?

                                          To some, when they think of success, they imagine wealth; others want power; some just want to make a positive impact on the world.

                                          All of these are perfectly valid, indeed success is a concept that means different things to different people. Though no matter what success is to you, it almost certainly isn’t something will come easily.

                                          There are countless guides and books to being successful, however, as success is personal and unique to each individual. The advice contained in these books can often not be relevant. Therefore following the advice of a single individual can often be unhelpful.

                                          With this in mind, considering the advice of a great many people, people whose ideas of success were different both to each other, and quite possibly, to you can be a good alternative.

                                          What follows is a list of thirteen of the best pieces of advice from some of the most successful people who have ever lived. If you want to learn how to be successful, these 13 tips are essential:

                                          1. Think Big

                                            From Michelangelo Buonarroti, Great Renaissance Artist:

                                            “The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.”

                                            There are few artists as influential as Michaelangelo. Today centuries after his death, his work still inspires and connects to people. His work is world famous, just think of his statue of David, or the Mural in the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican.

                                            Imagine then, if he decided not to work as an artist.

                                            Being a successful artist has always been extremely difficult, imagine if he decided to give up this ambition in favour of something easier?

                                            Oftentimes, people often decided to put their dreams aside for something more “realistic”. To give up their dream for something easier. This quote teaches us the danger of such a point of view.
                                            Instead be ambitious.

                                            2. Find What You Love to Do and Do It

                                              From Oprah Winfrey, Media Mogul:

                                              “You know you are on the road to success if you would do your job and not be paid for it.”

                                              This is a good quote to remember and think about when you’re at work.

                                              Imagine being as successful as possible in your current job. Ultimately you’ll probably find yourself working extremely hard and this it will take up much of your time.

                                              If it’s a job you hate, then being successful at it might only mean filling your life with something you hate to do. What’s the sense in this?

                                              Instead, why not focus on doing something you love? When you’ve found what you’re passionate about, you get the motivation to keep you moving. Success at this means the fulfilment of your dreams.

                                              Not sure what your passion is yet? You should learn about this Motivation Engine first.

                                              Even if you’re not successful, you still filled your time with something you love to do. Many successful musicians spent years of their lives doing unpaid performances, the only reason they kept playing was because they loved to perform.

                                              3. Learn How to Balance Life

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                                                From Phil Knight, CEO of Nike Inc.:

                                                “There is an immutable conflict at work in life and in business, a constant battle between peace and chaos. Neither can be mastered, but both can be influenced. How you go about that is the key to success.”

                                                All too often, people think that to be successful, they need to make the object of their success their life.

                                                If a person thinks their job will lead them to success, then they may spend countless hours per day, and well into the evening working hard.

                                                However this comes at the cost of rest, your health and having an enjoyable life. Ultimately they may burn out and cease to be successful at their job anyway.

                                                If success comes from having a strong social life and a good group of friends, their job may suffer; meaning that they may lose their job, and then be unable to afford going out with friends.

                                                In these ways, success, as Phil Knight says above, is helped by balance. Think of it as a balance between rest and work, or work and play.

                                                To achieve that balance, this Ultimate Guide to Prioritizing Your Work And Life can help you.

                                                4. Do Not Be Afraid of Failure

                                                  From Henry Ford, Founder of Ford Motors:

                                                  “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.”

                                                  There is a story, it’s unconfirmed whether it actually happened, yet the message within is none the less true:

                                                  Thomas Edison inventing the lightbulb was the result of several hundred failed attempts. In an interview, he was asked “How do you feel after all of your failed attempts?”

                                                  His response was great, “I didn’t fail, I learned hundreds of ways not to invent the lightbulb”

                                                  He saw each “failure” as a lesson. From that lesson he learned what won’t work, and also might work instead.

                                                  Each failed attempt, each rejection, were key steps on his path to success. It is easy to feel like you should give up after a failure. But perhaps in that failure is a lesson.

                                                  Pay attention to your failures, study them. Perhaps then you’ll learn how to succeed.

                                                  If you find it difficult to fight your fear of failure, here’s a guide for you: Why You Have the Fear of Failure (And How to Conquer It Step-By-Step)

                                                  5. Have an Unwavering Resolution to Succeed

                                                    From Colonel Sanders, Founder of KFC:

                                                    “I made a resolve then that I was going to amount to something if I could. And no hours, nor amount of labor, nor amount of money would deter me from giving the best that there was in me. And I have done that ever since, and I win by it. I know.”

                                                    This, in many ways relates to the above quote about learning from your failures.

                                                    It’s the easiest thing in the world to give up from a failure. The only way to push on is if you have the true burning desire to succeed, to not be moved or dissuaded from your goals.

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                                                    If you are not truly dedicated towards success, then each failure will hurt more, each set back will slow you down.

                                                    Success is hard; without the unwavering desire to succeed, this difficulty may seem insurmountable. With the desire, it is merely an obstacle to go through.

                                                    6. Be a Person of Action

                                                      From Leonardo da Vinci, Renaissance Genius:

                                                      “It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.”

                                                      Though it was said hundreds of years ago, it works just as much today as it ever had. It applies to literally any successful person.

                                                      Think about it, picture someone like William Shakespeare:

                                                      When we think of the time he lived in, we think of the time in a way shaped by him. When we think of Renaissance era Italy, we think of Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci. Or think about the present day, Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. Our current way of life would simply be incomparably different if they didn’t accomplish what they did.

                                                      You’re probably reading this article on a device by a company that they either founded or companies influenced by them.

                                                      All these figures were proactive, they saw ways to do things differently and did them. If they let the world shape them, then they’d simply fit into the background. Instead they shaped the world.

                                                      Applying this to you?

                                                      Don’t be afraid of going outside the norm. If you can think of a better way to do something, do it that way. If you fail, try again.

                                                      7. Cultivate Positive Relationships

                                                        From Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of America: “

                                                        The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people.”

                                                        The best leaders and some of the most influential people (and Theodore Roosevelt is one of the best leaders and one of the most influential people to have lived) were not those who caused commotions, who fought with people or disregarded people; but were people who were friendly to those around them.

                                                        People liked them. They wanted them to do well.

                                                        This is key to good leadership.

                                                        It’s logical. If someone likes you, they want to help you; if you give them a suggestion, they’ll gladly follow through with it.

                                                        But if someone doesn’t like you, they may either refuse to help or actively get in your way.

                                                        What’s more, it’s always a good idea to cultivate good relationships. You can never tell who will prove to become someone who’ll be able to help you in a big way, or even be a good and supportive friend.

                                                        As such, help people and they may help you; and be good to people, and they my be good to you.

                                                        8. Don’t Be Afraid of Introducing New Ideas

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                                                          From Mark Twain, Famed Author:

                                                          “A person with a new idea is a crank until the idea succeeds.”

                                                          It is an unfortunate truth that those with the boldest ideas are often disregarded.

                                                          Most of us are taught from an early age to think and do things similarly to everyone else. This can be great to fill an existing role. But to truly do things differently (and all successful people did things differently), you need to think differently.

                                                          If you have a new idea, don’t throw it away because it’s new and different; instead, celebrate it. Your strange new idea might one day be the one that leads you to success.

                                                          9. Believe in Your Capacity to Succeed

                                                            From Walter Disney, Founder of Walt Disney Company:

                                                            “If you can dream it, you can do it.”

                                                            Success has to be something you can imagine yourself achieving.

                                                            It is possible that you will come across those who doubt you and your ability to succeed. You must not become one of these people because the moment you cease believing and dreaming is the moment these dreams fall away.

                                                            Keep dreaming!

                                                            10. Always Maintain a Positive Mental Attitude

                                                              From Thomas Jefferson, 3rd President of America:

                                                              “Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.”

                                                              Like the above quote says, you need to trust in your ability to succeed. This is the only way to cultivate the right mindset.

                                                              Replace negative thoughts with the positive ones. You need to approach problems, not as obstacles stopping you, but merely tasks that need to be completed for you to keep going.

                                                              If you stay positive and think like this, setbacks won’t affect you so much, people’s doubts won’t impact you and even the biggest obstacles will seem like minor problems.

                                                              However with the wrong mindset of doubt, you’ll be much easier to stop.

                                                              11. Don’t Let Discouragement Stop You from Pressing On

                                                                From Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of America:

                                                                “Let no feeling of discouragement prey upon you, and in the end you are sure to succeed.”

                                                                It is an unfortunate fact of human nature — all of us in some way, doubt ourselves. This can be made far worse if others doubt us too.

                                                                When surrounded by doubts, giving up can actually seem like a good idea.

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                                                                Don’t pay attention to the doubts. If you are discouraged, ignore it.

                                                                If this discouragement moves into your mind and you begin to doubt yourself. It is important to ignore this too.

                                                                This is How Self Doubt Keeps You Stuck and How to Overcome It

                                                                12. Be Willing to Work Hard

                                                                  From JC Penny, Founder of JC Penney Inc.:

                                                                  “Unless you are willing to drench yourself in your work beyond the capacity of the average man, you are just not cut out for positions at the top.”

                                                                  You might have heard the quote that “success is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration” or you may have heard about the 10,000 hours idea.

                                                                  Whichever way you frame it, they say one thing:

                                                                  True success comes from work.

                                                                  You’ll never become successful if you don’t work towards your goal in life and keep working towards it.

                                                                  Check out this article and you’ll understand Why Hard Work Beats Talent.

                                                                  13. Be Brave Enough to Follow Your Intuition

                                                                    From Steve Jobs, Co-founder of Apple Inc.:

                                                                    “Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

                                                                    In ancient Greece, there was a group of Oracles who lived in Delphi. Everyone who needed advice or to know their future visited them, from the poorest of society to kings. Above the doorway of the temple were the words “know thyself”.

                                                                    If you strongly believe and desire something, chances are that you already have an idea how to get there. If not, you may naturally know what things will help you and what things will slow you down.

                                                                    It’s like how your body can detect danger even when things seem safe.

                                                                    Ultimately then, you need to trust your own instincts.

                                                                    Final Thoughts

                                                                    What you might have noticed is that many of the above lessons are similar — most are about developing the right state of mind. This clearly suggests that the key to achieving success, in whatever you wish, comes down to the way you approach it mentally.

                                                                    Moreover, no matter what stage of life you’re at now, you can still make a difference and pursue success. You can make resetting your life possible when you do this: How to Start Over and Reboot Your Life When It Seems Too Late

                                                                    More to Help You Succeed in Life

                                                                    Featured photo credit: Ryan Wong via unsplash.com

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