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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 June 26, 2019

                                          I Hate My Life: 10 Things You Can Do Now to Stop Hating Life

                                          I Hate My Life: 10 Things You Can Do Now to Stop Hating Life

                                          Hating life is a bit of a misnomer it seems: in the media, in education, in every aspect of our lives, we’re shown visions of a perfect world, one where everyone is happy and life is a decades-long dream. Unfortunately, it isn’t.

                                          Life can and is hard and tough and painful at times. I have first-hand experience of this: at this time years ago, I was a recent university graduate, unemployed and aimless. All of this was having a knock-on effect on my social and mental wellbeing—I wasn’t sleeping. I wasn’t seeing my friends as often. I was snappy to family members and I could barely drag myself out of bed in the morning…

                                          That doesn’t mean it can’t change.

                                          Life goes through ebbs and flows all the time and the key to getting through it all without cutting off your social circle and eating your local grocery store out of Ben & Jerry’s, is to cultivate some techniques and methods of going through life with some stability and grace. It’s not a guarantee against life’s hardships but, take the steps you want to use and you won’t hate life.

                                          If you want to stop hating your life and start falling in love with it, take these steps:

                                          1. Get Plenty of Sleep

                                          Seriously, you’re obviously going to be grouchy and more inclined towards the more miserable side, if you’re not getting your recommended seven or more hours of sleep a night.

                                          Start checking in how much you sleep and then start making steps to go to bed earlier and sleep for longer. It might cure every problem but at least you’ll be well-rested and less likely to nap throughout the day. If you having trouble getting to sleep, go and

                                          2. Eat Healthily

                                          I have had a real issue with eating healthily for years and it wasn’t until I was hospitalised a few years ago (for a condition unrelated to my eating for the sake of disclosure), that I really started to look at what I ate and how I viewed my body.

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                                          I’m absolutely an advocate of body positivity and loving your body at any size and while I haven’t lost any huge amount of weight, eating a hell of a lot healthier improved my mood and made me feel better.

                                          In short, it’s absolutely okay to have a pizza and a soda as a treat, but just have something healthier tomorrow.

                                          3. Write It All Down

                                          Sometimes the best thing you can do is let it all out. Keeping things that are making you hate life all bottled up is neither helpful to getting out of that cycle nor healthy for your overall wellbeing.

                                          Grab yourself a notebook, a journal, a diary, a bit of paper, whatever, and just start writing down how you feel. As soon as you’ve done that, start thinking about what you could do in theory to stop this from happening or to stop you from feeling like this.

                                          4. Get Some Fresh Air

                                          It’s underrated and we all take it for granted, but really, getting out of your home and going for a walk can be really beneficial. It gets you outside in the (hopefully) sunshine and getting to see the whole of life as you walk around can be really grounding and calming.

                                          Believe me, if you’re stuck inside mulling over on the bad things of your life, grab a pair of sneakers and go for a walk. Plus, it’s free. Can’t say better than that, can you?

                                          5. Get Some Exercise

                                          This is practically a Part II of the previous step, but as someone who used to look at the gym as something people did when they were feeling particularly masochistic, I can actually say I enjoy it now.

                                          You don’t even have to subscribe to a fancy gym—go for a run around the block with your headphones in or lift some heavy boxes to build up muscle tone.

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                                          Bonus: Doing all that heavy lifting of boxes or incorporating exercise into chores will make your house cleaner and look even more awesome, as well as making you look and feel better.

                                          6. Treat Yourself

                                          Hating your life can be exhausting, and I mean that literally. It drains the energy from you until all you want to do is lie in bed with a pint of ice cream and the last five seasons of a TV show on Netflix.

                                          Therefore, a good thing to keep your spirits up can be to treat yourself.

                                          Life is too short, after all, to deny yourself some treats. Go see that movie that looks awesome in the cinema, grab a gelato with a friend, paint your nails, whatever makes you happy, do it. You deserve it.

                                          Here’re more ideas to inspire you: 30 Ways To Treat Yourself No Matter What

                                          7. Cut out Those Negative Triggers

                                          Chances are that if you hate life, something is setting off those triggers in your head. Until you’re able to deal with them without turning all misanthropic, the best thing might be just to get rid of all of those negative triggers.

                                          If you’re suffering from what AllGroanUp refer to as “Obsessive Comparison Disorder” (i.e. obsessively checking out the lifestyles of all your “successful” friends), then stop using Facebook and Twitter as much.

                                          Social media can be a fantastic way to connect, but it can be also be a toxic environment for neuroses and comparisons to breed.

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                                          Trust me, I know. If it sets you off, cut it out.

                                          8. Dance

                                          Yes you can dance. No, really, you can. It doesn’t matter if you’re not some breakdancing dynamo or ballroom extraordinaire, everyone can dance. It’s programmed into the human race, the ultimate expression of emotion.

                                          Dance like no one’s watching, dance like you don’t care. Tap your feet, sway your hips, go as mad or as wild as you want to to your favourite songs. Nothing quite shakes the cobwebs off than losing yourself in rhythm and dance to a song you love.

                                          9. Get Organized

                                          A great way to start moving forward and looking at what you can change in your life to make it better, is to get organized.

                                          Spend a weekend going through your home and clearing the unnecessary stuff out of it. Get rid of the stuff you don’t need or don’t want anymore and start to give everything a space.

                                          It doesn’t have to look like it’s stepped off the pages of Good Housekeeping, but clearing a lot of space and making sure that your home has a bit of harmony can do wonders for your mental wellbeing.

                                          10. Pay It Forward

                                          Life is a mystery and it can be a minefield to get through. Sometimes you stumble, sometimes you fall. The important part is to pick yourself back up and keep walking forward.

                                          Paying it forward is simply helping others. Charity is something that is often thrown around as an accessory to human behavior—how many celebrities have you read about who have done something heinous, but are defended by the phrase “but [they] do charity work”?

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                                          Go volunteer! If you think you’re at breaking point, go help other people.

                                          People in the world out there will be going through the same things that you are going through; and while you might not run into someone who’s going through the exact same circumstances, you will be helping people who need help.

                                          Helping out a soup kitchen, or at a church bake sale, or at a homeless shelter or wherever needs help, can make a huge difference to the lives of those individuals involved. And believe me, it’ll do a hell of a lot for your state of mind .

                                          A great idol of mine, Audrey Hepburn, once stated that we have two hands: one for helping ourselves, and one for helping others. That’s a fantastic sentiment and one I think will help people who hate their live.

                                          If you go and help other people, you’re having such a positive ripple effect on the world that some of it will come back to you one way or another, and it will get better.

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                                          Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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