10 Books That Shook My World

 

Books are an important part of my life and I read a lot, though not as much as I’d like. A few rare books I wish I hadn’t bothered with, but mostly I’m selective about what I buy and rely on recommendations from those I trust.

From time to time I read a book that changes my life in a big way. These are the ten inspirational books that changed my life – in more or less the order they came into my hands.

It’s a uniquely personal list and I’m certain your own list would be very different.

I’m not saying these are all great works, or suggesting they would change your life as they did mine – each came and spoke to me at a particular time and place. If they’d come at another moment in my life, they would have joined the category of ‘interesting, useful or inspiring’ but not made it to this top category of ‘books that changed my life’.

With each I’ve provided a summary (adapted from various sources) as well as my favourite quote and a link to Amazon if you want know more (or even buy it).


1    Jane Eyre (Charlotte Brontë)

Available at Amazon US or Amazon UK

I read this in my late teens and, after being an avid reader as a child, had almost given up on books for the lure of the TV screen. It was this novel that got me interested in reading again. I touched for the first time how storytelling can pull you in and take you on an emotional ride.

For those who assume it’s a ‘girl’s book’ I can tell you I lent it to a friend at the time. He was from a mining town in the North of England and there was definitely nothing ‘girlie’ about him. The book made him cry.

In brief

Partly autobiographical, the novel goes through five stages of Jane’s life: her childhood, where she’s emotionally abused by her aunt and cousins; her education, which is tough but where she makes friends; her time as the governess of a Manor, where she falls in love with Rochester, her employer; her time with the Rivers family, where her cousin proposes to her; and her reunion with and marriage to Rochester.

Favourite quote

Prejudices, it is well known, are most difficult to eradicate from the heart whose soil has never been loosened or fertilised by education: they grow there, firm as weeds among stones.


2    Grapes Of Wrath (John Steinbeck)

Available at Amazon US or Amazon UK

I remember reading the last page and not being able to move or speak for what seemed like hours. It was my first glimpse of what terrible things we can do to each other and yet still impossible to quash the bright spark of humanity. I still find the final page emotionally devastating.

In brief

Set during the Great Depression, the novel focuses on a poor family of share-croppers, the Joads, driven from their Oklahoma home by drought, economic hardship, and changes in the agriculture industry. In a desperate situation, they set out for California along with thousands of other “Okies” in search of land and jobs.

Favourite quote

How can you frighten a man whose hunger is not only in his own cramped stomach but in the wretched bellies of his children? You can’t scare him – he has known a fear beyond every other.


3   The Alchemist (Paolo Coelho)

Available at Amazon US or Amazon UK

It came to me at a time when I was searching all over the place for peace and happiness in my life. Everything seemed a struggle as my focus was ‘over there’ and definitely not in the places I was and the people I was with.

It was this book that opened my eyes to a wealth of literary treasures coming out of South America as well as relating some of my own life through a beautiful fable.

In brief

Tells the story of a young shepherd named Santiago who finds a treasure beyond his wildest dreams. Along the way, he learns to listen to his heart and, more importantly, realizes that his dreams, or his Personal Legend, are not just his but part of the Soul of the Universe.

Favourite quote

When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.


4   Loving What Is (Byron Katie)

Available at Amazon US or Amazon UK

I first heard about Byron Katie from a friend who was very enthusiastic about her Work, so I bought the book. I was still fighting with the reality of how I’d constructed my life and using the method in this book took away all that stress and anguish (well most of it).

If you’ve not come across the Work before then there are several great videos on YouTube.

In brief

The basis of the book is a series of four questions addressed to your assumptions. Starting with, “Is it true?” and continuing with explorations of “Who would you be without that thought?” the method aims to get through unhelpful preconceptions and find peace. An integral part of the process is “turning the thought around,” where you’ll find an acceptance of reality, beyond questions of fault and blame.

Favourite quote

I realized that it’s insane to oppose it. When I argue with reality, I lose—but only 100% of the time. How do I know that the wind should blow? It’s blowing!


5   A Brief History of Everything (Ken Wilber)

Available at Amazon US or Amazon UK

Not an easy read at all – even for someone as intelligent as me (haha). I read it at a time when I was looking for my own understanding of spirituality and my place in the universe. It didn’t give me an answer to that question but did give me a new way of looking at the universe that has been incredibly supportive in my search.

It’s one of the few books that pushed me to the limit of my mental capacity.

In brief

Wilber examines the course of evolution as the unfolding manifestation of Spirit, from matter to life to mind, including the higher stages of spiritual evolution, when Spirit becomes conscious of itself. In each of these domains of evolution, he finds recurring patterns, and by looking at these patterns, learn much about the predicament of our world and the direction humanity must take if global transformation is to become a reality

Favourite quote

I don’t mean to be crude, but it appears that testosterone basically has two, and only two, major drives: f*** it or kill it.


6   Long Walk To Freedom (Nelson Mandela)

Available at Amazon US or Amazon UK

I grew up believing the media line that, while apartheid was a monstrous invention, Mandela was a terrorist and should be in prison. From a historical point of view this was probably because the British government was refusing to have anything to do with the IRA and so were nervous of any attempt to turn freedom fighters, guerillas or terrorists into heroes. Mandela became one of my heroes.

This book inspired me to see that non-violent struggle is the only way to lasting social change, and that the media, no matter how much freedom of speech I have, is an extension of the State.

In brief

Nelson Mandela’s autobiography describing his early life, coming of age, education and 27 years in prison. The last chapters of the book describe his political ascension, and his belief that the struggle continues against apartheid in South Africa.

Favourite quote

No one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens but its lowest ones.


7   The Power Of Now (Eckhart Tolle)

Available at Amazon US or Amazon UK

I find it hard to explain why this had such an impact on me – I hardly remember the details of the book at all. I can picture, however, exactly where I was when I was reading it – down to the details of what I was eating, smelling, experiencing. Somehow it brought me into the present (the Now) in a very subtle but powerful way. It stays with me to this day.

In brief

Living in the now is the truest path to happiness and enlightenment. (I told you I couldn’t remember much about the content!)

Favourite quote

You can always cope with the now, but you can never cope with the future – nor do you have to. The answer, the strength, the right action or the resource will be there when you need it, not before, not after.


8   No Logo (Naomi Klein)

Available at Amazon US or Amazon UK

I love books that my challenge my view of the world and this one turned it upside down. I’d grown up in the corporate world and never considered what might lay under the surface. This opened my eyes in a way that I can never close them again. It made me much more conscious of the impact of the corporate takeover of the world and my role in it.

In brief

Builds an angry and funny case against branding in general and several large North American companies in particular, notably Gap, Microsoft and Starbucks. What should be a time of consumer choice and interactive communication has not materialized. Instead, huge corporations treat the world as a giant marketing opportunity. These companies have harmed culture and workers both in the Developing World and at home.

Favourite quote

There are already ads on benches in national parks as well as on library cards in public libraries, and in December 1998 NASA announced plans to solicit ads on its space stations. Pepsi’s ongoing threat to project its logo onto the moon’s surface hasn’t yet materialized…


9   The Prophet (Kahlil Gibran)

Available at Amazon US or Amazon UK

Beautiful, lyrical and wise. I learned many things from this book, and I think the verses on children are the ones I find most powerful. On every line of every page there’s a treat to be relished and savoured and it’s the one book I recommend everyone to read.

So read it.

In brief

Essentially a work of spiritual poetry, it contains Gibran’s philosophy on major concepts in human life, such as love, joy, self-knowledge, freedom, Law, religion, and reason.

Favourite quote

Your children are not your children.

They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.

They come through you but not from you,

And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.


10   Maturity (Osho)

Available at Amazon US or Amazon UK

Osho is something of a mystery to me. Spiritual teacher owning a large fleet of Rolls Royce’s and deported from the USA – yet some of his writings are amazing. This is the one that spoke to me and I read this as I was coming up to 45 (one of the transition markers) and it helped me understand many of the things that I’d been working with during what might be described as my mid-life crisis. I probably wouldn’t have started this blog if it hadn’t been for this book.

In brief

Osho takes us back to the roots of what it means to grow up rather than just to grow old and explores the benefits in accepting the ageing process as natural, rather than trying to hold on to youth . Both in our relationships with others, and in the fulfilment of our own individual destinies, he reminds us of the pleasures that only true maturity can bring. He outlines the ten major growth cycles in human life, from the self-centred universe of the preschooler to the flowering of wisdom and compassion in old age.

Favourite quote

Listen to your being. It is continuously giving you hints; it is a still, small voice. It does not shout at you, that is true. And if you are a little silent you will start feeling your way.


Notes about Amazon

I personally use Amazon a lot as I find them reliable, easy to use and I enjoy the reviews and information they give. I also have an Affiliate account with them (as do many bloggers). Obviously I recommend you read these books – and if you choose to buy after clicking the links then I get a small commission from Amazon (in fact, the commission covers your entire order – not only from the books above).

2 Responses to 10 Books That Shook My World

  1. Sanja on July 6, 2011 at 8:54 pm

    very inspiring! thanks
    the two i would like to read most and right now are the power of now and maturity….

    • ianpeatey on July 7, 2011 at 12:37 pm

      The site’s still being built so I’m impressed you found me! Is it appropriate to give you a virtual hug? Kiss even?

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