By On My Canvas
Has anyone ever asked you to read books to change your life? I would go as far as to say reading is one of the synonyms of personal growth.
I started reading books, both fiction and non-fiction, sincerely only for the last five years. But during this time, I read some books that shifted the course of my life. They exposed me to unbelievable facts. They laid open the science I didn’t know exist. They told me stories I could never imagine. They made me cry like I hadn’t before. They made me laugh as if I had nothing to worry about. They accompanied me when I was lonely. They told me life can be lived in many ways. They reassured me it was okay to be who I was. But that I could learn, too.
By a life changing book, I don’t necessarily mean a bestseller.
By life changing books I mean those in which the most obvious things have been said in the simplest form; or those that tell the history of life not as how people want us to know but how it happened; or those that show life writhing out of the mouth of suffering with full force; or those that remind us of adventures we had as little children that give sense to our today, too; or those that seem long and convoluted but essentially they talk about things we have always ignored; or those that make us reconsider if the thing is worth beating ourselves about; or those that make us look at life with a child’s eyes again; or those that make us ask questions we were too scared to even think about; or those that unravel the science behind all this and help us be a little less clueless; or those that give us hope that change is nothing but little things done every day; or those that show us compassion and tell us we are okay as who we are.
1. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari
[Highly recommended on the list of books that change your life.]
“The real question is not what do we want to become, but what do we want to want?”
In Sapiens, Yuval has not only told the story of the evolution of the planet and homo sapiens but he has also exposed our conduct on earth.
Sapiens will tell you all about the great grandmother we shared with chimpanzees, how our brain and body developed, the power of stories in uniting sapiens, how we made all other animals extinct, why we eat wheat, the reality of the agricultural and industrial revolution, systems behind capitalism and marital rape laws, why our religious and cultural values are hypocritical, humanity’s biggest frauds, the impact of money, the first usage of chloroform, steam engines, Buddhism, and the latest but the scariest technological advancements including the advent of cyborgs.
Sapiens is the story of everything. Read this one to know what has been happening since fourteen billion years aka day zero. (It is also a great book for new writers to understand the importance of story-telling.)
If a preserved mummy wakes up and says, “Who am I? Where am I?” Give him a copy of Sapiens and he will know everything that has happened and would be able to predict an event or two in the future, too. But he might just say, “Could you please put me back to sleep? The world of my unconscious was better than this one.”
Reading Sapiens is like going through our family’s black and white photo albums, at least if we think of the whole world as one.
“One of history’s few iron laws is that luxuries tend to become necessities and to spawn new obligations.”
2. Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frankl
“We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
When I picked up Man’s Search for Meaning — a remarkable journey of an Auschwitz concentration camp survivor — the author Victor himself, life took another meaning.
I had been asking some hard and deep questions about life. Why are we here, what is space, why do we live on, why do we do the same things every day?
When I read this book I was assured humans don’t have a grand reason to live or go on despite the suffering. The author was a bit too familiar with agony; he had been in the Auschwitz concentration camp for many years. His wife died in the women’s camp. Victor’s father, mother, and brother were also captured and killed. He lost everything. But he didn’t lose hope.
“We had to learn ourselves and, furthermore, we had to teach the despairing men, that it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life — daily and hourly.”
Every sentence in the book builds towards the idea that a human’s purpose is to act upon what is in front of her. Do what the time calls for. Even the tiniest of goals can keep us going even in the darkest hour.
“What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal, a freely chosen task. What he needs is not the discharge of tension at any cost but the call of a potential meaning waiting to be fulfilled by him.”
This is a mind-opening book that would remind you of the magic in being here and breathing and living in the first place. Now we go on fulfilling what is asked of us. (This is mostly the definition of a fulfilling, happy, and healthy life.)
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