I was thinking about why I love to read and what stays with me from the literally hundreds if not thousands of books I have read in my lifetime.
And the truth is… I’m a feelings girl. I forget names. I forget plots. I forget most semblances of factual content. But I remember how certain books make me feel.
I store the feelings up inside myself for when I need them. I think books make me bigger that way as a person.
So I thought I’d start sharing selections of books that have made me feel in particular ways.
Let’s start with inspired.
Here are five books that, in one way or another, inspired me to want to change my life or the world, or to change my perspective. There are so many more that could go into this selection.
I’d love to hear what books inspire you!
This is less of a self-help book than an anti-self-help book. Burroughs begins with a pointed attack on the use of positive affirmations and the importance of actually being truthful to yourself about how you’re feeling and who you are, then goes on to address a range of questions including:
- How to Shatter Shame,
- How to Be Fat,
- How to Find Love and
- How to Finish your Drink.
At times confronting, and often funny, Burroughs writes from the perspective of someone who’s been through the seven hells and made it out the other side.
At the core of much of the book is the issue of truth – are you living a truthful life?
‘I mean only the in-your-face, ignore-at-your-peril, star-sapphire-bright, no-wonder-therapy-failed, singular, shackle-cracking, like-it-or-not, rock-bottom, buck-stopping, mind-reeling, complete-transformation factual truth that resides at the centre of every one of your issues and dreams and roadblocks and tragedies and miracles.
This is not the truth you tell yourself in order to not rock the boat, or to smooth things over or keep everyone comfortable.
The truth is humbling, terrifying, and often exhilarating. It blows the doors off the hinges and fills the world with fresh air.’
I love this book. Reading it is like having a timely glass of cold water thrown in my face by a very dear friend.
Now for some fiction!
This book is wonderful. A YA cross between Gossip Girl and Groundhog Day, with a touch of the Lovely Bones thrown in.
The main character, Sam Kingston, finds herself caught in a loop, living the same day over and over, ending with a car crash in which it seems she is to die. Sam explores the events of that one day repeatedly, trying to find a way out. Lauren Oliver has created a story that is impossible to put down. Sam’s exploration leads her to find out what truly matters in her life: kindness, friendship, family, love.
This book is hugely moving and uplifting, and whenever I read it (which I’ve done a number of times) it makes me want to do better, be a better person, and make the most of every day.
I wrote about this book previously in my list of Australian Books that I love.
Tracks is a memoir written by Robyn Davison, who as a young woman set off from Alice Springs in the late 1970s to travel 1700 kilometres through the Australian desert mostly alone other than for a dog and four camels.
The story is inspiring because of her bravery, determination and honesty. It is truly incredible that she did what she set out to do – and she almost died doing it.
This is a memoir that makes me look at the shape and constraints of my own life and wonder what’s holding me back.
The beautiful thing about poetry is that it invites you to return again and again, to keep gaining inspiration, reassurance, insight. And Rumi’s poetry is wonderful. A mystical poet, born in what is now Afghanistan in 1207, Rumi’s writing is rich, evocative, and feels like it speaks as directly to the reader’s heart as it did hundreds and hundreds of years ago.
I can’t do justice to it by writing about it so will just share a little fragment:
‘This human being is a guest house.
Each morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honourably.
He might be clearing you out
for some new delight.’
I’m a writer and writing is sometimes hard. Anne Lamott’s book is searingly honest about the challenges of writing: the insecurity, dealing with bad reviews, times when inspiration doesn’t come, all the hard stuff. And she provides beautiful wisdom and guidance which gives you a sense that A) this is all normal and to be expected and B) there are ways through it. Ultimately the book is a kind of love song to the wonder of putting pen to paper – to what it does for our hearts, for one another and for the world – a ‘singing against the storm’ as she puts it.
There is SO MUCH wisdom, sage advice, and encouragement in this book, it is what I turn to whenever I start to feel burnt out or at a loss with my own writing.
One of the quotes I’ve read again and again, that has pulled me through to where I am today – actually having a complete book ready to launch out into the world – is as follows:
‘Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft.’
Wishing you all a wonderful, truthful, adventurous, kind and productive weekend!