I share optimistic & constructive books from writers committed to excellence in litterature. My favorites books leave me with a sense of lightness and freedom in my heart. "To love is to act" (Victor Hugo)
Among the contemporary writers, I also read recently 'Salem falls' by Jodi Picoult. What I liked about her is: she does not expose only the evils of the society; she also shows our strengths right next to our frailties.
To give you a few examples of the positives in her book:
- In the opening scene, I'm touched by the compassion of the taxi driver, who picks up Jack for free, when he is walking down the highway, barely clothed on a very cold day, with no money
- then you see the reciprocative acts of protection between him and the woman Addie, right at the beginning, when he shows up at her restaurant
- later, you see the dignity of Jack on many occasions
- the act of self-sacrifice that Jack does to protect Addie's drunk father
- the extent to which Addie goes for helping Jack, in spite of her inner conflicts
- the generosity of Wes for Jack, in spite of their rivalry
And, in terms of craft, this is an author who keeps us uncertain till the end, forcing us to read every line, because you never know how the end will turn out.
I find Picoult has done a great job here, portraying a realistic story, in a way that is a balanced mix of good and bad, where everything does NOT turn out predictably.
Another great writer I’ve appreciated is Tony Morrison. Although sometimes I have difficulty following her use of dialects, I think in ‘Shula’ and ‘Beloved’ she has really created some great characters, with some vivid descriptions and interior monologues.
For the last three days, I have been away to my favourite spot by the sea.
After reading “The seeker of well-being” I felt a deep inner silence that told me I needed a break; to unite with myself, to decide how best to handle the conflicts I have now, in my personal and professional lives. Now I am back to town, all renewed. Ready to face the challenges of life.
I find Confucius the best in Chinese Wisdom.
If you don't have the time to read the whole book, read at least the two chapters called "The way of Friendship" and "The way of Ambition".
They radically changed my way of looking at friendship and ambition; I've been a lot happier since. The stuff may sound like common sense, but so easy to set aside, and move on like a bulldozer.
Also, what's great about this book is: it teaches subtly, without putting us down.
To illustrate how this book has helped me, first let me put it into a concrete context.
Around the middle of this September, I have been to a corporate party, where, to my great surprise, the manager of my workgroup started talking about the founder of our company, a great woman who took a lot of care for my development, and then died unexpectedly a few years ago.
This woman had plenty of confidence in me, and always placed me in challenging projects to develop my competences, along with high quality trainings for my professional and personal development. After her death, I suddenly felt a big void inside me, and felt totally lost about how to continue with my evolution. This impasse became particularly frightening to me, after her company was bought by a larger group, and since then I have not had one single training; in this new restructured organization, not a single person cares about my development.
Then in that corporate party, my current manager, who also had worked with that great woman before, made a moving speech about her, which revealed a void similar to mine. This did something to me that I can not describe in words, but, at that very moment, I made this decision: I will never again depend on someone else from the outside for my evolution; rather, from now on, that help has to come from inside me.
And that’s where this book came to me like a gift from god, with a goldmine of wisdom and insights.
But the book did not grab my heart because of that reason. I think, unconsciously, I was looking for someone to understand me, to listen to my feelings rather than giving advice; and the very first chapter of the book fulfilled exactly that need!
I felt understood. I felt I would be understood all along the book. I felt the author did not want to force on me a ton of readymade, general advice; rather, all he really wanted was that I understand myself deeply, and then I develop the solution that fits me the best.
At several points in the book, I could identify myself with the characters and their pains, but what really inspired me is this: these characters faced their challenges with dignity, solved their problems by themselves, and moved forward with deep contentment, without ever leaning upon anyone. These characters and their stories are so alive, so dynamic, so forceful that they transported me. I said: if they could do it, I can too.
And then it occurred to me that, in not even one of those stories, the author has given a single direct advice to these characters. He has always stayed in the background and asked the right questions, which have evoked the solutions from inside these characters. Moreover, I was surprised to see what I have done myself, while reading this book: I have taken notes all over the place!
After I finished the book, I set it aside, and looked at my notes all together. Then I found, all by myself, what I was looking for: what I should do, to continue my evolution.
I have read quite a few authors on personal development, since I began my search for evolution, but this author has one quality that distinguishes him from the rest: it is his unique combination of experience and humility, of his wisdom and modesty. His quiet strength, poise, and compassion kept infusing into me while I read on, and, at the end, I felt I was standing a lot firmer on my feet, on a ground more solid with self-esteem and confidence.
A rare experience occurred to me while reading this book: at three places, I cried!!
Those were not tears of sadness, but of liberation, and of a deep joy from within. Those were tears that cleaned me out from inside, and left me stronger to embrace life with courage and dignity. I have never had this experience with a nonfiction before.
This book made me feel the air circulating in my lungs again, and the blood in my veins. And I saw this book has done as much good to my heart, as it has done to my head.
Finished last night! Then I saw I was in tears. I cried because I felt understood all along by that invisible someone, and the book had come to an end even before I realized it.
But, when I woke up this morning, I felt a lot lighter and stronger.
With a clearer head, I was amazed to see how the author has taken the different facets of our well-being, and made them converge to one root: accordance with self. The thread of this single theme unifies all the various perspectives the author has evoked.
I am going to read this book again, from cover to cover.
The statement “When what we do corresponds to our deepest values, doing becomes effortless; work never tires us, no matter how intense it is.” made me think: the values that drive me today, are they really mine, or imposed on me from outside?
Could that be the reason for my inner conflicts at work? If yes, how to reconcile those?
What we see outside is really what is inside us. That is so much true!!
It explains why the same thing looks so bright one day, and so dark another day.
I loved when the author says: our life is too short to live by the quotes of others.
The only way to live our own life is to live by our own quotes alone.
That sounds scary, but true at the same time. I hope I find the courage to release my inner voice.
The author has a mix of experience and humility that makes me feel I am going to listen to myself, and understand myself finally.
And then, may be, I will find my own solution, one that I have been waiting for so long.
The prologue hooked me: the author has written the book for his daughter, in case anything happens to him.
I did not have any guidance from my father; I am going to read this book carefully.
I happened to pick up this book when I went to New Delhi for work.
I didn't know about Indian mythology at all, because in Europe we read only Greek Mythology at school, but what I've always like about India is that in this country, the animals seem to have equal rights as Man. So, when I picked up this book in the bookstore, and read the back cover, I was immediately drawn to the efforts of the monkeys, in collaboration with man, to save a kidnapped woman.
And I was touched by the book's deep wisdom and its keen insight into the human nature, coupled with a gripping narrative of action, in high tension. What a powerful story-telling!!!
I returned to the bookstore to buy the other Indian epic, 'Mahabharata', translated by the same author.
I read this book when I was twenty, and then I read it again recently on a business trip.
What's great about this book is that the author takes the prominent Philosophers from the West, and renders their essences into a form digestible by the larger public. In fact, he wrote this book only to teach his high school class in philosophy, but then it became a worldwide success.
The only thing I regret is that the author has not cared to look into the philosophers from the East. If he did, I am sure he would have done a great job too. But then, in how many high schools of the West are we taught about the philosophers from the East?
The book is written in the form of a novel, and I find the author's art of storytelling reasonably good. Overall, I think it's a great book for those who want to have a decent grasp on the Western philosophy, because it is easily comprehensible.
This book grew out of the desperation of a computer professor, when he discovered that he had terminal cancer, and he wanted absolutely to leave a manual of guidance for his little kids. It's this fact about this book that drew me, because, in terms of parental guidance, I haven't been one of the lucky ones.
I was surprised by the vividness and vivacity of the writing. The pages kept turning as if by themselves, and I was disappointed that the book ran out so soon.
Authentic and practical wisdoms that come not from the brain but from the heart of a devoted father. How I wish I had one book like this when I was growing up. A perfect example of how a man on death trip becomes immortal through the keenness of his soul.
If any book, other than Victor Hugo's 'Les Miserables' and Tolstoy's 'Resurrection', has captured the acute human dilemmas and paradoxes, the powerful and unresolvable human conflicts between good versus good, it is this book, 'Mahabharata'. Written such a long time ago, it is a clear proof that the basic human nature has not changed much since, and will probably remain the same way as long as Man exists.
The most tormenting part is when the warrior Arjuna is torn between two equally good causes that are equally strong: on one hand, he has to stand up for his land; on the other hand, he wants to refrain from hurting his cousins. Under this unresolvable conflict, which escalates by the day with complication growing, he goes into a deep confusion, and withdraws from his duty; but then, he is put back on his feet with a severe tongue lashing from Krishna.
I could immediately relate to this warrior, because in my job, I am often caught between clashing causes that are equally strong and equally valid. Then I am totally lost, until someone pinches me with a hard logic.
I learnt a lot from this book, but the key wisdom I retained from this book: we are just the means, and not the end. When I see from that perspective, life feels so much free of burdens, so much more expansive.
Again, a great storytelling, with powerful actions, in high tension, coupled with breathtaking wisdom and insight into human nature.
This is the book of a friendship between a man and a boy, the book of the courage and the battle where the hope survive amongst the deepest misery. The language is mainly sustained by the action but Hemingway share as well the fisher's intimate thoughts, his internal conflicts for his 'friend' fish. This fisher has evolved on his way back home, he is not sensitive anymore to the 'social mirror' from the other fishermen, he is not anymore looking for showing his capacity to fish to others. This trip has pushed him forward.
In ‘A farewell to the arms’, I found Hemingway is great at creating long-lasting images through his simple but effective choice of words, but a lot of the emotions were sticky and repetitive. But, in ‘the Old man and Sea’, he has really done a superb task of economy with words, yet embarking upon a very powerful theme that shows what may be considered as defeat by others is actually a victory. For a while I stopped reading his works, because of his obsession with death and love, in books like ‘The sun also rises’ and ‘A movable feast’, but then I was surprised how he kept me under spell in ‘The old man and the sea’, which is written in one continuous narrative.
Let me tell you how I got to this book.
You may already know the dictum of Jean Paul Sartre about animals as ‘animated things’, that is animals are moving things without emotions. This has revolted me always, but only recently I delved into this, subsequent to my encounter with a calf.
I have been observing this calf being licked tenderly by its mother cow, particularly on his head. This is a calf that always stays away from the rest of the calves. Then, after he came to see me over a number of days, once he approached me, while I was sitting down and observing.
I tried to reach out, but he moved back. So I withdrew my hand and touched my own head, the way his mother does on his head. The calf’s face relaxed. And, for an instant, his eyes brightened, and the skin around them crinkled as if he was smiling!!
This threw me off for a while. I searched on Amazon and found this book written by Darwin. A really informative book, with lots of comparison between animals and us.
You bet, my opinion on animals changed after that.
(The picture above has been taken during a mountain hiking (Pyrenees mountains, France) at 2400 metre altitude this summer)