Here’s why we read:
What we call following our gut is really us being subconsciously guided by every piece of information we’ve ever consumed, shaping our instincts and ideas and forming us. — Jon Westenberg
Besides reading to feel, most of us read to learn. We want to know what we need to know when we need it, and so we keep pushing the number of books. Higher. One more. Just one more.
We read books recommended by billionaires, books validated by bestseller status and books our idols tell us to read.
I didn’t read 365 books last year. But I learned from 365 different ones. After around 250, one thing became very clear:
“I don’t need more information. I need to do more stuff.”
It’s an all too familiar face on our list of end-of-year regrets: “I wish I’d read more books.” But it’s never first on that list. It doesn’t come before “I wish I’d started that company” or “I wish I’d written that book” or “I wish I’d told her I loved her.”
Our top regret always comes in different shapes, yet in the same size:
“I wish I’d done more stuff.”
A lot of smart people tell us to read more. They may be right about the what, but we might be wrong about the how.
Reading isn’t just learning. Reading is also running. Sometimes, that’s running away from doing stuff.
What if, instead of reading to know, we read more to do? To do great things, small things, more things, all things.
You know who’s never not motivated to do stuff?
Children don’t read articles like this one. Children can’t spell regrets. They don’t need to. They’re too busy being the hero of their own story. That’s why we love to make them the heroes of our stories.
Kids, kids, kids. But they’re all heroes too. Because they make us feel. Because they make us do.
Here are 7 inspirational books to relight your inner child.
1 — The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
“When you want something, all the universe conspires to help you achieve it.”
I read The Alchemist in 2012, while studying abroad in the US.
This is a book about destiny.
It inspired me to think. To think until I could think no more.
I woke up at 5 AM every day, watched every sunrise and every sunset. I wandered around the woods for hours. Thinking, thinking, always thinking.
What kind of college kid does that? A kid who, by the end of it, knew who he wanted to be.
2 — Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling
“Soon we must all face the choice between what is right and what is easy.”
Nothing highlights the pivotal role of this book better than the fact that J.K. Rowling changed her mind about the title — twice.
Until 12 days before print, the already published title was “Harry Potter and the Doomspell Tournament.”
Changing the title wasn’t easy. But it was the right choice.
Before, Harry stumbled into things, and, by looking out for himself, somehow ended up saving the day. In Goblet of Fire, he stops trying to be normal and takes responsibility.
This is a book about integrity.
Harry must fight. For love, for friendship, for what he believes in. Even for his life.
When you’re 14, this book might change who you are. When you’re older than 14, you’ll see even 14-year olds have to decide between what is right and what is easy. And so do you.
3 — Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren
“I have never tried that before, so I think I should definitely be able to do that.”
Pippi Longstocking is 9 years old, has superhuman strength, and lives in a rainbow-colored house with her monkey, Mr. Nilsson, and her horse Old Man.
This is a book about possibility.
Pippi is living proof that you can make your own rules and thrive. She always comes out on top. Not in spite of her sheer intolerance for what adults consider as normal, but because of it.
Pippi makes you question a lot of the ideas we grow up with. Astrid Lindgren published this book in 1945. Imagine how much the world needed it at the time. And we still need it today.
4 — Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
“Confidence is ignorance. If you’re feeling cocky, it’s because there’s something you don’t know.”
Artemis Fowl is the opposite of Pippi, yet quite the same. He is a genius, a millionaire, a criminal mastermind, and…12.
This is a book about humility.
Artemis taught me that all humans make mistakes. Even child prodigies. Suddenly, being a dorky nerd who breezed through school, but got teased a lot, was bearable.
One day, we all learn to be humble. Some of us learn it the hard way. Others choose to be. The sooner, the better. Especially when you’re trying to turn your crazy dream into reality.
5 — Holes by Louis Sachar
“When you spend your whole life living in a hole, the only way you can go is up.”
In 7th grade, we had to pick a book we liked and present it in class. My friend Toby picked Holes. It’s a bizarre story about Stanley’s eternal struggle against his family history.
This is a book about courage.
Despite never getting anywhere, Stanley keeps doing stuff. Even in the worst of times, he has the courage to believe in karma and the endurance to act when it’s not there.
In Latin, our teacher wrote a quote on every test:
“Fortes fortuna adiuvat.” — Fortune favors the bold.
This book helps you be bold.
6 — The Hunger Games: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
“I wish I could freeze this moment, right here, right now and live in it forever.”
This is a book about perseverance.
After finding a sense of purpose in The Alchemist, I bolted through this series and part two taught me that life truly can be short. It gave me a sense of urgency, because death is ever-present.
Fate sometimes throws more than one terrible blow, but Katniss and Peeta will teach you that even when it looks like there’s no possible way to go on, you can still go on.
7 — Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
“Books have to be heavy because the whole world’s inside them.”
Bookbinder Mo and his daughter Meggie’s journey inside the fantastic worlds of their favorite books sent me on a spiral into my own.
This is a book about hope.
The two believe beyond belief, and so Inkheart captures the underlying hope of all books: that after we finish reading, we will be better human beings.
Here’s why we really read:
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” — Maya Angelou
When I point to these inspiring books, I’m not pointing to resources. I’m pointing to memories. For every single one of them, I can tell you a time and a place. More importantly, I can tell you a feeling it left me with.
What you’re reading right now, my body of work, is built on those feelings. And I can bring them back whenever I need to, just by thinking of the books. That’s worth more than even the best piece of how-to advice.
Of course you don’t have to read books to feel inspired. There are heroes all around you. Follow their journey. Venture down the rabbit hole. Fall for their story. Fall in love.
Once you feel inspired, stop. Turn the page, shut the book, close the tab and then…
Get up and do stuff.
Other Book Lists
Looking for more of the best books on various topics? Here’s an index of all book lists we’ve made so far:
- The 14 Best Finance Books
- The 21 Best Habit Books
- The 33 Best Happiness Books
- The 7 Most Inspiring Books
- The 31 Best Motivational Books