The best books I have read till date: Part 1

I am one of those who rarely speaks a lot, I like to keep to myself. But I do love to keep exploring, to keep learning. There is not one day in my life when I have not learnt something new. There are so many ways and so many things I can learn.

“Ancora Imparo” – Italian for “I am still learning” were the words of the great sculptor and painter Michelangelo.

I am inspired by these words and the best way I have found to keep learning something new is to read books. Rarely a day goes by when I do not flip through some pages of a book and immerse into contemplation, or get inspired to try something new. It has helped me become a better person every day.

Here I list down some of my favorites that I have read till date:

The Last Lecture, Randy Pausch

A beautifully touching book by a professor diagnosed with terminal cancer, the last lecture that he gave at Carnegie Mellon has inspired me through and through. The narration is simple, straightforward. It is not about dying, it is about living. It is really about achieving your childhood dreams, of overcoming obstacles and seizing every opportunity that comes along. There is humor, intelligence, and inspiration.

Thinking Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman

This is a ground breaking book to say the least. Going deep into how the human mind functions under two distinct systems – one system that is fast and instinct based, the other system being thought based. It goes on to show the fallacies in our logic when arriving at results, the natural biases we have, our survival instincts, loss of aversion and overconfidence about predictions. Daniel Kahneman hits the right chord everywhere. The book has helped me correct a lot of perception issues I faced, and make better decisions in both my personal and public life. I now know when I can trust my intuition and when I cannot.

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou

This is the first book among the series of autobiographies written by Maya Angelou. It is the first and it is no doubt the best.It breaks your heart, but it inspires you when realise how this lady rose like a phoenix after every scar and burn.

There is blunt honesty, love for oneself, kindness for others and an unbreakable spirit to live.

On The Road, Jack Kerouac

I can very easily attribute my love for travelling to this one book and its riveting story telling. Jack Kerouac and his friend Neal Cassady quench their thirst for knowledge and inspiration by travelling throughout North America. I get to see many sides of a human being. The book has left a lasting impression on me. There is one quote by Jack Kerouac that I now remember:

Because in the end, you won’t remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing your lawn. Climb that goddamn mountain.

Diary Of A Young Girl, Anne Frank

This is a world classic. The diary of Anne Frank, a young 13-year-old Jewish girl was found in the attic where she went into hiding from the Nazis for two years. The only horrors of war we hear all the time are millions of death. But this diary tells the other aspect. The girl and her family trapped in the attic survive hunger, boredom, fear and flagging spirits.

This young girl braves it all – she recollects how she kept herself amused, how she found happiness when food was brought over, and how she kept her spirits raised.

Working in several NGOs, I have learnt a lot from children I met. But this little girl, even though I haven’t seen her left a deep impression on me – the human courage she stands for is glorious in itself.

Similar reads: Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor Frankl. One of the books that left a deep impact on the public’s conscience and perception toward war.

The Road Less Travelled, M. Scott Peck

“Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths.” You read these opening lines of the book, and you know you have stumbled upon a treasure, a book that will speak to you.

I amazes me how much damage is done when we fail to accept this truth and try to live in a fantasy world, choosing to ignore the realities. It may bring short bursts of joy, but in the end the problem only compounds.

The book taught me to abide by the truth, to confront the problems when they are small. We cannot expect problems to go away by themselves.

Quiet, Susan Cain

A book on introverts – yes that is what the book is about. When I was very young, during my school and early college days, I realized I like to keep to myself, I hated partying, socializing was a challenge. I felt as if something was wrong in me.

Susan Cain’s book on introverts highlights the lives of introverts who went on to become great leaders, scientists, and thinkers. She details out on the things in which introverts excel, what makes them important in this human society, what makes them have more stable relationships, on why being an introvert is not a curse.

This book helped me gain a lot of confidence and to accept myself as an introvert. It helped me break the barriers that I had put around myself. If I could, I would personally thank Susan Cain.

Everybody Loves A Good Drought, P. Sainath

A book about the state of poor masses and tribal population in India – it blatantly projects forward the human face of poverty, and the cost at which development happens. He speaks poverty as an outcome of a long term process, instead of simply being an event.

Money going into wrong hands, pathetic welfare system and the media craving for photos of undernourished children are all brought to forefront. The examples and incidents are all real, it broke my heart. But it willed me into taking a step toward change. At Sankalp, along with my fellow volunteers I am trying to play my part. I cannot rest.

Catcher In The Rye, JD Salinger

The story of Holden Caulfield, an adolescent on the cusp of adulthood. He struggles with the challenges that we all face. Carefree and happy childhood is about to be replaced by the responsibilities of being an adult.

Holden is rebellious, don’t care kind. But he is compassionate, emotional and intelligent. Something that we all share in common at that stage of life. He struggles to make this transition.

The narrative is brilliant and only when you read till the end, will you realize the significance of the book’s title.

My Travel Blogs on Travel Hatke:

Vivek Kumar – Travel Hatke

My Social NGO for teaching poor kids:

Sankalp – A Pledge To Change

My Travel Board on Pinterest:

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