I realise that most people don’t have the time or patience to read long novels. Starting a 900-page-novel from the 18th century is a daunting experience even to book-lovers like me, so here is my selection of short books that have profoundly changed, touched or helped me, and may do the same for you:
1. The War Of Art by Steven Pressfield
This is the single most motivational book I have ever read. If you want to become an artist, or an entrepreneur, or simply follow your calling (whatever it may be), read this book. It doesn’t give you a detailed account of what you have to do to succeed, but I guarantee that it will motivate you to get off your arse and make your move.
2. Lying by Sam Harris
Sam Harris’ essay is a brilliant ode to honesty. It helped me see that there are problems not only with evidently harmful lies, but with ‘white lies’ (“Aww, thanks, Aunt Minerva! I love this jumper!”), too. If you care about becoming a better person, you should definitely read this. I look it up every few weeks to remind myself of the importance of being honest.
3. What’s God Got To Do With It? by Robert G. Ingersoll
To me, Robert Ingersoll is one of the greatest people ever to have walked this planet: A fierce fighter against oppressive forms of religion and ideology, a titan of thought and love and honesty. His speeches filled stadiums in 19th century America, and this book will show you why. I still get goosebumps reading it, as I do often, and tip my hat to a character that had “all the attributes of a perfect man” (Thomas Edison).
This is a collection (edited by Pulitzer Prize-winner Tim Page) of some of his talks, interviews, letters, etc.
4. Writing That Works by Kenneth Roman & Joel Raphaelson
The best book I’ve ever read on writing: If you’re young and want to learn how to write crisply and effectively, I cannot recommend this highly enough. Whether it’s e-mails, memos or presentations – this little guide will drastically improve your communication skills and empower you to get stuff done. It gets straight to the point and leaves out all the bullshit you often see in similar works.
5. Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott
If I were ever make a list of (who knows?) “Books That Completely Miss Their Point But Are Still Mind-Blowingly Wonderful”, this will easily make the top. Its subtitle is “Some Instructions on Writing and Life”, but you will find 100 books that are better at teaching you how to write (and how to live, too, I presume).
That said, I should mention that it’s nonetheless aimed at writers (or introverts in general) – I just don’t think that the writing advice is greatly useful if you’re looking to improve your technique.
And here’s why you should read it anyway: It’s an awe-inspiring cocktail of humour, wisdom and tragedy, so tightly whirled together that you won’t find an ounce of boredom anywhere. It’s the most humane thing I have ever read.
Buying this book was the best book-buying-mistake I’ve ever made, and I think it’s one you should make, too.