Four Unusual Books for Self-Development
Four unforgettable books I can't help but go back to and reflect on.
I believe there are two kinds of books, and I don’t mean Fiction and Non-Fiction. I mean those you know you’ve read but can’t recall, the forgettable ones, and those that stay with you. No matter how long ago you read them, these are the books you go back to through revisions and highlights, never boring you.
Here are four unforgettable books I can’t help but go back to and reflect on.
Two books for personal development
The Pathless Path by Paul Millerd
The Pathless Path is for those questioning the old concept of success and the road to get there.
This path embraces uncertainty and discomfort as an alternative to the default path. Unlike a typical 21st-century approach, the pathless path leads to fulfillment rather than material success. Forget about the goal of finding a job, making money, and achieving other standard metrics and replace it with an active and conscious search for the work that you want to keep doing. Work that means something to you.
Millerd believes people are successful when “they have followed their own interests and talents to become the best they can be at what they care about most.”
This book invites you to let go of the old mindset around work and experiment with less usual kinds of work. The premise is that, through trial and error, you will eventually find something worth doing you can seek by working backward. The goal here is to build a life around being able to keep doing it.
Paul Millerd tells his story in a vulnerable and inspiring way. This book taught me to open my eyes and mind to opportunities I would have never seen or considered.
You don’t need a big corporate job to call yourself successful; you must permit yourself to explore your interests.
Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell
Also related to success, Outliers explores the necessary elements for success and the conditions of those most likely to aid in its achievement.
At first, Gladwell explains that besides natural ability, other factors for success are effort and time. According to his theory, the key to success in any field is practicing ten thousand hours, that is, twenty hours of work per week for ten years.
What I find most encouraging about his theory is that success depends on each of us. If you put in the time and work, you can expect outcomes. We each hold the key to our success.
After studying what sets high achievers apart, Gladwell explains that where we come from matters. Our culture, family, generation, and experiences of our upbringing.; factors that aren’t in our control are decisive when calculating our chances for success.
Outliers are those who have been given opportunities and have had the strength and presence of mind to seize them.
We’ve all met people who blame factors beyond their control for their results or lack thereof. Malcolm Gladwell shows us that while those factors may play a role in success, what we do or don’t put in when faced with an opportunity can be a deal-breaker.
“Success is a function of persistence and doggedness and the willingness to work hard for twenty-two minutes to make sense of something that most people would give up on after thirty seconds.”
Two books to reflect on
Demian by Hermann Hesse
Nothing like a book that makes you ponder and analyze its contents.
Demian explores morality through the experiences of Emil Sinclair, a young boy caught between good and evil, represented as light and darkness.
From a broad perspective, the story talks about duality and spirituality. Duality, through the opposing yet interdependent forces of good and evil, and spirituality, through the need to open oneself to one’s unconsciousness.
What I believe to be the most exciting aspect of the story is that you get these topics from the perspective of someone very young. Emil Sinclair understands good and evil as two worlds close enough that you could easily slip into one another. For him, the world looks like a maze of paths and choosing the right one early on matters a lot. He constantly deals with pressure and fear.
The black-or-white way he sees the world causes Emil to experience many struggles. I particularly liked the one related to how useful a citizen he is and the fear his nature would lead him in the other direction.
“I wanted only to live in accord with the promptings which came from my true self. Why was that so very difficult?”
While the book is recommended for young audiences, its topics are wide enough to find at least one relatable struggle that the character faces. I read it at twenty-seven, and my sister read it at fifteen. We both loved and rescued different aspects of it as the book discusses a broad range of topics.
“The question was still whether with time I could become a good son and useful citizen, or whether my nature urged me onto other paths.”
A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
Here’s a book I believe all female writers should read.
In 1929, Virginia Woolf gave a talk about women and fiction. Her lecture reflects on the development of literature and the fact that men historically have produced more works of art than women.
Her question throughout the book is: “Why is that?”
While researching, Woolf finds a reference that men are mentally stronger than women. Of course, she does not accept that explanation, so she sets out to discover a different answer. You can’t help but cheer her on. Go, Virginia, Go!
While analyzing the traditional gender roles, she points out that men have three advantages over women: Money, space, and education, which leads her to realize:
“A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.”
Money, a personal space, and time for writing were resources women didn’t generally possess in 1929.
Her main point is that intellectual freedom depends on material things.
That was such a big “Aha” moment for me. We typically like to motivate ourselves by thinking that everything we need to succeed is within ourselves.
This book is full of clever insights that are still relevant in today’s world.
“Suppose, for instance, that men were only represented in literature as the lovers of women, and were never the friends of men, soldiers, thinkers, dreamers; how few parts in the plays of Shakespeare could be allotted to them; how literature would suffer! We might perhaps have most of Othello; and a good deal of Antony; but no Caesar, no Brutus, no Hamlet, no Lear, no Jaques — literature would be incredibly impoverished, as indeed literature is impoverished beyond our counting by the doors that have been shut upon women.”
Exploring our interests through work while searching for what we want to do in the long term
Putting effort and time into accomplishing outstanding results
Reflecting on the purposes of our actions
Questioning the Status Quo
We can learn more through these books; I like to go through their ideas from time to time.
Is there a book that made you reflect on any specific topic? A book that, regardless of when you read it, you go back over and over?