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1. Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
This is the personal diary of stoic philosopher and Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius. He wrote it for himself to remember his principles. It’s been loved for over 1,800 years for good reason.
Since it is possible that you may depart from life this very moment, regulate every act and thought accordingly.
(I printed this onto a 3×5 notecard and kept it on my desk for months.)
The best way of avenging yourself is not to become like the wrong doer.
No longer talk at all about the kind of man that a good man should be, but be such a man.
It is in our power to have no opinion about a thing, and not to be disturbed in our soul; for things themselves have no natural power to form our judgements.
Do you exist then to take pleasure, and not at all for action or exertion? Do you not see the little plants, the little birds, the ants, the spiders, the bees working together to put in order their several parts of the universe? And are you unwilling to do the work of a human being, and do you not make haste to do that which is according to your nature? But it is necessary to take rest also. It is necessary: however, nature has fixed bounds to this too: she has fixed bounds both to eating and drinking, and yet you go beyond these bounds, beyond what is sufficient; yet in your work it is not so, you stop short of what you can do. So you don’t love yourself, for if you did, you would love your nature and her will.
2. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
I’d never read Mark Twain and had first planned on reading the more popular Huckleberry Finn until I realized this book came first. I was glad I started here. I read Huckleberry Finn later in the year and liked Tom Sawyer more. Twain’s mastery of language and good sense of humor make him delightful to read.
3. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey
This book should be required reading for every person. It reminded me of powerful personal relations truths that many of us fail to implement into our lives. If you learned and applied the principles, it would solve 99% of the relationship problems that are in your control. Will definitely read again.
This is actually a paraphrase, and he said it in passing, but it stuck with me. Advice, when relationships are strained, is perceived as judgment.
4. The Pearl by John Steinbeck
This short story about the power of wealth’s influence was the only book I read from my favorite author this year. You can finish in a day, but you’ll probably remember it forever. As always, the language is superb.
As he describes a man diving underwater in search of a pearl:
Now, Kino’s people had sung of everything that happened or existed. They had made songs to the fishes, to the sea in anger and to the sea in calm, to the light and the dark and the sun and the moon, and the songs were all in Kino and in his people—every song that had ever been made, even the ones forgotten. And as he filled his basket the song was in Kino, and the beat of the song was his pounding heart as it ate the oxygen from his held breath, and the melody of the song was the grey-green water and the little scuttling animals and the clouds of fish that flitted by and were gone.
5. 1984 by George Orwell
I’m a sucker for reading influential American literature, and 1984 did not disappoint. I now understand the hype, and it will make you appreciate the quality of dissent in America even if at times it’s grating and unkind.
6. The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry by John Mark Comer
This book will have you re-think your life’s pace and remember again how important peace is for spiritual health. It’s full of considerations that speak to the heart and practical advice.
Hurry is violence on the soul.
7. Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin
John Howard Griffin was a white man in the early 1960s, but he dyed his skin black, lived in the south for a few weeks looking for work, and beautifully yet painfully articulated the change on people’s faces when your skin isn’t so light. He stepped into another world, perilous and uneasy, and risked his safety to write about it. Strongly recommend.
8. The Power Broker by Robert Caro
I finished this massive book this year though I started it last year. If you’re interested in the pursuit of power and how the story of New York City in the 20th century played out through this lens, it’s worth your time (and it’s going to take a lot of it).
I wrote a review of this book here.
9. A Night to Remember by Walter Lord
This book is the only book you need about the sinking of the Titanic. Originally published in 1955, A Night to Remember weaves a story out of eye-witness testimony to the tragic event which no one thought could happen. The story grips me and is so fascinating because of the element of seeming fate involved. If they had turned the ship 15 seconds sooner or later, it wouldn’t have sunk.
10. How to Own Your Own Mind by Napoleon Hill
Known for the more famous Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill organizes a life philosophy in this book based on his interviews with Andrew Carnegie. It’s about living from an obsessional desire and directing all your thinking around that purpose. I found it deeply motivating and inspiring. I listened to it on Audible but will be buying a physical copy to read more closely.