Thursday, 16 October 2014

Inspirational books I read in my youth

On October 2, I wrote about the popular fiction I read and enjoyed in my teens and twenties. Today, I'm going to briefly discuss some of the nonfiction books that influenced me and my outlook on life early in my youth. This is going to be relatively easy because, back then, I didn’t read many of those.

To start with, I read a lot of spiritual literature by some of the great mystics of India, which included some thirty-odd books written by my own spiritual preceptor. I still read them. They infuse me with a sense of calm and peace, even if for a brief while, and enable me to recharge my batteries, exhausted in dealing with life’s mundane affairs. Spiritual reading also serves as a necessary counterbalance to my daily dose of stimulating literature.

Among the other mind healing and soul cleansing books I read early on, five books in particular are etched in lasting memory.


1. As a Man Thinketh by James Allen (1902), the British philosopher-writer

2. Jonathan Livingston Seagull (1970) by Richard Bach, American writer

3. Gandhi: An Autobiography or The Story of My Experiments with Truth (first serialised during 1925-28) by Mahatma Gandhi

4. The Power of Positive Thinking, 1952, by Norman Vincent Peale, minister and author

5. The Discovery of India, 1946, by Jawaharlal Nehru, independent India’s first prime minister

As I grew up I discovered many more spiritual, inspirational, and motivational thinkers and writers such as Bertrand Russell, Eknath Easwaran, Thich Nhat Hanh, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Peace Pilgrim (Mildred Lisette Norman), Paul Brunton, Eckhart Tolle, Paulo Coelho, and Joseph Murphy, among others. I'm not mentioning specific titles as an internet search will provide you with some of their best-known books. Every one of them is a veritable treasure.

There are days when I read and reread only these books and each time I do, I discover something new and enlightening, something that I find beneficial in more ways than even I realise.

14 comments:

  1. I didn't read many inspirational type stories when I was a kid. Too busy reading space tales and animal and sport stories I guess.

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    1. Charles, I read them from a very young age. Besides, my dad used to narrate real inspirational stories many of which were handed down to him by his mother.

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  2. Ditto Charles. I think I had my fill with a catholic education and upbringing, which perhaps turned me away from faith and the spirituality.

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    1. Col, I wasn't brought up practicing religion as much as living spirituality the basis of which was to each his or her own faith and its practice.

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  3. I've read three of the five you list, each just once. I also, while in college, read a book on Buddism, and another on Taoism, both interesting though neither convincing me to dig deeper. I have, from earliest youth, found the greatest peace in Nature. A day, even a few hours, walking in nature, though the fields, trees, by streams, among the animals and birds (not at a zoo, but out wild) gives me an inner peace nothing else can.

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    1. Richard, I love your idea of inner peace. I think most of us like being with nature as a means to finding inner peace and joy and discovering a little about ourselves. You paint a lovely picture of nature. It is what I look forward to most when driving or taking a bus or train out of my city, a rarity these days.

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  4. I did not read inspirational books much in my youth. I remember reading Jonathan Livingston Seagull about the time the book came out, but I think it was because my first husband was interested in it for the flying... he was/is a pilot. I did read some Buddhist writings by Alan Watts about that time. In the last 20 years I read some books by Eknath Easwaran... very inspiring.

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    1. Tracy, I have read Buddhist teachings and writings but none by Alan Watts. Thanks for mentioning his name. I'm happy to know that you are familiar with Eknath Easwaran whose books are truly inspiring. He wrote extensively on meditation and in a way any one who read it had no difficulty in understanding or following it. I find his eight-point programme, which includes "slowing down," extremely useful.

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  5. While still in college, I was moved by the sermons of Helmut Thielicke, who preached to gatherings of air-raid survivors in Stuttgart during the final days of WWII. Later, I became absorbed by Dietrich Bonhoeffer's LETTERS AND PAPERS FROM PRISON, which I adapted into a play. More recently, I found much insight in the writings and recorded talks of Tibetan Buddhist Pema Chrödrön.

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    1. Ron, thanks for mentioning Helmut Thielicke, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Pema Chrödrön. I have read very little western spiritual and inspirational literature outside of Indian mysticism, of which there is much I still haven't read. Indian mystics lay emphasis on faith and devotion in God above everything else.

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  6. A great selection Prashant - tso important o have the time to read and re-read when growing up!

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    1. Sergio, thank you. It's important for me to read a little philosophy every week. It keeps me grounded.

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  7. I haven't read any of these - I guess we all have our own inspirations and perhaps are less likely to share favourites... I will look these ones up. Although I do remember Jonathan Livingston Seagull back in the day.

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    1. Moira, JLS is one of my favourite nonfictional books and I have read it more than once—truly inspirational.

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