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Life Lessons in an Eclectic and Enlivening List of 22 Books

Lamott, Plato, Wilkerson, and a murmur of Montgomery.

By Aurora EliamPublished 3 years ago 7 min read
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Life Lessons in an Eclectic and Enlivening List of 22 Books
Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

We have moved beyond 2020, a calamitous year for our shared world, and into 2021 with hopeful hearts, renewed vigor, and expanded perspectives for the future, in the best possible circumstances.

In honor of the new year, here are 22 books covering everything from history, creativity, self-development, attachment theory, animals, philosophy, and parenting with a side of self-love, making up an internal bookshelf filled to the brim with wisdom that resonates through the ages yet enlivens our world today and tomorrow.

22 Life Lessons From 22 Enlivening Books:

Lessons and Reflections on Humanity

1. From Caste, by Isabel Wilkerson: The price of privilege is the moral duty to act when one sees another person treated unfairly.

“Few problems have ever been solved by ignoring them. …In fact, you do the opposite. You educate yourself.” —Caste, Isabel Wilkerson

2. “This is the best reason to learn history: not in order to predict the future, but to free yourself of the past and imagine alternative destinies. Of course, this is not total freedom — we cannot avoid being shaped by the past. But some freedom is better than none.”—Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, Yuval Noah Harari

3. From Yes to Life: In Spite of Everything, by Viktor Frankl: Life takes on the meaning that we attribute to it. And hope, creativity, nature, art, love, and people can give our life’s a deeper meaning and purpose.

4. From The Republic, by Plato: Every soul has a dominant disposition — an essential nature — and justice is, in large part, staying true to this nature. It’s all a delicate balance, and desiring too much of one thing or veering from one’s nature will upset it. Justice, in itself, is worthwhile, and it is better to be just than unjust.

5. From Helen Had A Sister, by Penelope Haines: Life is a precarious pendulum, sometimes filled with joy and sometimes sorrow. The beauty of life is in its rhythmic cadence. Use your head to live with heart.

6. From The Richest Man In Babylon, by George S. Clason: We already have the ability to grow prosperity from what we already have. Our situation in life matters less than living within our means, saving money, and paying off debt. The best lessons are often the most simple.

7. From Nature’s Mutiny: How the Little Ice Age of the Long Seventeenth Century Transformed the West and Shaped the Present, by Philipp Blom: Everything is connected. And the profound effects of just a few degrees of climate change can alter the course of civilization, forever.

8. “If someone is not treating you with love and respect, it is a gift if they walk away from you. If that person doesn’t walk away, you will surely endure many years of suffering with him or her. Walking away may hurt for a while, but your heart will eventually heal. Then you can choose what you really want. You will find that you don’t need to trust others as much as you need to trust yourself to make the right choices.”—The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz

“The Four Agreements

1. Be impeccable with your word.

2. Don’t take anything personally.

3. Don’t make assumptions.

4. Always do your best. ”

Lessons on Creating and Neuroplasticity

9. From Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, by Elizabeth Gilbert: Creativity is primarily a state of mind that is nourished and guided by the individual and not beholden to external perceptions or judgments.

“The essential ingredients for creativity remain exactly the same for everybody: courage, enchantment, permission, persistence, trust — and those elements are universally accessible.”

10. From Power of Two: How Relationships Drive Creativity, by Joshua Wolf Shenk: The essence of creativity can be expanded when people work in pairs. Even when we work alone, we are collaborating with the voice in our head.

“Only one person has the right to criticize me. That is Picasso.” — Henri Matisse

“All things considered, there is only Matisse.” — Pablo Picasso

11. “That the human qualities we value — creativity, responsiveness, resilience — are integral to the disorder, confusion, and disarray that produce them.” Messy: The Power of Disorder to Transform Our Lives, Tim Harford

12. From Rewire Your Anxious Brain: How to Use the Neuroscience of Fear to End Anxiety, Panic, and Worry, by Catherine M. Pittman Ph.D. and Elizabeth M. Karle MLIS: We can rewire our brains by tapping into the power of the amygdala and cortex. The brain is a powerful tool, and the more that we work to change the way that we respond to fear, the more resilient we will become.

13. “You are responsible for what you say and do. You are not responsible for whether or not people freak out about it.”—You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life, Jen Sincero

“If you base your self-worth on what everyone else thinks of you, you hand all your power over to other people and become dependent on a source outside of yourself for validation. Then you wind up chasing after something you have no control over.”

14. “When you seek to better yourself through a commitment to continuing education and personal development, you unlock the secret to a life of fulfillment and happiness. The surest way to achieve this is, to begin with, a rock-solid foundation—one built on core values.”—The Value of You: The Guide to Living Boldly and Joyfully Through the Power of Core Values, Christopher D. Connors

Lessons on Life Through Poetry:

15. “How we deal with darkness in different phases of our lives, enables us to find the path of light again.”—My Soul Rants: Poems of a Born Spectator, Gurpreet Dhariwal

“My journey of life is bright,

Because in it my light resides,

When a problem occurs to me,

Sometimes, I let my fate decide.”

Lessons on Writing:

16. From Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, by Anne Lamott: When faced with an insurmountable task or problem, take things one step at a time, or “bird by bird” to release overwhelming feelings.

“For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die.”

17. “An outline, or plot, is really just a roadmap through your story. A flexible roadmap. One possible route. There might be detours, once you start writing. You might take side trips you didn’t even see coming.” — Write a Novel: How to Outline a Book in Three Hours, Shaunta Grimes

Lessons on the Human-Animal Bond:

18. The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness, by Sy Montgomery: How we treat the precious creatures of Earth matters, whether it be animal, human, or any other form of life.

“Most every animal can learn, recognize individuals, and respond to empathy.”

19. First Dog on Earth: How It All Began, by Irv Weinberg: The companionship between humans and animals is a tale as old as time. That link between us and our dogs or other pets goes beyond unconditional love and companionship. The invisible ties that bind us to our pets can have a dramatic impact on our lives and our health. It certainly makes it enjoyable.

Lessons on Relationships:

20. From Parenting with PTSD: the impact of childhood abuse on parenting, by Joyelle Brandt and Dawn Daum: Breaking the silence allows for an honest conversation about the lifetime journey of healing from childhood trauma. You are not alone.

21. From How to Speak so Little Kids Will Listen, by Joanna Faber and Julie King: Everyone wants to be talked to and treated with kindness and respect, children are no different. By working on our connection with our children, we can more easily influence the positive behaviors we wish to see and build a life-long healthy bond.

22. From Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love, by Dr. Sue Johnson EdD: The love relationship functions with an attachment bond and a safe emotional connection is paramount to preserve the connection.

“Love has an immense ability to help heal the devastating wounds that life sometimes deals us. Love also enhances our sense of connection to the larger world. Loving responsiveness is the foundation of a truly compassionate, civilized society.”

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About the Creator

Aurora Eliam

A freelance writer, editor and animal rehabiitator.

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