This week I am sharing a list of my book mentors and the top 5 lessons they taught me. Finding a mentor is a question I often get. In this live stream, I give my best advice about how to find a mentor as well as how to be one.
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When a person succeeds, he or she will often point back at a specific mentor in their life: a teacher who believed in them, a parent who was always supportive, or a boss early on in their careers. These stories are often beautiful and touching.
My story is different. I grew up seeing no one in my family nor town whom I wanted to be like. I started traveling very young and met many adults during the first eighteen years of my life but I still found no one in particular to guide me. So I turned to books. I read voraciously. Books were (and still are) my mentors.
Through books, I learned success, love, life lessons, valuable history lessons, and diversity that I would never have had access to in real life. I read the words of Nobel Prize winners, ex-convicts, people who had suffered terribly, and billionaires. Tell me what you’ve read, and I’ll tell you who you are. Books play a huge role in forming young and old minds alike. It is sad for me to hear about a decline in reading today because I know the power of it firsthand.
Here are some of the key lessons my book mentors taught me (and continue to teach me):
1/ True Courage Isn’t Always Rewarded In The Moment But Will Never Be Forgotten. Truth and Justice Always Triumphs in the End
The history books are tainted in blood. Unfair treatment has always occurred. Books taught me about people who went through incredible injustice yet showed pure character. Their testimonies to the wrongs they suffered are priceless lessons for future generations that must never be forgotten.
Winston Churchill wrote, “Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
-Courage: Harriet Tubman: The Road to Freedom by Catherine Clinton and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
-Injustice: An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States for Young People by Rozanne Dunbar-Ortiz and A Young People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn
-Hope: The Diary of Anne Frank and Night by Elie Wiesel
-Suffering of the Poor and Innocent: Germinal by Emile Zola and Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol
-Repression: The Gulag Archipelago By Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsy and
-Horrors of Colonization and Slavery: Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
-Horrors of War: First They Killed My Father by Loung Ung and A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah
My takeaways: We must never forget history. I have made a point in my life of trying to read as much as possible about the various first-person encounters of people who were there and witnessed or experienced it.
2/ We Owe It To The World to Fight For Freedom of Thought and Speech, Fair Government, and Equal Human Rights. Without These Rights, The World Is a Dark and Terrible Place
Many books exposed me to the dangers of conformism and authoritarian regimes. These book mentors instilled in me the need to fight for freedom and cherish it as of top importance.
“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” — Nelson Mandela
The Giver by Lois Lowry
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Animal Farm and 1984 by George Orwell
Conversation in the Cathedral by Vargas Llosa
Schindler’s List by Steven Zaillian
Disgrace by J. M. Coetzee
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, and
The Burger’s Daughter by Nadine Gordimer
I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela by Nelson Mandela
My takeaways: While it isn’t my intent to be political and I generally avoid politics, I feel strongly about certain values like living in a country where I know people’s rights of speech are protected and discrimination is against the law. My book mentors taught me just how important these rights are and worth fighting for.
3/To Bring Love and Joy To Ourselves and To Others Is The Ultimate Motivation and Only Reason for Living
Why are we alive? What is the ultimate reason for living? What defines a good life? Some of the book mentors who exposed the purpose of living are really the most simple ones: to love and be loved, to spread kindness to others, and to appreciate the Earth.
Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
La Nausée by Jean-Paul Satré
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
Selected Poems by Pablo Neruda
The Art of Happiness by Dalai Lama
The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry
The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams
Have You Filled a Bucket Today by Carol McCloud
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
Gilead and Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson
The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran
Siddhartha, written by Hermann Hesse
The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle
The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz
Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
The Poetry of Robert Frost by Robert Frost
At Blackwater Pond: Poems by Mary Oliver
The Essential Rumi by Rumi
Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu
Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
The Secret by Rhonda Byrne
“Life is not what one lived, but what one remembers and how one remembers it” writes Gabriel García Márquez
My takeaways: All these books reinforced beliefs about life’s purposes: to love, be loved, and live in line with nature. We humans often overcomplicate things and that is what creates unhappiness. True happiness lies in simplicity, appreciation, and awareness of our surroundings and the people we encounter.
4/ Nothing Is Impossible; Humans Are Truly Capable of Anything and Stronger Too
When you think of successful people, you may think of luck, advantage, talent, or privilege. But my book mentors are of a different category. They are people who overcome extraordinary circumstances and were able to survive, thrive, and succeed despite their initial setbacks.
“I feel the capacity to care is the thing which gives life its deepest significance.”
The Pursuit of Happyness by Chris Gardner
Breaking Night: A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival, and My Journey from Homeless to Harvard by Liz Murray
What I Know for Sure by Oprah Winfrey
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and And Still I Rise by Maya Angelou
On My Own Two Feet: From Losing My Legs to Learning the Dance of Life by Amy Purdy
Wild by Cheryl Strayed
Tough As They Come by SSG Travis Mills
Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Aron Ralston
The Endurance by Caroline Alexander
John Paul Dejoria: From the Backseat to Billionaire by Michael Andrews
Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl
My takeaways: People are incredibly resilient. If you ever want to be inspired, you will never have to look very far to find the proof. Whenever I feel my circumstances are tough or the cards are stacked against me, I seek out these mentors to prove me wrong and motivate me to try anyway.
5/ Live Outside of the Box and Go Against the Mainstream; Normal is Boring, and Life is Art
The people who I seek out as mentors are those who went against the grain. I am naturally drawn to and fascinated by the innovators, the rebels, and those seeking deeper meaning to leave their mark during this short time we call life.
“Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes … the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules, and they have no respect for the status quo. … You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things. … They push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the people who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.” — Steve Jobs
4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris
Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki
Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography by Walther Isaacson
A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawkins
Leonardo da Vinci by Walther Isaacson
Invent and Wander: The Collected Writings of Jeff Bezos, With an Introduction by Walter Isaacson
Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson
Elon Musk: How the Billionaire CEO of SpaceX and Tesla is Shaping our Future by Ashlee Vance
Marie Curie: The Life and Legacy of the Legendary Scientist Who Became the First Woman to Win a Nobel Prize by Charles River Editor
Becoming by Michelle Obama
My Life in Full: Work, Family, and Our Future by Indra Nooyi
Never Give Up: Jack Ma In His Own Words by Suk Lee
My takeaways: Changemakers are those who follow their hearts and are relentless in the pursuit of success. They don’t want a career; they want to change the world. These are the people I love learning from and can never get enough of reading about.
Conclusion: Not everyone is privileged to find a real-life mentor and even if you do, their experience and knowledge is limited. Why wait? Why limit yourself? Real-life mentors are great but book mentors are immediately accessible to you today and you can seek their advice 24/7. Not only that but they share generously their knowledge, unlike many real-life mentors who are too busy or only answer a couple of specific questions. I highly recommend to everyone to seek out a couple of book mentors. If you don’t know where to start, you can download my mentor book list here.
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