Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse
Siddhartha, a member of the Indian higher caste, denounces his position in order to seek enlightenment and ends up rediscovering himself through a spiritual journey. It’s hard for you not to find yourself relating to the main character: a person with flaws that tries desperately to find peace through his multiple encounters. To no surprise, Hermann Hesse — who was influenced by different philosophies — won The Nobel Prize in Literature for a style of writing that is simple but manages to capture and expose powerful messages. By all means this is a beautiful book that will accompany you long after you read it.
If This Is a Man by Primo Levi
Primo Levi — being one of the only survivors of the Auschwitz concentration camp — details his horrific experience following his arrest as a member of the Italian anti-fascist resistance during the Second World War. Never judgmental or self-pitying, always an observer, Levi reports the facts and allows the reader to answer the tough questions. The book may be perceived as a study on the best and the worst qualities of human beings, a discussion into the boundaries of the word ‘man’. The Guardian calls Levi’s autobiography ‘A life-changing book’ , an opinion that we could not agree with more.
The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran
A prophet is about to leave the city of Orphalese, but before he does so the citizens sit with him and ask him to share his wisdom regarding everyday life. This novel arouses a discussion on the condition of human beings in a beautifully poetic way. Translated into more than 50 languages, it hasn’t fallen out of print since its first publication in 1923. It is a book that will leave you feeling wiser after having put it down, so don’t be surprised when you feel yourself wanting to pass on the brilliant novel to your loved ones.
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
At the heart of the story is Hazel — a patient in her last stage of cancer — and Augustus, a cancer survivor. Although only one of the few contemporary novels that made the list, reading this book is an emotional and powerful experience. Despite the premise for the story being hugely tragic, Green balances humour, wit and despair to entice the reader, proving himself as one of the most important authors of his generation. This is a deeply moving read, and a testament to the many and varied ways in which a terminal disease can effect us and our loved ones.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
A dog is mysteriously found murdered and Christopher — despite discouragement from everyone around him — is determined to find the culprit. From this point onwards, his whole life will be different. What is truly exciting about this book is that it is written from the first person perspective of someone with Asperger Syndrome, a voice that is rarely heard in literature. The book details poignantly the routes of thinking and daily obstacles of such a person, whilst balancing upon witty humour and a scintillating plot line.
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby
This is the true story of Jean-Dominique Bauby, a journalist who — in 1995, after a devastating stroke — found himself suffering from locked-in syndrome. Written from a first person perspective, the book is a vivid description of a man’s attempt to communicate by any means with the outside world. This book has sold millions of copies and also became an equally successful movie adaptation in 2007, which was then nominated for the Palme d’Or in Cannes. This remarkable story of courage and strength is an excellent read for everyone.
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
Santiago is a shepherd boy who decides to follow his dreams and discover the life beyond his own. On his way he meets many messengers, the most influential of which being the alchemist. Although both author and book have been heavily criticised, there is no denying that the beauty of The Alchemist hides in its simple and powerful truths, which can be summarised in one phrase: ‘follow your dreams, no matter what’. Truly inspiring and heart-warming, it is a definite must-read.
On the Road by Jack Kerouac
The story revolves around Sal Paradise and his idol Dean Moriarty, following their travels across the United States. This is the hugely celebrated seminal work of Jack Kerouac, the book becoming the symbol of the literature movement known as the Beat Generation. Partly fictional and partly autobiographical, the reader may find themselves struggling to recognise fact from fabrication in terms of both characters and events in the novel. Truly vibrant and rebellious, this story makes you want to escape from everything, get on the road and seize the day.
Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder
At 14 years old, Sophie’s journey begins. She starts receiving philosophical messages from a mysterious mentor, the effect of which force her to question her position in the world. This may be the book for you if you harbour an interest in philosophy but find its theoretical jargon difficult to grip. It seems Jostein Gaarder has written this wonderful novel with the specific purpose of making philosophy both accessible and enjoyable. A book that tackles complex subjects in an easily readable nature, it will expand your horizons.
Jonathan Livingston Seagull: A Story by Richard Bach
Jonathan Livingston Seagull is the name of a bird who decides to live a life different from the one that his fellows choose. The novella is written by a former US Air Force pilot and serves as an allegory to the notion of following your heart, even though the road may be tough. Bach’s words are perfectly complemented by Russell Munson’s astonishing photographs of seagulls, which beautifully illustrate the story of this non-conforming bird who wishes only to fly. This is a great reading experience for all, full of positive energy and inspiration.