Books that shaped my life

I was born into a family of book worms. By the time I was in high school, our bookshelves transformed into a small library with over 4000 books. I used to read 4 – 5 books a week by the time I was sixteen, from the Greek philosophers to love stories, from biographies to old Tibetan teachings, from fantasy to war, from Musketeers to samurai, classic Russians to interwar period, dissidents to intergalactic warriors, etc.

My head got filled with bits of information, my vocabulary expanded extensively, my focus and concentration improved along with my analytical thinking skills. Best entertainment ever?

Being asked which one is my favourite book, it was very hard to think of just one. I have lots on my list, different genres, but those 3 still have an impact on me now:

The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

The Little Prince is a classic fable about a stranded pilot’s encounter with a young prince who travels from planet to planet in search of knowledge. Poetic language, symbolic scenes, and philosophical discussions make it a better fit for older readers. More than children, adults get reminded of the simple truths about what counts and what doesn’t count in life.  The book dwells upon the innocence and wisdom of childhood that begins to fade into ‘intelligence’ and craftiness as we grow-up. The prince insists that ‘grown-ups’ make the world more complicated than it actually should be. Saint-Exupéry isn’t afraid of suggesting an inherent sadness in the world, or of pointing to the meaningless lives so many lead. “People never have the time to understand anything that is worthwhile,” a fox laments. “They buy everything ready-made in the shops. That’s why people don’t have friends, because they can’t buy friends in the shops.” The story’s wisdom on loneliness – in cities crowded with people – and consumerism – in a world replete with natural joys – remains as resonant as ever.

“Men have forgotten this basic truth. But you must not forget it. For what you have tamed, you become responsible forever. You are responsible for your rose.” The fox is made to say the book’s most famous line: “On ne voit bien qu’avec le Coeur,” “It is only with one’s heart that one can see clearly.”

A book of wisdom, about the real meaning of life, loneliness and love, The Little Prince is an old time favourite.

The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho

An allegorical novel, The Alchemist weaves self-empowering and spiritual truths into an irresistible story, complete with an enchanting ending. In a nutshell: We too easily give up on our dreams, yet the universe is always ready to help us fulfil them. ‘When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.’ This belief is a marvellous one, support for anyone embarking on an important project.

The Alchemist does not get away from the fact that dreams have a price but not living your dreams also has a price. The world can be read like a book but we will never be able to understand it if we have a closed existence, complacent and unwilling to risk anything. “There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.” 

The Alchemist is remarkable for being a love story that renounces the idea that romantic love must be central to people’s lives. Each person has a destiny that exists independently of others. It is the thing that you would do or be even if you had all the love and money you want. “Remember that wherever your heart is, there you will find your treasure.”  Romantic love is important but it is not your duty; that is to pursue your dream. Only through devotion to the dream is the ‘soul of the world’ revealed to us, the knowledge that destroys loneliness and gives power. “Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but none about his or her own.”

“Don’t waste your time with explanations: people only hear what they want to hear.”

Man’s search for meaning, by Viktor Frankl

Man’s Search for Meaning has become one of the most influential books and continues to inspire us to find significance in the very act of living. “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”

Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl’s memoir about his three years spent in Nazi death camp, it is a lesson for spiritual survival. The first half of the book is based on his own experience and the stories of his patients. In the second half, Frankl details his therapeutic philosophy, known as logotherapy,  a conviction that the primary human drive is not pleasure but the pursuit of what we find meaningful. Frankl argues that we cannot avoid suffering but we can choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it, and move forward with renewed purpose. “Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.”

“Man does not simply exist but always decides what his existence will be, what he will become the next moment. By the same token, every human being has the freedom to change at any instant.”

You can find the books here:

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Written by Oana

I'm Oana, the storyteller behind the Romglish Vagabond. I am inspired by mental alchemy, mindfulness, creativity and exuberance. My enthusiasm for travelling helped me discover this spectacular planet with its myriad of cultures and places, but more importantly is providing guidance to a better, healthier and more grateful me. Thanks for joining me on my journey!

9 thoughts on “Books that shaped my life

  1. Love this post, I too found The Alchemist and Man’s Search for Meaning very powerful books. However, one I haven’t read is The Little Prince so I will be sure to read that one. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Thank you for sharing. I never was much of a reader until a couple years ago.

    The alchemist feel into my lap when a friend who was moving was giving away her books. It was in the pile and caught my eye. I loved the story and journey the character went on.

    Another one that I neglected but ultimately loved was “the Celestine prophecy”.

    Thanks for sharing, now I have a few more to add to my list!

  3. Being French, I’ve been hearing about the Little Prince for so long but never got to read it. Finally, your summary and especially the quotes made me willing to read it! I loved the Alchemist too and feel this is a book to read many many times to get and integrate everything ! I guess this is the case for the 3 books you recommend anyway 🙂 Thank you for sharing these great summaries!

  4. I read Little Prince in French first and after that Romanian and later English, different translation. You have the advantage to read the original, which is much better than any other interpretation. Every 5 to 10 year I read it again and get something else out of it! Enjoy it!!

  5. This is such a good list! I’ve already read the second 2 books on your list so I will have to read the Little Prince. I’ve never actually heard of it which is weird. Super excited for finding this new read!

    1. Sometimes The little prince is at the children section, which is not quite true, is more appropriate for adults. It has been translated into 300 languages and dialects, you will find it easily. Enjoy it!

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