You only live once, but readers, in that one life, gain the wisdom of thousands. When you are reading a great book, you imagine yourself in that place the writer described as a little piece of heaven. You feel happiness, sadness, excitement and nerve-wracking anxiety all at once as you turn the pages of your favorite book.
A good read flushes adrenaline in veins and keeps one sane but some classic self-help books have something more to offer; they give you an insight to thoughtfulness, a thrill of creativity, imagination and personal growth as well. They light up your brain and help you grow morally, intellectually and physically with their nature of timelessness, universality and resonance with the reader.
From my personal to-read list, here is a list of 5 classic self-help books you wouldn’t want to miss reading.
Note: You can read these books for free on BookMigo app or from a free online repository of classic books, Project Gutenberg.
Autobiography of Ben Franklin
This autobiography is the masterpiece to take inspiration, and, to actualize that inspiration. Fairly every page in this book is motivational enough to light the spark of chasing seemingly unachievable goals and leaving no stone unturned to achieve those goals.
The theme of this classical piece is mastery and the storyline is based on real events of Ben Franklin; a little boy born in a poor family of 17 children with limited resources. However, nothing came in his way of quest for knowledge and hustle for curiosity, which made him one of the most influential people. This is a real story of passion, combined with hard work and persistence.
Here is a chunk from his book showing how fond he was of reading despite having no resources:
“…I had such a thirst for knowledge, more proper books had not fallen in my way…” So, he proposed to his brother to be paid for him boarding. “.. I could save half what he paid me. This was an additional fund for buying books”
The Prince by Machievalli
If wisdom and wit appeal to you, you must give a read to this ever-living classical novel, with self-preservation theme; The Prince.
Written originally in the Italian language, this bestseller is much more than a simple practical guide on how-to-rule, or (on a lighter note) a satire on how-not-to-rule.
In this classical hit, Machievalli tucks the diverse historical era into the words of wisdom by analyzing the reign of great rulers and criticizing their mistakes which caused their downfall. The universality of what he preaches to be a good ruler are yet synonymous with being a good leader, from which you can learn a great deal.
One of my very favourite passages from this classic novel is of chapter XVII: “Cruelty and Clemency, and whether it is better to be Loved or Feared” in which Machievalli writes:
“…and he must proceed in a temperate manner with prudence and humanity, so that too much confidence does not render him incautious, and too much diffidence does not render him intolerant”
Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
Theme: The Good Life
One of its own kind, this classic book “Meditation” is certainly a piece of literature that brings positive energy to you, the energy you might not even know already existed in you.
This book, based on the theme of good life, originally was not meant to be published, rather it was a collection of self-correction and continual-betterment thoughts of Aurelius. More of an assemblage of philosophical ideas, private thoughts and alleviating exercises to stay humble, empathetic, motivated, patient and generous.
Here is a beautiful piece of his writings:
“If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.”
Written years ago, this book still resonates with thousands of readers as the insights, based on stoicism philosophy, are practical, calming and life changing as the witty comprehensiveness is hypnotic enough to bring the best out of yourself, to channel the positive thoughts and to make your life happier and satisfying.
Walden Pond by Thoreau
The idea of wandering in the land of nature, all by yourself, exploring wildlife and embracing deep thoughts is fascinating. This is what is reflected in this classic book, Walden Pond, written by Thoreau, based on the theme, solitude, with main focus on individualism. It revolves around the idea of sufficiency of a man, himself, to survive and most importantly to be happy.
“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land, there is no other life but this.”
The love of nature, self-conscious thoughts and strength of one’s self is what we all are deep down missing in this racing world of technology, despite being happy superficially. This book is an insight, in fact a reminder for us to start cherishing the little moments, the small things and the few resources we have, and trust in the self power.
My life and Work by Henry Ford
Ideas, hard work, discipline, faith, consistency, good morals and disregard of competition is what this classical book is full of and we have a lot to learn from it.
Based on the theme of discipline, this autobiography of Henry Ford is not a lifestyle but the mindset we need to get motivation from. Written beautifully, it is the story of an assiduous man, Ford, who changed the world by his vision and hard work and still always preferred public benefit more than his own profit. Reading this book will give you chuckles and loads of inspiration.
Here’s a passage from this everlasting classical hit:
“I will build a car for the great multitude. It will be large enough for the family, but small enough for the individual to run and care for. It will be constructed of the best materials, by the best men to be hired, after the simplest designs that modern engineering can devise. But it will be so low in price that no man making a good salary will be unable to own one…”