Top Inspiring Books

I do a lot of reading. I have a Kindle, I am a member of Book of the Month, I have a library card, and I use all of them regularly. However, in all of my literary travels, there are a few works that have stuck with me. They have inspired me to write, to live, and to simply be better.

Death Be Not Proud

I remember reading Death Be Not Proud for the first time in middle school. I raced through the entire memoir in a day, and then went back to the beginning to re-read. Death Be Not Proud is written by John Gunther, and it is his telling of the story of his son, Johnny, and his decline and death from a brain tumor. In the first read, I can recall being in awe of Johnny’s strength as his bright future was taken from him. I felt every emotion, crying and laughing right along with the Gunthers. Yet, as I have read it again, (and again), and have allowed the story to marinated, I believe that Death Be Not Proud had a greater affect on me.

There are many times when I write where I question whether it is worth it. Will anyone read what I write, does it matter in the long-run, what is the impact of my work. But what struck me years ago when reading Death Be Not Proud is the power that words have. Here I was, almost 70 years after Johnny’s death, learning about him, feeling like I knew his personality, celebrating with his triumphs and grieving over his loss. Gunther, in his leap of faith to be vulnerable and write this memoir about his son, has immortalized him. People all over the world are still inspired by Johnny and know his name. Which honestly, shows how Gunther was able to further his sentiment “death be not proud”. Decades after cancer took Johnny, Johnny is still inspiring others through his fathers work.

A Tale of Two Cities

A Tale of Two Cities has served two roles in my life. First, it has been my favorite book since I first read it in the 9th grade. Second, it is the number one work that constantly encourages me to be better. The level of story-telling artistry that Charles Dickens achieves within its pages have been pushing me forward in my writing for years.

In case you have never read the classic, A Tale of Two Cities is set in London and Paris shortly before and during the time that the French Revolution is occurring. The story is moving and historical, with characters that you will either fall in love with or turn up your nose at. Yet this is not what makes this work so special.

As you begin to read the pages of Dickens masterpiece, it almost feels difficult and disjointed. Several different storylines with different characters all happening at the same time. I can admit the first time that I read it I was frustrated. That is until the glorious end when in a shocking twist, all these characters and stories that you have come to love crash together into a single tale that truly took my breath away.

I have always been in awe at the level of planning and literary mastery it would take to create a novel like A Tale of Two Cities. To create multiple stories in one book, and then make them seamlessly collide is far beyond my current skill. Dickens shows the turmoil of the French Revolution not just in the story, but in the way the story is told. When I think of A Tale of Two Cities, I can only hope and strive to be as advanced as Dickens in the ways that I present art to the world.

When Breath Becomes Air

Many times when I think of books that have inspired me, I think of novels that have been around for years. This is not the case with When Breath Becomes Air. It has only been a few years since the passing of Dr. Paul Kalanithi, but his words have already reached the masses.

Another memoir, When Breath Becomes Air is written by Dr. Kalanithi and tells of his journey as he discovers that he has IV metastatic lung cancer in the same building he has treated hundreds of patients himself.

When Breath Becomes Air shows Dr. Kalanithi as he graciously navigates loss of skills and his retirement from neurosurgery, his joy as he welcomes his daughter into the world, and his acceptance as his cancer spreads. This memoir truly is one that just makes you want to be better. To live more, to love harder, and how to move through life in a way that seeks the positive, even when life only seems to provide negatives.

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