I don’t think the modernity of a book is a good judge of its value and wisdom. Wisdom is timeless, and fashionable trends fade with the fickle tastes of the times.
Below is a small list of the most inspiring and life changing books and essays I’ve had the fortune of reading:
1) As a Man Thinketh, by James Allen
2) Self-Reliance, by Ralph Waldo Emerson
3) How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie
4) Think and Grow Rich, by Napoleon Hill
5) The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen Covey
6) Five Major Puzzle Pieces of the Life Puzzle, by Jim Rohn
7) Man’s Search for Meaning, by Viktor Frankl
The ones above have had the greatest impact on my life. I can remember reading each of these books and the various moments when they provided me with life changing epiphanies. They’re all relatively short, but contain profound, timeless wisdom. They are cited as some of the most widely influential books and read by some of the greatest leaders in recent history.
The following books refined my perspective on life and myself, but require a good deal of intellectual energy to read and digest:
The Will to Believe, by William James
The Denial of Death, by Ernest Becker
The Genealogy of Morals, by Nietzsche
The Theory of the Leisure Class, by Thorstein Veblen
And aphorisms, reflections, and thoughts by a few of the greatest minds:
Ideas and Opinions, by Albert Einstein
Pensees, by Pascal
Maxims and Reflection, by J.W. Goethe
And lastly: why do you want to read? What do you think it’s gonna do for you?
The reason I ask is that if you don’t know “why” you’re reading or learning something, it won’t change you. It will simply leave superficial impressions on your memory, and not lasting changes on your character. And the “why” must be powerful enough to drive you towards growth, it needs to contain enough emotion and enough reason so that what you read sticks in your mind and literally attaches itself to your character and aids in the construction of your worldview. That way it’ll never leave you and you’ll be more of a person.
It doesn’t matter what we know. It matters who we are, because ultimately who we are dictates what we do with what we know, and that makes all the difference.
So I ask, if you’re trying to develop yourself into someone better, into your full potential, allow yourself to change. Suspend judgement. Admit that you don’t know anything. Allow yourself to be wrong. Only then will you able to gain wisdom and grow and achieve destined greatness.
If you happen to take me up on my suggestions and read these books, read them with an open mind. Spend time with them. Meditate and reflect on the implication of their message on your life. Be curious and passionate, and they will teach you.