5. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl
Frankl was an Austrian-Jewish psychiatrist who survived the Holocaust, and in this memoir he shares his experience in the concentration camps and how using psychotherapy to find a reason to live. Having been through four different camps,1942-1945, Frankl tries to answer how the daily life in the concentration camps reflected the mind of an average prisoner.
Using his own experience and the experiences of his patients, Frankl argues that we cannot avoid suffering but instead choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it and move forward with purpose. He also gives an introduction to his own theory of logotherapy, that the purpose in life is the search and discovery of what we personally find meaningful.
It is a beautiful read because it shows how our attitudes can influence the way we go about life and different situations. It also shares the power of humor and hope in one of the most inhumane events in the twentieth century.
4. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
This year I finally read one of the most known and translated books in the world, The Little Prince. I had promised myself that I would read it in its original French, and to my luck I randomly found it last year in the Shakespeare a synové bookshop in Prague.
The narrator of the story is a pilot who crashes his plane in the Sahara Desert, an accident that actually happened to the author. While trying to fix his plane the little prince appears and starts telling the pilot about his life, from leaving his small planet to travelling the universe. By leaving his safety, the little prince goes through a series of adventures and various encounters with the peculiarities of adulthood.
Though it is characterized as a children’s book, The Little Prince is very philosophical with several observations on life and morals. As an adult you capture the deeper meanings introduced and connect with the simplicity and innocence of your inner child.
3. Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie never disappoints, and this book is no exception. It all began when Ngozi Adichie received a letter from a friend asking her how to raise her daughter a feminist, the response became this book. The fifteen suggestions explain how to empower a daughter and how to raise a strong and independent woman. It is a book which offers perspective, even for people raising boys, making it a direct, humorous and an insightful read.
Ngozi Adichie is for me an incredibly talented writer and speaker, I recommend everyone to explore her books, such as Americanah, as well as her Ted Talks.
2. Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
Censored in the Soviet Union, Doctor Zhivagoportraits the Russian life between the Bolshevik Revolution and World War II, in a story of romance and tragedy. The book follows the life of Yuri Zhivago, a man who continuously suffers hardship throughout his life. It is an intricate plot introducing many characters, with Zhivago witnessing a revolution and a civil war, while still exploring questions of religion and philosophy.
Even being a fictional story, Boris Pasternak managed to create a powerful book based on historical events and portraying the lives of common Russians during a complicated time period. It is also a critic of a revolution which slowly transitioned into an authoritarian regime. Pasternak truly captured the complexity of humans, making this Russian literary classic an intriguing read.
1. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari
Sapiensdeepens our understanding of how history has shaped our societies and our personalities. Yuval Noah Harari answers how Homo Sapiens came to dominate the world. He explores why we believe in gods, nations, laws and human rights, as well as why we follow time, capitalism and bureaucracy. The book connects biology, anthropology, paleontology and economics, and covers the cognitive, agricultural and scientific revolutions.
These are complex issues, but Harari manages to explain them in a clear and comprehensible way. Human history is explored in every angle and this book is a fascinating introduction of essentially our own evolution.
Sapiens is followed by two other books; Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrowand 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, which I look forward to reading in 2019.