10 Books That Will Grow Your Soul, Not Your Resume

John Eastman
Oct 14, 2015 · 5 min read

Medium articles, in general, deal with how to better your career or how to become a billionaire by creating a more meaningful morning routine. But they don’t mention how important it is to read for pleasure, without hoping for a return on your investment.

Judging the economic utility of every one of your actions, logging your life by the minute, is a sure way to go insane. Soul’s require growth just like any other part of your body. And the only way I know of to nourish your soul is through art.

So, this article won’t advance your career and it won’t make you a millionaire by telling you 21 habits of successful people. But it will help you look at the world a little differently, if only for a moment.

1. Sailing Alone Around the Room — Billy Collins

“We are all so foolish, my long bebop solo begins by saying, so damn foolish we have become beautiful without even knowing it.”

If you want bang for your buck, business books and psychology(“Outliers”) non-fiction are NOT the way to go. In general those books could be shortened into a 30-page article, but in order to sell more books they expand the length to justify the price.

If you truly want to “optimize” your reading experience. Read Poetry. Every word is carefully selected.

This collection will quickly warm your soul.

Pro Tip: Give this to a girl you like for her birthday and, shortly afterward, she will become your girlfriend. Guaranteed

2. The Blue Fox — Sjon

“I have seen the universe! It is made of poems!”

This book is short enough to read in a sitting( 112 pages in total). I read it twice in a single sitting. Then I went out and bought his other books and read them. This is required reading for my future wife.

3. Invisible Cities — Italo Calvino

“You take delight not in a city’s seven or seventy wonders, but in the answer it gives to a question of yours.”

This book is about Marco Polo describing the magical cities of Kublai Khan’s empire. It will make you look at cities in a different way. And if it doesn’t inspire wanderlust, then you are a robot.

4. An Intimate History of Humanity — Theodore Zeldin

courtesy of google

“The tyranny of the majority is weakening as majorities disintegrate into more and more minorities. Mere toleration would end up with general indifference. Tolerance is only a stepping stone to understanding”

A great non-fiction read that looks to history as a self-help guide. You’ll quickly learn that people are interesting and you should take more interest in others than you do in yourself. This book is also full of beautiful quotes for your twitter feed.

5. Going Solo — Roald Dahl

“What a fortunate fellow I am, I kept telling myself. Nobody has ever had such a lovely time as this!”

Another short book, this is an autobiography of the great writer Roald Dahl and his exploits as a fighter pilot in WWII. His love of life is bound to rub off on you.

6. Jitterbug Perfume — Tom Robbins

“Our individuality is all, all, that we have. There are those who barter it for security, those who repress it for what they believe is the betterment of the whole society, but blessed in the twinkle of the morning star is the one who nurtures it and rides it in, in grace and love and wit, from peculiar station to peculiar station along life’s bittersweet route.”

I’m a big fan of magical realism and eastern philosophy. Here is a writer who combines the two. Some of his ideas are a little out of date, but the man’s soul shines through in his writing… and isn’t that the point of writing — to rub up against someone wonderful and hope that a little bit of their spirit rubs off on you?

7. The World of Yesterday — Stefan Zweig

“Art can bring us consolation as individuals,” he said, “but it is powerless against reality.”

You may recognize Zweig as the writer that inspired Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel” but he is also one of the best writers of the 20th century. This book, chronicling his life in Vienna over the course of two World Wars will make you look long and hard at the world you live in. Vienna was the cultural center of the world, like Rome and Athens before it, and it is pertinent to remember that culture is not always enough, that things fall apart all too quickly.

8. Fahrenheit 451 — Ray Bradbury

Out of all the famous dystopian books( Huxley, Orwell, Asimov, etc., ), this book is the most prescient. People still read, sure, but with longer working hours and the “Golden Age of Television”, it is easy for us to forget how important books are. They are, as far as I know, the closest thing you can get to inhabiting the mind of another person. I suggest you take a sick day and curl up with this book.

9. Civilwarland in Bad Decline — George Saunders

This book will make you realize that your job isn’t that bad at all. Or, if you relate to the horrible way the workers in these stories are treated, then maybe you need to switch jobs.

10. Ficciones — Jorge Luis Borges

Nothing will spark your imagination and fuel your daydreaming like being lost in the labyrinths of Jorge Luis Borges mind. I had no idea fiction like this was possible until I read it and now my own creative writing is entangled with his vast imagination.

John Eastman

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Writer. Australian Shepherd Owner. San Francsico Native