Five important books in 2011

© Christopher Hall
© Christopher Hall

The wise Confucius has a saying that goes like this: You cannot open a book without learning something. Well, this is a truth that I have discovered repeatedly over the years. Books have been my greatest teachers and I am grateful to the various authors for the gifts they have shared generously.


As the year 2011 draws to a close, I like to share with you five books that have left a deep impression, inspired  and pushed me into actions. The books are (in random order):


1. The Autobiography of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux: The Story of a Soul

20 years ago, I chose the name Therese as my confirmation name because I was attracted to Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, also known as Saint Thérèse of Child Jesus. I was drawn to her because of a short story I read about her kindness towards a prisoner on the brink of death as she prayed for his soul. 


I finally decided to read up more on my patron saint because I was curious to know about this great saint who led a seemingly ordinary and obscure short life. What about her that made her such a great saint?


The book is truly a beautiful account, which was written near the end of her brief life. She entered a cloistered convent at the tender age of 15 (she knew she wanted to be a nun at age 3) and died of tuberculosis at age 24.


The core of her spiritual message, which is clearly demonstrated in her life - "the little way" - is a recognition that any act, no matter how small or trivial is infinitely valuable when it is done out of love. In spite of a difficult childhood where she lost her mother and fell into mysterious illness, she persevered in her love for God and people around her.


"It is not enough to love. We must prove that we do" is a quote by her that I am challenged to live by.


2. The Happiness Project

This book came to me just when I needed encouragement and push to launch Winifred & You. I have been sitting on this idea for at least a year or two before I finally took the plunge.


The most important lesson I took away from the book was "to enjoy the fun of failure", one of Rubin's many resolutions for the month of March where she focused on the topic of career. When I read that chapter, it felt as though it was written for me.


I have always been fearful of failure, absolutely terrified in fact. Hence I was very curious when Rubin shared that her trick in counteracting this fear was to tell herself that she enjoyed the fun of failure. And the mantra helped her!


Emboldened by this thought I went ahead and launched my website instead of giving in to my self-doubt and inner critic. It was simultaneouly liberating and terrifying when I first launched it. I too chanted "it is fun to fail" and challenged myself. You know what? I discovered that failure is not as intimidating as it sounds. It can easily be a friend instead of a foe.


Even though it has only been a short 3 months I am so happy that I made it happen because this is something that is so close to my heart. Thanks to The Happiness Project that gave me the necessary boost when I needed it. Can you guess what's gonna be on my New Year resolution for 2012?


3. Positivity

I was blown away by the promise of this book with regards to the powerful impact of positivity in our lives. It changes the way I look at positive emotions and encourages me to strive to increase positivity in my life.  


The most significant finding is that positive emotions obey a tipping point; the sweet spot where a small change makes a huge difference. Here is where I sat up and took notice and I think you should too.


The difference between having a languishing and flourishing life lies in this magic number 3:1 namely when positive emotions outnumber negative emotions by at least 3:1 you soar. Below this number, you languish. This is fascinating and exciting stuff which has been investigated rigorously.


Inspired and fired up by these findings, I aim to inject more positivity into my life, share this great news and provide the tools to achieve this through this blog. Thus we can all flourish together!


4. Roots of Empathy: Changing the World Child by Child

This book highlights the importance of children and those who are involved in their development. Roots of Empathy is a program for school-aged children where they are taught the human dynamic of parent-child relationship in a classroom by observing the interaction between with a real baby and her/his parent.


Through this interaction children learn about emotional literacy, empathy, and a self-concept of themselves as strong and caring individual. A huge component of this book centers on empathy and the important role that parents play in cultivating a child's innate capacity for empathy.


To me this book presents very good and revolutionary ideas like how the baby is a good teacher because babies love without borders or definition. Other topics include how bullying can be addressed and curbed through empathy and the importance of understanding your child's temperament in nurturing him/her. Definitely a book that provokes thinking and reflection.


5. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly: A Memoir of Life in Death

Beautifully written from start to end, this is a story about the indomitable strength of the spirit, mind and imagination. Jean-Dominique Bauby was at the height of his success as the editor-in-chief of French Elle when he suffered a stroke that resulted in locked-in syndrome. He was 43 years old.

Paralyzed from head to toe, his mind was intact and active. However he was imprisoned inside his own body, unable to speak or move. His only means of communication was through the blinking of his left eyelid and that was how he wrote the book; by dictation, letter by letter to an assistant.


This stunningly eloquent memoir was published two days before he died in 1996. I am so grateful to have the chance to read this masterpiece. His story touched me so profoundly that words are not adequate to express how I feel when I watched and then read the book.


Being a stroke patient myself, I had a taste of how it feels like when you lose control over your body and mind. For a brief moment when I was in the ICU I was not able to articulate my name even though it was at the tip of my tongue. It was one of the scariest moments of my life. 


Fortunately for me it was not permanent. There is no way I can understand what Jean-Do went through, the anguish and despair that he must had felt. In his book he shared candidly that he wanted to die at first. Yet he managed to lift himself up and produce the most remarkable and poignant memoir to inspire the world. What a gift!


After reading his memoir, I was inspired to share my own story and I thank him for showing me courage, determination, creativity and beauty through his writing.


It has been a joy sharing my five books with you. I hope you have found your "five books" this year that inspire you to live your life more meaningfully.

Don't forget to share your list as well because sharing is sexy :)


Come, let's flourish together!