Three Books to Inspire

I believe my love of reading came from a childhood where I was surrounded by books. I've never been a morning person and as a little girl my mom would read me awake. Goodnight Moon was one of my first favorites. I still find reading aloud comforting, even as an adult.

My mom would find me a book whenever I had a new interest. From Queen Elizabeth I when I was in 3rd grade, to Chuck Jones, the animator of Looney Tunes, in middle school, to marine biology in high school, to my first Stephanie Pearl-McPhee book as an adult, my mom fostered my interests through books.

Last week my mom turned me on to the Three Books... project on NPR. This special series chooses a topic and finds three must-reads. While there are no doubt a ton of books that could be celebrated, NPR chooses three because, "three is a number that allows for conversation, completion, and understanding."

In a past life I was a librarian who recommended books to middle-school-aged children. Here, I'll try it for adults.

My Three Books To Inspire
What do all of these books have in common besides being inspirational? They were all given to me by my mom.

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
I first read The Alchemist shortly after graduating college. While I had a college degree, a salaried job, and a steady boyfriend, it was a time of uncertainty in my life. I've always been a really creative person and the path I had found myself following was easy. And maybe my uncertainty was just that- I had settled.

Reading The Alchemist changed my life. "Everyone believes the world's greatest lie- that at a certain point in our lives we lose control of what's happening to us and our lives become controlled by fate." I was no longer going to be complacent. But as time passed, like the people in this book, my life faded into routine. And then one day the King of Salem visited me in the form of a divorce. And now, like the main character, Santiago, I'm walking down the path less traveled, going after my personal legend. And when I hit bumps in my road I find myself looking to The Alchemist for encouragement.

The Alchemist combines travel, adventure, danger, and hope. It is truly a life-altering, incredibly inspiring book.

The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith
The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency features a strong woman protagonist breaking out of the traditional female role to follow her personal legend. Mma Precious Ramotswe, a "traditionally built African lady" uses her inheritance to become the first woman detective in Botswana. While being the first of anything may daunt some, Mma Ramotswe takes it all in stride, using her intuition and cunning to make Botswana a better place.

The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency is the first in a series of books that feature Mma Ramotswe. All books in the series are packed with exciting mysteries and beautiful portraits of Africa.

My Life in France by Julia Child
Being a woman, I'm empowered and inspired by reading the stories of powerful women who could. I'd like to introduce Julia Child. Need I say more?

Julia Child came into my life as a college student during a summer internship at the Smithsonian. I really had no idea as I cleaned and cataloged her kitchen tools, and helped to install the Julia Child Kitchen exhibit in the summer of 2002, what a huge inspiration she would be in my life. Her story shows that if you have an interest, work really hard to get good at it, and want to share it with others, it can happen.

In My Life in France Julia shares with us how the tome, Mastering the Art of French Cooking(MtAoFC) came about. Did you know it took over 7 years, several rejection letters, and numerous re-writes for the book to be published?

My Life in France is also filled with Julia's experiences living in Paris, Marseilles, Oslo, and the US. It is not only a romantic, inspiring travel book, but also shows that perseverance pays off.


  1. I told Erin that she had to think of three books that inspired her and she said, "I don't have to." Insurrection!

  2. If Erin won't, I will. After much contemplation, here are my three:

    (1) Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. Captures the absurdities and ironies of life (my own personal life view).

    (2) Land of 1,000 Hills: My Life in Rwanda by R. Carr She did not live an ordinary life & she inspired me to do the same. (Runner-up: Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortensen. OMG. Same thing--it's a big world & a little mortal like me or you CAN make a huge difference. Throw away the handbook and write your own story.)

    (3) Chronicle of A Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Beautiful, eloquent writing that shows how complicit we are in every little event and how totally connected. (Another in this category would be To Kill a Mockingbird, a beautiful lesson in the importance of empathy, compassion, and the realization that our humanity is thoroughly intertwined.)

    P.S. I loved all of the books you listed, as well. A reviewer of A McCall Smith's books called them "life affirming" and I couldn't agree more.

  3. I loved To Kill a Mocking Bird. Other books that have really touched me are The Prince of Tides (even though this book was over 700 pages I wanted it to be never-ending) and The Book Thief. Must-reads!


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