1. It Happened On The Way To War by
One of the most memorable memoirs I’ve ever read, period. Rye Barcott co-founded a non-governmental organization to promote peace in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya — At the same time he was also a Marine Corps officer serving his duties in Iraq, Bosnia and the Horn of Africa. In that moment Barcott experienced a “dual-culture shock”. His heart was torn between two very contrasting worlds — peace, and war. A part of him wanted to change the lives of many through his charity work. Another part of him wanted to taste war. Barcott tells his remarkable story of how his love for humanity eventually led him to leave the army. Heart-wrenching and inspiring, this is a book that will be hard for you to put down.
2. Ego Is The Enemy by Ryan Holiday
Next to The Obstacle Is The Way, this is probably my favorite book from Ryan Holiday. In a similar structure of short chapters and historical examples, Ryan Holiday tells us there’s a greater obstacle that we need to conquer in our lives, and it’s closer than we think — That obstacle is ourselves. Generations and generations before have shown us that more often than not, the barrier between us and success is our own ego. We’d like to think that we’re better than we actually are, we’re easily deluded by praise and attention, we fall in love with the mere idea of being something instead of the actual work that goes in. I won’t belabor the point. Read this book. You’ll be sucked in as soon you read the first few pages.
3. The Catcher In The Rye by J.D Salinger
I first read this book when I was 15, and I didn’t really understand the point of the story, other than it being about an angsty young teenager named Holden Caulfield. I guess I hadn’t gone through enough in my own life to value Holden’s experiences in the book. I missed all the clever and subtle stuff that I can now say, “Ah, I get it now.” It also makes a lot more sense when I consider the person behind the book. Salinger went to serve in WWII, and saw more combat than anyone else. When he came home, he wrote about Holden instead of writing about the war. I second William Faulkner’s understanding of the book. He said, “To me, [Holden’s] tragedy was not that he was, as he perhaps thought, not tough enough or brave enough or deserving enough to be accepted into humanity. His tragedy was that when he attempted to enter the human race, there was no human race there.”
4. Scar Tissue by Anthony Kiedis
It’s tempting to look at a band of four extremely fun-loving guys and think that they had it easy. Of course, it wasn’t easy at all. Told from frontman Anthony Kiedis’s side of the story, The Red Hot Chili Peppers started off small, as a crazy act, and slowly evolved into a band that redefined music as an art. But there was more — A long, dark history of drug addiction and near-death experiences, the tragic demise of a bandmate, struggles with fame, backstage conflicts. And on the brighter side — This book offers insights on their love of music and creativity, lifelong companionship and the dedication of their every waking hour to the art. I’ve listened to the Chili Peppers since I was a kid, and after reading this, their songs started to mean a lot more, and I understood what life in Hollywood is really like. What many people wish for isn’t all sunny and bright after all — If only they knew.
5. Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
I recently dedicated an article based on this book. This book was published in the early 90s, and it hasn’t changed except to become more relevant today. It addresses the root of our discontent, especially as a modern society, and the solutions. Our forefathers didn’t have gadgets and as much entertainment as we do now, but that doesn’t mean they simply goofed around. Unlike us, they had real things to do. They were skilled in many different things, and back in their day, it was honorable enough to be an amateur in a craft — The doing of work occupied and kept their minds going. As a result, they were happier and more fulfilled. We on the other hand, are becoming more and more indolent and slothful — And we wonder why we are so unhappy.