Classic reads: personal development

With the change of seasons everything slows down a little bit in Ibiza. During the summer months we’re lucky to have time to skim the Diario so it is a luxury to be able to sit down and enjoy a good book. To inspire your library, we’ll be sharing a few posts about classics in different genres. Here are five classic books about personal development that might just change your life.

Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu

One thing you notice when you start reading books on personal development or philosophy is that the best advice is consistent. The Tao Te Ching was written in China around 500BC but it is packed with wisdom we still use, and quote today. One of the most familiar lines from the book, “A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step,” is as true now as it was two-and-a-half millennia ago.

The Discourses of Epictetus

Though he lived some 500 years after Lao Tzu, Epictetus and his Chinese counterpart would have been great friends. They both taught patience, acceptance, and fortitude. Born a slave, Epictetus was a Stoic philosopher and teacher whose students included the future Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius. The Discourses offer pithy, straight-forward advice on how to cope with life’s ups and downs. It’s not your job to change the world, he says, only to fulfil your duties and behave with dignity.

Walden by Henry David Thoreau

The classic text of Transcendentalist philosophy, Walden urges us to embrace simplicity, nature and non-materialism. Thoreau, a young surveyor, was disenchanted with the greed of American culture. He went to the woods near Walden Pond in Massachusetts alone. There he built a cabin, grew his own food, and immersed himself in the rhythms of nature. His writing explores the timeless renewal of the seasons, the importance of meaningful work, and the absurdity of equating happiness and possession.

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

Ostensibly about writing, Bird by Bird is in fact a funny, sweet, intermittently heart-breaking book about the ways in which we try to take shortcuts around less pleasant parts of ourselves. Lamott urges us to avoid the pitfalls of perfectionism, and the twin temptations of ego and self-deprecation. She writes warm, frank advice for those who struggle to be honest, kind, fair and consistent. Her chapter on jealousy offers terrific, tough advice on slaying that particular monster and is, like the rest of the book, laugh-aloud funny.

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

You want to change your life. What now? The Power of Habit explains how you can break free of bad habits. It delves deep into the fascinating study of why we do what we do, and how we can stop doing things that hurt or hold us back. The material is based in science and psychology but Duhigg is a terrific writer who makes it accessible and entertaining. Definitely one to read before you make your New Year’s resolutions.

What’s your favourite personal development or philosophical book? Share in the comments!

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