One of my absolute favourite persons in history is Benjamin Franklin. Of the wise things he’s said, I’ll quote one here: “If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are gone, either write things worth reading or do things worth writing.”
People who do this don’t just live, they live forever. We read about them, for inspiration, for insights and sometimes, just to live their lives, albeit vicariously. The extraordinary ones – passionate, purposeful people who contribute to history in more ways than we can imagine.
Here are some book recommendations about such people, one an autobiography, one a biography and one just a diary of a young girl. When you read these books, you want to be able to meet them and perhaps shadow them. Just reading about them gives you the essential dope to come out of your little home, to think bigger and go beyond the everyday. No doubt we have things, especially right now to bog us down, but with purpose and passion, we could pull ourselves together. I loved these books for their priceless storytelling and contributions. During the lockdown, these are great reads, to inspire us also to do what we can, no matter the circumstance.
The Story of my Experiments with Truth by MK Gandhi
The story of the Mahatma, be it in articles, TV series, movies or books, never fail to leave one in awe. What an extraordinary time, the freedom of India from the British reign. At the center of it, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. In his autobiography, he takes us through his journey of growth, what inspired him, his value ‘Ahimsa parmo dharma’ leading to the freedom movement of India. In all this, he experiments in always being truthful thereby baring his soul and sharing his failings and weaknesses as a man, as a human being. The book, The Story of my Experiments with Truth is a perfect example of ‘write something worth reading or do something worth writing’.
The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone
As aptly named, the book takes us to live the life and times of the artist and sculptor extraordinaire –Michaelangelo. It’s when you wake up with Michelangelo, go to the bottega and tire yourself out as the sculptor without sleep or food, going on for days concentrating on that one piece (that would go down to history), that you realise, not only has Michelangelo outdone himself but so has Irving Stone.
No doubt Michelangelo was a genius, but I feel without this account by Irving Stone, we wouldn’t know what mettle the genius was made of.
This book is about geniuses, about people who taught us to love beautiful things, about people who appreciated beauty so much that the proof of their foresight still remains with us after over 500 years. This book is graced by the amazing Lorenzo di Medici, the beautiful Florence and the greatest works of art. Michelangelo’s genius created the ‘David’ and roof of the Sistine chapel. But his real passion is well described in the creation of the ‘Pieta’ – the artist sits for days thinking about what Mary could’ve felt holding her grown up child after he had been just been crucified and in studying male cadavers (women cadavers were not shared) to understand the human anatomy to perfect his art.
Read it, as these extraordinary men come together to bring you a bittersweet experience of the agony and ecstasy in a life well-lived.
Diary of a young girl by Anne Frank
I don’t remember if I was 13 when I read this, but Anne Frank was when she wrote it. I remember it had me right from the time I read, ‘Dear Kitty’. Anne Frank lived with her Dutch family in what could be called – extraordinary times, extraordinary circumstances. It was around 1942, their Jewish family went into hiding in, the then, Nazi-occupied Amsterdam. The isolation lasted over two years. Still, this girl penned her daily entries, quite cheerfully, one could say. It’s definitely a dairy of a girl who just entered her teens, with the same challenges most 13-year olds face, but under trying circumstances having to live in a claustrophobic environment, locked-up and isolated from the world. Through her entries, you get an insight of the time that was. It’s actually a great book to read when we are going through our own lockdown. Inspired, you might just end up writing something that will be a great memoir of our times, just like this book. Remarkable times calls for remarkable people.
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