3 Books that Have Significant Impact on my Life: Living, Transforming, and Loving

To choose 3 out of hundreds books I’ve read and learned from seems to be at first an inconceivable task. Though it is impossible to measure and compare in mathematical way the magnitude of impact each book has in me, there are 3 standing out the most, not because they are the greatest, but because they are the ones I most needed to read at that moment.

If you are curious and sensitive, with a bit of luck, there will be book that come to your life to aid you through the difficult time. Much like the magic world of Harry Potter where the wand chooses the wizard, sometimes book chooses you. When that happens, the connection between you and the book and the author who wrote it is unbounded. This article is my tribute to the 3 teachers and healers, whose books were lights that guided me through darkness and saved me.


Brida by Paulo Coelho

If you know me a little, you will notice how much I adore Paulo Coelho’s books and himself as a human being. Despite being a non-fiction readers, Paulo Coelho is my all time loved author. He has a way with words, and a way with articulating extremely universal emotions with in such a personal way that it feels as if he is speaking directly to you. These universal emotions: shame, fears, greed, ambitions, love, jealousy, tedium are written with such delicacy many times I have goose bumps because that is exactly how it happens, and finally somebody is pouring these feelings down in words, so that we can observe them.

Coelho did it again, beautifully in Brida. The protagonist of this moving tale is Brida – a young and beautiful girl on her journey for knowledge, in which she learns to overcome fears and dance with the rhythm of the world.

I picked up Brida on an international book store in Hanoi few days before leaving for Europe, or better, running away from my life’s biggest failure. Outwardly, I put on a tough mask. Inwardly, I was a quivering mess of depression dragging around a shattered ego. Brida and her adventure was the companion in the rediscovery of life. The story was written with such authenticity that I see myself directly in Brida – the young woman with the sincere desire to transform herself and find out about all that life is. Through Brida, Paulo Coelho fuels my fascination about life and shows me how life can be lived.


7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey

You most probably know this book too. It has rightfully made it way to the “most influential” list of millions of readers. I look at its values under a different light.

I bought 7 Habits when I began working in the national team of AIESEC in Vietnam – my first full time role. For a couple of weeks, I read it every night, and until now I’ve re-read it three times.

The true brilliance of this book for me lies in Part 1: Inside-Out and The Seven Habits – An Overview, because in here there is the key for transformation for ourselves and for others. I’ve found concepts, and philosophies that have become my guideposts ever since. That Character Ethics – the understanding and upholding basic principles of living – are the foundation of success, much greater rather than Personality Ethics – public relations techniques or positive mental attitudes which are often deceptive and manipulative. That true change comes from our thorough awareness the current Paradigms, and openness to the experiences that may bring about a Paradigm Shift. 

We see the world, not as it is, but as we are – or, as we are conditioned to see it. When we open our mouths to describe what we see, we in effect describe ourselves, our perceptions, our paradigms... Paradigms are powerful because they create the lens through which we see the world. The power of a paradigm shift is the essential power of quantum change, whether that shift is an instantaneous or a slow and deliberate process.

In 4 sentences, Covey encapsulated the ethos of personal change.

What I truly admire about this book is its goodness, which flows from the integrity of its author. 7 Habits isn’t about quick fix, techniques or shortcut, as many best selling self-help that focus on Personality Ethics to satisfy the cult of speed of modern society. Its wisdom is timeless because its “Inside-out” approach is truth. 

start first with self; even more fundamentally, to start with the most inside part of self – with your paradigms, your character, and your motives…


The Gift of Imperfection by Brene Brown

I first know Brene Brown through her 2 renowned TED talks – The Power of Vulnerability and Listening to Shame – both I recommend with my whole heart to any human being. TED is a wonderful tool for me to pique my interest and choose an idea to dig deeper. I was lead to one of her book: The Gift of Imperfections. (By the way, I’ve observed that watching endless TED without digging deeper, is a waste of time because one only accumulates information that one soon forgets – a superficial level of intelligence.

The read was timely as I went through many confidence issues during my year working at the global headquarter of AIESEC. First time working abroad, failures in 2 consecutive years running for president of AIESEC in Vietnam, and now having to work in a team of brilliant young people from all over the world, undertaking international projects with inconceivable goals. All of that made me push myself hard. Too hard that the joy from work slowly diminished. The fear of making mistakes, of looking silly compelled me to be this extremely self-conscious young lady. Full of fear.

If I have to choose one thing Brown helped me through her book, it will be self-compassion. She helps me to understand the perils in the quest for imperfection, and that in order to be truly happy, I need to learn to accept, and love my short-coming. Have you ever cursed yourself after making a mistake? ‘I’m so stupid!’ for example. Would you say the same thing to someone you love? You see, if a person doesn’t have a wonderful relationship with himself, none of his relationships with others matter.

We all want to be more, and true personal transformation come from a place of love. A sense of self worth and adequacy are vital to stay within the track of striving for excellence, without straying over to the detriment of perfectionism. I learn an important lesson that if I don’t choose to be enough now, I will never feel enough, even at the acquisition of glorious success.

What about you?

What are your top 3?

Take a look at other articles on BookWorm Wednesday

Come back next Wednesday for book reviews and  more wisdom on the art of reading.