Give the Gift of Inspiration

Two things we can probably agree on about inspiration. One: it’s possibly the greatest gift you can give. Two: books are the best way to do that! Then again, it’s a hard thing to put your finger on, isn’t it? But you know when it’s there. And we know that it’s in the four books that we’ve chosen to help you give this important gift.

Here we have the kind of inspiration that comes from calm reflection, the kind that comes from community and compassion, the kind that comes from a well-positioned plan and the kind that will just keep coming no matter what.

Whether you glean inspiration from ancient wisdom, cutting-edge research, stratospheric success stories or down-to-earth experience, there’s something here for you. There’s also a very wise cat, a very fast woman and a very strong man.

Take a look:

The Cat Who Taught Zen by James Norbury

The Cat Who Taught Zen by James Norbury

Zen is a thing that can often seem in rather short supply. The world is quick to anger and slow to take a moment to step back and reflect. But there’s so much to be gained from meditative calm and quiet contemplation.

With the timeless and beautifully illustrated Big Panda and Tiny Dragon author James Norbury brought us a gorgeous, charming lesson in ancient wisdom. Now he’s back to do it again, and this time the animal cast of his tale is guaranteed to delight every cat lover the world over (so, that’s just everyone, really).

Our titular cat is already well-versed in the teachings of Zen. But, ever looking to deepen his knowledge, he has set out on a journey to reach an ancient pine said to grant boundless wisdom. On the road to this place of enlightenment, he meets a colourful cast of animals, each struggling with a particular emotional challenge. There’s a monkey grappling with anxiety and a tortoise who’s had enough of life, a tiger who can’t quell their anger, a wolf cub confused about life and a crow never satisfied with what they have. The wise cat shares with each of them the arts he has mastered… but when he meets a playful kitten he is prompted to reexamine everything he knows.

Gentle, immediately soothing and full of timeless wisdom, The Cat Who Taught Zen will delight and revive the spirits of all who read it – even if they were fairly calm to begin with.

The Cat Who Taught Zen by James Norbury

The Race to Be Myself by Caster Semenya

Easily one of the most recognisable and world-famous athletes to emerge from South Africa, Caster Semenya shot to prominence by smashing records and winning medals. But her rise was quickly marred by ugly rumours and accusations. Unchecked speculation about her body and her sex all but eclipsed celebrations of her phenomenal performance. Positioned by detractors as a threat to the sport of running and sometimes cruelly dehumanised by an intolerant public and in the media, Semenya was unwittingly placed at the centre of the inflammatory debate surrounding sport and gender – a debate that continues to rage and often refuses to calm.

Throughout this mistreatment, she remained nobly silent, staying absolutely focused on her running, answering her critics with one spectacular run after another. But that’s not all there is to Caster.

Here, Semenya tells the complete story of her life thus far. She talks about her rural Limpopo upbringing and how she was surrounding by a loving community and a close family that accepted her for who she was, about the years in which she began to embrace her athletic ability and understand her sexuality and agency, and about the years she spent in the double-edged spotlight, the mentors that guided her and the causes to which she remains committed.

The Race to Be Myself is not just a tale of inspiring defiance and steadfast commitment. It’s also a story of great and complex humanity, of individuality and community, of astronomical achievement and personal fulfilment, of a girl who dreamed of being a football star and a soldier. And it also reveals the shadier mechanics of the sporting industry and the pseudo-hysterias that can taint them. This is where the record gets set straight.


Build the Life You Want by Arthur C. Brooks and Oprah Winfrey

In case you aren’t familiar, Arthur C. Brooks is a Harvard academic who provides happiness and leadership training using a combination of cutting edge neuroscience, social science, philosophy and ageless wisdom. He’s written several books and regularly contributes to numerous respected publications. Oprah is Oprah. It’s more than fair to say that between them they have made a considerable study of happiness, personal improvement and what it is to thrive.

Their new book is about teaching us to make and embrace changes now, regardless of the external circumstances and the state of the outside world. Specifically, by sharing and collecting their own life experiences, and by presenting a highly workable mix of accessible science and actionable strategy, Brooks and Winfrey teach readers of every age and and background how to: 

– Manage your emotions so they no longer control your outlook and behaviour
– Turn life’s inevitable difficulties and challenges into opportunities for growth
– Strengthen your family ties by managing your expectations and building trust
– Create and preserve deep and lasting friendships at any age
– Develop an approach to work that fits your life and brings satisfaction
– Find your inner peace with a spiritual practice

Build the Life You Want is a blueprint for happiness that can be followed by anyone; it’s an engaging bundle of lessons, tactics and reflections that’s packed as much with profound wisdom as it is with common sense… a mix that can’t help but inspire hope and encourage the best way forward.

Be Useful: Seven Tools for Life by Arnold Schwarzenegger

When it comes to inspiring people, you can be eloquent and poetic, you can be defiant and unconquerable, you can be spiritually attuned… or you can be direct. Like, very direct. And you can know what you’re talking about.

Schwarzenegger has inhabited many roles. We all have the particular thing for which we remember him, the particular image that pops up when we hear his name (do please insert your own impression here), but let us remember well: Schwarzenegger has been, as the book puts it: “The world’s greatest bodybuilder. The world’s highest paid movie star. The leader of the world’s sixth largest economy.” So it’s fair to say the guy knows a thing or two about purpose. And about getting to where he wants to go. And this is precisely what Be Useful is about.

It’s a simple lesson: be useful. Direct and to the point. It’s a lesson instilled in Arnold by his father. A lesson that ultimately drove him to achieve such incredible levels of success. And to develop a seven step process that begins with a clear vision and concludes with a clear commitment to giving back. We’re invited now to utilise this process ourselves. To put its tools to work while crafting a purposeful, self-reliant and resilient life. Ultimately, Schwarzenegger argues, all you have is yourself. And that’s all you need. Be Useful proves it.

Written in a powerful and unmistakable voice, this is a self-improvement book for those motivated by substance, for those looking to break through the nonsense… for those who wish to be useful.


As always…H A P P Y   R E A D I N G