Life has a tendency to get pretty crazy no matter what we do or how much we try to control it. From our careers and our passions to our families and our relationships, it seems there is always something threatening to go wrong. How is someone supposed to get any peace of mind when a million things are happening at once? For some, exercise like yoga and running do the trick; others find peace in artistic pursuits like writing or painting. For me, the best place to find inner peace is books, because what better way to channel inner peace than through a great read?
The physical act of reading has calming benefits in and of itself, but when the relaxing feeling you get from turning the pages isn't enough, consider finding a book whose subject matter will help you find the inner peace you need. I know what you're thinking (Really, inspirational, spiritual books? But they can be so corny!), but stick with me here. Whether you are religious, spiritual, or don't believe in anything at all, books have the power to transcend those definitions. A good book has the power to take a reader on their own personal, self-defined journey to wherever it is they need to be.
If you're a reader hoping to find your way to inner peace, here are 9 books that can help you get there:
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
A true classic cherished by it's readers, Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist is a fable of a poor Andalusian shepherd boy who sets off on a journey to find the world's greatest treasures. Of course, what he finds is so much more — fear, suffering, truth, inspiration, strength, wisdom, and so much more. An enlightening and charming story about accepting yourself and following your dreams, The Alchemist will help you overcome your fears and find some peace of mind.
Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert
When you have a hard time finding your own sense of serenity, it might be helpful to read about another person's journey to finding their own. What better guide is there than Elizabeth Gilbert, whose memoir Eat, Pray, Love tackles love, loss, identity, acceptance — basically everything that defines a person's inner peace. And, coming this September, Gilbert's self-help book Big Magic might be worth a read for any artist struggling for some peace and quiet in a head bursting with creativity.
The Pearl by John Steinbeck
A tragic parable about greed, darkness, and evil, John Steinbeck's classic novella The Pearl might cause some tears, but it's a worthwhile price to pay for some tranquility of the mind. Simple yet heartbreaking, The Pearl will put your fears and desires about materialism to rest and prove that love and family count for so much more —because as long as you have those things, you really do have it all.
Jonathan Livingston Seagull: The Complete Edition by Richard Bach
You can't find inner peace when you don't know where you belong in the world. Richard Bach's tale about a seagull who decided to break the rules and fly higher than ever before will inspire you to reach new, seemingly impossible heights — because you know life is so much bigger than this, and you won't be at peace until you find out exactly how big it can be.
Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse
Not all of us are born knowing what we want out of life, or how to get it, and Hermann Hesse's Siddhartha captures the anxiety, fear, and confusion that go along with the unknown.
The book's ultimate teaching for readers is that the path to happiness and peace is one they must discover on their own, in their own time.
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values by Robert M. Pirsig
Parents and their children have a lot to learn from one another, a point made clear in Robert M. Pirsig's touching account of a father and son's journey from Minnesota to Northern California on a motorcycle. Page after page of meaningful bonding, philosophical debates, and honest dialogue, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance will have you questioning your way of life and (hopefully) help you discover your own way of living it more peaceably.
The Five People You Meet In Heaven by Mitch Albom
For me at least, one of the biggest obstacles between a my chaotic mind and achieving inner peace is a long line of regrets I can't help but harp on. However, one book that always helps me regain perspective: Mitch Albom's The Five People You Meet In Heaven . Eddie, an 83-year-old grump, dies in a tragic accident and is forced to relive parts of his life, some tragic, some terrifying, some wonderful, but almost all painful. Despite all his own regret and guilt, Eddie is able to find redemption in the end, and his journey inspires readers (myself included) to forgive themselves and let themselves find a bit of peace at the same time.
Franny and Zooey by J. D. Salinger
On the surface a heartfelt story about sibling relationships, J. D. Salinger's Franny and Zooey can also be interpreted as a spiritual journey towards enlightenment. When Franny has a breakdown amid an existential crisis in which she questions her selfishness, materialism, and spirituality, her brother Zooey comes to the rescue, guiding her with love and kindness towards a sound state of mind. Wouldn't it be nice if we all had a brother like that?
The Book of Questions by Pablo Neruda
If you're the kind of person who doesn't like being told what to do, then perhaps the best way for you to find your inner peace is through some deep thinking and self-exploration. Luckily for you, poet Pablo Neruda has an entire book of questions to get you started. Beautiful and haunting, like all of his poetry, The Book of Questions challenges you to ask questions you might not have the answer to, and providing none for you, forces you to exist and eventually find comfort in an unknown place.
Images: Nickolai Kashirin/Flickr