9 books that will change your perspective on life

Defiance in the face of adversity or a life-changing experience – these books from some of the most inspiring authors will fundamentally change the way you view and experience everyday life.

15/09/2021
4 minutes to read

The calm words of Rob Burrow are enough to stop anyone in their tracks. In a world of non-stop headlines and never-ending notifications, Rob has found meaning and purpose in every moment of ordinary life by learning to appreciate what it has given him, rather than what it has taken away.

‘Since my diagnosis I see the moment as it is and find meaning in it.’
Rob Burrow

Rob's words have started to bring me comfort and encouragement since reading them; he has a myriad of unique insights on life – and it's not hard to see why. 

As a boy, Rob was told he was too small to play rugby, but he went on to become one of the greatest rugby league players of all time, lifting the Rugby League Grand Final Cup a total of eight times. Then at just 37-years-old, Rob found himself fighting for his life. Diagnosed in 2019 with an aggressive form of motor neurone disease, he immediately resolved to fight the condition and turn his diagnosis into a campaign of positivity and awareness, inspiring a legion of admirers and demonstrating the innate ferocity of the human spirit. 

You can read more about Rob's heroism in his memoir Too Many Reasons To Live, and here we’ve shared our pick of even more insightful non-fiction reads that will reveal new ways of thinking and redefine how you see and experience the everyday.


Too Many Reasons To Live

by Rob Burrow

Book cover for 9781529073249

Rob Burrow is known for his legendary rugby league career, with eight Super League Grand Finals, two Challenge Cups and three World Club Challenges. But in December 2019, not long after retiring and with three young children, Rob was diagnosed with motor neurone disease, a rare degenerative condition, and given just a few years left to live. The incredible outpouring of sympathy, affection and support quickly turned to admiration at Rob’s awe-inspiring and ongoing fight against the disease. 

Immeasurably more than a sports memoir, this is the story of a tiny kid who made it into the Leeds hall of fame and the story of a man who fought to make something positive out of a terrible predicament. 


Hope Not Fear

by Hassan Akkad

Book cover for 9781529059830

Despite having experienced the unimaginable, BAFTA award-winner Hassan Akkad holds onto hope and demonstrates the kindness humanity is capable of every day. Hope Not Fear details both Hassan's life in Syria before the war and his perilous journey to the UK as an asylum-seeker, followed by his experiences from the Covid-19 frontline as an NHS cleaner at a London hospital. His account of the pandemic has even driven a government U-turn on the exclusion of the families of NHS cleaners and porters from its bereavement compensation scheme. 

Hassan's story of triumph over adversity by standing together, united in kindness and love, is the most important message of our time. 


Read Hassan's account of his time as an NHS cleaner on the COVID-19 frontline.


The Happiest Man On Earth

by Eddie Jaku

Book cover for 9781529066333

In November 1938, Eddie Jaku was beaten, arrested and taken to a German concentration camp. He endured unimaginable horrors for the next seven years and lost family, friends and his country. 

But he survived. And because he survived, he vowed to smile every day. He now firmly believes he is the ‘happiest man on earth’. 

Discover the insurmountable resilience and kindness of a man who experienced one of humanity's darkest hours as he brings the hope and lessons we all need. 


Lily's Promise

by Lily Ebert

Book cover for 9781529073409

Holocaust survivor Lily Ebert promised herself that if she survived Auschwitz, she would tell the world the truth about the camp. When her great-grandson, Dov, used social media to track down the family of a Jewish-American soldier who had helped liberate Lily in 1945, the 96-year-old found herself making headlines across the world. This was her chance.

Despite the pain of the past, Lily went on to build a life for herself and her family. Now, she finds the extraordinary strength to speak out in the hope that such evil will never be seen again. 

Confront the inhumanities of Auschwitz in Lily's Promise, realise the moral duality of the human spirit and discover the strength behind even the smallest acts of defiance.


Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man

by Emmanuel Acho

Book cover for 9781529064063

With the same open-hearted generosity that made his video series of the same name a groundbreaking success, Emmanuel Acho tackles all the questions – large or small, insensitive or taboo – that many white people are afraid to ask. 

Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man explains the core of many difficult concepts such as white privilege, cultural appropriation and 'reverse racism' by providing compassion and understanding in discussions that often lack both. 

Asking only for the reader's curiosity, his motivational call to join the fight against racism will leave you utterly captivated. 

Read Emmanuel Acho on the myth of the 'Angry Black Man'.


The Stranger On The Bridge

by Jonny Benjamin

Book cover for 9781509846436

In 2008, a stranger saw twenty-year-old Jonny Benjamin standing on Waterloo Bridge, about to jump. Seeing his distress, they stopped to talk with him - a decision that saved Jonny's life.

The Stranger on the Bridge is a memoir of the personal and public journey Jonny made to find the person who saved his life, including multiple TV appearances and a nationwide search that people got behind in their millions. Jonny sheds light on his continuing management of his schizoaffective disorder diagnosis, explores how he got to the bridge in the first place, and details his eventual life-long friendship with the man who saved his life. 

A deeply moving and personal story with Jonny's own unique insights on mental health – uncovering the hope and redemption every person is capable of. 

‘In my world, the word inspirational gets bandied around a lot, but Jonny Benjamin is truly deserving of that adjective.’
HRH The Duke Of Cambridge


Crying in H Mart

by Michelle Zauner

Book cover for 9781529033779

When Michelle goes to H Mart, an Asian supermarket chain, she's not just searching for cuttlefish and scallions. Amongst the shelves and isles are precious memories of her mother and aunt, who imbued her with a love for Korean food and provided the only link to her Korean heritage. 

Proving herself much more than a brilliant singer, songwriter and guitarist, Michelle Zauner tells a story of family, food, grief and endurance in this memoir about growing up mixed-race, re-discovering her Korean identity, and a personal reckoning brought on by the loss of her mother to terminal pancreatic cancer. 

Overflowing with anecdotes that will resonate far and wide, Crying in H Mart is an essential book that you'll want to read, re-read and share with anyone who has experienced the loss of a loved one. 

Read our Q&A with Michelle on Crying in H Mart here.


W-3

by Bette Howland

Book cover for 9781529035872

In 1968, after swallowing a bottle of pills, part-time librarian and struggling single mother Bette Howland becomes a patient of a small psychiatric ward and discovers a world of disheveled, momentary existence on the edge of permanence. W-3 is a world of pills and passes where crafty veteran patients are ruled over by all-powerful staff.

This dazzling debut is a vivid portrait of the community of Ward 3 and an incredible account of a defining moment in Howland's life as a writer, replete with her own sweeping insights into life and existence.


Everybody

by Olivia Laing

Book cover for 9781509857135

At a moment when our basic rights are once again threatened, Everybody is an ambitious exploration into the body and its discontents. Using the life of radical psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich as a guide, Laing takes us on a daring course of bodily freedom, from gay rights and sexual liberation to feminism and civil rights. 

Laing draws from her own experience in protest, alternative medicine and her travels from Weimar Berlin to the McCarthy-era prisons of America to open up questions of life, art and the forces emplaced against freedom. 

Everybody is a celebration of how the ordinary human body can resist oppression and ultimately influence the world. 

Discover the five books that opened Olivia Laing's mind and freed her body.


Dare Not Linger

by Nelson Mandela

Book cover for 9781509809615

1994. Nelson Mandela becomes the first president of democratic South Africa. In the five years that follow, he and his government ignite an extraordinary transformation of the country, after which, he stands down. Dare Not Linger is the stunning story of how a nation fractured by centuries of colonialism and apartheid was turned into a fully functional democracy in which all of South Africa's citizens, black and white, were made equal in the eyes of the law.

With a prologue by Mandela's widow, Graça Machel, the account of Mandela's revolutionary presidential years provides a vividly inspirational record of the challenges he overcame to achieve his ultimate vision of a liberated South Africa.