Books that illuminate life’s journey

Our lives are long journeys full of tough questions and unexpected trials and tribulations.  Don’t you wish there’s a manual for it?  For Booklovers, the solution is simple: books can be our wise counsel, chronicler and companion.  Here are titles that can delight, entertain, enlighten and accompany you through many stages of life:


The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

The Little Prince is a poignant story that can be read on many levels.  Younger children will delight in the charming, fantastic story of a little prince who lives on an asteroid the size of a house, and his curious adventures whilst exploring the universe; older children may start to recognise certain caricatures in the story; while adults might appreciate it as a fable about love, loss and loneliness, with philosophical musings about human nature and relationships.  This 70th Anniversary Edition is a deluxe gift set containing a hardcover book with the original illustrations in full colour, two CDs of an unabridged reading by Viggo Mortensen (aka Aragorn of Lord of the Rings), as well as a code for audio download.

The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho

It has sold over 65 million copies across 80 languages; many people credit it with changing their lives.  What makes The Alchemist so special?  The Alchemist is a timeless and dreamy story about Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd who tries to fulfil a prophecy by travelling to Egypt, but finds his Personal Legend (destiny) instead.  Through Santiago’s quest, Paolo Coelho invites us to look inside ourselves to discover our own Personal Legends. His poetic, spiritual language, crafted into beloved messages such as ‘When you want something, the whole universe conspires to help you’, is uplifting and sure to inspire.

A Good Life: Philosophy from Cradle to Grave by Mark Rowlands

In the near future, Nicolai finds a manuscript written by his late father Myshkin.  The manuscript is Myshkin’s record of how he lived his life, the issues he faced, and the decisions he made.  In A Good Life, philosopher Mark Rowlands uses this fictional narrative to explore moral and ethical questions including abortion, compassion, animal rights and euthanasia.  This clever hybrid of philosophy and literature is funny, unsettling and challenges us to also question ourselves on these knotty issues.

Feast: Food that Celebrates Life by Nigella Lawson

Across cultures and eras, food has been an important element in how we mark life’s milestones.  Nigella Lawson, ever a champion of food-as-celebration, has gathered this collection of enticing recipes to suit any sort of feasting – not just Christmas, Thanksgiving or Easter, but also Eid, Passover, weddings and kids’ parties.  It’s worth seeking out the original UK edition of Feast (just click on this cover image for stockists), which contains a chapter on funeral feasts – which powerfully and poignantly highlights the power of food to comfort and bring people together, in sorrow as in joy.

Stiff: the Curious Life of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach

Booko featured Mary Roach’s work earlier this year as one of the most popular TED talks ever.  However, her brand of quirky investigative journalism was already perfected in her first book, Stiff: the Curious Life of Human Cadavers.  Mary Roach’s take on Life After Death looks at what happens to our bodies after we die.  In fact, she sees cadavers as having a rich and meaningful second life, contributing to scientific advances in medical research, safety testing, body farms, and even composting.  With its unusual subject and skilful balance of information, gore and laugh-aloud humour, Stiff is an endlessly fascinating, unforgettable book.

About Karen Seligman

Karen Seligman is a librarian working in public libraries. As a lifelong booklover, she loves having access to a library’s worth of books! As a librarian, an important (and fun) part of her work is about connecting people to new ideas and new books. Karen is a literary magpie who can't settle on a single favourite genre – she loves narrative nonfiction, historical fantasies and food writing.