Here are two books that nudge youngsters to become better versions of themselves:
How to Live Your Life
Appropriate for: 10+ years
In the dark days that followed the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, writer Ruskin Bond continued to do what he has always done best — he pulled up his chair and sat at his writing desk to give us stories and memories to live through. The world outside his window was stiller than usual, the birdsongs clearer in the absence of humans. It was a time like no other, but for a flaneur who has seen the world change more than most, it was a reiteration of the incontrovertible reality of life — good times and bad times and all times pass.
It drew him to deliberate on life and all the ways it fulfills and disappoints and the result is How to Live Your Life, less a manual, more, as he calls it, “a scrambled egg” on how to maximise our chances at happiness. An epistolary narrative, the conversational exchange tells readers about the importance of making time for oneself, of honing one’s skills but also on how to learn to pick oneself up after a particularly bad fall. “Tenacity is a quality that we could all do with; that is, the ability to continue to do something for longer than might be expected…If one approach doesn’t work, try another. If you can’t sing well, learn to speak well. If you can’t speak well, learn to write well, or maybe you can paint or dance, or make a rocket, or sail a boat, or fly an aeroplane, or drive a steam-roller, or grow French beans, or make an omelette,” he writes. Interspersed with his own experiences of failure, of choosing a path that was unconventional in his milieu, he speaks of how a race is often more fulfilling when one concentrates on finishing it rather than winning it.
Appropriate for any age, this is particularly appealing to children trying to cope with adolescence or impending adulthood; searching for a vocation or getting over a broken heart. For who else can make one mull over life as deeply than the man whose stories have nurtured generations to live and love life king-size?
Ikigai for Teens: Finding Your Reasons for Being
Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles
Appropriate for: 12+ years
More in the style of self-help books that are the rage now, Ikigai for Teens tells youngsters the value of slowing down and taking failure as a stepping stone towards finding one’s purpose in life. What sets it apart from other books in the genre, though, is its focus on introspection. It gently nudges readers towards self-awareness by prompting them to deliberate more deeply on their actions and what is it they might be looking for to become fuller versions of themselves and to lead “worthwhile lives” — iki (life, in Japanese) and gai (to be worthwhile).
From pianist Lang Lang to Thomas Alva Edison to Michael Jordan to their own lives, the writers speak of individual experiences of failure and how the one thing that changed it to lives of purpose and value was perseverance.
But while success is a fine thing to achieve, savour and hold on to, some of the happiest lives are those that have managed a fine balance among what one loves, is good at and can be paid for and what one can do for the world. And even though it might sound esoteric and hard to get to, sometimes, the search yields the best rewards because it helps one look inwards and assess oneself honestly. In the end, as Bond put it so succinctly in his book, it is not how fast one runs the race that matters, but how long one continues to take part in it with enthusiasm that counts.