Some books have the ability to entertain you for a few hours; however, others are capable of touching your heart and changing your life. The following seven celebrities credit a part of their self-discovery and personal growth to some phenomenal literary works.
Presidential Greats and the Books That Moved Them
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Ronald Reagan, America’s 40th president, introduced the controversial yet memorable concept of supply sided Reaganomics to the U.S. He initiated the invasion of Grenada, a turning point in the Cold War. Indeed, he left his legacy in the hearts and minds of Republicans and Democrats alike.
Reagan was heavily influenced by “Witness,” the bestselling autobiography by ex-Communist Whittaker Chambers. The book recounts Chambers’ experience in the trial of Alger Hiss, a man accused but never convicted of Soviet espionage. Reagan claimed that the author’s worldview helped him understand the inner workings of the Communist mind — knowledge that helped fuel his optimism for a more conservative world.
Fast-forward 20 years to a man who will forever live in history as the States’ first African-American president. President Barack Obama credits Joseph Conrad’s 1899 novel “Heart of Darkness” with his empathetic understanding of whites who are prejudiced against blacks. Obama says the book helped him better comprehend the personal fears and demons that make people “learn to hate” one another.
Inspiring Words for Inspiring Businessmen
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Billionaire Donald Trump made his fortune in lucrative real estate developments, but he couldn’t have done it without “The Power of Positive Thinking,” a self-help title by Dr. Normal Vincent Peale. Peale advises readers to “Stand up to an obstacle . . . and it will finally break.” He also advises would-be success stories to “formulate and stamp indelibly on your mind a mental picture of yourself as succeeding.”
Jack Dorsey, co-founder of Twitter and CEO of the mobile payments company Square, bestows every new employee with a copy of his favorite read, “The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right” by Dr. Atul Gawande. Dorsey says this collection of true stories about how simple “no-brainer” checklists can save time, money, and lives is his “success metric.”
Studious Manuscripts for Studious Actors
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Actor Harrison Ford pontificates that the “Ender’s Game” series of books conveys great ideas about “military responsibility, command responsibility, (and) aspects of leadership.” Ford’s intense interest in the series led him to a leading role in the 2013 blockbuster film of the same name. It was this same intensity that led Ford to devour books about carpentry in his youth and to become a pilot at the age of 54.
Yale graduate Jodie Foster studied literature in college, where her love affair with Toni Morrison’s “Song of Solomon” began. Foster calls Morrison’s voice the most “deeply poetic” in all of American fiction. The intellectual leading lady has starred in many hit fictional dramas of her own, including Taxi Driver in 1976 and The Silence of the Lambs in 1991.
A Writing Wonderland
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Writer and novelist Joyce Carol Oates drew her earliest inspiration from Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland.” At the age of 8, Oates memorized the book and used it as fodder for her many childhood literary creations. The authoress particularly admires Carroll’s juxtaposition of “real and surreal” with “bizarre, comic, threatening, mysterious figures.” She wrote her own novel titled “Wonderland,” along with other highly acclaimed works like “We Were the Mulvaneys,” “The Falls,” and “Blonde.”
Reagan and Obama gained empathy and a deeper understanding of others by reading literature. Trump and Dorsey found the practical advice and inspiration they needed to succeed in their favorite books. Ford, Foster, and Oates grew as artists and human beings with the help of some intensely complex and poetic writings. You don’t have to be a politician, business person, actor, or writer to experience the transcending power of the written word. When you open a book, all you need to succeed are open eyes and an open mind.
Emily Green is a freelance writer with more than six years’ experience in blogging, copywriting, content, SEO, and dissertation, technical and thesis writing.