Many books are 90% fluff. There’s one good idea explained on five pages, and the remaining 300 pages are filled with empty words coating that single idea like the fat rim of a steak.
That’s why I generally dislike re-reading books — it can feel like a waste of time and energy.
But every once in a while, I discover a book in which every word is potentially life-changing. And in that case, every re-read feels like you read a new book because you’ve grown with the book. It becomes a life companion.
That’s why I re-read these books annually.
Here are three of them, ranked from easiest to hardest. I hope they serve as inspiration for you to find your own companions for life.
The Little Prince (Easy)
by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
The Little Prince is a perennial seller. It was published in 1943, but its message stays relevant — both for me personally and for society. It’s also an incredibly short and digestible book, making it easy to re-read.
The narrator is a pilot who crashed in the middle of the Sahara. There, he mysteriously encounters a young boy — the little prince. They both immediately connect over the notion that adults are really strange and understand nothing about this world.
Over the course of the pages, the little prince tells the narrator about his journey. His home is the (very tiny) asteroid B 612, where he fell in love with a rose. But soon, the rose took advantage of him, so the little prince decided to leave his planet. Upon his departure, the rose admits that she loves him and that they’ve both been silly.
As the story unfolds, we learn more about the little prince’s journey and the narrow-minded adults he encounters. For instance, a drunk who drinks to forget his shame about drinking. Or a businessman who counts all the stars in the universe to be their owner.
Eventually, the prince reimagines the relationship with his rose and learns invaluable lessons about love and friendship.
But it would be best if you experienced them for yourself.
Why it’s worth the annual re-read
The Little Prince is positively provocative. The curious, childlike, open mind of the narrator and the prince force me every time to tap into my own thought patterns and question the norm.
It deeply assesses the stupidity and stubbornness we all develop growing up. We lose ourselves in obsessing over money, pretentiously complex things, status symbols, and numbers. (Adults love numbers.) While doing so, we forget what truly matters in life — loneliness, friendship, love, loss.
“One sees clearly only with the heart. What is essential is invisible to the eye”— Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince
Every time I flip through these meaningful yet straightforward pages, I go on a journey, discover another nugget of wisdom, and shed one more tear than the previous time reading.
The Courage to Be Disliked (Intermediate)
by Ichiro Kashima and Fumitake Koga
I think this is the first personal development book I ever bought. I remember how I took it with me everywhere I went. I was so immersed in the lessons that prompted me to deeply rethink my life.
Whenever I finished a chapter, I’d put the book aside to let my thoughts run free and think about the eye-opening lessons. Later on, I purchased the audiobook and listened to it on bike rides and long walks.
The book is structured as a conversation between a deeply miserable young man and a wise philosopher. Throughout the book, the philosopher unveils the school of Alfred Adler — a leading psychologist in the 20th century. Adler’s ideas can seem radical. But I think that’s exactly the point. They provide such a fresh, counterintuitive perspective that you can’t help rethink your life.
Some of my favorites include:
- The past does not exist.
- The world and life are very simple things.
- You are the only one who can change yourself.
- To be happy means to be disliked because it’s proof that you’re living by your own principles.
Why it’s worth the annual re-read
This is a practical book. It’s almost like a manual.
The structure allows identifying as the young man and addresses almost all the doubts and questions while reading. And if you’re anything like me, you’ll read this book and think you found all the answers. Then you go back into life and realize you don’t know anything. But that’s okay.
It’s all part of the process.
For me, one of the most eye-opening passages was about how long it’d take to implement this philosophy. The answer? Half of your elapsed lifetime.
“If you are unable to really feel happy, then it’s clear that things aren’t right just as they are. You’ve got to put one foot in front of the other, and not stop.”— Ichiro Kishimi, The Courage to Be Disliked
You can grasp Adler’s ideas after one or two readthroughs. But applying them is the commitment of a lifetime.
That’s why I love chewing on these nuggets every year.
A New Earth (Hard)
by Eckhart Tolle
I’m not very spiritual although I’d like to become more so. The problem? The vast majority of new-age spirituality has always sounded like a bunch of gibberish to me. Books like The Secret spearhead this movement, proclaiming we can change for the better by our thoughts alone.
So what makes A New Earth different?
It carries a message that is crucial for human existence in the 21st century. And that message is compassion — for ourselves and for others. Therefore, the book detaches from narcissistic self-care and looks at the bigger picture.
You see, one of the central ideas of the book is our mental division between the ego and the self. Your ego spurs all this negative chatter in your head — comparison, self-pity, self-confirmation, the need to impress others, etc.
But you are not your ego.
So who are you if not the voice in your head? The entity who sees that. You’re the self. You’re you. You’re yourself. In other words, you are the thinker, not the thought.
And this is where compassion comes in. We all have an ego, and life would be impossible without it. It’s a plague-like disease that’s inherent to humankind and deeply linked to all our crises. Therefore, it’s not something to be despised. We can learn to become aware and empathetic because of it.
“Awareness is the greatest agent for change,” as Eckhart puts it. So if we could all be a little more aware of selfishness, greed, and anger, we would recognize that it’s just the ego — not ourselves.
And I think the world would be a better place. It would turn into a new earth.
Why it’s worth the annual re-read
This is not a casual fun-fiction read.
It takes lots of time, work, and energy to get through this book. In fact, Eckhart says in the introduction that you might not be ready for this book. And even if you are ready, it might only plant the seed for transformation.
But trust me, it’s life-changing the more you read it.
Despite its length, it’s an incredibly dense book. In nearly every other paragraph, I need to put the book down and digest the content. These pages change the way you see yourself and the world around you.
I also re-read this book to stay grounded as modern life sweeps me away. Because yes, I admit that I still have an enormous ego. I’m obsessed with what others think of me. I want to impress others through my lifestyle. I play roles to fit into society. I victimize myself by inflating my personal problems. I could go on and on.
But what I learned the most is that everything I do, think, and perceive is exactly how it needs to be.
“Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness. How do you know this is the experience you need? Because this is the experience you are having at the moment.”— Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth
I don’t know who needs to hear this but your purpose is to be right here, right now. You don’t need to get somewhere, you don’t need to live up to expectations, you can exist in this infinite present moment.
These three books act like anchors I toss out of the ship of life every year to reflect if I’m on the right course. They remind me of what matters most in the modern world. And they provide the tools to implement the corresponding changes into my life.
I’d prefer these perennial books to any new flashy self-help bestseller. Why? Because I’d rather understand and implement one terrific idea than grasping a thousand good ideas and never act upon them.
If you’ve never re-read a book I’d recommend starting with an easy, short book you’ve read (maybe even The Little Prince). And if you’re already an avid re-reader I’d love to hear your favorite books to re-read.