International literacy day: 14 inspirational books

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Today (8th September) is the 48th International Literacy Day. International Literacy Day was first celebrated in 1966 and was proclaimed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation to remind the International community of the importance of literature and education.

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Here at Axonn, we’re quite the nerdy bunch, so to celebrate International Literacy Day, we’ve asked some of our biggest bookworms to tell us about the book that has inspired them the most, from Tolkien to Dr Seuss, non-fiction to fantasy.

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Who? Charlotte Bennett-Smith, Digital Apprentice

Which book? Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer on the journey of Christopher McCandless

Why?Into the Wild is the true story of a man who abandoned his life to live freely, and using his journals and his own thoughts, Jon Krakauer created the book. It inspired me to think outside of materialism and more about what it is that makes me happy. I’m the type of person who likes to make people feel good, and this is perfectly put by the protagonist-“happiness is only real when shared”.

"Growing up with goals of owning a big house and a nice car seemed pointless when I read this book and all of the things I learnt in R.E about the pursuit of happiness suddenly made sense. It also made me realise that even when I feel I have nothing, it doesn’t compare to what McCandless chose to go through. It was refreshing to know that someone could give up their whole life in order to break free from conformities and oppression, and still be happy.”

Key Quote: “It’s not always necessary to be strong, but to feel strong.”

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Who? Jennifer Morris, Senior Video Producer

Which book? Top of the Rock: The Rise and Fall of Must-See TV  by Warren Littlefield

Why? “As a life-long lover of fiction I’ve been inspired by many novels so it’s perhaps quite surprising that the book that inspires me most today is, in fact, non-fiction. Top of the Rock is an entertaining chronology of NBC in the nineties, with all the inside details of one of television’s golden eras. Warren Littlefield, NBC Entertainment President at the time, describes the balancing of commercial and critical success for shows such as ER, Friends and Seinfeld, with choice quotes from the writers, producers and stars of its greatest hits. 

"Looking back at such recent history, it’s hard to imagine any TV show having the kind of success described in the book but it’s a great time capsule told from an insider. It will be interesting to see how online video will have affected viewing habits and media production in 20 years time.”

Key quote: (from the author)- "Creating things is sometimes difficult

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Who? Charlotte Crowley, Marketing Content Assistant

Which book? Invisible Monsters by Chuck Palahniuk

Why? “Picking an “inspirational book” was pretty difficult for me as my preference for literature extends from the dark to the downright depressing, but when I look back on my taste in transgressive literature, it all began with one book. Despite its morbid subject matter, Chuck Palahniuk’s Invisible Monsters is probably the most inspirational book I have ever read.

"I fell in love with this book - the story of a model whose face is shot off in an accident - because of the incredible way it is written. It is a how-to guide for the modern age - a world obsessed with appearances, possessions and fame, and almost every line of the novel is the kind of stand-out quote you would want tattooing to your arm for eternity. Chuck Palahniuk’s style is one of minimalist short sentences and disquieting metaphors. It’s pure poetry, and it’s a style I have inadvertently tried to emulate in my own writing.”

Key quote: "Nothing of me is original. I am the combined effort of everyone I've ever known.”

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Who? Joey Tyson, Travel Writer

Which book? Catch 22  by Joseph Heller

Why? “I recently finished Catch 22 by Joseph Heller, a novel about a bombardier's desperate attempts to get out of WWII alive.  I was gripped, not only by the effortless way in which Heller describes war with both humour and horror, but also how he makes the reader realise how truly grotesque and ridiculous the whole process really is.

"Although the book was written in the 1950s, nothing has been lost over time. It’s as if it were written yesterday. Its satirical tone and wit makes you pity, respect, love and loathe the novel’s anti-hero Yossarian, who is, ultimately, just trying to survive, even if it means abandoning his duty.

"Solely from a writing point of view, the book is one of the best I have read. The way in which Heller describes each individual character’s traits is in depth, but somehow vague, so that you get a real appreciation for the lunacy of each one.

"As a writer, the book has inspired me to be a little more adventurous in the way I work. As a person, it’s made me realise that the world can be so ridiculously complex and manic that sometimes you just have to relax and make a joke out of it.”

Key Quote: “What is a country? A country is a piece of land surrounded on all sides by boundaries, usually unnatural. Englishmen are dying for England, Americans are dying for America, Germans are dying for Germany, Russians are dying for Russia. There are now fifty or sixty countries fighting in this war. Surely so many countries can't all be worth dying for.”

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Who? Dipika Patel, Head of Content

Which book? Schindler’s Ark by Thomas Keneally

Why? “The book that’s had the biggest impact on me is Schindler’s Ark by Thomas Keneally (you may know it better as the excellent film Schindler’s List). It’s not actually my all-time favourite book - that honour goes to Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre - but it’s one that affected me profoundly when I first read it aged 17.

"It was my first real introduction to the horrors of the Holocaust and kickstarted a long fascination with the stories of the victims who lived through (and died in) this terrible time. What I found most compelling was the juxtaposition of Oskar Schindler’s drive to save Jews from the concentration camps with his party’s horrific agenda, as well as the strength of human spirit needed by the Holocaust’s victims to endure their ordeal.

"After reading Schindler’s Ark, I went on to read many more books about the Holocaust and ended up writing my final-year university dissertation on literature of the period, which led me to more unforgettable books like Primo Levi’s If This Is A Man and Elie Wiesel’s Night.

"If there’s one thing I’ve taken from everything I’ve read, it’s how important it is for us all to simply be kind to each other.”

Key quote: “He who saves the life of one man, saves the world.”

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Who? James Martin, Content Editor

Which books? Various

Why? “It's tough to pick one book that has particularly inspired me as there are so many I have enjoyed. I’ve always loved animals and think reading books like the Animals of Farthing Wood series and Richard Adams' Watership Down and Plague Dogs when I was young probably played a big part in that.

"Lately I’ve loved the Song of Ice and Fire series, but I’m not sure it would be a good idea to be inspired by some of the stuff that goes on in Westeros!

"I’ve recently been inspired by a book in a slightly different way too. After buying a book about my football team Walsall FC that was littered with errors I’ve decided to have a go at writing one myself!”

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Who? Joe Boyd, Assistant Content Manager

Which book? The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut

Why? “Kurt Vonnegut is one of those odd writers whose work is hard to classify. He plays with sci-fi and absurdism constantly, and The Sirens of Titan is one of the best examples of this. A story of space travel, Martian invasions, chronosynclastic infundibulums (don't ask) and a whole range of other weirdness, the book is also one of the most down-to-Earth, profoundly human tales I have ever read.

"Really, it is the story of free will, of making the most of what you have, and of the overall insignificance of humanity. It might sound trite, but it has inspired me constantly since I read it. I have worked harder at improving my life ever since, because you never know when you are going to be shot off into a cave on Mercury.”

Key quote: "I was a victim of a series of accidents, as are we all."

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Who? Keisha Ming, Account Executive

Which Book? Detox Your Heart by Valerie Mason John

Why? “This book was incredible - I felt like it actually jumped off the shelf just for me. Finding this book has helped me with a lot of issues that I have been dealing with in my personal life. It helped me to understand myself and my emotions much better. Having someone in the world write a book that you can seriously relate to is mind blowing. Everyone always thinks that their problems are the end of the world when in reality there is always going to be someone out there with worse problems.

"However the wonderful thing about the book is where it touched on being allowed to feel. When we feel angry we spend so much time concentrating on what has made us angry and not enough time saying to ourselves 'Okay so I’m angry but for this moment I’m allowed to be ' The book really goes into depth about small things and behaviours you can change in yourself to make you a better happier person. Personally I think we spend way too much time worry about small things. We need to spend more time working on what individually makes us happy .”

Key quote: “‚ÄčTheir anger has become a piece of rotten luggage in their hearts, weighing down on them, causing their shoulders to sag.‚Äč”

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Who? Joanna Carter, Fashion and Beauty Writer

Which book? The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J R R Tolkien

Why? “There is no question as to what my favourite book of all time is. Most people that know me would be able to answer the question on my behalf without thinking.

"Since I was a child I was fascinated by a single book on my parents' bookshelf. It was incredibly large with gold writing down the spine and the image of a weathered man with a long grey beard and a pointy hat on the front.

"I have loved J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings since I first read it at six years old and my enjoyment of it has not faded - despite reading it once a year every year since then.

"It is a time old story of good versus evil, fraught with magic, drama and an epic journey - both literally, emotionally and personally. It shows that friendship survives the worst trials and that there is always beauty in the world.

"The story also shows that heroes can be found anywhere and that bravery doesn't just depend on the ability to wield a sword.

"With so many characters and complex themes, it provides a different reading each time you pick it up.”

Key Quote: "There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach."

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Who? Kate Robinson, Content Writer

Which book? Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

Why? “I first tried to read Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier when I was about 13, but thought it was a load of rubbish. But a couple of years later I was on holiday and had ran out of things to read, so picked it up again and fell in love with it.

"Since then, I've read it at least five times and even though technically I know what's going to happen, it still shocks me a little every time. I can't see any reason why I won't continue to read it every couple of years or so.

"I think one of the main reasons I like it is that the quiet, awkward, unnamed girl gets the man and the house (for a bit, at least). And because there's one of the best twists out of anything I've read, involving the most excellently-deserved murder.

"Rebecca is one of the only books that I always take with me when I move house and I've got three copies - just in case.”

Key quote: "...and the ashes blew towards us with the salt wind from the sea."

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Who? Phil Norris, Content Manager

Which Book? The Blue Lotus by Hergé

Why? “Humour! History! Journalism! Pictures of boats and cars and guns! A small white dog! Everything about The Blue Lotus appealed to the young Phil Norris.

"The fifth volume of the Adventures of Tintin comic series is widely recognised as cartoonist Hergé's first classic. It may not be War and Peace or A Brief History of Time, but this book had a huge impact on me when I first read it as a fresh-faced lad of 11 or 12 – and it's still great 15 years on.

"In The Blue Lotus, our intrepid boy reporter travels to Shanghai after receiving an invitation from a mysterious Japanese businessman, only to stumble upon an opium-smuggling syndicate that uses Rajaijah - the poison of madness - to bump off its enemies.

"This was the book that made me want to become a writer. Despite his tender age, Tintin survives a frankly astounding number of attempts on his life and ultimately cracks the shadowy gang, and in the process became basically the coolest person in the world, as far as my pre-teen self was concerned.

"Not only that, but The Blue Lotus's explanation of the real-life Japanese invasion of China – including the infamous Mukden Incident – played a significant role in helping me pass my History GCSE.”

Key quote: "I raise my glass to your precious health, Tintin. Your courage and nobility have restored happiness to this humble house. Your memory will be engraved upon our hearts as in finest crystal."

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Who? Natalie Corner, Senior Marketing Assistant

Which book? A Place Called Here by Cecilia Ahern

Why? “It’s not so much a singular book that inspires me, it’s the words that build each story and makes me want to create my own.

"I have always read from a very young age and there have been too many books to count that have struck a chord with me each in their own way. Admittedly books that combine elements of unique imagination, fantasy and real life are the ones I'm always drawn to. It’s probably why I like Cecilia Ahern so much.

"Every time I read A Place Called Here (which is at least twice a year) it gives me so many feels. Mainly because it gives me an answer to the age old mystery of where your socks go when you lose one and not the other. There’s always a place for something lost.”

Key quote: “Everything in life has a place, and when one thing moves, it must go somewhere else.”

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Who? Caroline Howley, Content Manager

Which book? This Book Will Save Your Life by A M Homes

Why? “This is a book about nothing. But that’s kind of the point.

"It follows the story of Richard Novack - a wealthy divorcee living a life of happy isolation in LA, who has suddenly been struck by a special kind of ennui reserved only for rich people who already have everything they’ve always wanted, and don’t really know what to do next.

"At around the time we meet Richard, he is nearing the end of middle age and his life is basically starting to go to pot. He has a series of unfortunate interactions with other people, he realises he doesn’t really know his family, his body starts to fight against his lifestyle, and his plush yet clinical house starts ominously sliding its way towards a sinkhole. You don’t get metaphors much bigger than that.

"As Richard becomes increasingly unsettled by these life changes, he starts to transform his life.

"I don’t know really why this book struck such a chord with me - at the time of reading it I was a first year uni student in Newcastle and yet somehow really identified with this washed-up financial trader living in LA. I think I just loved how quickly the protagonist was able to abandon everything he had previously considered to be important to him, and embrace new experiences with an open mind after years of being closed off. One of my favourite aspects of it was how Homes writes about the mundanity of life in such a refreshing and eye-opening way that it shifts your world perception a bit too. Essentially, reading it just left me feeling really good, and provided me with a different filter to see the world through.

"The only downside was all the funny looks you get when you openly read a book entitled ‘This Book Will Save Your Life’ on public transport."

Key Quote: “He lay there realizing how thoroughly he'd removed himself from the world or obligations, how stupidly independent he'd become: he needed no one, knew no one, was not a part of anyone's life. He'd so thoroughly removed himself from the world of dependencies and obligations, he wasn't sure he still existed.”

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Who? Karen Webber, Marketing Director

Which book? Oh! The Places You’ll Go!  by Dr Seuss

Why? "Getting lost in a good book is a magic like no other for me, whether I'm reading a page-turner novel, reliving my childhood by reading stories to my three-year-old, or learning from an autobiography or business book.

"Picking just one inspirational book is a nearly impossible task. For starters, the Bible is my anchor and serves as daily inspiration in my life, and I usually have at least three other books on the go at any given time.

"However, one mantra I've been repeating recently comes from a Dr Seuss book: Oh! The Places You'll Go! - quite a profound children's book.

"My favourite bit is the writer's advice about avoiding The Waiting Place. This "most useless place" is where people are constantly waiting... for a bus to come or a plane to go, for a yes, a no or for hair to grow and so on.

"We've all been guilty of waiting (for the weekend/until we have more money/once we've been on a diet/when our circumstances change etc) before chasing our dreams.

"Dr Seuss reminded me to avoid that useless place; to go out and do things and be present in the moment."

Key Quote:"You're off to great places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, so get on your way!"

 

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