Inpsiring Reads: Fiction to Help Us Improve Ourselves

Ever since my early teenage years, I’ve always made lists of ways in which I can be better. I wanted to be better at sports, top of the class and a linguist. A life of never being satisfied admittedly isn’t healthy, but I’ve always wanted to continually improve myself. I guess that’s a positive quality. I just need to ensure that I congratulate myself on what I achieve before moving on to the next thing.

It was quite comforting to find out that Tolstoy was also a perfectionist. He had a list habit like mine, although he wasn’t often successful. Writing his ambitions seemed to have a detrimental effect, judging by the lapse of planning and the gambling and debauchery that followed his list. Lists are entirely ineffective if you lose motivation and ignore them. I’m often guilty of this.

Reading books that inspire me prolongs my motivation, I’ve found. I enjoy reading novels with characters who have qualities that I’d like to develop, or skills I’d like to gain. It keeps my on my toes.

Books that motivate me to improve myself

Once in a House on Fire – Andrea Ashworth

A tale of domestic abuse and poverty in the seventies and eighties. I read this at around the age of thirteen (too young!), and was inspired by the author’s journey to overcome her past by acquiring knowledge and confidence.

Austen’s ladies are oh so accomplished. Most of the time. Why can’t women these days be more like her characters? One passage states, “A woman must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, and the modern languages, to deserve the word”. Perhaps one day I’ll deserve the word. Ah, one can dream.
Ok, it’s clear that the parts about drugs, insanity and addiction aren’t exactly inspiring. The lives of the characters before heroin addiction is more promising. They’re creative, ambitious and, in the film, gorgeous.
Practically all of the characters in this novel are writers, and their lives are led by poetry, passion and art. One even reads books in the shower, but I see that as a bit disrespectful.

Speak, Memory – Vladimir Nabokov

This man was pretty talented. It’s incredible to see what he could do with words, considering he was a non-native speaker. However, perhaps it was his command of Russian and French that allowed him to write in English so beautifully. Nabokov was a linguist, a great writer, a lepidopterist and a chess composer. Speak, Memory is his autobiography.

It's good to meet you! I started Tolstoy Therapy back in 2012 to share my healing journey through anxiety and PTSD with books. I also climb mountains, go on solo adventures, and write over at

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