Many lessons can only be learned in life through trial and error. But books can save us a lot of suffering if we learn the same lessons through them! Guess what? None of the books on this list are the literary classics that critics laud for being so deep and meaningful. There’s nothing wrong with classics. It’s just that I’ve learned far more from what literary snobs call ‘trash’ than I ever did from the books they praise. What are these life lessons? Well, here they are:
Lesson: You are not your family. What they have done is not your fault.
Where I learned it: Run Like Jäger by Karen Bass.
This is a lesson that holds a lot of meaning for me because both of my parents had fathers that were…not so great. As a kid, I was very sad that I never got to meet my grandfathers and held rather romantic visions of what they must have been like. Then I actually asked what they were like and was horrified. How did their past sins reflect on me and my family? Well, Run Like Jäger, where the main character wrestles with what his grandfather did in Germany during WWII, hit pretty close to home. I finally made peace with myself and learned that the sins of my ancestors have nothing to do with me.
Lesson: Crap happens and sometimes it’s your fault. The best thing to do is move on and do better next time.
Where I learned it: The Lost Years of Merlin by T. A. Barron.
We all make mistakes and sometimes the consequences are horrible and you have to live with your guilt. But The Lost Years of Merlin helped teach me how to move on past adversity and become a better person for it. The guilt will still be there, but it does fade with time. Once you’ve learned your lesson about where you went wrong, you can move on and do better next time. Merlin (then called Emrys) is torn with guilt over Dinatius’ death, even though it was in self-defense, and promises to atone for it. His journey to Fincayra is a soul-searching journey where Merlin comes to terms with what he has done.
Lesson: You can’t let fear control your life.
Where I learned it: Feed by Mira Grant.
One of the main themes throughout Feed is how there’s a conspiracy in post-zombie America to keep people scared. If you keep people scared, you can do things and justify them by using the “it’s for your safety” argument while slowly taking away everyone’s freedom. The most important lesson I learned from Feed (and I did learn several) was that you can’t let fear rule your life. How much are people willing to sacrifice in the name of safety? A lot, it turns out, as you can see by many of the entries on Free Range Kids, in particular the one about the ridiculous restrictions in the name of safety in one church. In general, I am not a very trusting person. I have many reasons for this, but sometimes this mistrust borders on fear and has controlled my life. Feed taught me that you can’t let fear rule your life because then you’re not really living.
Lesson: There is always a choice.
Where I learned it: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series by Michael Scott.
Josh and Sophie Newman are supposedly the twins of prophecy that have the power to save the world or destroy it. Many times it seems like they have no choice and must accept their fate, even if it is horrible. In life, there are many times when there seems to be no choice. You have to do something you really feel is wrong. But there really is always a choice: you can choose to not do something. There are often consequences, but the point is that you still have that freedom of choice.
There are lots of important life lessons in books and this article doesn’t even begin to cover all of the ones I’ve learned. But what have you learned from books?