The Book You Really Need to Read Next


At any point in time, we’re continuously
being encouraged to pick up some novel or other. Reviews, the recommendations of friends
and the windows of bookstores edge us towards certain titles that, we’re promised, will
definitively answer the deepest needs that we bring to literature. Imagine that we have
picked up some such title. It’s late in the evening and we’re just starting out,
our volume releasing the characteristic sweet smell of newly opened work. The author is
going to great lengths to get us interested in the life of someone living in Edinburgh
in the 1930s; it’s raining a lot and their car breaks down; they’ve got a friend in
Budapest who is pregnant; there’s a robbery at a department store. There’s a reference
to Dundas Street and we flick back thirty pages and realise that’s where the main
character’s sister used to live. There’s a retired engineer with very bushy eyebrows
who must be important in some way we don’t know yet. Immense effort and intelligence
are being devoted to exploring the existence of a fictional individual. But at this point,
an incidental yet rather major thought strikes us: no one, we realise, has ever looked at
our life – our habits, our friends, our past, our dilemmas and problems – with such
sustained curiosity or in such detail. In the novel on our lap, there seem to be plenty
of pithy insights, clever summations, striking observations and astute analyses, but all
for the sake of the workings of the mind of someone else, who’s not really very much
like us. It’s a familiar situation we’ve been educated politely to take for granted.
But now it hits us with particular force: we’re reading the wrong book. What we should
really be doing is reading a book about us – written with the same elegance and wisdom,
but placing the raw material of our life in a lucid order, selecting and joining up diverse
events in our chaotic stream of consciousness and turning them into a coherent story. We’re
politely interested in the stories of others, but the story we really need to hear about
is our own. What we really crave is for someone to make loving sense of us. We want them to
write us, with all our complexity and obscurity, down in crisply phrased and clear sentences.
Our reading of someone else’s novel is dutiful and well-educated no doubt, but it is as if
we went to the doctor and they made a very accurate diagnosis of someone else’s earache,
or if a financial advisor went to great lengths to present us with a solution to the money
troubles of a stranger, from which we could at best extract the occasional fleeting hint
of what might possibly be useful in our own case. In the 1690s, one of the greatest of
French writers, François Fénelon, was appointed tutor to the young Duke of Burgundy. To assist
with his education, Fénelon wrote a long and fascinating novel called The Adventures
of Telemachus in which the Duke, lightly disguised, was the central character. The problems the
character in the novel faces were exactly the problems the Duke was actually facing;
the strengths and weakness of the central character – carefully understood by the
writer – were his. It sounded like the rarest and most cultivated luxury to have someone
write a novel about you. But it is a treat we should all be granted – and perhaps secretly
crave. We don’t need to give up our jobs and become writers – because this book of
ourselves is one we’re writing already; we’re at work on it in the early hours,
when we can’t sleep, when we daydream, make plans, go over the past – and give ourselves
over to retelling, as best we can, what has really happened to us and what it all could
mean. It’s simply a pity we don’t devote as much energy as we should to this emerging,
critically important work. It is hugely noble that we spend so much time reading the novels
of others. It is life-saving and properly generous to ourselves when we learn to order
and make sense of the experiences of our own troubled days and nights. There is no risk
in reading plenty of novels, but on a regular basis, we should carve the time to write and
then read back to ourselves the nascent, unfolding novel of the story of our own lives. To learn more about Self-Knowledge, click the link on your screen now.

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100 thoughts on “The Book You Really Need to Read Next”

  1. The School of Life says:

    What would be the key chapters of your own book? Or are they yet to come? Let us know in the comments below or we have a discussion going on right now on our app:

  2. Shashank S says:

    I am big fan of the content that is on view here. Please don't stop!

  3. Zyck Hyle says:

    Hello. I need to study for my literrature exam but I really don't want to but probably should. Any way to get the thing done?

  4. Peter Pumpkinhead says:

    Fuck Off

  5. Jia Jun Koh says:

    I fucking love this. This is what I have been thinking about a lot, the stories of our own lives. I recently thought of a pretty interesting exercise that can get you motivation and can help steer yourself to do something you find meaningful.

    Imagine there is a narrator in your head, reading aloud whatever you are thinking about. What is the narrator talking about? What are you doing? What are you thinking about?

    When you narrate your life out, you realise how much of what you do actually contributes little to your own well-being and that of others.

    "Jerry is now scrolling through facebook, looking at the lives of his friends." If this is what the narrator said, it should strike you as something that you are doing something meaningless – or even harmful – to yourself.

    We are all writing our own stories, it's all we have. It's what we make of it. Why not write it beautifully?

  6. Erwin Eule says:

    I got it

  7. Lewis R says:

    I recommend that yous read the 48 laws of power instead

  8. Lewis R says:

    Pop psychology and it's all poncey and feminist

  9. 'Eternal Optimism... says:

    Only valid Love forms a circle because although you choose the other 1st, reciprocity is never guaranteed. Love builds on a continual selfless choice to do the best for the other; its blindtrust/selfless Hope (not result) for Happiness as peace. _Causality in Selfless…/dp/B01M675DD2

  10. TheBanana says:

    It sends shiver down my spine, outstanding work!

  11. Cyann says:

    The Bible

  12. Ram Jam says:

    I am actually writing a book about myself since 2015. It's called a Daily Journal. 100% recommended to those that like to look back and remember the good and bad.

  13. MrShanester117 says:

    I’ve been keeping notes about my life for, well, my whole life

  14. Jef ier says:

    If you start reading about yourself you'd get what's known as "cognitive dissonance", and that can make you very sick, which will make you grab another pointless book just to get back to normal…

  15. Noway Youknow says:

    As usually, great visuals, wonderful reading and very helpful! Thanks a lot!

  16. Nick Barefoot says:

    School of Life is using clickbait now?

  17. Jon Roland says:

    Since the widespread education over the past century many people have been drawn to write. Before this age of empowerment, the aristocrats and scholars were the only writers whose ideas were entertained and the popular books and brands were printed endlessly. Nowadays we have multiple ways for publishing books: publishing houses, magazines, ebooks, and of course self-publishing. The accepted works are printed en masse as the rest are abandoned or self-published (digitally to reach as many readers as possible).

    What if we reset the board? What if each self proclaimed writer were permitted to print only 1 copy of each written book, and could only be bought by trade of other another book? How strangely would the value and commerce of books become? If a book was torn or burnt, could they be reprinted? What about summaries and overall ideas discussed over books?

  18. Ivan Leon says:

    But how can we write stuff about ourselves without being bias? How can we properly tell a story that happened years ago when memories are not always reliable?

  19. 3b000d_ART / عبود ارت says:

    if you're not a muslim or even if you don't know what Islam actually is .. then i think that the next book you have to read is the Quraan .. believe me .. it will be a life-changing experience

  20. SenzaSenso Cazzate says:

    Guess it is a good video. that may even help someone, but… after the joy that filled my heart when I read the title, I felt such a deep disappointment when I saw the video… I don't know what I expected, but as soon as I read "book you need to read next", my love for books filled my brain with a lot of stupid expectations…

  21. Square Nipples says:

    Would love to begin reading. But then again, I don’t have electricity in my apartment anymore

  22. A ViRGO says:

    1:21 that’s me.

  23. sugarkang says:

    This encourages narcissism.

  24. earthminus10 says:

    I like opening old books also

  25. Faith Nelson says:

    weird i just began doing this last week. better get back to it tonight maybe.

  26. AzazelEblis says:

    Wow. Such a narcissistic perspective.

    How about using those other people's stories to grow our own perspective on our own?

    Seriously… How grandiose do you have to be to tell folks to keep a journal?

  27. Kaneki Katharsis says:

    Books destroy life. Gives you presumptions. Limits your paths of wisdom.

  28. Kuarelli Baum says:

    I disagree, we should read more about others but about people who really exist, how can anyone write his own story without even understanding what ist happening all around them? And isn't it sometimes good to learn that someone how as a stranger to us may have similar problems in live and someone who seems familiar has completly different?

  29. Szafranowy Kaznodzieja says:

    So pure pragmatism, meh.

  30. Strange Attractor says:

    Terrible advice. The entire point of good fiction is to transport the reader into the minds of others. We don't do it out of politeness or desire to appear educated, we do it because we desire to transcend the self, and discover the universality of the human condition. Writing only about oneself is a tedious and typically teenage habit, which we need to grow out of in order to become adults.

  31. Übermensch says:

    My left ear loved this

  32. Abdullah says:

    So you are probably recommending reading the novel of Fenelon right 😉

  33. Jerome Chin says:

    At 4:00 … "this emerging critically important work". It means how we build the narrative to our own lives right? How we tell the story to ourselves about our past, how we came to be today, and who we hope we will become. So my question here is, how do we do that better? Often I reflect on my life and the narrative I build around my life is ruthless and the future (my hopes and dreams) that I depict is often, in the name of realism, unspectacular. How do we be come better writers of ourselves?

  34. therabbithat says:

    Is this why you almost exclusively talk about books written by white men? The more similar he is to you the more valuable he is to you?

  35. GeneralForgeron says:

    So basically don't read, but daydream more. Thanks for the advice!

  36. AstarteSpirit says:

    And I thought this is going to be the subject, more or less:

  37. Steven Smith says:

    A pointless video.

  38. veeri92 says:

    Between this and the anti-writing-books video, School of Life is starting to give off this weird impression that they don't think much of books.

  39. Mike Nelson says:

    My book would be like a Stephen King/Hunter S Thompson book, but really long and boring.

  40. Akshayata Naidu says:

    I really don't think so. I think it is wise to sometimes get away from your yourself, your ego, your problems and find refugee is someone else's life. It gives you different prespective of life and widely increase your knowledge in so many ways. Plus, external environment defines who you are and it is interesting to observe how the books you read shape you. If you are just concerned of your self.. you reduce the chance of growth. Also.. I believe the right book just comes to you.. like fate ☺️

  41. Cue For You says:

    So curious You most likely not appreciate (as well as I am) the huge massive of information with which every single author need to came through, in order to write a compelling book. Let's just take a moment and give them a huge acknowledgment)

  42. SKPjoe Coursegold says:

    a journal?

  43. Subodh Prasain says:

    Its a nonsensical idea appealing to and humoured only by the people who haven't been able to think anything that happens in their lives. When we read a novel we just don't read the fortunes and misfortunes of characters in it and laugh or perhaps shed tear or two after what has happened to them. A good reader would invariably try to interpret, which, in its essence, is comparison to their knowledge of the real world and the experiences they have accumulated throughout their lives. What has happened in our lives needn't be written down, memories are enough.

  44. mohamed kinany says:

    if u talked more slow and clear it would be better

  45. sanstimbre says:

    Aka buy their books!

  46. Shruti Srivastava says:

    Is it not scary? I mean going through everything we have done or we have been doing, knowing the wrongs we have done, or the wrongs that happened to us, making peace with it, working on our shortcomings everyday, is it not overwhelming?

  47. Soulburner says:

    This made me feel better. That placed alot of complex ideas feelings and emotions into some kind of structure. Thank you. Keep up the good work and I'm going to donate.

  48. Alexandra Wimmer says:

    Is this why some people seem addicted to going to the doctor's, and to psychotherapy?

  49. Sara Suk says:

    Same as videos ~

  50. Marouge bleu says:

    I found my self escaping the though of my life when I find it to hard and to complex by reading a novel about somebody else. It's a bit sad but I prefer learn about fictional character's problems than my own.. thank you for clarifying that to me, your videos help me a lot though such difficult times.

  51. Julie Seely says:


  52. Lua Veli says:

    There is another truly wonderful video from this channel called " How to Travel in Your Mind". There they explain us why our memories are so valuable and how much we still can learn from them! I wanted to share again, the comment I wrote under that lesson, since it is very relevant:

    1. " We are what we remember" says Eric Kandel. But Gabriel Garcia Marquez says it even better:

    " Life is not what you lived, but what you remember and how you remember it in order to tell it".

    ( At the beginning of his autobiography " Living to Tell The Tale" )

    And I think how we remember it and how we tell it, has a lot to do with our capacity to express ourselves.

    Wittgenstein says:

    " All I know is what I have words for".

    So, on occasions where we can't quite find the words to describe what is happening to us or how we feel, we miss something about those moments…

    But here is hope: if we keep educating ourselves and re-visit those remembrances from time to time, we can find new meanings in them, and we can understand them better. We can learn new things from the very same past!

    Then what Kierkegaard said really makes sense:

    "Life can only be understood backwards , but it must be lived forwards"

    2. This reminds me of Michael Jordan! On an interview I have heard that he sees "patterns" when he plays. So he sees where every player stands in that moment and where the balls is, and he intuitively recognises a pattern he knows and reacts accordingly to get the ball!

    I thought this was so fascinating and may be we could have this as a metaphor when we look back at our lives. So going back to old memories would not only honour those memories , but it could also make us " recognise" the patterns in our lives ( This tends to happen a lot around relationships) So in this case, our past would help us to gain a little more control over our future.

    3. There is a very scary poem by Charles Baudelaire, called "The Clock". But I like it! That's where he says:

    "Minutes, blithesome mortal, are bits of ore
    That you must not release without extracting the gold!"

    So if we could not extract the gold in that very moment for some reason, we can still go back and try again!

    4. Here is a great line to remember, both for our past and future experiences. Rainer Maria Rilke says:

    " …For believe me, the more one is, the richer is all that one experiences".

    So our goal should be to become wiser, more sensitive and more profound , so that everything we experience can also become more meaningful.

    The mere act of writing itself is an excellent way of "thinking" and it always motivates you to seek for clarity.

    5. One truly fascinating thing is how our memories change all the time! Our minds play tricks on us. We remember things that did NOT happen, and forget things that did happen.

    There are two incredible, unforgettable podcast episodes on this issue. Don't miss them!

    – " Memory and Forgetting", from RADIOLAB
    – " Free Bryan Williams" , from Revisionist History ( Malcolm Gladwell's excellent podcast )

    ( For friends who speak Spanish, these lines by Luis Rosales explain this phenomena perfectly:

    "El recuerdo teje con doble hilo
    y de cuando en cuando
    se recuerdan cosas
    que no han sucedido". )

    7. Elisabeth Gilbert says that she has this huge jar and everyday she writes on a paper "the most beautiful moment of the day" and she throws the paper in the jar.
    It is a great idea to save at least "one valuable moment" from that "one day of life" which is quite something!

    8. I have found the following lines in a book I liked a lot.

    " Re-igniting your innate human curiosity is a wonderful way of dealing skilfully with the frantic world in which we so often live. You'll soon discover that although you feel time-poor, you are actually MOMENT-RICH. "

    ( From " Mindfulness" by Mark Williams)

    So here is the most important thing:

    When we sit down to write about our lives, we must be very kind and compassionate towards ourselves. We should look back at our past, NOT with a judging mind , but with CURIOSITY!

    Thanks a lot for this very valuable lesson and the wonderful animation :- )

  53. Itzak says:

    But Im bad at writing

  54. HIGHTONE says:

    If it’s not postmodern I don’t read it

  55. Sana W says:

    If I were to write a book, it'll have only one theme – debilitating low self esteem that hindered the author from actually having a life. BTW, I thought the video would be on junk fiction everyone seems to read these days. I purposefully stay away from books that make it to the 'best fiction/non-fiction' as a lot of times people are reading those books because they think everyone else is reading those books.

  56. Imane Belhami says:

    Guys can you explain what the video is talking about ? It was not clear enough to me .

  57. MClaudeW says:

    Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality" was so much like me that I could hardly not identify with him. It was very helpful.

  58. Khalid Nezami says:

    did you really make a real book called the school of life?

  59. Mgtow Boo Boo says:

    What do you think of mgtow?

  60. Maxine Yang says:

    You mean a diary?

  61. SlothTastic says:

    Get a diary, ez.

  62. Yushamush says:

    This is presumptuous. I enjoy insight into the perception of others

  63. Bongani Mhlanga says:

    Why journaling is such a powerful process. Reading back your experiences is one of the most revealing things

  64. Kit Thornton says:

    My own story? No thanks. I'm not overly fond of poorly paced tragedies and farces that go on too long.

  65. K August says:

    A student did just ask me to choose a book for her. I told her to just go to the local bookstore or library and just dive in. And now I have to send her this video… 💻

  66. Sophie Bai says:

    i am so in love with this channel, thanks

  67. melhartsings says:

    this is amazing. i've been writing in journals for 7 years and sometimes i wonder why it feels so important and significant to me. i'm so glad i came across this video. thank you!!

  68. Gabriela says:

    I don't think it is totally right, because we need books mainly to expand our minds and to learn to understand other people who are different from us. I think it is actually wrong to get stuck only on what relates to us, life is so rich and is so uncoherent many times. A person who has a certain mindset and lives in a certain part of the world has the great, wonderful and exciting opportunity to meet a whole new perspective of life from someone who may live at the other side of the planet. I think that is what's actually great about books: you can explore life in all its shapes.

  69. gordy unbeloverboy says:

    i recommend reading biographies of people that inspire us. who had their own troublefights similiar to ours, or even who we can relate to on different levels. reading as a selfhelp-tool.

  70. Alicia Croft says:

    We are all human. Other peoples troubles and minds are not so different. Books help us break down preconceived barriers, expand our minds and develop empathy.

    Its also not just about solving problems.. its about human joys, and experiences we might not be able to have in our own life.
    Also through reading a book, I get a closer look at someone else's soul and psyche than what is generally offered in typical social interaction. Im excessively introverted and self-analytical (theres only one story there.. it gets a bit old), reading a book is a tremendous relief

  71. Celiste Tannous says:

    Is it just me or the girl in the video is really cute and looks wise?!

  72. Olly Nolly says:

    Actually I think that many authors put something about themselves in the characters that they create. I do that also myself because it makes the charecter seem more human, familiar and it makes the life of that charecter easier to write about. So everytime I open a new book I later on go and research the author to see what aspects of themselves they have added in the story.

  73. Juan The Juan says:

    I am surprised how this video comes up in the right time; I've been having a thought around my head that I'd like to meet someone who can say who I really was after I die. Someone who is intelligent and sensible enough to make sense of this person I am and the things I did. I haven't met that person yet. Maybe I never will.

  74. Traci K says:

    Wow! Amazing animations in this one! And how true all this is as well x

  75. It's Ritu says:

    That really inspired me to write a book

  76. Anon B says:

    I've seen enough of my life. Live in Edinburgh but too poor to live on Dundas Street.

  77. Alexander Kracinovich says:

    I would like to know how to do this.

  78. Joshua Jetspark says:

    Well that just sorta felt narcissistic. There's a time to be reflective on yourself, and a time to be curious of the world.

  79. velocab says:

    Very well done!
    I will one-up you and provide a framework for self-identity:

  80. Frood says:

    2:04 I feel like I just got brainwashed.

  81. Amal says:

    i love Alain's voice

  82. Asadullah Farooq says:

    Self authoring is a genuinely brilliant practice

  83. Sherlock Holmes says:

    Hey. What to do you if you have all the books you could wish for, but somehow can't bring up the energy to actually start picking up reading one?

  84. jay dubya says:

    Hmm…I don't know if I agree with this in that I wouldn't be particularly interested in reading a novel about myself. I already know what's going on with me. I'm much more interested in the experiences of fictional people–the drifting Augie March, the harried Mr. Biswas, the sociopathic E. J. Watson–in far off places that I'll never visit.

  85. Wafa Ibrahim says:

    I watched this video yesterday, and I read a book today,
    It is true how reading a book that mentions some events happened in your life is really beneficial and interesting.. And then you start to link things up between your situation and the author's event.
    It helped me to think more and allow new ideas to come up.

  86. Jillian Smith says:

    Tell yourself your own story in the third person, essentially.  It helps you step back one level and see yourself and your life more clearly.  If I were giving advice to someone just like me (but not me), I'd probably have some valuable pointers that I can't quite accept when I'm thinking first person.

  87. Bel Vermillion says:

    Truthfully and nicely stated. Thanks for the new learning

  88. Carl Anderson says:

    The book you really need to read next: "The New Human Rights Movement – Reinventing the Economy to End Oppression", by Peter Joseph!
    Probably the most important book 📖 written today! 🙂

  89. Zohaib Hassan Shah says:

    This is outstanding but is it not like writing a diary and reading it again…?
    Daily life activities and experiences we face but why to study them again. While we can study other brilliant books not being influenced by them but to gain positivity with logical and reasonable understandings.

  90. Karl Sultana says:

    skip to 4:29

  91. riddlers91 says:

    I do that daily. My friend said i am narrating my own life. Stranger than fiction ay

  92. Seditia Rose says:

    I just published on Kindle a 97 page novella about a series of real-life events that I barely survived. Due to legalities, I was forced into using pseudonyms for every character- including me. Needless to say, its an exciting, disgusting horrifying, funny tale. Writing the story out has been cathartic-a great experience, one that has led to 2 more books. The title? ‘Home-Wrecking Whores for Christ’ Please look up Seditia Rose on Kindle, and brace yourself! 🔥🥩👹🖕💋⚡️

  93. Ravi Tiwari says:

    So day dreaming works

  94. Drew Campbell says:

    Stepping into the lives and loves and hearts and minds of other people in other places in other times, to find some common humanity or deeper insight to life outwith our necessarily restricted experience… is why I read books. The process described on this video seems more akin to writing than reading a novel.

  95. Mr. Stupendous says:

    School of Life's way to advice to have diary.

  96. Just Spam says:

    Please post more on philosophy, literature, psychology, sociology, art. Thank you!

  97. real human with emotions says:

    we Need self observations and Storys, thats what this Video suggests, but we also Need relationsships, which books and art in generell can offer. You shouldn't have framed it as a conflict in this Video.

  98. Liviu Andron says:

    This is not a bad idea if the book is private. On the other hand, the best books are not autobiographical, they transcend someone's limited experience. For myself, I hope for my book to be boring and to (really) allow me to read other books.

  99. Part of Everything & Nothing. says:

    I don't like to read books 📚 but i like to collect good books to read 😅

  100. Micaela Micaela says:

    To those who disagree with the information presented here, fast forward to 4:05 and watch this part again. Reading novels is perfectly fine IF you’re spending equal or more energy on learning about yourself.

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