On the Bookshelf · The Encouragement Corner · Wordy Wednesday

An Encouraging Book-Pairing: “The Secret Garden” & “As a Man Thinketh”


If you’re looking for a few good and encouraging books to read this summer, I have a great pair for you: The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett and As a Man Thinketh by James Allen.They’re the perfect mixture of fiction and non-fiction/self-improvement reading.

The Secret Garden has been on my to-read list for a long time. I’d seen the movie and loved it, but for some reason I was afraid to read the book. Honestly, I think I was afraid it would be kinda boring, but then I read another blog book review on it and it pushed me to read it…and whew, am I glad I did.

The Secret Garden is a fantastic novel about a young girl with a rough start to life,who then has to figure out life pretty much by herself. Through a series of tragic events, she finds herself in a new and different culture from the one she was raised in. In this new environment she has to learn to grow up. She has to learn to learn, entertain herself, fit in, be dependent on herself, and how to mature. In the process she falls in love with nature and being outdoors, and learns to appreciate and love people more than herself. The change becomes something healthy for her. She meets a cousin she had never met before who was the same, if not worse, in manner, behavior, and attitude than herself. In seeing his behavior, it becomes a subconscious reflection of who she had been, and because of her experiences she is able to help him mature and grow, and help herself.

When you boil it down, The Secret Garden is a book about the impact that your attitude in life can actually have on your life. Some great quotes:

“One of the new things people began to find out in the last century was that thoughts- just mere thoughts- are as powerful as electric batteries- as good for one as sunlight is, or as bad for one as poison. To let a sad thought or a bad one get into your mind is as dangerous as letting a scarlet fever germ get into your body. If you let it stay there after it has got in you may never get over it as long as you live.”

“Much more surprising things can happen to anyone who, when a disagreeable or discouraged thought comes into his mind, just has the sense to remember in time and push it out by putting in an agreeable determinedly courageous one. To things cannot be in one place; ‘When you tend a rose, my lad, a thistle cannot grow.’ “

This book was a PERFECT pairing with another that a family member recommended to me but I just now found the time and determination to read: As a Man Thinketh. This is a short read, but it’s heavy reading and has an older language and writing style, so read carefully and slowly to make sure to get the meat of what it’s communicating. If you’re looking for a book to motivate, challenge, and encourage you, this is the one for. It discusses the impact that thoughts have on our actions, and our actions on our circumstances. It’s heavy on…”hey, if you’re going to complain about your circumstances…make sure you’re not the reason for your circumstances!”….in more words than that, of course. It gets its inspiration from the Bible, Proverbs 23:7. It will challenge you to reflect on yourself- your actions (even those done in private) reflect your thoughts and your character, so what kind of character do you have? It will challenge you and it will inspire you to push yourself to grow and change. Even though it has a foundation from scripture, be wary, it seems to have more of a humanist view- the idea that we’re totally in control of our circumstances, or good things happening to good people, rather than God being in control-mentality, but overall, it is a great and inspiring read.

It’s only about 20-something pages (depending on the version you get), but it may take you longer to read than you might expect. And honestly, I intend on keeping it and re-reading it, and yes, I’m one of those evil people that marks in books, especially if they’re favorites or have inspiring quotes that I want to go back to later, and this book is marked UP! Here are some of the quotes that inspired me:

“A noble and Godlike character is not a thing of favour or chance, but is the natural result of continued effort in right thinking, the effect of long-cherished association with Godlike thoughts.”

“Man’s mind may be likened to a garden…if no useful seeds are put into it, then an abundance of useless weed-seeds will fall therein, and will continue to produce their kind.”

“…Man is where he is that he may learn that he may grow…”

“Circumstance does not make the man; it reveals him to himself.”

“Men are anxious to improve their circumstances, but are unwilling to improve themselves; they therefore remain bound The man who does not shrink from self-crucifixion can never fail to accomplish the object upon which his heart is set.”

“A man only begins to be a man when he…ceases to kick against circumstances, but begins to use them as aids to his more rapid progress, and as a means of discovering the hidden powers and possibilities within himself.”

“A man cannot directly choose his circumstances, but he can choose his thoughts, and so indirectly, yet surely, shape his circumstances.”

And SOOOOOOOOOO many more…that’s not even from halfway through the book! Seriously, lots of inspiring, challenging, and motivating gems in this one.

So, if you’re in need of some classic reading and inspiration, grab a cup of coffee…or tea…or whatever, kick back, and check these books out!

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