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4 books that inspire Malala blog

4 Books that inspire Malala in leadership

Overcoming obstacles is a theme of Malala’s favourite books.

4 books that inspire Malala blog

No time to read, or sleep

Malala Yousafzai doesn’t get a lot of time to read.

Or sleep.

At an open forum An Insight, An Idea with Malala Yousafzai (part of the World Economic Forum in Switzerland in January), Nobel laureate Malala was asked if she slept much.

“These days, no. At university I try to, sometimes I just can’t do it,” she revealed.   

Now 21, Malala became the world's youngest ever Nobel Prize winner at 17.  Her autobiography I am Malala sets out her, and her father’s, sustained fight for girls' rights to be educated, and her recovery from an assassination attempt in Pakistan at the hands of the Taliban.

Between writing three essays a week for her Oxford studies in Politics, Philosophy and Economics (PPE), half hour walks to lectures, and socialising with friends, the human rights activist and scholar admits to being sleep deprived.

“I’m not a morning person, I would happily get up at 12 or 1 p.m. Morning is not part of my life,” she told the forum participants.

A common theme links her favourite books

So, time-poor Malala’s favourite books don’t include recently published works. But, perhaps not surprisingly, all have a theme of overcoming obstacles to live your dream. All feature a protagonist on a hero’s journey of empowerment, learning lessons of leadership and self-determination on the way.  

The Alchemist – Paul Coelho

Malala says The Alchemist is always her favourite.  

“It’s about staying true to your goals and trying to keep on moving even though you may face difficulties on the way. Keep moving. That’s what I’m doing. I’m keeping moving,” she told the forum.

The Alchemist tells the story of an Andalusian shepherd boy who starts a journey in search of a worldly treasure at the Egyptian pyramids after having a recurring dream – a prophecy, as a Romani fortune-teller interprets it. The young shepherd’s adventure ends with him finding more riches than he ever hoped for.  The Alchemist’s main theme is finding one’s destiny. The whole journey teaches us to follow our hearts and dreams; we should always seize the opportunities life offers in the pursuit of whatever makes us happy.

“Don’t give in to your fears. If you do, you won’t be able to talk to your heart.” – The Alchemist

“The secret of life, though, is to fall seven times and to get up eight times.” – The Alchemist

The Breadwinner, and Parvana’s Journey, both by Deborah Ellis

“I really like reading stories of women and girls,” explained Malala to the open forum.

The Breadwinner is a children’s book that tells the story of a 12-year-old girl named Parvana and her family, who are struggling to survive in Afghanistan under Taliban rule. She must pretend to be a boy so she can work to support her family. In the sequel Parvana's Journey her father dies, so, accompanied by other children on the run, Parvana must find a way to locate her remaining family inside war-torn Afghanistan.

For her research, Canadian author Deborah Ellis spent several months interviewing women and girls in refugee camps in Pakistan, and used these interviews as the basis of her depiction of life in Afghanistan. Most of the royalties from her 30 books, including more than one million dollars from the Parvana series, are donated to worthy causes, including UNICEF and Street Kids International.

Meena comics by UNICEF

Every year UNICEF releases new comic book stories about a nine year old girl called Meena. Meena has a huge following amongst children and adults alike throughout South Asia, including India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bhutan.

Each comic deals with a social issue, as spirited Meena braves the odds – whether in her efforts to go to school, or in fighting discrimination against children. As well as Meena, the stories feature her brother Raju, her pet parrot Mithu, and members of her family and community.

Titles include:  Dividing The Mango (brother Raju finds out what it’s like to be Meena for a day); Say No To Dowry (Meena and her family question the practice of dowry); The girls came back (Trafficking and sexual exploitation of girls); Count Your Chickens (Meena’s dreams of going to school come true); Too Young to Marry (Can Meena help her cousin who’s being married off at 15? Spoiler alert, the happy ending has the engagement taking place, but not the wedding) and We Love Books (the need for quality learning materials in education).

Tickets are almost sold out for An Evening with Malala Yousafzai, in Sydney on December 10 and Melbourne December 11.  To secure the limited places available, click here.