A Book that Inspired Dr APJ Abdul Kalam the Most

Dr APJ Kalam

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“You have to dream before your dreams can come true,” believed he.

Born on October 15, 1931 in the holy town of Rameswaram, the story of this visionary leader is no less than a dream story, which underlines the importance of dreams, faith, perseverance, persistence and vision in one’s life. A pious soul, who departed for his heavenly abode on July 27, 2015, at the age of 83, proved to the world that “Great dreams of great dreamers are always transcended”.

A philosopher, scientist, nationalist and visionary leader he was, and the world known him by the name of Dr APJ Abdul Kalam.

“To succeed in your mission, you must have single-minded devotion to your goal,” said he.

At an age of eight when most of the children are still tied to their mother’s apron string, this boy, like an elder member of the family was supporting his family by selling newspapers and learning life by closely observing it. Because he believed that “Man needs his difficulties because they are necessary to enjoy success.”

Drawing inspiration from birds, trees and the sea in his childhood, and learning life lessons from his father, mother and Ahmed Jalalluddin, this boy soon matured into an inquisitive person with indomitable spirit and unflinching faith in God who became first a scientist and then the first citizen of India, serving as the 11th President of India from 2002 to 2007, and giving dreams to his nation and his powerful vision in the 21st Century.

Leaving a rich legacy of wisdom wealth stored in more than 17 volumes of books that Dr Kalam wrote, most of which are best sellers, this post highlights the book that inspired him the most and made him the Missile Man and the People’s President of India.

In his autobiographical book, My Journey: Transforming Dreams into Actions, Dr Kalam shares the list of books which always gave him solace and peace at the most disappointing and difficult moments. And Light from Many Lamps edited by Lillian Eichler Watson is the one such, among the list of his favourite books which inspired Dr Kalam the most. A classic work, originally published in 1951, served as a big source of inspiration for the missile man in the toughest moments of his life. A book of infinite wisdom and riches from the ages, served as the storehouse for giving spiritual and moral guidance and courage when he needed them the most .

Dr Kalam says in My Journey, “There has hardly been an occasion when the works mentioned in the book have not brought me solace in my hours of sadness, or uplifted me when I needed advice. If I am ever in danger of being swept away by my own emotions, this book brings about a balance in my thinking.”

Now what does this book offer?

This book offers Wisdom of the Ages.

As Samuel Johnson writes, “A man will turn over half a library to make one book” this book is one such book. Treasuring stories, letters, quotes and incidents from the lives of great men, this book makes one feel as if one has access to half a library while reading it. Divided into 10 sections, which are mentioned below, this books deals with the themes which matter most in one’s life.

1. Happiness and Enjoyment of living

“Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.” Abraham Lincoln

2. Faith and Inner Calm

“Without faith a man can do nothing; with it all things are possible.” Sir William Osler

3. Courage and The Conquest of Fear

“The Things courage can do.”  Sir James M Barrie

4. Confidence and Achievement

“Men were born to succeed, not to fail.”  Henry David Thoreau

5. Self-discipline and the Development of Character

“A man’s own character is the arbiter of his fortune.” Syrus

6. Personality and Relationship to Others

“The art of pleasing only requires the desire.” Lord Chesterfield

7. Peace and Heart and Mind

“Nothing can bring you peace but yourself.”

8. Love and Family Life

“To be happy at home is the result of all ambition.” Samuel Johnson

9. Contentment in Later Years

“It is magnificent to grow old, if one keeps young.” Harry Emerson Fosdick

10. Hope for the Future

“We are just at the beginning of progress in every field of human endeavour.” Charles F. Kettering

Dr Kalam, came across this book in 1953 at a second-hand library in Madras, and soon this book become his best companion as he wrote in My Journey that “I have leafed through it and read and reread it so many times over the years that I have possessed it.” In fact, Dr Kalam read it so many times that the books had to be bounded and rebounded to keep it in its proper shape.

Now to know more about this visionary and great man, it is suggested to read, My Journey: Transforming Dream into Action along with his favourite book, Light from Many Lamps by Lillian Eichler Watson.

And whenever you get time, make sure to listen to the story of this great man from Rameswaram in voice of Gulzar. And remember these lines below, when you digress from your mission and dream path.

“We should not give up and we should not allow the problem to defeat us.”

“Those who cannot work with their hearts achieve but a hollow, half-hearted success that breeds bitterness all around.”


  • Prashant says:

    The biggest loss of the nation ever.
    His gracious presence will always be missed.
    He was one of the very few politicians who have inspired me this much.
    Thank u ma’am for letting us know about his true inspiration.
    I am looking forward to read the book that inspired him.
    We should follow his principles to have a life where success, peace and giving nature exist all together.

  • Pratibha says:

    Yes Prashant, this irreparable loss is too big for the entire nation. But great men like Dr Kalam never die. It is his physical body that has departed to rest in eternal peace, but his ideas and thoughts and vision will always remain with us through his immortals dreams. The best tribute that we all could give to him is to follow the path that he showed to all of us and live by the highest of values and standards that he set for the entire nation.
    The other four books which inspired him the most were: Man the Unknown by Dr Alexis Carrel which he considers first favourite in Ignited Minds, second book is Thirukkural by Tiruvalluvar and then the Holy Quran and Bhagavad Gita.

    • Prashant says:

      Yes ma’am we will follow the path that he showed to us.
      And thank u so much dear ma’am for sharing few more books that inspired him.
      I will read them all and understand their strong messages.

  • Rubal says:

    I know a bit about Dr. Kalam and his brilliant mind, I’ve read one of his books ‘Wings of fire’,and may read it again to understand it better. I sincerely hope there are more people like him.
    Thanks for remembering him

    • Rubal says:

      There’s something more I’d say:
      Whenever we read a book(story), there is always and always something in the book with which our lives relate.
      Truly awesome:) and beautiful

      • Pratibha says:

        Yes Rubal, books like Wings of Fire, Ignited Minds, My Journey, Indomitable Spirit and many more by Dr Kalam show us the right path for present and the future. These books are the road map to success for anyone who wants to embark on a dream journey like Dr Kalam. Go ahead and re-read ” Wings of Fire” and I am sure that you will encounter many aha moments!

  • Mohit says:

    It’s just that in our life some people will come across and change our lives forever.For me it was Kalam sir,after reading and listening to him I was filled with so much of energy to follow my vision.

    He turned every stepping stone to success, I haven’t seen a man so humble and down to earth in my whole life,such was the charismatic personality of Kalam sir.

    My tribute to Kalam sir will be to fulfil his vision of India which he saw happening and was working day and night to complete it. We as a nation have a duty on our hands to make his dream successful and give our best efforts to complete it.

    I personally keep Light from many lamps on my bedside as this book is full of wisdom and motivation and helps me in every corner of my life.

    I would love to end by my favorite Kalam sir quote:

    “Dream is not that which you see while sleeping it is something that does not let you sleep “

    • Pratibha says:

      Accept my sincere thanks to you Mohit; first for encouraging me to write this post at the earliest; and second for giving me this most valuable gift, Light from many lamps, to always treasure. This book is one of the best reads for constant inspiration and motivation. Many thanks to you and Satish for giving me encouragement and new vision, packed with many dreams to fulfil in times to come.

      Though the post is too short to describe the character, deeds and virtues of Sir Kalam, but I just hope that with this little gesture of ours, we would be able to encourage and motivate people to read his books and books which inspired him the most. The best tribute that we all could give to him would be to walk on his dream path and be like him who always walked his talks.
      Keep sharing your pearls of wisdom, it always feels great to hear and learn from Young and great minds like you all!

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