H. Jackson Brown, Jr., a middle Tennessee native and Nashville resident, is arguably Nashville’s most widely read author, with 21 books to his name, which have been translated into 35 languages and spent hundreds of weeks on the New York Times Bestseller List.
Brown’s most popular work is one that is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. First published in 1991, “Life’s Little Instruction Book” spent over two years on the New York Times Bestseller List and can brag that it also spent one of those two years in the No. 1 spot.
That little red plaid book of quotes that alternately made you laugh and reflect is a product of Nashville. The story goes that Brown wrote it for his son Adam, who was then headed off to college. Its messages rang true to its many millions of readers, and it became a gift for almost every occasion, not the least of which were high school or college graduations. In fact, we will bet that nearly everyone of a certain age (let’s say the ‘80s generation?) received one or more copies of this book back in the day.
Brown is no stranger to the thoughtful, inspiring small books of wisdom. Two books preceded “Life’s Little Instruction Book,” with over 15 more books and compilations that followed. “Live and Learn and Pass It On” followed “Life’s Little Instruction Book,” which provided quotes from family, friends and readers on their own thoughts on life and love.
A product of one of Nashville’s independent publishing companies, “Life’s Little Instruction Book” and others of Brown’s works were originally published by Rutledge Hill Press. Rutledge Hill Press was acquired by local publisher Thomas Nelson in 2001. In a case of one fish swallowing another fish, which in turn is swallowed by an even bigger fish, Thomas Nelson was acquired in 2012 by publishing giant HarperCollins. Thomas Nelson has continued its relationship with Brown, publishing the majority of the books he has written and co-written.
Readers far and wide have been positively impacted by Brown’s books. There are many stories of parents sharing the books with their growing children preparing to leave the nest, of teachers sharing the books with their students, and even of a judge who shared it with young offenders he was trying to positively impact with Brown’s books.
Brown’s fans have not been shy in sending in their own thoughts. Some of our favorites are from students who have learned some of the wisdom in Brown’s books.
- I’ve learned that all teachers have secret powers. – Age 11
- I’ve learned that if you want to have a sleepover you are more likely to have one if you ask your dad rather than your mom. – Age 10
- I’ve learned never to play with CRAZY glue. – Age 10
- I’ve learned that you can never have too much adventure. – Age 10
- I’ve learned that it’s okay to get in trouble on Tuesdays because the principal is at a meeting. –Age 10
It is clear that Brown unearthed a treasure trove of simple and profound wisdom. It began with his own thoughts but has continued with generations of readers who have shared their own thoughts on life that have alternated between humorous, insightful and both rolled into one. As the 25th anniversary of “Life’s Little Instruction Book” is upon us, we wanted to share some of our favorite quotes from Brown’s works.
- Be brave. Even if you’re not, pretend to be. No one can tell the difference.
- Overtip breakfast waitresses.
- Leave everything a little better than you found it.
- Never go to bed with dirty dishes in the sink.
- Call your mother.
Many of us have known these quotes for all or the majority of our lives, having grown up with Brown’s books as staples in our families. Others of you may be new to the wisdom within his pages. Today’s a perfect day to start reading!