Banbury author, 19, pens book which uses his life and inspirations to provide wisdom and insights to help young people

'INSPIRED: The stories within and around us' draws on inspirational people, events, places, and experiences

Neo Kalungu-Banda at the launch of his book INSPIRED
Neo Kalungu-Banda at the launch of his book INSPIRED

A 19-year-old Zambian psychology student, Neo Kalungu-Banda, launched his first book in his hometown of Banbury.

The book, 'INSPIRED: The stories within and around us', is based on his life story, and draws on inspirational people, events, places, and experiences that moulded him into a motivated young man. Thought-provoking and moving, INSPIRED touches on important themes such as the aspirations of Generation Z and young people negotiating a changing world during a pandemic.

Neo started writing INSPIRED in March 2020 – during the Covid lockdown – after a Facetime call with a friend who suggested that he relates his book to his life’s story. Neo, who readily accepted the challenge, had time on his hands because Covid had caused the cancellation of his A-level exams. Neo finished writing the book in January 2021.

Neo previously played in a semi-professional football club, Brackley Town – as well as local clubs, Banbury Irish and Banbury United. This sporting experience provided inspirational content for the book, as it instilled valuable life lessons - such as practicing hard, being a team player, staying focused and realising that failure might be part of the deal. He learnt that “an inspiring moment, story or person can remain with an individual for decades”.

The INSPIRED tale is told in five sections: people who have inspired Neo and what can be learned from them; the occasions on which Neo has been his own inspiration; places throughout the world that have inspired him; how lockdown inspired him; and events that he found inspirational.

Neo said: “My book is relevant because we all need wise nuggets to keep us going in life and to evolve as individuals. I hope the gems and stories narrated in my book will resonate with many people, regardless of their age, and have a positive impact on their lives.”

Chanka Zimba, a professional footballer for Cardiff City, says: “Inspired is a book that young people will benefit from reading. Neo manages to reflect on his life experiences and turn them into a teachable range of lessons. This book will also teach young athletes about the obstacles they may face during their individual journeys and how to overcome them.”

Doctor Nick Isbister, an executive personal coach, adds: “Neo Kalungu-Banda is a remarkable young man. At this fascinating moment in our history - navigating a global pandemic, emerging out of lockdown, assimilating the trenchant criticisms of our society from Black Lives Matter - a young, black man reflects on life and offers us insights to people, places and events that have inspired him. These are the thoughts of a young man making sense of his world… we need to listen to this voice of a new generation, a voice of an alternative view.”

Jules Foreman, a Brighton-based writer, says: “Neo handles all subjects with the perfect balance of respect and wit, seriousness and playfulness, self-confidence, and the ability to laugh at oneself. I had many ‘aha’ moments reading this book.”