The autobiography of Booker T. Washington detailing his slow and steady rise from a slave child during the Civil War, to the difficulties and obstacles he overcame to get an education, to his work establishing vocational schools (most notably the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama) to helping black people and other disadvantaged minorities learn useful, marketable skills and work to pull themselves, as a race, up from the bootstraps. I found reading this book to help put some of my own problems in perspective. Yeah, high school sucked, but hey, at least I didn't have to teach myself to read!
One of my favorite quotes is "I have learned that success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed."
Another interesting quote, one that was said about black people but applies much more broadly, is:
During the next half-century and more, my race must continue passing through the severe American crucible. We are to be tested in our patience, our forbearance, our perseverance, our power to endure wrong, to withstand temptations, to economize, to acquire and use skill; in our ability to compete, to succeed in commerce, to disregard the superficial for the real, the appearance for the substance, to be great and yet small, learned and yet simple, high and yet the servant of all.