Life-Changing Books: Your Picks

Image by George Redgrave, via Flickr Commons

We asked our readers what books made the biggest difference in their lives, and here’s what they had to say. The list below tells you what books shaped their lives and why.

1984 – George Orwell

1984 “was the first book I actually enjoyed reading. It completely blew my mind at the time (I was 16) and it opened my eyes to the power of ideas and to the joy of reading a good book.” Tim

A Short History of Nearly Everything – Bill Bryson

“Wow this book is incredible. At close to 500 pages Bryson covers everything from the moment the universe expanded from the intensely dense matter that was (aka the big bang) to man’s origin. Reading this book has impacted the way I look at everything from bacteria to asteroids.” Alex

Ariel – Sylvia Plath

“After reading through these suggestions, I realized there’s a big hole: Poetry! So much poetry has affected my life: Sylvia Plath’s _Ariel_; Campbell McGrath’s _Road Atlas_; James Wright’s _Above the River_; Brenda Hillman’s _Cascadia_…Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Robert Bly… Poetry may not be the “winning pick” here, but it definitely should be celebrated! And not just in April.” Amanda


Cat’s Cradle – Kurt Vonnegut

“This book reignited the pilot light of my imagination like no other book had done in quite awhile. The whimsy of its narrative, which ended with the utter destruction of our world thanks to mankind, was stark, shocking, yet refreshing when it seemed every other book I read was just an exercise towards getting to a happy ending. Great book!” Spamboy

Crooked Cucumber – The Life and Zen Teaching of Shunryu Suzuki

“Although I am not practicing Zen (yet), this book is like my Bible in that I plan to always read over it and reflect upon the messages therein. Suzuki had a humble vision that in order to change this world, we need to change the way people think and live, not just to change the symptoms of what is wrong. Not just to get rid of pop-prejudice and hatred, but to get rid of labels entirely, to `fight’ war and injustice with peace and understanding instead of anger…. That’s just some of the stuff that is shaping the way I think right now.” Luella

Disturbing the Peace – Vaclav Havel

“I read it as a junior in high school, picked up on the bargain pile at a B. Daltons. It impacted me because it illustrated the concept of learning throughout life and how people can live with dignity. I’ve loaned it out several times and re-bought it at least three times.” Emmett

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close – Jonathan Safran Foer

“…It’s as though that book has taken so much life from the past and made it all tangible to us here in the present. I love the emotional complexity that’s replicated in the grandmother’s and grandfather’s manuscript and letters, how they show how memory is fragmented, overwhelming, and sometimes incomprehensible. Seriously, I could go on and on. And I can think of hundreds of other books that have changed me just as much. It’s just this one has been at the forefront of my mind ever since I read it a couple of months ago.” Amanda

Great Expectations – Charles Dickens

“I think it was the first time I had felt such a bond with a character. I triumphed with [Pip’s] successes, felt the blow of failure in his defeats, and felt sorrow when he broke his own principles. I saw values in Pip that I wanted to emulate in my own life — a dedication to pursuing my dreams, overcoming my weaknesses, and treating others respectfully regardless of what frustrations I may have in my own life…” Jamie

Healing Invisible Wounds: Paths to Hope and Recovery in a Violent World – Richard F. Mollica

“A stellar book released last year that I believe will quietly grow to classic status on par with Victor Frankl and Elie Wiesel… Mollica’s thesis, radical for a professor of medicine, is that humans have the tools to heal themselves from even the worst imaginable traumas. He gently shows the recipe for self-recovery, and reveals that the survivor is, in fact, the greatest hero for us all.” Megan

Hiroshima – John Hersey

“Hersey retells what happens when an atomic bomb falls on your city. Culled from interviews with survivors of the atomic bomb attack, this narrative was originally published as an entire issue of The New Yorker magazine. Haunting.” Morgan

How to Read a Book – Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren

“Quite simply it has enabled me to get more out of the books that I’ve read.” Greg

In Cold Blood – Truman Capote

It was the first “adult book that I read upon graduating to the adult section of the Municipal Library in Krakow. Having read all the classic science fiction on the shelves, Capote’s matter of fact prose was as disturbing to me as it was new. No aliens here among far away stars but a world almost ordinary and within reach, tangible and so totally frightening. Reading it felt like being caged with a wild animal, a quick fear followed repeatedly by the mind’s pangs of pride to subdue the brute. This was no fiction yet it read stranger than anything else up till then.”

Language in Thought and Action – S.I. Hayakawa

A book that “provides a whole rationale for reading fiction that I have never forgotten. I grew up in a time and a household where reading fiction was analagous to wasting your time. Hayakawa writes of fiction as a tool to increase your experience of life, to increase the number and variety of experiences in your life, your appreciation of those experiences, to understand others and so much more!” Terry

Love in the Time of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

–“It’s for me ‘life imitates art’ because an old lover appeared in my life after 31 years. And if I hadn’t read that book I think I would have refused him.” Regina

–“Epic. Beautiful. My inspiration to become a writer.” Valentina

Man’s Search for Meaning – Victor Frankl

“[It] is one of the best books I have read. The book describes the author’s imprisonment in several concentration camps. Faced with terrible suffering and loss he survives by finding meaning in the midst of this. He discovers that all of our freedoms can be taken from us….except one….the freedom to choose how we think and act under the very worst of circumstances.” Andrea

Meditations – Marcus Aurelius

“A how-to manual of human behaviour, one that should be required reading for all aspiring politicians and leaders.” Carol

Narrow Road to a Far Province – Basho

“A quarter century ago, I set out on a bicycle trip across North America, and a friend stuck a paperback copy of Basho’s ‘Narrow Road to a Far Province’ in one of my panniers. ‘Narrow Road’ … is a diary kept by the Japanese poet Basho in 1689 as he made a journey into the northern provinces of Japan. When I was in the Sierras, delayed by snow, I read through ‘Narrow Road’ two or three times. I don’t know whether the book affected me more greatly because I was traveling or my traveling affected my perception of the book (one of those zenny questions), but I came away with a much better sense of the journey that we all make through life, both the physical and philosophical journey, and a more humble sense of my place among the sojourners.” Charlie

Now What? 90 Days to a New Life Direction – Laura Berman Fortgang

“I’ve read this book 3 times over the past 2 years and it’s allowed me to overcome my fears, realize my dreams and start working toward new goals in my career, relationships, etc. It’s given me the courage to leave the things (marriage, career, etc.) that weren’t working for me and to face the fear of the unknown to start working toward a new future.” Merlene

Slaughterhouse 5 – Kurt Vonnegut

“Read at 12 or 13 this book certainly opened my eyes to a whole new world.” Jason

Teaching as a Subversive Activity – Neil Postman

“One title that has had a big impact on me throughout my teaching career has been Neil Postman’s Teaching as a Subversive Activity. His concepts of helping kids develop their instincts for evaluating and analyzing all the messages tossed at them during their lives (he called it their crap detector) are more valid today than when he wrote the book in the 70’s.” Tim

The Brothers Karamazov – Fyodor Dostoevsky

“As a teenager I was mystified by the audacity of the grand inquisitor. I’d never read such a succint indictment of faith. As I got to my twenties I read the whole book, but in my late twenties I began to appreciate it. I’ve never read a more powerful and realistic testament to faith in my life, and as I’ve grown, my reading of the book has grown with me.” Don

The Candles of Your Eyes – James Purdy

“If the devil were alive he would be writing the works of James Purdy. ‘The Candles of Your Eyes’ changed my outlook on literature forever.” John

The Catcher in the Rye – J. D. Salinger

–“This novel touched my heart deeply.” Ellen

–“I’m going to go back to high school and say that Catcher in the Rye had a big impact on my life. While the content of the book in terms of character and story were accessible to me at 16, that isn’t really what made the difference. It was only after reading some criticism and talking with others in school and out that I began to see all that was going on in a novel beyond the plot: symbolism, irony, language and the rest. When I saw how much could go on in a book, how many things were going on simultaneously, I became very impressed with the complexity of literature as art. From then on I was pretty well hooked on books.” Jack

The Chaneysville Incident – David Bradley

This book “arrived in my library, as part of our rental collection, in the mid-70s. Since then, I have given away at least half a dozen copies, bought it for other libraries I’ve worked at, and had a brief correspondence with David Bradley, the author. It’s about time for me to reread it…. If only one of you, reading this, gets the book, I’ll be satisfied. Even if you don’t get past the dissertation on long distance public transportation.” Papermaven

The Chosen – Chaim Potok

“I read this book as a teenager. I remember being completely fascinated with the Jewish culture portrayed in the novel, but the main impact came in the way Potok emphasized the values of intelligence, intellectual achievement, and compassion for others. I was incredibly moved by the conflict between these values, and find myself re-reading this novel and the sequel “The Promise” almost yearly for over 20 years.” Judy

The Complete Stories of Edgar Allan Poe

“Short and punchy, his macabre tales pack a visual whollop that modern longer stories lack. He can create mood and tone in less than a page. When I need a break from student narratives, I read a short story by Poe. There is a reason the guy’s writing has survived.” Chris

The Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck

“I read The Grapes of Wrath in the 7th grade. That was 43 years ago. Steinbeck’s tender and loving prose and voice have never left me. I don’t think it’s too much to say that I actually, factually, love that book, and its author, very, very much.” Fuzzo

The History of Sexuality & Discipline and Punish – Michel Foucault

“Both of these books philosophically ushered me into the modern world, changing the way I saw power, sex, sexuality, school, and nothing less than the Modern Self.” Dragon Management

The Journey to the East – Hermann Hesse

“For a young reader, this became a portal for enjoying books.” Bob

The Lord of the Rings – J.R.R. Tolkien

“The book that most influenced my life was “The Lord of the Rings” that I read when I was 15 years old. That book introduced me to the world of fantasy books. Ever since I keep reading this genre of books (plus a lot others of course), both in English and in Italian.” Francesco

The Illuminatus! Trilogy – Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson

— “It’s chock full of free-thinking anarchism and did a lot to push me towards my current semi-libertarian view point.” Dave

–“I would imagine this book had a similar effect on a lot of people who read it. This book really changed the way I think and introduced me to a lot of really great information. I went on to read almost all of Robert Anton Wilson’s books. He was a great philosopher who wasn’t afraid to state his mind. He recently passed away and I know a lot of people will and are missing him. His greatest effect on me was the introduction of `maybe logic.’” Cyen

The Pleasure of Finding Things Out – Richard Feynman

“A collection of assorted writings by a great scientist shows the full palette of a sharp intelligence animated by all-around curiosity.” Davide

The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett

“I have two books that impacted my life; one from childhood and one from early adulthood. In the sixth grade, our teacher read The Secret Garden to us every day. I was captivated by the imagination, compassion, and touch of fantasy that this book awakened in me.” Jan

The Stranger – Albert Camus

“I love it so much. This book is for me pure philosophy.” Ellen

Ways of Seeing – John Berger

“A book that first opened up my eyes to the fact that there are many ways that one can examine things.” Darcy

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values – Robert M. Pirsig

–“Although I am not too much into philosophy, this book really made me see a lot of things differently!” Harish

–“After 18 years exploring philosophies I still return to Pirsig for clarity. Although I see many parallels now with more “respectable” philosophers, such as Hume, there is also a very human dimension to these books which manages always to move me. There is a sensation for many who read Pirsig of re-connecting with some long-forgotten wellspring of wisdom long lost to the reductionism of our daily existences.” David

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  • […] readers contributed to creating a list of books that left an indelible mark on their lives. You can review the original post here. But we figured why not add them to our “My Library” page on Google, a new product that […]

  • Stefana says:

    “Ishmael” by Daniel Quinn should be added to this list.

    It’s a groundbreaking statement of and against humanity as a whole, about our past, our downfall, and how we must change this instant to change out future. It’s changed how I think about the nations, international interaction, and the human race as not the only nor the most important creatures on this planet.

  • Lois R says:

    “The Fountainhead” by Ayn Rand should be added to your list too.

    The introduction of Objectivism detailed in this work was truly inspiring. It shows the strength of a Dominique Francon, female lead character and the complex relationship she holds with Howard Roarke, the protagonist. The strife of Roark, from his struggles in an early life through the peak of his profession painted a world pitted against him – though he never compromised his vision.

    In this work Rand designed characters we love to hate, and personalities in we which we all are familiar such as the sensationalist media, the opportunist, and the manipulators.

    There are decisions we make as individuals contribute to the whole of our society. We can be empowered to make decisions to improve our lives. After reading this book, it was truly life-changing. The Fountainhead is truly the source for change, as it is where the source of information begins.

  • wheelnut53 says:

    “manchild in the promise land” by Claude Brown
    this guy grew up in harlem briefly met Eleanor Roosevelt at a reform school, he went on to finish Law school. No matter how low your station in life you can rise above it all

  • wheelnut53 says:

    “Manchild in the promise land” by Claude Brown
    this guy grew up in harlem briefly met Eleanor Roosevelt at a reform school, he went on to finish Law school. No matter how low your station in life you can rise above it.

  • Allister says:

    I agree with Cat’s Cradle!

  • Michelle says:

    “The Good Earth” by Pearl S. Buck. It was the first book taught by Mrs. Billone my freshman year of high school in Deerfield, IL. I didn’t even like it very much. But it was the first time I realized that books offered much more than casual story — that the tricks of a skillful writer’s trade — language, symbolism, purposeful structure — could create a miraculous depth and richness.

    My reaction wasn’t wonder. It was to be intensely ticked off. Here I’d been reading my whole life and no one had ever told me this! My fourteen-year-old self wanted to go back and re-read every book I’d ever touched — from “Hop On Pop” to “Caddie Woodlawn” — and find out what I’d been missing.

  • Lanie says:

    Where is the bible? :roll:

  • Mostafa says:

    The little prince

    i read this book a few days ago. I am 35 years old, but I think I could communicate with this book. the book described the differece between grown-ups and the children in a very simple and nice way. you can find the philosophy of life and a nice educational method in it.

  • Kevin says:

    Really surprised Enders Game and Fahrenheit 451 are not on here. The way enders game made me feel when i first read it in 7th grade I honestly can not tell you how excited i was through the entire book. I could not put it down at all. Ender being such a small boy impacted the entire human race and for some reason this story has stuck with me through the years. I could not describe in words to you how i felt reading this book. It touched me on so many levels heart,soul and mind. 451 was the same way. But no book will ever compare to Enders Game. Ever

  • Derrick says:

    Completely agree with Cat’s Cradle (also Sirens of Titan), Ishmael, and especially the Little Prince (the claymation movie is fantastic)!

    Carl Sagan’s “The Demon Haunted World” really opened my eyes to how I look at and analyze the world. This and his other works show how important science is not as a subject but as a lifestyle.

  • bob sauerbrey says:

    I’d like to add Annie Dillard, “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.” Dillard connect me with the whole natural process involving all sentient beings and the whole cosmos. She is deeply loving without ignoring the often brutal realities of the whole rhythm of life living off life.

    She is also writing some of the most beautiful prose in the contemporary corpus.

  • josh says:

    Milton’s Paradise Lost… because of the way the language (english) sounds when an epic lyric is well done. Non native-english speakers would do well to look at Milton. He’s not as flashy as Shakespeare, but the poem is more accessible, ie: it uses less devices, but has such a powerful force of language when spoken aloud and digested. I reread parts sometimes without even consciously understanding them just for the joy of his diction. But be prepared for the dreaded ‘classical references.’ :)

  • […] out there on the net. But here’s one from Open Culture I think is kind of interesting: “Life Changing Books.” It’s reader […]

  • River says:

    So many books have impacted my life that I could not feasibly list them all. However, there are a few which I feel deserve recognition and should be mentioned on this list. From childhood I must add Tuck Everlasting. I was utterly enthralled, along with every child my fifth grade class, with this book.

    From early adult/adulthood I would like to draw attention to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice which is so well written, entertaining, and thematically complex, that I would recommend it to just about anyone.
    I alos agree that Slaughterhouse 5 is one of the best books i have ever read. I loved it so much I passed it on to a friend who thanked me and says it was life changing for her as well.

    Lastly, The Color Purple and The Temple of My Familiar by Alice Walker are to of thee most dearest books to me. I cannot even express the gratitude I have to Alice Walker for having written such beautiful, relevant and human works. I really hope that someone reading this makes the choice to read these two works, they really are worth your time.

  • Joe says:

    Where’s “Atlas Shrugged?”

  • Jon says:

    This is a great list I’m looking forward to reading some of the books on here. The books that have impacted my life the most are Good to Great, although the book is about business it really motivated me to pursue greatness. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People really helped to give me control of every aspect of my life. The last book I have to recommend is The Total Money Makeover, this book has taught me how to take control of my money. If you want more detail on why I enjoyed this books you can go to Life changing books.

  • Anonymous says:

    definately tuesdays with morrie

    this book changed my outlook on life and helped me get through every little curveball life has thrown no matter how insignificant. It helped me to appreciate all i had and taught me to always count my blessings

  • […] Discover a life-changing book: great list of books and why to read them […]

  • […] more information on the books than that list provides, you might try the Open Culture post listing readers’ favorite life-changing books. The stories associated with the books are interesting, and this list, too, is pretty broad, and […]

  • KG Alton says:

    I would have to agree with the addition of “Fahrenheit 451”. One of the first books that really opened my eyes to the control that government can impose on a society and that societies’ general complacence about being controlled (think about the liberties we’ve quietly given up over the anti-terrorism act and other legislation). “Catch 22” and “Confederacy of Dunces” also have a a special place in my heart for other reasons.

  • D. Schram says:

    Atlas Shrugged formed the basis of my conservative thought many years ago. For that I am forever grateful. I truly feel like the world is imploding just like Ms. Rand foretold.
    Who is John Galt?…

  • Suzanne says:

    Above, I saw many books that have changed my life. However, one was blatantly absent. Books typically have different aims depending on their category. For example theory tends to change the process and content of peoples thinking whereas fiction usually expands one’s emotional and cultural life humor makes us laugh, drama makes our hearts race etc.
    However, in truly great writing these aims are indistinguishable and dissolved into one another. Arundhati Roy’s “God of Small Things” affected my life profoundly, altering both my intellect and my empathetic capacities. I have read it several times and the beauty of her prose causes involuntarily giggle and tears each time.
    For this books life changing qualities, I place Roy among other favorite authors such as, Borges, Derrida, Marquez, Foucault, Vonnegut and the like. It is my hope that eventually her name will carry similar weight and power of association to these, more historically famous, names.

  • A nod says:

    The lord of the flies is by far my favorite book. I have never read a book that is so well intertwined with themes and can still make me stay up until 2 a.m. because of the page-turning action. I’ve read it three times, and still have not gotten tired of it

  • […] time for a new group project. Last year, I asked you to tell us about your Life-Changing Books, and we pulled together an excellent list that many readers have enjoyed. Now we want to know where do you go for intelligent video? If you list the sites that you like […]

  • […] list of “Life Changing Books” recommended by readers came from OpenCulture (published Aug 19 2007).  Note:  The titles […]

  • Patrick says:

    “American Psycho” by bret Easton Ellis

    Maybe I’m alone with this pick, but it certainly redifined a few boundaries for me.

  • Dharma says:

    Awesome list ! Sort of counter intuitive that on ‘openculture’, all the books had Amazon store links, none had free sources. Providing a quick link to a store leads one to buy it without spending the time to find it, correct?

  • I’m very glad to see “1984” top this list. It was definately the equivalent of taking the red pill pill in the Matrix and try as I may have in the last decade I have never been able fully climb out of the rabbit hole :)

    Dr.Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning” also changed my life. I believe that human strength lies in the mind and understanding of one’s self first, then one’s situation and others..

    Lastly I’d like to offer up Franz Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis”. I struggled with the way Kafka places the completely absurd, with almost syringe like precision, into an otherwise ordinary enviorment. But the result is such a beautiful look at the psychology of human behavior, and naked truth of what vunerability and fear are and do.

  • […] way. They have their original take. But if you want a more traditional list of life-altering books, then check out this collection created by our readers and feel free to add your own books to the comments. The more, the […]

  • 57Kevin says:

    “Codependent No More” by Melodie Beattie

  • Dave says:

    “The Selfish Gene” by Richard Dawkins was the final nail in the coffin of my belief in a divine Creator.

    I’ve heard it said of the theories of evolution and natural selection that “if you don’t believe it, it’s because you don’t understand it” – well, this is the book that will make you really, properly, understand (or to paraphrase George Orwell: “bellyfeel”) it.

  • […] in Books, Daily life at 8:55 am by LeisureGuy Interesting list. The intro: We asked our readers what books made the biggest difference in their lives, and […]

  • JonG says:

    The Possibility of an Island, by Michel Houellebecq

    For the Time Being, by Annie Dillard

    Blood Meridian, by Cormac McCarthy

  • VioletT says:

    No specific book really changed my life. Each contributed incrementally to my current literate state.
    When a child I would surf encyclopedias and dictionaries for hours. They did change my life. Later on, studying textbooks changed my life.
    I’ll select a couple of books that made me realize years ago that there had been a few sane and brilliant people who lived more than two thousand years ago and who had written timeless and fascinating books:
    ‘The Histories’ by Herodotus; ‘Lucius, The Ass’ by Lucian.

  • J Davies says:

    The Future of Life by E O Wilson

    A real eye opener – describing how man is causing mass extinction of species.

  • Tolstoy’s “A confession” and Stowe’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” were the ones for me.

  • JohnK says:

    Hunt for Red October… I had never really red much before this book. I got hooked.

  • […] computer or mp3 player, then listen any time. (On a related note, you might want to see our list of Life-Changing Books, according to our […]

  • […] computer or mp3 player, then listen any time. (On a related note, you might want to see our list of Life-Changing Books, according to our […]

  • Phil says:

    The Dune series (6 books) by Frank Herbert, who took our entire civilization and made it a tiny part of his immense imagination.

    The detail of his creation – after reading just the first book – leaves one with the feeling of a new existence, and the Earth a distant memory.

    A delicious perspective.

  • Ed says:

    “The Way of Peaceful Warriors” by Dan Millman,
    “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho,
    “Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint


  • […] for more good reads? Check out the collection of Life Changing Books assembled by our readers. […]

  • JB says:

    It’s hard to believe no one mentioned one of the English language’s greatest books, “Alice in Wonderland.” This book has not gone out of print since it was published well over 100 years ago. It appeals to children and adults. The power of language never had so strong an examplar as this remarkable book. It never grows old, and it never stops being funny. I re-read it frequently, especially when I need to remind myself that humor can be found in just about anything; that little girls are made of a lot more than sugar and spice; and that the remarkably fluid and inclusive English language can be fashioned to say anything you want it to say, serious or silly.

  • KNV Venkataraman says:

    Walden, and the Essay on Civil Disobedience – by Henry David Thoreau

    An Experiment with Truth – M K Gandhi

    The Bhagavad Gita.

  • Stone magick says:

    Wind In The Attic is one of the most moving and compelling personal accounts of growing up Pagan. This book helps people discover new social and magickal systems coined by the author, and with detailed personal accounts, practical understanding of Chaos and Elven High Magick, and with easy to follow instructions, Wind In The Attic is one of the most revealing books on the Market.


    I am very interested in selling books and looking for writers or authers whom books I could get in my stand. New books and old one. Please send your list and the writers names.
    In hope to hearing from you, find my contact. 2496-8th Ave.#5 D. New York-NY 10030. Many thanks.

  • Todd Holycross says:

    i saw the fountainhead and atlas shrugged on here and that made me very happy, her books are like a bible to me even though i am atheist everyone should read Ayn rands books they changed my life so much people look at me differently and when i tell them about her philosophy,objectivism, it blows their mind. I have spread her books to at least ten of my friends and they are spreading them too. if you haven’t read her stuff your missing out.

  • […] computer or mp3 player, then listen any time. (On a related note, you might want to see our list of Life-Changing Books, according to our […]

  • Nadine says:

    Eat Pray Love – Elizabeth Gilbert, if you have a passion for travel and you feel like your wasting your life stuck in situations you hate. read this book its helping me decide what i really want out of life.

  • Gaye says:

    “Absalom,Absalom!” by William Faulkner is a book that still affects me deeply, after decades of reading it. It is magnificent. Like Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby,” Faulkner’s novel is a critique of the American Dream and its power to corrupt. Yet, unlike “Gatsby,” it rises to a grandeur only found in books like “The Iliad” and plays like “Oedipus Rex” and “Hamlet.” I know of no other novel in which the reader becomes more actively involved. When I taught this novel in prep school and university classes, it was always my students’ favorite, the one with which they identified. Its language, storytelling technique, rich characterization, and high sense of purpose lifts it above all other novels I have read. A masterpiece.

  • Mark Gary Blumenthal, MD, MPH says:

    As a physician, I (naturally!) read a fair amount of scientific literature, including History of Science. My absolute favorite text in this genre is The Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes. In this Pulitzer Prize winner, Rhodes gives a primer into modern physics, weaves it with fascinating biographies of great scientists, and presents the most compelling anti-war analysis I have ever read with the possible exception of Death in Life: Survivors of Hiroshima by Dr. Robert Jay Lifton. Read them both. You will never regret doing so. MGBMD

  • James says:

    I’ve only read a few of the ones listed, but catch 22 is probably in my top 3 of anything I’ve read.

    I would suggest His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman. I just think it’s one of the most complete, intelligent and well balanced fantasy books written in recent times. I read them when I was 12/13 and slightly fell in love with Lyra.

    The other is Fight Club. It’s the first Chuck Palahniuk book that I read. The sarcasm just drips from the pages, and the dark humour indulges a part of me that I fear may be quite emotionally unhealthy…

  • Chris says:

    I know it sounds sort of corny, but I believe Austen’s Pride and Prejudice should be on here. I’m still only a teenager, but reading Austen makes me feel enlightened. She manages to capture the reality of social life quite perfectly; the parties; the joys; the vanities; the inequities. Her display seems satirical, in a stretch, yet highly accurate in its attempt. The novel is not sententiously written, but its lessons are well seen. She has opened my life to the understanding of human behavior more, has given me an interesting novel to pass the hours, and has left me with a profound inspiration. As i said, I am only a teenager, but this novel deserves to be recognized as truly life-changing.

  • inna says:

    I need this book to understand world culture in depth.Thank you for your site!

  • Dalyn says:

    Watchmen by Alan Moore completely changed the entire way I perceive morality, ethics, time and space. I don’t care if it’s a graphic novel the print alone speaks for itself.

  • John W says:

    The Perennial Philosophy by Aldous Huxley

    Huxley’s book provides a superb analysis of and insight into the philosophical and spiritual ideas, values, beliefs, principles and world-views that influence our lives as well as brief passages/quotations to reinforce and illustrate his reasoning, with a List Of Recommended Books that are well worth reading and reflecting upon. Huxley’s The Perennial Philosophy is a book that can be read repeatedly and each time it will offer new pleasures and greater depth of understanding to the reader. It is highly recommended to all readers who wish to learn from the lives and teachings of the world’s greatest saints and sages

  • John W says:

    The Holy Bible (King James Version)
    The Bhagavad-Gita: The Song of God translated by Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood
    The Upanishads
    The Dhammapadda
    The Imitation of Christ by Thomas A’ Kempis
    A Buddhist Bible edited by Dwight Goddard
    The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan
    The Cloud of Unknowing
    The Bible of the World edited by Robert O. Ballou
    Don Quixote by Cervantes
    The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoyevsky
    War & Peace by Tolstoy
    A Calendar of Wisdom by Tolstoy
    Bleak House by Dickens
    The Yawning Heights by Alexander Zinoviev
    Sayings of Sri Ramakrishna
    How to know God: The Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali translated with a commentary by Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood
    The Complete Works of Montaigne: Essays, Travel Journal, and Letters translated by Donald M. Frame
    Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
    The Spirit of Prayer and The Spirit of Love by William Law
    A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life by William Law
    Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu
    Songs of Kabir translated by Rabindranath Tagore
    Drinking the Mountain Stream: Further Stories and Songs of Milarepa
    Songs of Kabir translated by Rabindranath Tagore.
    The Tibetan Book of the Dead: or The After-Death Experiences on the Bardo Plane edited by W.Y Evans-Wentz
    Tibet’s Great Yogi Milarepa edited by W.Y Evans-Wentz
    Tibetan Yoga and Secret Doctrines edited by W.Y Evans-Wentz
    The Tibetan Book of the Great Liberation edited by W.Y Evans-Wentz
    The Analects of Confucius
    The Book of Chuang Tzu
    The Dialogues of Plato

  • Lindsay says:

    What about the Outsider’s by S.E Hinton. It has been my all-time favorite book since we read it in class in the eighth grade. I will never tire of it.

  • […] metų naktį lengva ranka pažada keisti gyvenimą. Internete aptikau skaitytojų atsiųstų knygų sąrašą, kuris, anot sudarytojų, pakeitė […]

  • John says:

    In my opinion Ishmael absolutely belongs on the list, however it is actually first of a series, next being My Ishmael which is a very good book and another The Story of B which is arguably the best and certainly the one most likely to change your thinking forever.

  • Enrique says:

    The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property

    I LOVE this book…highly recommend it others.

  • […] few years ago, Open Culture readers listed Slaughterhouse Five as one of your  top life-changing books.  But Kurt Vonnegut was not only a great author. He was also an inspiration for anyone who aspires […]

  • Sccoast1700 says:

    Living the Good Life, by Helen and Scott Nearing.
    This book has inspired many for back to the land living.

    Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse.
    This book saved me from utter despair when I was getting divorced. I was devastated and thought I would lose my young son. It helped change my outlook so that I could free myself from suffering.

    Walden by Thoreau

    Being Nobody Going Nowhere by Aya Khema

    I Will Bear Witness by Victor Klemperer
    His courage and will to survive are very inspiring.

  • Melinda says:

    His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman

  • Bethbrokenshire says:

    The Silver Metal Lover by Tanith Lee is always my go-to book when there’s nothing else handy. It’s incredibly deep, but quirky and easy to read.

  • Badfish138 says:

    No Ray Bradbury?

  • Quarterpint75 says:

     A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn

  • […] years ago we asked you to tell us about the books that changed your life, and you delivered. (Your first choice by a wide margin was George Orwell’s 1984.) This time […]

  • Anne F says:

    Hasn’t anyone read Illusions by Richard Bach? This story of an ex-messianic barnstormer has lighted my pathways for 4 decades.

  • koudra says:

    Η ασκητική του νίκου Καζαντζάκη. τι άλλο !

  • Rich says:

    Parenthesis in Eternity and Thunder of Silence by Joel Goldsmith. At 18 yrs old (in 70’s now), Mr. G influenced my life to move beyond “what we see, hear, taste and smell” and relie on an ‘inner world’ of love, peace and practical action. Greatest Mystic of modern times.

  • Steve says:

    “Faces in the Clouds: A New Theory of Religion” by Stewart Guthrie: the world’s religions are best understood as “systematic anthropomorphism.”

  • S says:

    “Sometimes A Great Notion” and “One Flew Over The Cukoo’s Nest” both by Ken Kesey.
    Both powerful novels, great prose…inspired me to become a writer…

  • al says:

    I have enjoyed many of these books.
    2, I would add. The Red Pony……might
    seem juvenile to some.
    All Creatures Great and
    Small series……just wonderful reads.

  • Ashley says:

    The Drama Of The Gifted Child
    The Fountainhead
    The Naked Ape
    Religion Explained
    Jesus The Man

    Enlightened common sense that gave me reason to go on living when there was no other hope.

  • Russel says:

    By Eli Pariser, “An eye-opening account of how the hidden rise of personalization on the Internet is controlling-and limiting-the information we consume.

  • Shruti says:

    Bhagavad Gita As It Is, with translations and enlightening commentary from A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (Srila Prabhupada), the founder of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, is truly a powerful book that has changed numerous lives.



  • Alice says:

    *Feeling Good by David Burnes-Wonderful introduction to Cognitive Thinking. Helped me get ahead in College Psch.

    *Don Quijote-Wonderfully Colorful. Need I say more?

    *Inside Art-Stories of Genius Painters

  • The catcher in the rye… such a great book, I stayed up all night to finish it!

  • David A says:

    Niccolò Machiavelli’s – The Prince(1517).

    His famous dissertation on power, which I have made much practical use of in business and personal settings.

    Sun Tzu’s – The Art of War

    Two timeless pieces, full of theories and advice which can be applied to many situations even today.

    Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
    “He had the wrong dreams. All, all wrong.”

  • Claudio says:

    One of the books that had and influence on me and opened my imagination would be the lord of the flies. This book had so many different character representing how different people can be and the themes the book portrays. I studied it in an english class in school, and i appreciate the literature.

  • Jack says:

    Ulysses by James Joyce continues to have a profound effect on my life after reading it over 15 years ago. No one writes quite like Joyce. All his works are masterful, and as tough as they can be to read, the reward is worth the effort. Joyce never forgets that in the long run, it’s all about the story…it’s a shame that some don’t always appreciate that in his work…but only genius writers like Joyce can mesh the art of writing and the art of storytelling so seemlessly.

  • I was glad to see David Bradley’s The Chaneysville Incident on this list. I first met this book in a lit class and couldn’t put it down. It is deeply challenging and rewarding and now I want to take a long weekend to read it over again.

    I would also recommend The Grand Meaulnes by Alain-Fournier. It was his only novel as he was killed in WWI. It is an unusual book, the predecessor to many coming-of-age novels of the 20th century, such as the Catcher in the Rye.

  • Mike says:

    I find that Plato’s Republic and Thomas Moore’s Utopia should be on there

  • gunay says:

    i liked gone with the wind best of touched me very much

  • karl koch says:

    People. Huck Finn. Come on now.

  • LaraP says:

    Excellent choices, particularly Love in the Time of Cholera (my personal favorite and yes, it changed my life). I’d add To Kill a Mockingbird as my second – one of the few books I was ‘forced’ to read in school that I truly, truly loved and couldn’t get out of my head. My personal list comes pretty close to this one:

  • David says:

    Songlines by Bruce Chatwin; dragged me from my English chair which led to 20 years wandering & I now live in Australia

  • ettemad says:

    also the book of :
    seven cities of love from Attar-e Neishabory
    was a good life-change book…

  • Eddie says:

    HUCKLEBERRY FINN: My first great reading experience- 10 or 11 yrs old, read it in one big gulp. I felt like I was Huck.

    CATCHER IN THE RYE: 15 yrs old. I felt like I was Holden. discovered Bob Dylan around same time. spent summer in Manhattan, 1965, all 3 changed my life.

    BOUND FOR GLORY, Woody Guthrie

    So many more!

  • Lenia says:

    I would say the four hour work week. It is a different style of book than the books listed here. But this book really changed my life. I read it one year ago and after that I decided to travel around the world for 6 months.

  • phill joyce says:

    Well I’d have to say Luke Rhinehart’s “The Dice Man.” read it in my teens and have been hooked on reading ever since. Will Self’s “Great Apes” is fantastic and I’ll always be greatful to the old man in the pub who caught me reading “Slaughterhouse 5” when I should have been pulling pints and recommended Thomas Pynchon’s “Gravity’s Rainbow.”

    I mentioned these three because no-one else has and because each in their own way had an impact on my life and understanding of my role within in.

  • David Fowler says:

    What a superb list! It reminds me of a few books I’ve long been meaning to read. Actually, reading this prompted me to head over to Amazon and buy Viktor Frankl’s ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’. I’ll be honest, I’ve been avoiding it thinking it would be too ‘heavy going’, but it’s such an important book I can no longer put it off! I can’t wait to get stuck into it now! Thanks.

  • MF says:

    The Fifth Mountain by Paulo Coelho. I could relate to the story and the messages.

  • esra says:

    very inspiring list with a lot of familiar books, my favorite is TERZANI, “Letters against the war”. When I read it in original (italian) I hardly could speak the language but the the message is universal, his words reached directly to my conscious…

  • 2+2 says:

    ATLAS SHRUGGED by Ayn Rand should definitely be on this list.

  • Eve says:

    I can’t believe Cormac McCarthy is not on that list! His prose blows me away every time. He writes as if every word is exactly perfect for the sentence it lives in.

  • oana says:

    Wonderful selection, must say! in my opinion at least a few other books are worthy of this selection:
    The Glass bead game, Herman Hesse
    The Trial, Franz Kafka
    The Vanity Fair, William Makepeace Thackeray

    thanks for this!

  • dedc79 says:


    I don’t think a book has ever made me laugh and smile the way this one did. It makes you rethink your relationship with the natural world and with your family all at the same time. Plus, it’s an incredible novel-long advertisement for visiting the island of Corfu.

  • Gloria Stern says:

    I was in my early teens when I read On The Road by Jack Kerouac. It opened my mind to all the possibilities that life could hold and the themes of freedom, courage friendship, loyalty and love gave my life depth from that day forward.

  • Bruce LePage says:

    Jonathan Livingston Seagull
    by Richard Bach

  • thepegasean says:

    The King James Translation of the Bible.

    Although decidedly irreligious, no book has had a more profound influence on my life than the so-called holy. It was exploring this treasured tome as a child that led me into the labryinth of a contemplative life, inspiring a love of words and wisdom alongside an enduring fascination with our ancient ancestors. This is, in my opinion, the most complete and compelling epic of the antique world, with profoundly beautiful works of philosophy and poetry hidden within it, such as even atheists can enjoy, and learn from despite themselves. Not even Shakespeare has had a greater influence on our literature, and no book influenced Shakespeare more.

    Just try not to take it literally…

  • patrick murphy says:

    Nightwood by Djuna Barnes
    Paradise Lost by Milton
    Animal Farm by George Orwell
    The Coral Island by R.M.Ballantyne
    Catch 22 by Joseph Heller
    Franny and Zooey by J.D.Salinger
    Julius Caesar by W. Shakespeare

  • saleem says:

    i need a correspondence free course pls

  • Caribastur says:

    Surprised to be the first to put up:
    The Road Less Travelled by M.Scott Peck

    Another less obvious, probably the most underestimaded novelist in the English language, Malcom Lowry: and I pay homage to his novel Under the Volcano.

    The writers of the Latin American Boom are conspicously absent up to now, beyond the mention of Love in times of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, his One Hundred Years of Solitude arrived with greater impact in the Boom literary scene, flanked by Mario Vargas Llosa’s “La Ciudad y Los Perros” (“The City and the Dogs” -my translation of the title) a strange case where literal translation of the title appears to be the best; and Julio Cortazar’s Hopscotch (Rayuela in Spanish).

    Another greatly underestimated writer in the Latin American novel scene with universal dimention, Jose Lezama Lima with his Paradiso.

    No doubt the New Testament Book of The Bible should make the list.

    Agree wholeheartedly with:
    Man’s Search for Meaning
    Catcher in the Rye
    Camus’ Metamophorsis

    Should add in there:
    To kill a Mockinbird
    Koestler’s Darkness at Noon

    Could go on but will stop right here. Great exercise!

  • Essential:

    Beginning of Infinity by David Deutsch
    Blood Meridian by Cormac MacCarthy
    Glamorama by Brett Easton Ellis

    and, unfortunately for Dutch readers only:
    Bezorgde Ouders by Gerard Reve

    Shouldn’t there be more ‘essential’ lists?

    Love the site!


  • Sylvester says:

    John Locke’s Second Treatise on Government and Publius’ The Federalist Papers. I was never taught anything about the philosophical underpinnings of the U.S. system of Government while traveling through school to get my M.S. Practically each page turn of the above two works revealed some distortion of politics or economics which the political leftists in academia had fed to me. My eyes were opened and I have never been the same.

  • Sarah says:

    I have to echo the man who said Siddhartha – Herman Hesse saved him from utter despair. That book has forever stayed in my mind as one of the few complete best books I’ve ever read. Secondly, the Grapes of Wrath and lastly, The Solace of Open Spaces by Gretel Erlich.

  • Saundra says:

    The Wisdom of Insecurity by Alan Watts was life changing for me as a teenager. It opened my mind to a whole new way of thinking and looking at the world. Krishnamurti’s books did too. Years later, Hands of Light by Barbara Brennan profoundly changed my life direction.
    As a child, I loved The Secret Garden, As a teenager, Pride and Prejudice, The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins, The Grapes of Wrath, and The Poor Mouth by Flann O’Brien. Later, Linden Hills by Gloria Naylor, Sula by Toni Morrison, Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neal Herston, The Color Purple by Alice Walker, The Sea by John Banville and more recently, all books by Sebastian Barry (The Secret Scripture, A long, long way, etc.)

  • Saundra says:

    The Good Life by Helen and Scott Nearing, Ten Days That Shook The World by John Reed, Touch The Earth by T.C. McLuhan, Our Bodies Ourselves by The Boston Women’s Health Book collective and Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique

  • Saundra says:

    Standouts: The Good Life by Helen and Scott Nearing, Ten Days That Shook The World by John Reed, Touch The Earth by T.C. McLuhan, Our Bodies Ourselves by The Boston Women’s Health Book Collective, Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique.

  • Carl Jung’s autobiography deserves a mention – Memories, Dreams,Reflections. I can’t say exactly why, but Jung’s story of his inner life did change my life. I sense that there may be a nexus between that mystery and the book’s impact.

  • Ajay Tyagi says:

    Thank you for the list….comments are also important…

  • Ajay Tyagi says:

    atlas shrugged by ayn rand……my favorite…..must read…….also think and grow rich by nepoleon hill..

  • Dan Leibert says:

    Good choices and I have read many. Two that deeply influenced my life and made me whom I am today I did not see mentioned. First, “The Autobiography of a Yogi” by Paramahansa Yogananda and the second, “Memories,Dreams, and Reflections” by Carl Jung

  • sue loomis says:

    The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale. This is a book I have reread several times and encouraged friends and family to read as well. It helped me to get over my fears and live life to the fullest.

  • Ganesh says:

    For me, its Anthony Robbins books “Awaken the Giant Within” and “Unlimited Power”. I keep returning to these books for the past 15 years. Prior to that, my favorite one was “The Power of your subconscious mind” by Dr.Joseph Murphy. All 3 are my life changing ones!

  • scooter.dee says:

    Can’t believe there is no C.S Lewis on the list..??..

  • Danielle says:

    ‘East of Eden’ by John Steinbeck ..

  • Judy O says:

    Thanks to whoever finally mentioned The Great Gatsby and Huckleberry Finn. And I would add Innocents Abroad. And – please – To Kill a Mockingbird.

  • Dan says:

    Third vote for ‘Atlas Shrugged’ and to a lesser extent ‘The Fountainhead’…Rand was prescient in telling us exactly where we were headed.

  • patrick murphy says:

    Zen in the art of archery – by eugen herrigel
    Nightwood by djuna barnes
    coral island by rl stevenson
    the giving tree by shel silverstein
    Paradise Lost by John Milton

    Upon Appleton House by Andrew Marvell

  • paola rl says:

    “The Alchemist”-Paulo Coelho

    really helped me to move on and get through a very sad moment in my life and I can find hope and strength in it every time I read it!

  • backspace says:

    Surprisingly poor list.

  • Avi says:

    It’s beyond shocking that The Unbearable Lightness of Being, or any Kundera for that matter, goes unmentioned…

  • Bonnie Walker says:

    Great list but frustrating. How can i read all these hreat books? My favorite all time book is Gone With the Wind. It convinced me at an erly age of the futility of war.

  • Vicky says:

    Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee –

    When I read this I was horrified. It was the first time I realized my formal education was sanitized. It opened my eyes to other perspectives.

    I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou was a profound read for a sheltered little white girl from the suburbs. It changed me in subtle ways, and exposed me to poverty, prejudice and triumph in a very personal manner.

  • Yasho Sarda says:

    As a Man Thinketh By James allen
    beautifully written and truly inspiring.
    you can get a free download from james allen library

  • l.k.adhikary says:

    The Secret by Rhonda Byrne & The Power by the same author changed my life.Am surprised how till now these do not find mention in this long list.

  • John Holt says:

    Instead of Education. Dutton, 1976, (Sentient, 2003).

    “This book turned my thinking upside down and changed the course of my life–it inspired me to let go of my career as a frustrated schoolteacher in favor of exploring and then advocating self-directed learning. As the homeschooling/unschooling population mushrooms, many fine books and other resources become available, but none replaces John Holt’s visionary, revolutionary, attentive, and specific work, as radical now as it was 30 years ago. If you haven’t read him, good chance you don’t fully understand the depth or possibility of our movement. In Instead of Education, Holt addresses a huge question–how can people live and work more purposefully? In doing so, he tackles many medium-sized and smaller questions–What do schools really teach? What could libraries lend, in addition to books? Why do children seem happy in a particular school in Denmark? Throughout, his writing is–as usual–simultaneously reverent and scientific.”
    —Grace Llewellyn, author of The Teenage Liberation Handbook
    “Be clear about this: Instead of Education, although less widely known than his more famous titles, is John Holt at the top of his game. If you are one of the millions of walking wounded still staggering from your own encounter with forced institutional schooling, and trying to spare your own kids from its damage, this book will be your guide and a good friend.”
    —John Taylor Gatto
    Former New York State Teacher of the Year,
    Author of Dumbing Us Down and The Underground History of American Education

  • LWP says:

    Toward A Psychology of Being by Abraham Maslow found me at just the right time. But I never did finish it, even though I must have bought at least three copies — that way of thinking about ourselves was too good to keep to myself.

  • Amy says:

    A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is an awesome book and so relatable.

  • Davor says:

    Terribly Anglo-Saxon and lit biased. I would argue for a broader spectrum.

    Say, I have this book on ants e.g., though I still have not read it.

    Literally everything is interesting. You might want to start studying your friends, superiors, colleagues etc. first. Even yr grocer or cashier.

    • David M. Brown says:

      Terribly Anglo-Saxon and lit biased? What does this even mean? The list is a compilation of testimony from readers pointing to books that have had an impact on them. It would be biased of a respondent to ignore the books that actually did influence him and cite other volumes instead in order to satisfy the criterion of someone who wants random inclusiveness, not honest reporting of influence. nnAnd how is a friend or cashier any kind of book? Those are persons. A book, when printed, is a generally an oblong bound object with black type. It is not alive. A person, by contrast, is alive and has arms and legs and eyes. A person is not a book.

  • BPannell says:

    Please add “To Kill a Mockingbird”. To me this is mankind judges each other.

  • BPannell says:

    Also “the Road by Cormac McCarthy opened my eyes immensely to what life may come down to eventually. What will I become?

  • Clete Peters says:

    On my forteenth Christmas, my mother gave three hardcover books. They were the first real “grown up” books I owned. These books opened up the world of literature for me. I have been travelling on that road for the past 38 years. They were Hemingway’s-The Sun Also Rises, For Whom The Bell Tolls and A farewell To Arms. I have re-read these three books many times, and I always come back to them. To this day, it was the greatest gift I have ever been given.

  • Anant pandadiya says:

    The Monk who sold his Ferrari Is also a book the should be on this list. This inspiring tale provides a step-by-step approach to living with greater courage, balance, abundance, and joy. A wonderfully crafted fable, The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari tells the extraordinary story of Julian Mantle, a lawyer forced to confront the spiritual crisis of his out-of-balance life. On a life-changing odyssey to an ancient culture, he discovers powerful, wise, and practical lessons that teach us to:

  • karleen says:

    Go Ask Alice is a good book for teens that opened my eyes about life situation we may get our self into, even if there not the best or right ones, they helps us get through each day that much stronger and just a little bit easier. And mistakes are imperfections that help you improve what ever it is you want to achieve and could be a wake up call when your on the wrong path. (:

  • Katherine Webster says:

    Tears of a Tiger by Sharon M. Draper is one book that was life changing for me. It was one of the first books that I have read that made me think about my actions. This was an inspiring book about a young high school student who simply was having fun with his friends while drinking. Little did he know that drinking and driving could have consequences. You will not be able to put down this book as you travel through the story of the struggles of this young student. You will also never forget this story.

  • Rebecca Henshaw says:

    Walk two moons, and one flew over the cuckoos nest

  • lorraine says:

    all the classics bronte, poe ,dickens

    but a few books constantly come back to me ‘The Lovely Bones’- its the heart bounding suspense sequences matched with the beautiful descriptions of Heaven that stick out in my mind.
    Little Women
    One flew over the cuckoos nest
    and my soft spot for stephen king books … love a bit of a scare

  • lorraine says:

    tuesdays with morrie

  • Jacqueline says:

    Cry the Beloved Country

  • Rick says:

    I have two books that have impacted my life and I keep reading them over and over. The Bible and Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis. Both great reads and life changing.

  • Raeana Henderson says:

    This is my favorite book and it can open up the eyes of anyone to learn what true beauty is.

  • Raeana Henderson says:

    Ill be seeing you by Lurlene McDaniel

  • Ann H says:

    The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield – discusses various psychological and spiritual ideas – taps into the source of synchronicity

  • Sandy Witman says:

    I read A Tale of Two Cities in high school. The French Revolution fascinated me and I was totally inspired by the Sidney Carton, who in the end, became a moral man by committing a selfless act.

  • Der Zauberberg, The Magic Mountain. A reminder that time is short and the issues complex. The hearts decisions at least of equal weight to those of the intellect, and sometimes leading to a good deal more adventure. “Suggestions for exotic travel destinations are dancing lessons from god.” – Kurt Vonnegut.

  • Tom says:

    “Two Years Before the Mast” by Richard Henry Dana first published in 1840. It is an incredible story of the hardships endured by 19th Century sailors as well as an amazingly rich geographical and historical description of California in the early 1800s. Made me realize how easy our lives are today, thanks to the sacrifices of our forefathers and sadly how few of us appreciate it. Read it! – and I guarantee you will never complain about anything again.

  • Elke Sehmrau says:

    The Narnia Books as a child helped me to realize that in fantasy one can escape the torture of society, the mind-numbing experience of school, and the emotional devistation of a toxic environment.

  • bLliS says:

    Milan Kundera, the unbearable lightness of being??!

  • yungcin says:

    Atlas Shrugged definitely a big yes and coming true today, also I would have to recommend Where the Red Fern Grows. As a boy growing up it taught me the value of determination and the true value of friendship in any form and the supreme pain of loss with the promise of hope in the end.

  • maggie says:

    feverishly writing all these book titles down, see what I can get up to this summer.

  • Aarti Rani says:

    plz… send me some interesting life changing books.

  • Karen Kowalski says:

    The Kitab-I-Iqan, or in English: The Book of Certitude. The book was written by Baha’u’llah, and as the title suggests imparts certitude in the reader. Essentially, a summary of humanity’s experience of religion throughout the ages.

  • syam says:

    I am a farmer. I love this book so much! The One Straw Revolution – Masanobu Fukuoka

  • Abdul Gani says:

    All these books are not of much use. Just read one book and it would suffice – The Holy Kuran. You need nothing else.

  • P. Jamison says:

    Bradbury’s 451 has been mentioned, as has been Rand, Shakespeare (and even Salinger and Bach – less important but distinctive in ways). I’d add West With The Night by Beryl Markham (and her short story collection The Splendid Outcast), plus The Great Pierpont Morgan (the best look at his life I’ve seen so far). In autobiography, Snakes And Ladders by Dirk Bogarde is also very high-quality.

  • Santiago Jiménez says:

    Guns, Germs & Steel: the fates of human societies by Jared Diamond. A magnificent way of learning how where and why ancient cultures managed to grow, establish, survive and trascend.

  • [url=]Christina[/url] says:

    You should have included “Bhagvad Gita” in the list. That is an all time great classic highly praised by many.

  • ed y. says:

    all of them

  • Ted Brown says:

    Despite its controversies, Kosinki’s The Painted Bird stands out. When I was 16, it was simply like nothing I had ever read before. I remember reading it alone and not talking about it that much to others, almost like I’d get in trouble in the same way I’d hide a Black Sabbath album.
    I liked Tolkien’s stuff too. Weird, at times annoying, but beautiful and sad. Try to find the John Gardner review of the Silmarillion. Spot on.
    Finally, John Fowles, the Magus, which I read as a freshman in college on afternoons out on the bluffs at UC Santa Barbara. A cold beer, a good novel, and the setting sun. I felt, well, grown-up.
    Non-assigned reading makes life livable.

  • Mike says:

    – The Snake That Went To School (4th grade: discovered the pleasure of reading)
    – Over the Fence Is Out (ditto)
    – On The Road (14 yrs)
    – Really The Blues (13 or 14yro)
    – Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism (27 yro)

  • Kristen says:

    i have sooo much reading to do!
    life changing can be so many different things. but for me (aside from many already listed):
    Gould- The Mismeasure of Man
    Dawkins- The Magic of Reality
    Adler- Six Great Ideas
    McCullers- The Heart is a Lonely Hunter.
    *this last one i stumbled across at a book sale when i was young. thought i had this great find …little did i know it was already loved by many!

  • Erin says:

    As a kid, The Outsiders. As a teenager, Manchild in the Promised Land. As an adult, The Fountainhead. Would love to read Manchild and the Outsiders again…as for the Fountainhead…fascinating philosophy. I read and re-read Roark’s speech in court. I ignore Rand’s followers. Her philosophy, to me, is very personal and about one’s creativity; one’s goals as a human being. Nothing is more personal that one’s own creativity and goals.

  • As a writer, To Have and Have Not, probably made the most influence on me. I was around 17 and been taught by my teachers this idea a novel must be linear.n I read Hemingway’s Key West tale and thought, ‘what the hell’s he doing, switching pov like that. He’s just doing whatever he want’s.’ Then I read it a couple more times cuz I was fascinated by how it just worked. That was about 30 some years ago, still a favorite book, and have always since wrote whatever and however the hell I wanted as long I thought it was working. It showed me there was more than one way to skin a story.nZ&AMM blew me away too.

  • Angela Minton says:

    I must agree with the suggestion to add “To Kill a Mockingbird” to this list. Harper Lee’s book, written from a child’s view point, scratches at the simplest yet, darkest parts of all of us, while at the same time showing us that we can, in the end, triumph over our universal tendency toward hatred and intolerance. The book is timeless.

  • Melissa says:

    Darkness Visible by William Styron!

  • BurakKumuk says:

    Zorba by far is the greatest life changing book ever. Especially if you are older than 30 and male….

  • Fergus Quinlan says:

    The Selfish Gene: by Richard Dawkins.n The most challenging book I have read since Bertrand Russel. Looking at the world through the eyes of the gene it is inspiring and more than a little unsettling. Are we just the survival machines and replicators of our our drawing and specification. Or can we take control with our new found cognisnce? A masterpiece of science writing

  • nathaniel dionysus says:

    Moravagine by Blaise Cendrars changed my life.

  • Micayla vranic says:

    A tree grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith, is a life-changing, simply beautiful read.

  • Rach says:

    The Bible – stands alone and above. I ploughed through the existentialists, Sartre, Camus, Nietzsche, Dostoevsky, studied Buddhism, check out new age, got into r.d. Laing and thought Jung was getting close to something… Avoided the bible as anything worthwhile, read it and concluded Jesus was the perfect man but that miracle stuff I just didn’t get. One day I surrendered and said, ok, I’m not running from You anymore. You can have my life to do Your will. nLife is bigger, wider, more peaceful and free than I imagined, in my Jesus.nSo, the Bible. Start with the book of John. Love…..

  • G Hamilton says:

    I would suggest:
    Gulliver’s Travels (Jonathan Swift); Alice Through the Looking Glass (Lewis Carol)and Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams; as books that work on different levels simultaneously.
    Gulliver’s Travels is a scathing diatribe on the human condition; a political satire and a tale of adventure all in one book.
    Other books have shaped my; view of: Life the Universe and Everything:
    Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (Robert Pirsig)
    The Illuminate Papers
    (Robert Anton Wilson)
    (George Orwell)
    ….. to name but a few.

    I believe the Scottish Philosopher, David Hume, was correct when he said “Reason should be the slave of passion”.

  • Jamiela Ismail says:

    the prophet by Khalil Gibran is awesome. some real thought provoking poetry! intuitive wellness by laura alden kamm is good as well.

  • Jack Lyon says:

    The Book of Mormon, for asking an overriding question: “Why can’t we all just get along?”

  • Jim says:

    “Autobiography of a Yogi” by Paramehansa Yogananda. Easily the most important book of the twentieth century because it’s a true spiritual Master writing in English about the scientific methods we can use to draw closer to God. The book is also Incredibly entertaining and witty and a fascinating journal of a world traveller who met Gandhi, President Coolidge and many others…A truly life changing book…

  • Jim says:

    Glad to see “AY”…I thought I was the only one!

  • Tatiana says:

    No naked lunch??? No Burroughs???

  • Max says:

    “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle. This book saved my life. I read it in the midst of suicidal depression, and now three years later, I enjoy life in nearly every moment. It points to sanity in the midst of this insane world.

  • Jill Beerman says:

    Catch-22 (Joseph Heller ) – changed my life when I first read it at 13. It taught me not to trust authority and to be cynical about almost everything, yet look for some glimmer of hope. And laugh out loud funny!

    Moby-Dick (Herman Melvivlle) – Ahab’s speeches about what the whale represents to him are shattering and the last page is extraordinary.

    Stones from the River (Ursula Hegi) – for its unique narrator, its look at ordinary life in Nazi Germany and, most of all, its beautiful writing.

    Chaneysville Incident (David Bradley) – a masterpiece; it not only elaborates on the black experience, present and past, but on the importance of knowing one’s identity and where one its in the world. And the writing is wonderful, too.

    Going After Cacciato – (Tim O’Brien) – I know The Things They Carried is probably more read because they teach it now in school, but the magical realism he brings to Cacciato gives it something unique. It’s a one of a kind war novel, but with a strong writer totally in charge. And once again, the writing is gorgeous.

  • Jim B. says:

    I thought i responded to this several years ago but just in case it was on another thread then i must mention Nietzsche’s “The Gay Science”. Read before reaching the age of 25 yrs.old

  • John Christopher Thomas says:

    The Upanishads is something I have continually gone back to over the years.

  • bellabell says:

    alchemist it is one of the best books i have ever gives us a good message to succeed in life.

  • Lawrence says:

    The Bible – Atlas Shrugged – Pilgrim’s Progress – Susila, Budhi, Dharma – The Quiet Mind – Nine O’clock in the Morning – Siddhartha – Krishnamurti – all changed my life. After that there are only travel books for entertainment. Suggest Mary Kingsley’s Travels in West Africa (very funny)

  • Anonymousbob says:

    The Giver is…….beautiful. It teaches us that people are blind towards the truth of the real world and why they are so ignorant about it and reluctant to accept. This piece of literature is the definition of development; it buries the old flaws and comes out with new and improved ways of living. But in reality these “old flaws” are necessities in our world, and the new developments that makes this world so easy to live in are really hurting us. They give milk without the cow. Those who have access to them learn to take their luxury for granite and begin to forget what the meaning of life really is. Some may argue that we are just using are world to fit our needs, such as a mole may dig a hole in ones garden to have shelter. We are not like the mole. Some may argue that we are simply using our increased intelligence to create these living conditions, but I don’t see apes digging huge pits in the ground to create inefficient fuel sources that murder our ozone. Sorry, not our ozone, the Circle of Life’s ozone. A circle we have broken apart from.

    Milk without the cow.

  • Pseudonymousbob says:

    Art in writing, but I think you could word that differently…

  • Anonymousbob says:

    You have a point. Nowadays we must keep ourselves from ranting about the issues and instead search for solutions to our problems. A continuous stream of negativity towards one subject won’t make it disappear overnight. This is something I have to work on, because currently I am a big fat hypocrite. We must take it upon ourselves to fix these faults, for we cannot complain enough to get ones attention, one who is in the right position to do so. If we take it upon ourselves, we will one day come to a position where we can do something. Something worth while, and for something worth fighting for. And to tie this into The Giver, we will one day be in the position of Jonas, where opportunities are endless – you just need to remember to look into them at that perfect angle…

  • Pseudonymousbob says:

    Very wise, very accurate. I look forward to the moment when someone like yourself is in that position…

  • Thanuji says:

    Understanding the essence of Bhagavad Gita can inspire children and help them cultivate good values. Here are some of the life lessons that this holy book teaches children.

  • david says:

    in the dustbin with the other garbage

  • Professor Christopher Moeller says:

    Regardless of your spiritual beliefs and background, the writings of Meher Baba of India will broaden and enliven your mind and your life, more than Gandhi or any spiritual person before him.

    A universal spiritual philosopher, Meher Baba writes in deep, profound ways about every major subject of study and action in life. From life after death to correcting the misconceptions of evolution and how God doesn’t have to be left out of the equation, from professional and leadership principles to love and romance, the life principles laid out in the books of this man has changed my life and that of my students forever.

    I am a Holistic human potential coach and trainer, Founder and Professor of Human Potential at The Quantum Empowerment Instutite™, an Holistic University akin to the old Mystery Schools of Pythagoras and the Buddhist schools of the Maji who attended young Yeshua/Jesus of Nazareth (Nazareth was Not a town btw).

    I have an extensive library of hundreds of books I have been studying since I was a child, but none are more precious to me, not even ancient sacred books I was raised on, than the books of Meher Baba. If you read nothing else in life, for your own sake I implore you to read even one of his books and contemplate how you live your life.

    I recommend primarily “God to Man and Man to God”. The Discourses are written from a more Eastern perspective and grammatical practice, including using words from multiple languages. It can be difficult for western minds.

    “God to Man and Man to God” is a version of this New Testament of God for the western mind. In a world of confused language and philosophy, lack of morals and understanding of much of anything: this book makes a world of chaos make sense again and returns us back to the ancient principles largely lost to history.

    When trying to make sense of ancient philosophies and spiritual principles, this book is indispensable because it explains in modern language, and in deep and meaningful, life-applicable ways, what the old principles really were and where generations of misunderstanding have gone so terrible wrong as to create this modern society of ignorance, conflict and destruction.

    If you wish to free yourself from the chaos and suffering of this world, look no further than this book, for it holds within it’s pages all the keys of wisdom (and more) that has taken me a lifetime of learning from the wise of history and modern times to gather and even begin to understand. It has helped me live, in meaningful and powerful ways, the principles I once struggled to even understand.

  • Vilstef says:

    The Disappearance by Philip Wylie. It shows how lost men and women can become without each other. One of the best philosophical novels I’ve ever read as well.

  • Lori says:

    Anyone will find your post useful. Keep up the good work.

  • Joseph Ellis says:

    Pilgrim’s Progress, by John Bunyan: Beautifully written metaphors providing tremendous insights into the natural condition of man and his struggle to find internal, and eternal, peace. For centuries it has made a tremendous positive impact on millions of people around the globe. (Over several decades I have found the majority of those who criticize the work to either never having actually read it, or others who dismiss it as a fairytale, because of their strong bias against the Christian faith.)

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