30 Books That Have The Power To Change Your Life If You Let Them
“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies . . . The man who never reads lives only one," wrote fantasy writer George R.R. Martin, author of the global bemouth, Game of Thrones. Indeed, while you may not have the reading aptitude of an avid bookworm or best-selling author, to expand your mind you occasionally need to force yourself out of your comfort zone, and this applies to your reading material as much as anything else.
By perhaps picking up something you wouldn't usually touch, you open yourself up to new ideas and styles of writing that can affect the mind greatly and influence your thinking. From sprawling, epic adventures to groundbreaking business books that have influenced some of the world's foremost CEO's, these 30 books really can change your life.
1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The American classic and winner of the 1961 Pulitzer Prize, takes a stark look at race and parenting as a rape trial stirs up the small Southern town of Maycomb and local lawyer Atticus Finch is left to defend the man accused while explaining proceedings and people's anger to his young daughter Scout.
Beautifully written and summing up the innocence of childhood as well as the absurdities of racism in a touching a timeless novel that, to date, has sold over 40 million copies worldwide.
2. 1984 by George Orwell
A warning about what can happen when governments are given too much power, 1984 takes a stance an anti-authoritarian rule and, worryingly, seems to have predicted certain technological advances that have come to fruition.
Especially poignant what with the current zeitgeist of security and information sharing this book is a worst-case scenario of a future that we are not in control of.
3. Harry Potter by J.K Rowling
Yes, they are essentially children's books and no, they do not match up to the moral fortitude of other outstanding literary works of yesteryear but as a pop-culture phenomenon, the Harry Potter series is arguably the biggest thing to happen to literature since...well, I don't know.
The point is that, you are going to see so many films and stories influenced by this series already in the public sphere, let alone in the future, so you may as well see where it all began. Epic stories of friendship and trust and coming of age culminate in a fantasy battle of wizardry and magic.
4. The Lord of The Rings - J.R.R. Tolkien
Another epic fantasy series that has entered the public consciousness with such vivacity that it has become almost impossible to not notice its fingerprints in any sort of pop culture.
A story of such grand scale of the ongoing fight between good and evil that takes place in magical realms with intricately worked and detailed characters.
5. A People's History of The United States by Howard Zinn
A hectic ride through American history that opens up the reader to other possible interpretations of the nation's formative moments as well as filling in the gaps that you didn't learn in school.
Intriguing and thought-provoking on how to view history it has been referenced in pop culture quite heavily as an influential think piece on America.
6. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
Touching, frightful, illuminating and devastating. The Diary of Anne Frank is an important insight into the world at war as these diaries of a young Jewish girl who fled her native Germany and tried to hide from the Nazi's in the Netherlands show us the horrors of the past and the indomitable human spirit.
Bittersweet in her depictions of the world around her, this book brings history to life and shows us the mistakes of the past that must never be repeated.
7. Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin
An expertly crafted insight into the rise of one of America's most significant leaders from his roots in law to becoming the great emancipator.
Compelling factual and surprisingly entertaining for what is essentially a political biography, Goodwin serves up a historical treat of tasty prose, which ultimately chronicles the journey of a man who shaped a nation and large parts of modern-day office as we now know it.
8. Game Change by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin
Penned by two political reporters who followed presidential hopefuls on the 2008 campaign trail, this book gives us a rare insight into modern American politics and how politicians go about getting your vote.
To do this, many climb the slippery ladder towards power making for an intriguing, revealing and sometimes scary read.
9. On The Origin of The Species by Charles Darwin
We all know that Darwin came up with the theory of evolution but how many of us have actually read his theory and are well acquainted with it?
Now a little dated, it still revolutionized science and is a cornerstone of our belief in where we came from.
10. A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking
A clear and concise explanation of some of the most groundbreaking scientific theories that we take for granted today such as time travel to general relativity to the creation of the universe.
It focuses on Hawking's revelations that pushed the big bang theory forward to the fore of scientific thought.
11. A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
What makes this book stand out from others on Science and the universe is that it is not written by a scientist.
More well known for his travel writing, Bryson took an interest in wanting to know more about the universe he inhabits and did the research himself, thus the book reads in a clear and entertaining manner.
12. The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White
A classical grammar book may not sound like the most entertaining read but it actually walks you through common mistakes and English language rules in a compact and easy to digest manner.
For the novice writer or even pros prone to the odd mistake, this book makes for a great learning bible for all kinds of writers.
13. The Art of War by Sun Tzu
Written in the fifth century about the philosophy of war, its contents actually have strangely relevant applications today in everyday trials and tribulations.
Probably a testament to how good it is that it still is read today by athletes, coaches, lawyers, and people from all walks of life.
14. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig
Following a father and son journeying across the United States, this is more than just a bonding trip or story of cross-country riding in America.
It also offers up philosophical thoughts on how to make the most of life and enjoy yourself on the way. A thoroughly enjoyable and life-changing read.
15. The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch and Jeffrey Zaslow
Philosophical musings on how to live your life to its fullest and what you want your legacy to be. Written by a man who was told he had between three to six months left to live it is poignant in its telling of how to seize the day.
For those in need of answers and spiritual guidance, this may just be the book to save you from your woes and make you start to believe that you can still be happy and successful if you so choose. An inspiring read from start to finish, Pausch's best-seller should be required reading for those unable to move forward with the cards they've been dealt.
16. Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
Almost all of us now own at least one Apple product thanks to the design and tech innovation of Steve Jobs. This in-depth biography that came about after 150 interviews with the man, colleagues, and close family members, it looks at what drove the man to the heights of success and what made him such an imposing, and sometimes intimidating, character.
17. Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution by Steven Levy
Charting how society has gone from the pen and paper to being computer-centric, this book is about how computer technology evolved and impacted upon our society.
Almost like a modern history book it also tells us a lot about the technology we use every day.
18. You are not so smart by David McRaney
Working on the tenet that 'every “rational” decision you make in your life is based on an underlying bias' this book shows us how we are affected by psychological influences on us and how we perhaps aren't as open-minded as we think we are.
A thought-provoking read more than anything else, McRaney's step-by-step guide will make you think why you think the way you do and open you to be more open-minded and accepting of other opinions.
19. Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh
Episodes of Allie Brosh's life that give clear and honest depictions of depression and childhood guilt in an amusing and touching manner that open your eyes to the extraordinary lives of ordinary people.
A touching tribute to his struggles with mental health and how he overcame them and ways you can too.
20. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
One of the most esteemed books on business and leadership in the publishing world, Carnegie's step-by-step guide on how to be a leader and how to come across in a more pleasant and genial manner has seen this book become a global best-seller.
It's little surprise then that titans of the American business world, such as Warren Buffet, have cited this book as a major influence in their success.
21. Good to Great by Jim Collins
A study of several businesses and how they either went on to become massive success stories or fell from their perch.
Drawing links in how and why these businesses ended up where they did it gives valuable knowledge to anyone running a business.
22. The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America's Wealthy by Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko
A study on how the wealthy accumulate their money and manage to maintain it over time.
Interesting reading for anyone wishing to become a successful entrepreneur and draws common links between the most successful people successful.
23. The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham
Written by the mentor to billionaire Warren Buffett, this is an essential reading for anyone who wants to try their hand at investing at any level.
Just like Carnegie's celebrated guide to getting your way in a world full of big personalities, Graham's book will fill you with inspiration to invest wisely and build up a lucrative portfolio in an era where the ownership of assets is becoming increasingly rare.
24. Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare is revered across the globe and this play on impetuousness, forbidden love and family pride is by far his most famed work.
With glistening prose and a beginning, middle and end packed full of twists and turns, Rome and Juliet is a play that set the gold standard for future love stories and to this day argubally remains the greatest of them all.
25. The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale
While many books have unashamedly set out to dismiss and critizise books like Vincent Peale's The Power of Positive Thinking, Peale's inspirational prose- while not substantiated with academic studies, allows the reader to embrace the message in the way Peale believes you should.
Teaching the reader to focus on things that are in their control as opposed to things that aren't, you will likely put it down upon reading the last page and feel ready to take on all those dream-stopping obstacles we let stop us from moving forward.
26. The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success: A Practical Guide to the Fulfillment of Your Dreams by Deepak Chopra
The message conveyed in many self-help books is that the individual achieves one's pursuits by putting themselves first, but Deepak Chopra's book believes the well-being of others is equally as important. Detailing some of his core Hindu beliefs, Chopra lists 7 spiritual laws that are essential to achieving a zen-like happiness, all of which are listed below.
-The Law of Pure Potentiality
-The Law of Giving
-The Law of Karma
-The Law of Least Effort
-The Law of Intention and Desire
-The Law of Detachment
-The Law of Dharma
Not only does the book explain how you go about abiding by these laws, but it also stresses that life is like a boomerang and that your actions, both good and bad, will always come around again. A perfect read for those guilty of being too caught up in themselves.
27. The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz
Books on the way we think and how different thought processes can help mould an all-conquering mindset is nothing new, but one of the first to cover this topic was a book published in 1959. Written by David Schwartz, The Magic of Thinking Big stresses how important it is to love yourself in a world that almost requires a mild form of arrogance to succeed.
Schwartz also believes that those who think big attain bigger things further down the line. Of course, having lofty goals and ambitions without a backup plan is never advised, but by visualizing your success and even telling people about your dreams, the drive and determination to achieve them coupled with the hard work itself will be enough to at least come close to reaching your goals Schwartz writes.
28. Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers
Written by 'The Queen of Self-help', this book has many celebrity admirers including the co-founder of the designer shoe brand, Chimmy Choo. The book's core- which as the title suggests, covers the theme of fear and how it stifles our dreams and productivity- proposes that only by stepping outside our comfort zone are we actually embracing our potential.
Selling over 15m copies, Susan Jeffers, who holds a PhD in psychology from Columbia University, is a regular guest on Oprah, and if you face a career dilemma or find your hopes and aspirations paralysed by fear, then this book is a must-read.
29. There is Nothing Wrong With You; Going Beyond Self-Hate by Cheri Huber
Not only does Huber's book offer practical, everyday advice, it also sets out to erode the negative image many have of themselves. Huber tries to tackle this common problem by analyzing the definition of self-hate and how it proliferates into our way of thinking.
As well as detailing how negative thoughts sometimes lead to vices and life-crippling disorders, the book's central premise is that meditation can help overcome these thoughts, with Huber stressing that once we embrace meditation, we can see life in a new light. A simple message, but a life-enhancing one nonetheless.
30. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
A tour de force adventure epic set deep within the rural localities of 16th century Spain remains the most popular novel by sales and circulation, and is widely considered the first novel of its kind. Split into two parts- the first of which was written during Cervante's incarceration- Don Quixote sees the titular character embark on a series of farcical adventures with his loyal squire Sancho Panza as they search for adventure and opportunities.
Packed full of chivalric heroics and laugh-out-loud dialogue, Don Quixote is a man who wishes to replicate the deeds of esteemed literary knights spawned from the various romantic novels he has consumed in his dull and colorless lifetime.
A timeless classic that has been expertly translated by Edith Grossman, this novel is a must for both literary lovers and anyone who, like the late Randy Pausch, advocates the importance of clinging onto our childhood dreams.