15 Books to Inspire You to a More Interesting Life


Books have the power to change your life. Some are even the source of inspiration which defines a part of you. They have the power to shape our values and politics or change perspectives on religion, love and money. The story and settings of books are limitless so chances are there is one out there that has the power to have a powerful positive impact on you. With so many books out there, I had to narrow down my list to just 15.

So let me know which ones you’ve read, which ones mean something to you or if I missed something along the way.

1. The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli

The Prince is a book about 16th Century politics when Italy was a collection of City-States. The book is about building and maintaining power, but it is also about the virtues that make a good ruler. Critics of the book created the negative term Machiavellian to describe unscrupulous cunning or deception. Despite this, the book makes you think of power in a new way in your life and the life you want to create.

2. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

Told as a flashback, Holden Caulfield narrates his story from a mental institution. Most people at some point in their life can identify with him. He tells his story of confusion, alienation, rebellion and sexuality; however this story is also about self exploration. It is about interacting with life and changing your perspective about it.

3. How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

This book is the forerunner to many guides on people skills. Written in 1937, the skills are still very relevant today on how to get ahead in relationships and business. The tips are listed out with easy to follow examples of people like John D. Rockefeller and FDR. Its lessons on human interaction and influence building can easily help those who want to make the most out of life.

4. The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene

Just as you would expect from the book’s title, Robert Greene lists out 48 ways to build power. This book has been compared favorably to Sun Tzu’s The Art of War (Another good read). This book uses many anecdotes from history to detail how each law was used properly. The book will take a long time reading and putting each law into use (let alone remembering them all) can be hard. But the lessons learned will help you become confident in any interactions you’ll face.

5. The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferris

Tim Ferris wrote this book as semi-autobiographical. It has only four sections that he divides using the acronym DEAL: definition, elimination, automation and liberation. The book makes a lot of bold promises which can make this book feel like a get rich quick scam. However, there are many ideas that anyone can use. He gives many examples of how to use productivity to simplify your life and how to design a better lifestyle for yourself.

6. Hatchet by Gary Paulsen

It is a story of man vs. nature, the power of positive thinking and problem solving. Brian is stranded alone in the Canadian wilderness after a plane crash. He initially struggles to survive, but eventually he becomes determined to embrace life and takes an active role in his fate. The story and challenges he overcomes are very inspirational.

7. On the Road by Jack Kerouac

On the Road was an influence to countless poets, musicians and artists for several generations. It is largely an autobiographical stream of consciousness drifting novel about spontaneous road trips taken by Kerouac and his friends. Through all this movement, an array of colorful characters, dramas and scenery unfold. It reveals that new adventures can be found anywhere if you just keep looking.

8. Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

Treasure Island is an adventure tale. There are many memorable things that come from this novel such as Long John Silver, the black spot and treasure maps. On the surface the story is about pirates and treasure hunting. Underneath all of that Stevenson addresses the lack of adventure in modern day life. He strongly emphasizes that the tale belongs in the past. He makes us wonder if the world really is better off without the pirate’s charm and spirit of adventure.

9. The Beach by Alex Garland

A young Englishman backpacks through Thailand in search of a legendary beach. He eventually gets there and it initially seems to be an idyllic place untouched by tourism. Then things go horribly wrong. This novel has influenced and inspired many travelers who want to get off the beaten path. It is about exploration into the unknown. Perfect for anyone who wants to be a free spirit.

10. It’s Only Temporary: The Good News and the Bad News of Being Alive by Evan Handler

Evan Handler was diagnosed with Leukemia and almost died. This is his personal memoir about what happened afterward. It is a series of meditations on life and his search for meaning. It is structured as a humorous collection of personal stories as he struggles about man’s existence and the knowledge that time is limited.

11. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

The story is told as a series of progress reports by Charlie who is mentally disabled. He agrees to participate in a scientific experiment to increase his intelligence. As Charlie becomes smarter, the tension between his intellect and emotion materialize. His progress leads him to start a relationship with his teacher, write research papers, but leads to loneliness. It is all very emotional, but also inspirational.

12. A Farewell To Arms by Ernest Hemingway

Hemingway got inspiration for this novel from his experience in World War I. In the novel Henry is an ambulance driver during the war. He is injured by a mortar and during his stay in an infirmary falls in love with his nurse. He eventually returns to his unit, but decides to flee with his love to Switzerland. With war, love and death at every turn in this novel, it shows that life can be adventurous in many ways.

13. Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand

Cyrano is a true renaissance man. He is a musician, poet, scientist, playwright and expert swordsman. His integrity and bravery are something to aspire to. His large nose robs him of his confidence in attracting the love of his life Roxanne. His inability to profess his love even on his deathbed illustrates that you should seize life while you can or you might never be able to.

14. The Call of the Wild by Jack London

A dog named Buck is forced to adapt to a life of work during the Yukon gold rush in Alaska. The wilderness he works in is cruel and uncaring. However, one of the main themes of this novel is the struggle for mastery. It isn’t only about survival, but about being the best. He competes with his rival Spitz for leader of the pack. One can’t help but feel the desire to be the best after reading this.

15. Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Alborn

This book tells the true story of a sociology professor named Morrie and the conversations that he spent with one of his former students Mitch. These conversations consist of lessons about values, love, happiness and acceptance. As Morrie sees it, popular culture and the media are evils that people must suffer. He favors creating his own values. The book also explores what experience means in life.

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  1. Of these, I’ve read Catcher in the Rye, Treasure Island, Hatchet, and The Prince. The Beach and On the Road are definitely on my list

  2. I read a little bit of the The Prince By Niccolò Machiavelli when I was studying that area of history in Western Civ. I may go back to it this summer.

  3. I have How to Win Friends and influence People by Dale Carnegie on my list as well. I haven’t picked it up yet, but may have to move it towards the top of the list.

    I also had to read The Prince for Western Civ. If I remember right it was a super quick read, so that might be another one worth revisiting!

    • How to Win Friends and Influence People is a good one. It’s rather old, but the principles in it are still relevant.

      Yeah, The Prince is a quick read, but it’s a good one too.

  4. I’m reading Farewell to Arms right now! Four-Hour Workweek was actually our inspiration to sell our house and move our family to Spain. It’s still inspiring changes in our lives.

    Great list!

    • That’s awesome how the book inspired you. I feel like that’s the sign of a great book: it changes and inspires you to do things.

  5. I haven’t read several of these yet. My list of books to read just gets longer and longer! I really enjoyed Four Hour Work Week after I got through the beginning and got over the “marketing language” (I felt Tim was trying a bit too hard to sell his lifestyle to the reader) I loved it. Once he gets into the practical information and resources, the book is well worth what you pay for it.

    • My list keeps growing and growing too. It always seems like there’s so much to read and not enough time to read it all, doesn’t it?

  6. Hi Steve,
    Great site! My favorite is still ‘Vagabonding’ by Rolf Potts. It has convinced my husband many years ago that there is a different life possible beyond mortgages and cubicles…not that there is anything wrong with that just not my idea of life. And it doesn’t have this overly commercial and capitalistic view like so many long-term travel websites and books have these days. It’s just about doing what you love, connecting with people and places and learning from each other.

    • I’ve never read Vagabonding, but I just read the synopsis for it and now I want to check it out. Good timing too since I am looking for something to read.

  7. Ravi Kanth says:

    I have the 48 Laws of Power and How to Win Friends and influence People. 48 Laws of Power is a really powerful book. The later also is a good one. Am surely looking forward to enjoy and get inspired from the other books listed too…

    • The 48 Laws of Power really opened my eyes. There’s just so much in there that you can’t absorb all the information. It’s one you need to read a couple of times.

  8. Hatchet was one of my favorite books in elementary school, and one of the only ones that stands out from that time in my life. I’m surprised you bring it up, but very glad you did. I think I’ll try checking some of these out. Thanks for the ideas!

  9. I have 48 laws of power, How to win friends and influence people, The four hour week. All of these book I though were really good. However I have just finished a book called Woman Vs Womaniser ‘This is the Book Men Do Not Want Women to Read’ This book absolutely blew me away and is definitely my best read to date. The different emotions this book pulled out of me was incredible. By the time you get to the end you feel like you can take on the world.


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