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.