Books That have changed My Perspective & Life

If you love to read, you understand the power of books. Whether it’s a frivolous, feel-good beach read, a haunting thriller, or an inspiring memoir, books serve lots of different functions.

And, of course, there are the rare books that genuinely change the way we look at the world or inspire us to make a change in our own life. So Redditor u/Vampclaw asked, “What is that one book that absolutely changed your life?” Here’s what I said.

  1. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez. I still remember the first time I finished reading it. I just put the book down and sat motionlessly. I couldn’t even explain how I felt other than I wished it had never ended.”

2. The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. I’ll never forget when he writes, ‘A thing may happen and be a total lie; another thing may not happen and be truer than the truth.” The idea that the fabrication of truth can be truer than the event itself really made my head spin. It says so much about the importance of authors and writing. It’s not a typical war story at all and more about storytelling.”

3. “Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. It may have been a forced read in high school, but it changed my perspective on what I’m meant to do during my time on this earth. It helped me see that life isn’t all about personal pleasures.”

4. “The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien. I’ve been saying this for decades, but it taught me that books are so powerful, they really can transport you to a better place…at least temporarily.”

5. “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson. I didn’t finish high school, but I read this book when I was 18, and it inspired me to get my high school degree and go to college. I wanted to become a journalist all because of that book. I graduated college last month.”

6. “Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut. I can summarize the impact it had on me with this quote: ‘The things other people have put into my head, at any rate, do not fit together nicely, are often useless and ugly, are out of proportion with one another, are out of proportion with life as it really is outside my head.’”

7. “The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. It made me realize I was living like Ivan, but I wanted to be an Alyosha. So I ditched grad school and moved to China for a year to teach and become a part of the real world.”

8. “We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter. As a Jewish American, I always find World War II books to be particularly haunting and inspiring. This book is a fictionalized account of the true story of a Jewish family from Poland. It begins in 1939 and traces the horrors and journeys of four siblings during the war. I couldn’t put it down while reading, and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since. More than any other book I’ve ever read, this one made me feel so awe-inspired by peoples’ courage and their ability to survive. It also made me feel so grateful for every single thing I have.”

9. “Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls. I’ve never read a book that made me cry as this one did. And it truly has the best ‘if you put your heart to it, you can do it the message of any book I’ve ever read.”

10. “A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking. It explains the insanity and complexity of the universe in understandable terms that I can grapple with, and it’s bonkers.”

11. “The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan. It was the first book that really made me think about where the food I enjoy actually comes from. It changed the way I eat and the way I think about food.”

12. “Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. I had no idea how my over-reliance on intuition was impacting my ability to think through tough problems. This book has forever changed the way I make decisions and look at the world.”

13. “When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. This memoir, written by a neurosurgeon who has been diagnosed with terminal cancer, was one of the most emotionally-charged, depressingly beautiful, and powerful books I’ve ever read. Tears were streaming down my face for half of it. It made me think a lot about life itself, mortality, the relationships we make, and the legacy we leave behind.”

14. “Maus by Art Spiegelman. It’s the first and only graphic novel to win a Pulitzer Prize. It’s about a second-generation survivor of the Holocaust re-telling his father’s memoirs of the event. It puts into perspective the whole feeling of absolute terror. Although it is a graphic novel, the images really do say more than words. To this day, it’s the only book that has made me cry and feel truly hurt. It makes this distant subject feel very personal.”

15. “The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro. I had stopped reading during college, and this was the first book I checked out from the library after I graduated. It’s what got me back into reading and made me fall back in love with it.”

16. “The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy. I simply couldn’t put it down. I read it in one go, and I was completely silent for the rest of the day. This book explores what death feels like, and it took me almost two weeks to fully recover. Ultimately, it inspired me to reevaluate my life, priorities, and relationships. I still think about Ivan and his death frequently. IMO, it’s one of the most powerful, raw pieces of literature ever written, and everyone should read it once in a lifetime.”

17. “Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. I was dealing with depression at the time when I read this book: My grandmother had just died, and my father was recovering from a debilitating infection. During a time when I was dealing with problems that seemed much bigger than anyone else can grasp, this book made me feel understood.”

18. “In A Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson. It inspired me to quit my job and travel. It’s been four years now since I left the comfort and security of home, and I’ve traveled to about 15 new countries. I lived and worked in Peru, learned Spanish, met my wife, and now live in Thailand. I have a job that I love and have picked up hobbies I didn’t have time for when I was working a soul-crushing, 50+ hour-per-week gig. This was the fire-starter that got me to change my life.”

19. “The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera is one of the most interesting and thought-provoking books I’ve ever read. It made me think about relationships, society, and even myself in ways I never had before.”

20. “Easy Way to Stop Smoking by Allan Carr. I accidentally packed this when I was taking a hunting trip, and I tore off the cover so I wouldn’t be ashamed of what I was reading between hunts around the other men. I finished the book eight years ago, and I haven’t had one cigarette since. I have since bought about 20 copies for friends and family, and it has the same effect on pretty much anyone who has finished it. It changed my life forever.”

21. “The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro. For background, I’m autistic, and I work in hospitality, where there is this weird mix of spoken and unspoken rules (for example, how to serve food in the proper sequence and also how to read the customer). This has always been really hard for me to judge. The Remains of the Day allowed me to understand myself and how I come across to others. It allowed me to let my autistic weirdness out on a short leash in public a little bit more. This has made me like myself more, and I hope it makes me likable to others, too. It’s rare that I come across a book that mirrors my personal inner monologue so closely.”

22. “Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes. I read this at the age of 13, and it introduced me to a world I never knew before. It taught me to respect and treat others kindly no matter their mental or physical abilities or disabilities. It also taught me to cherish my own abilities because I could lose them at any time.”

23. “The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben was the most life-changing book for me. It reminded me about how much of the natural world we don’t yet know or understand.”

24. “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami. This book changed the way I view time as an adult. I’ve realized that sometimes it’s OK to sit at the bottom of a well for days just to figure things out, so to speak. Sometimes that’s exactly what you need. It’s amazing the things your brain will allow you to re-experience when you take a step back from the repetition of everyday, grown-up life.”

25. “The Red Tent by Anita Diamant. This novel made me feel so proud to be a woman, and it helped me to recognize my own strengths. The female characters in this book are so brave and strong in different ways, and I think the writing really celebrates that. I still reread it frequently because the characters are so familiar and real to me.”

26. “Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl. I was lucky enough to read this during my senior year of high school when my brain was still very malleable and is without a doubt shaped the way I’ve lived my life since. I reread it every three or four years and am still moved by it.”

27. “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. No other book has made me cry like that. It made me feel understood and empowered.”

Have you read a book that changed your life in one way or another? Tell us in the comments below.

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I Write about — Books, Social media, making money online, Quora, Helping freelancers, Health, Finance, My country India, current affairs, My life & Skills.

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Sumit Rajput

Sumit Rajput

I Write about — Books, Social media, making money online, Quora, Helping freelancers, Health, Finance, My country India, current affairs, My life & Skills.

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