Are you looking for the best life changing books to read? Add these incredibly inspiring and life-changing books to your reading list this year.
The human experience is a mysterious and ever-evolving enigma that everyone struggles to understand at some point in their life. Authors like Viktor Frankl and Esmerelda Santiago have done an excellent job of capturing the human experience in their written works, having created tomes that reach deep into the heart and minds of their readers. Here are the best life-changing books you should read.
- Most Life-Changing Books to Read
- 1. The Alchemist: A Fable About Following Your Dream by Paulo Coelho
- 2. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
- 3. 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
- 4. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo
- 5. Life of Pi by Yann Martel
- 6. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
- 7. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari
- 8. Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport
- 9. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
- 10. Life Lessons: Two Experts on Death & Dying Teach Us About the Mysteries of Life & Living by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross and David Kessler
- 11. Own Life: How to Show Up With Confidence and Take Control of the Future by Todd Eden
- 12. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
- 13. A Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
- Final Word on the Best Life-Changing Books To Read
- FAQ About the Most Inspiring Books to Read
Most Life-Changing Books to Read
1. The Alchemist: A Fable About Following Your Dream by Paulo Coelho
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho was published in 1988 and has sold over 65 million copies worldwide. It’s a fictional story of a young boy who gives up the family business of shepherding to travel the world. The boy, called Santiago, leaves his Spanish home to the Tangiers markets and through the Egyptian desert to find worldly treasures that are said to be buried near the Pyramids but ends up meeting an alchemist, a Gypsy woman, and a man who says he is king. Each helps the boy along his way, offering wisdom and guidance. During the journey, Santiago learns to listen to himself and follow his own dreams as a part of the larger universe.
“We are travelers on a cosmic journey, stardust, swirling and dancing in the eddies and whirlpools of infinity. Life is eternal. We have stopped for a moment to encounter each other, to meet, to love, to share. This is a precious moment. It is a little parenthesis in eternity.”Paulo Coelho
2. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl was published in 1946 and has sold over 16 million copies. It’s a first-person account of the author’s time spent in a concentration camp in Nazi Germany. The book explores the human condition in extreme adversity, finding light in the darkest of hours.
The New York Times calls Man’s Search for Meaning “an enduring work of survival literature,” and American psychologist Carl Rogers says it’s one of the “greatest books of our time.” The text contradicts the earlier theories of Sigmund Freud, who suggested that a human being’s greatest drive was a pleasure. Instead, Frankl suggests it is instead the pursuit of whatever the person believes is meaningful. This riveting, thought-provoking narrative challenges readers to find meaning in simply living, despite whatever obstacles or difficulties they may face.
“Don’t aim at success. The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it. I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long-run—in the long-run, I say!—success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think about it.”Viktor Frankl
3. 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey was published in 1989 and has been a New York Times bestseller for almost 30 years, selling more than 40 million copies. It offers readers of all ages a succinct view of the most effective habits that can be applied to everyday life. Readers can solve both personal and professional problems with Covey’s unique approach to conflict and carves out an easy-to-follow path that users can take step-by-step at their own pace. Each habit is specifically developed to help readers live with integrity, honesty, and self-security.
“It is one thing to make a mistake, and quite another thing not to admit it. People will forgive mistakes, because mistakes are usually of the mind, mistakes of judgment. But people will not easily forgive the mistakes of the heart, the ill intention, the bad motives, the prideful justifying cover-up of the first mistake.”Stephen Covey
4. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo was published in 2010 and has sold more than 8.5 million copies. It offers a revolutionary new way of cleaning and decluttering your home.
Using her patented KonMari Method of discarding items that do not spark joy and keeping those that do, Kondo promises that you will only need to reorganize your home once. After that, you’ll never have to do it over again from the start. This method has proven successful; not only was the book adapted into the popular Netflix television series Tidying Up With Marie Kondo, but the author’s clients also have yet to relapse into their old cluttered housekeeping habits.
“When you come across something that you cannot part with, think carefully about its true purpose in your life. You’ll be surprised at how many of the things you possess have already fulfilled their role. By acknowledging their contribution and letting them go with gratitude, you will be able to truly put the things you own, and your life, in order. In the end, all that will remain are the things that you really treasure. To truly cherish the things that are important to you, you must first discard those that have outlived their purpose.”Marie Kondo
5. Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Life of Pi by Yann Martel was published in 2001 and has sold more than 3 million copies. It’s a fictional story about a young Indian boy, Pi Patel, who grows up as a zookeeper’s child. At 16, Pi’s family emigrates to America on a Japanese cargo carrier with their animals, but the ship sinks.
Pi is stranded on a lifeboat with an unlikely crew: an orangutan, a hurt zebra, a hyena, and a large Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. Parker eats the other animals but spares Pi, whose cunning as a zookeeper’s son somehow keeps the peace between the two enemies for 227 days while lost at sea. The two part ways when they finally reach Mexico and Pi is left trying to get government authorities to believe his story.
“Life is so beautiful that death has fallen in love with it, a jealous, possessive love that grabs at what it can. But life leaps over oblivion lightly, losing only a thing or two of no importance, and gloom is but the passing shadow of a cloud.”Yann Martel
6. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry was published in 1943, selling over 140 million copies across the globe as a heartwarming story of a pilot after he crashed into the Sahara desert. As he frantically tries to repair his plane, he encounters a young boy who has traveled to the desert from a distant asteroid. The boy carries a single rose and tells the pilot his story of going from planet to planet, finding only one human adult on each. The story explores intensely riveting concepts like love, loss, and justice.
“And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
7. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari is an international bestseller published in 2011 with more than 12 million copies sold worldwide. The book is about the intricacies of history, science, and the universe and how they all fit together to impact the human experience. Written from the perspective of an accomplished historian, Harari asks provocative questions about how science enables mankind to bend or even break the laws of natural selection.
The author makes his opinions on modern society and its effect on humanity well known, which may sometimes be confused with scientific facts that he also presents in the first several pages of the book. Overall, this unique look at the entirety of the evolution of humanity is refreshing, thought-provoking, and certainly worthy of philosophical debate.
“As far as we can tell from a purely scientific viewpoint, human life has absolutely no meaning. Humans are the outcome of blind evolutionary processes that operate without goal or purpose. Our actions are not part of some divine cosmic plan, and if planet earth were to blow up tomorrow morning, the universe would probably keep going about its business as usual. As far as we can tell at this point, human subjectivity would not be missed. Hence any meaning that people inscribe to their lives is just a delusion.”Yuval Noah Harari
8. Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport
Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport was published in 2016 and takes a new look at how to sink into productivity and achieve the best possible results. Being able to do deep work is challenging for many people across multiple different industries due to the increasing number of distractions in today’s society.
Newport gives readers four rules to follow that will help transform their ability to concentrate on deep work, despite any distractions that may arise. Memorable stories illustrate the author’s concepts, allowing readers to visualize how to apply these concepts to their lives.
“The Deep Work Hypothesis: The ability to perform deep work is becoming increasingly rare at exactly the same time it is becoming increasingly valuable in our economy. As a consequence, the few who cultivate this skill, and then make it the core of their working life, will thrive.”Cal Newport
9. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank is the heartbreaking story of Anne, a preteen Jewish girl suffering the traumas of living in Nazi Germany during World War II. The diary was written during their family’s two years in hiding and published in 1947, two years following her death.
During this time, Anne was separated from her parents and deported to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp while they were sent to Auschwitz. Although Anne was spared instant death at the Auschwitz gas chambers, Anne and her sister, Margot, died of typhus at Bergen-Belsen and were buried there in a mass grave. To date, the book has sold more than 30 million copies globally.
“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quite alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature. As long as this exists, and it certainly always will, I know that then there will always be comfort for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances may be. And I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles.”Anne Frank
10. Life Lessons: Two Experts on Death & Dying Teach Us About the Mysteries of Life & Living by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross and David Kessler
Life Lessons: Two Experts on Death & Dying Teach Us About the Mysteries of Life & Living by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross and David Kessler was published in 2000 and is an emotional yet practical look at life and death from people who spent their lives working around the dying. In this book, the authors look at emotions surrounding death, like fear and hope, and break them down into practical stories that can be visualized and understood.
“We think sometimes we’re only drawn to the good, but we’re actually drawn to the authentic. We like people who are real more than those who hide their true selves under layers of artificial niceties.”Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
11. Own Life: How to Show Up With Confidence and Take Control of the Future by Todd Eden
Own Life: How to Show Up With Confidence and Take Control of the Future by Todd Eden was published in 2019 and is an eye-opening self-help book that allows readers to dive into their pasts to make sense of who they are and where they came from. Then, Eden teaches readers how to utilize this newfound discovery of themselves to shape life now and in the future. The text follows a simple 8-step program and includes hundreds of self-exploration questions that help readers get to know themselves on an intimate level.
“Compared to every other species, human brains are born ‘underdeveloped.’ But it is this unfinished nature of the brain that is also our most significant strength — because it makes us adaptable. The human brain is shaped by the details of life experiences, so it’s ‘livewired’ rather than ‘hardwired.’ It’s not the number of brain cells [we have] that change, it’s the way they’re connected.”Todd Eden
12. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini was published in 2003 and has sold more than 38 million copies worldwide. The book tells the gut-wrenching story of two boys in Afghanistan, one wealthy and the other poor, who are caught in the crossfire of the historical Middle Eastern conflict. The story explores deep-wrought emotions that fathers and sons carry along with meaningful concepts like betrayal, survival, and redemption.
“When you kill a man, you steal a life. You steal his wife’s right to a husband, rob his children of a father. When you tell a lie, you steal someone’s right to the truth. When you cheat, you steal the right to fairness.”Khaled Hosseini
13. A Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
A Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion is a National Book Award winner published in 2005 that explores some of the most challenging parts of the human condition. After her daughter became critically ill and was put on life support, her husband suffered fatal coronary. Although her daughter recovered several weeks later, Didion was forced to reevaluate everything about her relationships and ideas about death and illness. A Year of Magical Thinking has sold more than 1 million copies. It chronicles Didion’s struggle to make sense of the weeks following the most difficult time of her life with heartbreaking and inspiring humanity.
“Grief turns out to be a place none of us know until we reach it. We anticipate (we know) that someone close to us could die, but we do not look beyond the few days or weeks that immediately follow such an imagined death. We misconstrue the nature of even those few days or weeks. We might expect if the death is sudden to feel shock. We do not expect this shock to be obliterative, dislocating to both body and mind. We might expect that we will be prostrate, inconsolable, crazy with loss. We do not expect to be literally crazy, cool customers who believe their husband is about to return and need his shoes.”Joan Didion
Final Word on the Best Life-Changing Books To Read
Reading a life-altering book every month or even just a few times a year can be a great way to sustain your mental health and help you live a fulfilling life. The more you learn about life, living, and death from people who have gone through unique experiences, the more you can apply this knowledge to your everyday life for practical results. Chances are, at least one of the books on this list will end up in your stack of favorite books to read for inspiration and motivation. Finally, if you like these recommendations, check out our list of best philosophy books to read.
FAQ About the Most Inspiring Books to Read
What is the best self-help book to read?
One of the best self-help books to read is The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson. This book challenges positive thinking and offers readers practical ways to improve their lives by thinking outside the box.
What is the best coming-of-age book to read?
Many coming-of-age books inspire young adult readers in high school or college to make the most of their lives. Arguably, The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky is one of the best contemporary coming-of-age books to date, painting a painfully accurate picture of what growing up in an American high school is like. The book was adapted to the big screen in 2012 with a movie of the same name, now a gritty cult classic.
What is the best book to read about mental health?
Mental health is a sensitive subject on which there are numerous books written. We’ve Been Too Patient: Voices from Radical Mental Health – Stories and Research Challenging the Biomedical Model by L.D. Green takes a unique look at the failings of today’s mental healthcare system through the eyes of the patients themselves.
What is the best self-improvement book to read?
Self-improvement books can help readers take practical tips and real advice and apply it to their unique situations to improve them. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie teaches readers how to be the best version of themselves and use these strategies to win the favor of others.
What is the best inspiring book to read during high school?
High school is the perfect time to read life-changing books that can motivate and excite you about the future and going out into the world. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury is a dystopian novel in which books are banned and burned. The tome explores what it’s like to live in a society that forbids independent thoughts and ideas.
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