I can’t leave a book-related question unanswered, so when I saw this question on my Quora feed, I had to chime in. You can answer this question for the community yourself here, but here’s MY answer:
Every single book I’ve ever read has changed my life, even if I didn’t realize it at the time, but my TOP FIVE would be:
Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky — This was the first book I ever finished, cover to cover, and the sense of accomplishment that gave me inspired me to pick up another book, and then hundreds more after that.
The book itself shows off the incredible psychological insight of Dostoyevsky, but it also made me realize things like the fact there are some people who are action-takers, and who actually follow through with their plans (even criminals like Raskolnikov), and the rest of humanity who are just talkers.
It also made me ask questions about whether it’s “right” for me to do harm if I believe that it would bring greater good.
Meditations, by Marcus Aurelius — I’ve written a Quora answer about this book already that was viewed over 200k times and had 1.1k upvotes. But if you don’t wanna migrate over to that answer, I’ll just say that mental toughness was my reward for taking up Meditations, and the philosophy of Stoicism in general.
Marcus Aurelius was a Roman Emperor and Meditations are his private notebooks to himself, published after his death. It’s all about facing challenges unafraid, focusing on only the things you can control, cultivating tolerance for other people and their indiscretions, and combating your fear of death.
In short, it’s spectacular, and in a perfect world, I’d have it taught in schools.
Walden, by Henry David Thoreau — Thoreau got fed up with city life and built his own house in the woods in the mid-1850s. Walden is where he describes his two years of living off the land, growing his own food, and detoxing from the stress and craziness of urban life.
For me, it showed me that “heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads” and “only that day dawns to which we are awake”. It showed me that I didn’t have to live my life the way others expected me to, and that there are more important things in life than keeping up with the rest of our acquisitive society. On top of that, it’s just beautifully written.
Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury — I think about this book almost every day of my life. It’s another one of those books that made me fall in love with reading, as dumb as that sounds.
The story is really cool, about a “fireman” in a dystopian future where firemen don’t fight fires but burn books. Guy Montag, the protagonist, eventually discovers what’s in them and begins to start reading secretly. He gets found out and has to run away from this mechanical hound with a hypodermic needle for a tail.
It’s got some truly gripping quotes too, that I think of often, like “Stuff your eyes with wonder; live as if you’d drop dead in the next ten seconds. See the world; it’s more beautiful than any dream made or paid for in factories.” Or something like that haha.
The Book, by Alan Watts — Watts is one of my personal heroes and I listen to his old lectures on YouTube almost daily. He’s got an awesome speaking voice too, and a wonderful way of being able to make complex concepts simple and awe-inspiring.
He’s known as the foremost interpreter of Eastern thought in the West, and The Book is basically about how we didn’t “come into” the world, but “came out of it”. You are something that the universe is “doing” in the same way that a wave is something that the whole ocean is doing.
I was in my early twenties I think when I first “got it” that the you and I are actually the universe achieving consciousness and experiencing ITSELF. How freakin’ COOL is that?!?! So yea, this book changed my life as well.
Those are my top five, but like I said, SO many books have changed my life it’s…stupid. As well, my PARENTS changed my life too by putting me in a special reading program when I was younger to help me with my reading and comprehension. It’s one of the many things they’ve done right.
Then I went on to read hundreds and hundreds of other phenomenal books and it all led to the life I lead today.
Books have this incredible power to transform your thinking in an instant. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve opened a book, and had one of the first few SENTENCES completely shake me up.
So yea, happy reading!
All the best,