If you want to change your body, change what you eat and how you exercise. If you want to change your outlook on life, change what you read and put it into practice.
Listed below are twenty life-changing books. Unless you are determined to be miserable (which, strangely enough, some people are) these books will change your life for the better. Click on the titles to order a copy for yourself, then mark them up and put them into practice.
Man’s Search for Meaning
1. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl – In this book, the author details his experiences in an Auschwitz concentration camp, while simultaneously sharing his perspective on living a meaningful life. The book has sold well over 10 million copies and has been consistently listed as one of the most influential books ever written. From the book: “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
2. As A Man Thinketh by James Allen – Although you could probably finish this little booklet in less than an hour or two, its words are powerful and profound. Words like these: “A man’s mind may be likened to a garden, which may be intelligently cultivated or allowed to run wild; but whether cultivated or neglected, it must, and will, bring forth. If no useful seeds are put into it, then an abundance of useless weed seeds will fall therein, and will continue to produce their kind.”
3. The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown – In this book, the author addresses how to find deep personal worth while living in a world that is constantly bombarded by messages of who, what, and how we should be. From the book: “Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”
4. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho – This is a fantastic, beautiful narrative about finding out who we are and fearlessly chasing our own “personal legend.” In this book, Coelho says: “There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.”
5. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo – Does this book really need any explaining? It follows the life of reformed convict, Jean Valjean, and illustrates the power and beauty of redemption. From the book: “To love another person is to see the face of God.”
6. The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch – Diagnosed with terminal, pancreatic cancer, professor Randy Pausch delivered his “last lecture” at Carnegie Mellon in September of 2007. His lecture was structured around the hypothetical question: “What wisdom would you try to impart to the world if you knew it was your last chance?” The book fleshes out the ideas presented in the last lecture and was co-authored and approved by Pausch before he died. From the book: “The key question to keep asking is, Are you spending your time on the right things? Because time is all you have.”
7. To Kill a Mockingbird – To put it simply, Atticus Finch is one of the best, noblest characters ever written into existence. From the book: “I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.”
8. The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck – Where do I start? This book is honestly one of my absolute favorite books of all time. It is packed with incredible insight and solutions for confronting and solving some of life’s greatest problems. For example, consider this: “Problems call forth our courage and our wisdom; indeed, they create our courage and wisdom.”
9. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff by Richard Carlson – This book helps you overcome “the small stuff” that can drive you crazy. It is filled with supportive and thoughtful suggestions on how to live a more peaceful life. From the book: “…when you let go of your expectations, when you accept life as it is, you’re free.To hold on is to be serious and uptight. To let go is to lighten up.”
The Seven Paths
10. The Seven Paths by the Anasazi Foundation – This poetic, evocative story presents the meditations of an ancient Anasazi tribesman who learns that the point of life’s walk is how one is moved in the heart. He walks seven paths, each teaching a lesson symbolized by an element of the natural world: light, wind, water, stone, plants, animals, and, finally, the unity of all beings with the Creator.
11. The Secret by Rhonda Byrne – In this bestselling book, various individuals share their insight and experience with “The Secret” (the law of attraction). While this book can get a little mystical, it does a really good job at explaining how our mental outlook can affect all areas of our lives (for you business types, I would also recommend Think And Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill).
12. 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey – This book is consistently listed as one of the most inspiring books ever written and has sold more than 15 million copies worldwide. From the book: “But until a person can say deeply and honestly, “I am what I am today because of the choices I made yesterday,” that person cannot say, “I choose otherwise.”
13. The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis – If you’d like to read some more inspirational fiction, check out these classics by C. S. Lewis. Not only are they entertaining, but they’re also filled with timeless wisdom about addiction, sin, guilt, and the nature of man. Plus, the seventh book is quite possibly one of the most beautiful fiction books I’ve ever read. From the book: “Now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”
14. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie – I’m a fairly introverted person, so I’m not exactly going out of my way to meet new people. But this book provides some great, practical advice on working with and helping people. I’m a big believer finding happiness From the book: “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”
15. The Greatest Salesman in the World by Og Mandino – This book probably isn’t what you think it is, but I won’t spoil the surprise. From the book: “Wealth, my son, should never be your goal in life. Your words are eloquent but they are mere words. True wealth is of the heart, not of the purse.”
16. The Great Divorce by C. S. Lewis – In this allegorical story, a busload of sinners leave the depths of hell to see what heaven might be like. When they get there, they are told that they can stay in heaven if they can give up the sins that are holding them back. Through an array of characters struggling with different vices, C. S. Lewis masterfully illustrates that, more often than not, we are the very things that are holding ourselves back.
The Book Thief
17. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak – I don’t even know how to describe this book. It’s beautiful, heart-breaking, yet very comforting—all at the same time. It tells the story of a little girl growing up in Germany during World War II. There is one scene in the book (which was left out of the movie) that is absolutely astounding—reading that one scene is worth every minute spent reading the whole book.
18. The Shack by William P. Young – After his youngest daughter is murdered by a serial killer, Mackenzie Allen Phillips receives a mysterious note—apparently from God—telling him to return to “the shack,” the scene of the crime. What happens next is a spiritual journey of love and forgiveness that forever changes his life. From the book: “[...] love is much stronger than your fault could ever be.”
19. The Book of Virtues by William J. Bennett – This book is a massive collection of some of the greatest stories ever told. I actually have a copy of it on the corner of my desk right now—one of the stories in that book changed my life.
20. Sacred Writings – I don’t know if you’re a religious person or not, so this one is entirely up to you. But I believe that many religions contain incredible, invaluable, time-tested truths—and we would be foolish to simply ignore them. At the very least, there’s something to be said of getting in touch with your religious/cultural roots.
If you like any of these books, please be sure to check out my upcoming book “Your Life Isn’t For You.” In it, I draw upon inspirational stories from history and literature to illustrate my deep conviction that the only way you can truly find and live your life is to give it away to others.