Books have a way of influencing our thoughts in a way that changes the way we perceive things—life, people, concepts; everything under the sun. And here are 15 such books that will do that and probably more, if you let them.
1. Sum – Forty Tales From the Afterlives
Author: David Eagleman
A satirical tale on what happens to us when we die; Sum is Eagleman’s take on the afterlife, shown through different instances and
hypothetical situations. If one shows God to be a microbe, the other shows God to be a married couple, and us to be a character in someone else’s dream. It’s funny, yet thought-provoking and will make you appreciate the life you have in a better way.
2. Tao Te Ching
Author: Lao Tzu
Written sometime in the 6th century B.C., the philosophies of the Tao Te Ching hold true even today. Over time, a variety of versions were re-written and published, popularizing Taoist philosophy across the years. For each reader, the message and the lessons are relative; it depends on how the philosophy is interpreted and then, used in our own personal lives. One of the oldest, yet most relevant books on philosophy.
3. The Constant Gardener
Author: John le Carré
© Pocket Books
One of the most brilliant authors of his time, in his own right, Carre brilliantly portrays the dark side of a capitalist society that thrives on politics and conflict. The story is of a young widower, Justin Quayle, who’s trying to uncover the mysterious death of his beloved wife. As the mystery unravels, Justin soon becomes a prime suspect among his own colleagues as well as a target of his wife’s real killers. It is a window to the world of the dark and underground; about how tragedy elevates a man to more than he is and how it shapes life when hit by trauma and casualty.
4. The Alchemist
Author: Paulo Coelho
This was easily Coelho’s coming out to the world as an author who had the power to stir the soul and influence thought processes. If ever there was a contemporary novelist who had the ability to infuse ideas and philosophies through words and fiction, it is Paulo Coelho. His writing oozes poetic romance and yet, tells of a very honest truth about the world, the way we think and the way we feel. The Alchemist is literally every human beings quest on this Earth to find themselves, to derive meaning and to be more than they are.
5. David Copperfield
Author: Charles Dickens
© Penguin Classics
I read David Copperfield when I was 10 years old. The story about a boy who spent most of his childhood fatherless, with a mother who, in her own right, needed a pillar of her own to rest on. I rate it is as one of Dickens’ best works because of his expert portrayal of human relations, emotions and the need for connection. Through young Copperfield’s life, you experience betrayal, remorse, distance, hurt, love, hope, dismay, death and life. It should be on every individual’s reading list—whether or not you are coming of age, or graying by the days.
6. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Author: Mark Twain
© Penguin Classics
I read this one when I was 8 years old. It was one of the most adventurous stories, as well as one of the most enlightening novels of its time. At the time when I was reading it, the undercurrent of American slavery and civil war was still very vague for a child like me. And yet, through it all, Twain manages to tell the tale of the lives of two young boys so lightly in a way that is both endearing and engaging. It’s like taking your own self on that little forbidden adventure you wanted to give to yourself when you were a kid. We’ve all thought of running away with our best friend from home, finding our own way and forging long-lasting relationships in the unlikeliest way possible. It’s hard to get by without reading this one, honestly and you’ll never know what you miss if you don’t give it a read.
7. Reasons To Stay Alive
Author: Matt Haig
© Canongate Books
Let this be a note to anyone who has ever known depression. If you’ve ever been sitting by yourself in a dark room, contemplating whether or not to slit your wrists, drink the poison, swallow the pills, and if in a split-second of a moment, you decided not to do that, in the most profound frustration you ever mustered, then this book was written for you. The story about how the author, Matt Haig, came face-to-face with his depression and suicidal tendencies and overcame is for each and every one of us who is battling, or has battled such impulses in the past. It’s about a statistic that is crippling a majority of the world’s population—the rising number of suicides due to depression and how not to end up as just another statistic.
8. Ted Talks
Author: Chris J Anderson
Public speaking is not everyone’s cup of tea, or coffee, or poison—whichever you prefer. But, for the sake our own selves and for those countless others who probably can’t, we—who do have a voice—should be able to speak up and out to the public; be it an audience of one, or one thousand, or one million. The crowd shouldn’t matter; the voice should. Chris Anderson, Founder, Ted Talks himself dishes out the secrets and the steps to successfully speaking up in public speaking and it’s worth reading, even if you’re just a huge Ted Talks listener. On a semi-related note, I personally think everyone needs to at least get over their fear of speaking up and just for that simple reason; this book comes in somewhat handy.
9. The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter--And How to Make the Most of Them Now
Author: Meg Jay
Twenty may be the new thirty if you’re looking at demographic trends. But, does that mean that you sacrifice your twenties making all the clumsy mistakes you make with the premise of it being your twenties? Nope. Yes, as humans, we’re allowed to overlook a lot of the trivialities of life; however, our twenties are majorly a period of transition for us as individuals. We’re changing mindsets, jobs, cities, people and lives. The book is a detailed and well-researched insight into the lives of twenty-somethings who have been caught up in a whirlwind of misinformation and half-baked opinions; I’m one of them, actually. And the fact that we treat it so trivially is what the real problem is. The book gives us a view on how we can improve our lack of knowledge and makes the most of the time we have at hand before it’s actually too late; don’t let anyone fool you into believing it isn’t.
10. The Last Lecture
Author: Randy Pausch
A thought-provoking book based on the last lecture given by Randy Pausch, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, after he discovered he was suffering from pancreatic cancer. The lecture went on to become widely popular and one of the most inspiring speeches to ever have been given. This book is based on that lecture and is a manifesto, of sorts, on how and why it’s important to really live out each and every single day of your life. We live in this constant rut of complaining and whining about life is difficult and troublesome, while wasting away our precious time that we could otherwise use in really living the gift that is life. It’s for every soul out there who needs to understand the meaning of gratitude, contentment and making the most of what we have in this lifetime.
11. The Namesake
Author: Jhumpa Lahiri
© Mariner Books
This book grips you in the way that only a novel by Jhumpa Lahiri can. This was one of the first of her books that I had picked up when I was around 12 or 13. I had just moved to a new city with my family and on many levels, I somehow felt that I could connect with the protagonist’s, Gogol Ganguly’s situation of life and coming of age. Gogol who is named after his father’s favourite author, Nikolai Gogol goes through a whirlwind of change as he tries to adapt to a western culture with his parents holding on strongly to their Indian roots. It’s a must read for every individual because it is like a mirror into our own evolution through the years. It’s about finding yourself in the crowd and losing yourself in the city and coming back to your roots and making choices, however difficult they may be.
12. Illusions: The Adventures Of A Reluctant Messiah
Author: Richard Bach
© Arrow Books Ltd
This book was a gift to me when I was 14. At the time, I was told by an Uncle that I was too young to get the meaning and context of the book. I read it anyway. Here’s what I realized—to a certain extent, my Uncle had been right; but to a large extent he had been mistaken. When you move beyond the mechanics of wrenches and propellers, this book is primarily about belief—in one’s own self and in one’s own capability. It’s about believing, above all other things and people, that you in yourself are enough, are able and can make the change you want to. For some, belief is tied to a tank full of gas and sparks firing up a cylinder; for others, it’s about flying. So, whether or not you’re too young—psychologically, or physiologically—or not, read the book.
13. Dead Souls
Author: Nikolai Gogul
© Penguin Classics
I was inspired to read this book after The Namesake where the protagonist is named after author, Nikolai Gogol. The book is about one man’s ambition to rise above his means by buying dead serf’s (the term used to describe agricultural labourers in the age of feudalism, around the 14th century) names from their landlords, after having scanned through their poll taxes’ list and then trying to mortgage them to others who lacked knowledge of these serfs. Chichikov, the schemer aimed to make a profit by this way and become a man of means. It’s a satirical, yet poetic take on the situation at that period in society and how wealth determined one’s position; it still does. It makes you think, in a sort of comical way of what we are as a society.
14. Almost Adulting: All You Need to Know to Get It Together (Sort Of)
Author: Arden Rose
It’s every young individuals guide to becoming an adult; even if they think they’re already there and don’t really need a guide to doing so. No matter what age we’re at; we always need that kind of help; you see, there’s nothing stopping us from going right back into that zone of acting like a child. For some of us, it’s just a chocolate or a kitten away, honestly.
15. The Stranger
Author: Albert Camus
© Vintage International
Life only has the meaning YOU want to give it. Existentialism and the crisis thereof is real. That’s two things this book leaves you with. The author’s main intention while writing this book was exploring his own idea of “the nakedness of man faced with the absurd”. In plain and simple words, it’s about exposing one’s true nature when faced with the strangest incidents that happen to humans; in this case, the protagonist gets embroiled in a murder on an Algerian beach