13 Books That Changed My Life
The reasons every single one of these books has made this list are simple: all of them have changed my life in some way.
Firstly, please do not think I’m challenging you to read all of them. Find one or two that you like and consider reading them. I have selected a range of genres, eras, lengths, styles so nearly everyone can find something to their liking.
Secondly, let me explain the reasoning behind this list. The reasons every single one of these books has made this list are simple: all of them have changed my life in some way (either tested my beliefs and my ways of thinking, given me a new perspective on things, has made me expand my understanding of human emotion, has taught me something) and all of them were nearly impossible to put down.
I do not deny the fact that there are much better books out there that deserve to be on this list much more than the ones that have made it, but I did not want to be a hypocrite and put books I’ve never read nor did I want to recommend books that have not left an impression on me in some way.
Without further ado and without any particular order, I present to you the list:
1. The Little Prince – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
I have no doubts most have read this book. What I find fascinating about this book is that, whenever I re-read it, it feels like I’m reading it for the first time. The subliminal messages The Little Prince leaves upon you very much depend on what your mind and soul need at that time. It is so interestingly mind-tangling that somehow it helps us find the answers we seem to be looking for.
2. Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
Let me just open with a very controversial sentence: I liked the film more. The scenery, the kimonos, the architecture, the rituals – all the visuals contributed to this so much. The book is no less worth reading because of this statement, just read the book first if possible.
A geisha’s life, training, responsibilities, mindset and difficult decisions that have to be made, or are made for you, are all beautifully and gracefully explained through the novel. An amazing introduction to Japanese history and culture if you have not yet been acquainted.
Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden (1997)
3. Doll’s House – Henrik Ibsen
Nora Helmer, the awakened middle-class wife and mother who has spent her life being, first a ‘doll daughter’ and later a ‘doll wife’ has been brought to life by Ibsen to challenge the traditional roles of the 19th-century marriage.
Personally, Nora represents the awakening of a woman, shedding her expected roles in life and choosing to live with purpose and dignity. Nora is still a controversial character, where some consider her irresponsible and impulsive, others think of her as a heroine and an inspiration. You decide for yourself.
4. Il Canzoniere (Song Book) – Francesco Petrarca
Petrarca has devoted his Song Book to a woman he adores more than life, Laura. It not only covers the topics of love, infatuation, desire and vanity, it also breathes the poet’s internal turmoil and spiritual journey. Although Laura is the main motif, his poems seek immortality by reaching glory in order to preserve Petrarca’s name beyond his life. You might think this is just a series of love songs but if I told you Laura was already married before knowing of Petrarca and it is unknown if they ever spoke in person, would that change things just slightly?
5. Antigone – Sophocles
An Ancient Greek tragedy that describes the consequences of Antigone’s decisions. After her two brothers die in a quarrel for the crown, one receives a dignified funeral, while the other is declared a traitor and discarded of. After being caught burying her traitor brother, she is ordered to be executed by her uncle, the new king. While Antigone’s fiance tries and succeeds to convince the king to spare Antigone’s life, she hangs herself. The tragedy brings up questions of morals and civil disobedience as well as bravery and standing up for what you believe in. A moving story of love, bravery and loyalty.
6. Manuscript Found in Accra, Paulo Coelho
As the city of Jerusalem is to be annihilated by the Crusades, worried citizens turn to the Copt for advice and consolation. The novel is a beautiful representation of a virtuous and noble living and provides a series of lessons for all humankind. One of the many quotes I have written down from the book:
“And precisely when everything seems to be going well and your dream is almost within your grasp, that is when you must be more alert than ever. Because when your dream is almost within your grasp, you will be assailed by terrible guilt.
You will see that you are about to arrive at a place where very few have ever set foot, and you will think that you don’t deserve what life is giving you. You will forget all the obstacles you overcame, all that you suffered and sacrificed. And because of that feeling of guilt, you could unconsciously destroy everything that you took so long to build. That is the most dangerous of obstacles because renouncing victory has about it a certain aura of sanctity.”
Copyright Aleph Centre of Accelerated Spiritual Transformation
7. Metamorphosis – Franz Kafka
Kafka is known to cause confusion with his work but I’m still unsure if I was more confused at the beginning or the ending of this very interesting read.
Gregor Samsa, a salesperson that turns into a human-sized insect overnight, is a character interpreted in many different ways, sometimes as a symbolic representation of Kafka’s relationship with his father and sometimes as a feeling of being misunderstood by the world and your loved ones. Whatever this book might mean to you, I urge you fully and deeply immerse yourself in the possibility of becoming an insect and living with Samsa throughout this book.
8. Inferno – Dan Brown
This thriller is the fourth of five of the Robert Langdon series. Anyone who knows Dan Brown knows his style of writing and the brilliance of his work.
The reason Inferno struck me was mainly due to the fact I have read Dante’s Divine Comedy and have been to most places relevant to the novel. The vivid imagery and accurate references with numerous hours of research make Dan Brown’s work true masterpieces. It is also the most relevant book in this list for this moment in time because it discusses a virus that will affect humankind to an unknown extent. Funny, huh? (Side note, the film, in my opinion, does not do the book justice, so go read it).
9. Milk & Honey – Rupi Kaur
A collection of poetry and prose divided into four chapters: the hurting, the loving, the breaking, and the healing. It discusses topics of love, heartbreak, betrayal, rape, abuse and finding a way back to self and acceptance. She writes exclusively in lower case letters and only using periods as punctuation, paying respect to Gurmukhi script and her culture.
The simple and elevated tone of Rupi’s work makes it simple to read but leaves an impact on the reader. Her poems will echo in your heart and mind.
10. Bad Karma – David Safier
How did a television personality reincarnate into an ant after being killed by space debris falling from a Russian space station? You’ll have to tell me once you’ve read this book. An amazing book about karma and reincarnation hilariously portrays how actions have consequences. I have laughed so hard reading this book and felt truly and deeply for Kim the television personality and Kim the ant and Kim the hamster and all the other versions of Kim.
A light read that will make you rethink your daily actions and what kind of karma will they accumulate, all the while making you giggle at Kim’s shenanigans.
11. The White Tiger – Aravind Adiga
Balram Halwai, a successful businessman that escaped a servant’s life, is the narrator of the story that leads us through the decisions he had made in order to get to where he is in life. A complex book about corruption and exploitation of servants and the necessary slyness and the urge to survive in a world where the odds are against you, by default. Written with such sharp wit and generously sprinkled by India’s cultural richness; I have no doubt you will find yourself siding with Balram very quickly.
12. N. from Just After Sunset – Stephen King
A novella with such profound psychology and a puzzling plot you can read in an afternoon. The book focuses on obsessive-compulsive disorder as well as paranoia embodied by “N.”, Dr John Bonsaint’s patient. “N.” is obsessed with keeping the balance between realms, with the danger of a monster from a different realm trying to invade. He keeps the balance by endless counting of everything around him in very specific patterns. Odd numbers are dangerous, even numbers are good, especially if the sum of their digits is also even. If this does not happen a disbalance appears and the membrane between realms weakens. This unbearable lifestyle leads to “N.”’s suicide. I won’t spoil the rest (but the beginning of the book might, wink wink).
13. Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes – Eleanor Coerr
Just thinking about this book makes me teary-eyed.
It tells a story of Sadako, a Japanese girl who is suffering from leukaemia as a victim of the atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima during World War 2. She was told that if she was able to fold a thousand paper cranes, she would be granted a wish. Her wish was to live. She devoted all her time to folding paper cranes whilst recovering in the hospital.
Grave of the Fireflies is an animated film of a similar theme. Tissues essential.
A weird little list – I’m aware – but I’m hoping you will find a title that suits you. I will most certainly share another one of these with you in the future, hopefully not lockdown related next time though!
Until next time