30 Life-Changing Books You Need to Read This Year

Change your life one word at a time with these must reads!
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We all have our "things." Things that keep us going, keep us strong and motivated and true to ourselves. Things that move us, keep us feeling and centered and in a healthy mindset and perspective. Things that challenge us, keep us growing, thriving, and striving for more in our lives. Things that keep us happy, remind us what's important, remind us who we are.

For me, those "things" are words. Reading and writing have been my constants since I was too young to understand why. All I knew is how books made me feel and the places they let my mind travel to. Today, I read and write with intentionality. I read books that make me better and change my life and perspective. Every good book, every book you are willing to spend your time on, should spark a change in your life, no matter how big or small.

Some books hit us harder than others. Some words stick with us longer and some never leave. Here are 30 of the most life-changing books you need to start reading today!

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The Awakening
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I read The Awakening, by Kate Chopin, in two days while the smell of homemade chicken noodle soup made its way into every nook and cranny of my home. I explored the Grand Isle and the Chênière Caminada from the comfort of my couch, with my cats curled up on either side of me, and found myself immersed in the 19th-century culture of Louisiana and the Grand Isle. The Awakening shook me because three centuries later, I still found it relevant and relatable regardless of the many advances we've made as a society since Chopin's time. Similar truths still rang loud enough to pull me in, keep my attention, and allow me to think more deeply about societal expectations of women, relationships, mothers, and marriage.

Genre

  • Novel
  • 19th-Century Feminist Novel/Novella
  • Local Color Fiction/Regionalism
  • Psychological Fiction

Summary

Edna Pontellier, who never felt comfortable in the roles set out for her, takes a trip to Grand Isle with her husband and, subsequently, finds herself. The relationships she forms on her summer vacation at Grand Isle don't change her but, instead, bring her truest self to the surface, sparking a myriad of life changes her family, friends, and community disapprove of.

Life-Changing

The Awakening is both a representation of its time and place (19th-Century Lousiana) and a thoughtful examination of a novel that was well before its time. In fact, the book was so before its time it was considered extremely controversial and banned for years. It is a feminist novel with topics like adultery, feminine power, and the rejection of societal norms, all while depicting societal standards in a shockingly honest light. The Awakening may have been too much for 19th-Century America, but Chopin's insight into a woman finding herself amidst oppression is worth the read today and will forever have a spot on my bookshelf.

Published

April 1899

The Metamorphosis
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I've read Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis several times over the years. It's been a consistent curiosity of mine, a constant question mark in my mind. Getting to the route of Kafka's meaning behind The Metamorphosis has been alluding and enlightening. What I mean is, this is a book with layers. This is not a book you read once, put on your shelf, and never think of again. At least, it wasn't for me.

The first time I read The Metamorphosis I found myself in awe of the stark magical realism and all its gritty tragedy, but I knew there was more to it, and so I dipped my toes in a second time and have read it at least five or six times over the years. Every time I read The Metamorphosis I discover something new, some symbolism or depth or hidden meaning I didn't quite catch the last time.

Genre

  • Novella/Short Story
  • Magical Realism
  • Fantasy
  • Fiction

Summary

Gregor Samsa, a man who has spent his life providing for his family, wakes one morning to find out he has changed. While he slept, he metamorphosized into a giant beetle. Where he once had hands, he now has short, thin legs, and he hasn't gained control over his new body quite yet. He is immobilized by the weight and structure of his new, terrifying body and is unable to go to work. At first, Gregor attempts to hide his condition, but he later has no choice but to reveal himself. The tragedy that unfolds is The Metamorphosis.

Life-Changing

Undeniably life-changing, Kafka's The Metamorphosis will force you to ask yourself some difficult questions about what it means to be human, confinement, neglect, unconditional or conditional love, solitude, family, obligations to family, the time we spend working instead of living, death, and more. While I have read this book several times, I never leave empty-handed. I always walk away feeling I have been handed some new bit of information to apply to my own experiences.

Published

1915

The Color of Water
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The Color of Water, by James McBride, is the first memoir I ever read. I still remember my 6th-grade English teacher pointing to a library cart full of memoirs and biographies and telling the class to pick one to write a paper about. Though I loved to read, I was not excited. Memoirs? Biographies? I wanted magical worlds with magical characters that would transport me to places I could visit in their pages, but the title called me instantly, The Color of Water. My 6th-grade mind tried to grasp what the title might mean, and I experienced a different kind of magic. My first experience with a memoir, that realization that they held their own kind of magic, literally changed my life. Though my experiences were exponentially different and not comparable to McBride's, I realized the real world and real people's stories held a different kind of raw power, which was a pretty big deal for me at age eleven. I'm not sure I would have started writing nonfiction if it weren't for McBride.

It's also the first book I read that touched on the realities of race and racism in America, which helped me become a better, more aware person and pushed me to continue wanting to learn more about racism and injustice later in life and into adulthood. It was the first small step in the right direction of awareness, and any kind of awareness can't and won't happen without taking that first crucial step.

Genre

  • Memoir
  • Autobiography

Summary

In this Memoir and Autobiography, James McBride writes about his experiences with race and the racism he experienced growing up in America while honoring his mother who was a white, Polish immigrant. McBride tackles the duality of his race, racism, religion and pays tribute to his mother.

Life-Changing

With topics like race, racism, family (particularly his mother), growth, religious beliefs, and finding yourself, The Color of Water will either be something you can personally relate to or that you use as a tool to understand realities you would never have to face but have a responsibility to try to understand personally. Either way, McBride's use of language is effortless and beautiful. His mother's depictions and the openness and vulnerability in which he writes still sticks with me twenty years later.

Published

1996

Night
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Everyone should read this book once in their lifetime. I read Night, by Elie Wiesel, on a midnight summer drive with the windows down. I read it aloud to a friend, my feet perched on the dashboard. We were struck by the endurance of the human spirit, the resilience of the mind, and the horror of Wiesel's experiences in the holocaust. While I have to say any book that includes topics like genocide isn't the easiest pill to swallow, I also have to ask how we can create a better present and future if we don't honor and learn from the past.

Genre

  • Memoir
  • Autobiography

Summary

Elie and his family are taken to Auschwitz, where they struggle to survive the daily horrors that take place there at the hand of the Nazis. As Elie is trying to survive Auschwitz, survive the trauma of everyday genocide and the loss of family, he also experiences doubt and loss in his one unflinching religious belief.

Life-Changing

There is a particular scene in this book that has stuck with me more than any other. When Elie and his family are being taken to Auschwitz, another deportee, Madame Schächter, begins seeing visions of their fate. She is horrified of what she knows is coming when she predicts the fires and ovens the Nazis will use at Auschwitz. That scene changed my life. It stuck with me and still does. Whenever I think of Night, I think of that scene, those moments awaiting a horrifying fate.

What Elie experienced and accounted for in Night is something we owe it to ourselves to be aware of as a society. This awareness of a horrible event and time in history, of the people who suffered, and what it says about humanity, life, and religion is definitely life-changing.

Published

1956

Middlemarch
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I remember a fellow student asking me, "You've never read Middlemarch?" with a look part disgust and part amazement. My first, impulse reaction was defensiveness, but then I asked myself, "How good does a book have to be to elicit that kind of reaction?" Of course, I later read the book and understood her reaction. "Go read it now!!" is what she was really saying.

Middlemarch by George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans) is a Victorian novel ahead of its time. The Narrative is entrancing, and before I knew what was happening I was promising myself, "only one more chapter, only one more chapter," until early morning the next day.

Genre

  • Novel
  • Victorian Fiction

Summary

Dorothea Brooke, a woman who lives in Middlemarch, wishes to work on something of importance but is limited to do so through the work of a man due to the function of Victorian society. In an attempt to achieve her goal, she marries an elderly man with the hope of helping him in his research, but her husband has no idea of letting her help and she finds herself stuck in an unfulfilling marriage.

Life-Changing

If you love being sucked into a book and living alongside its characters, walking alongside them, and having access to their innermost emotions and whims, reading Middlemarch is the book for you. The realities of Victorian marriages, the limits placed on the women of that time, and their rich inner lives and ambitions are all reflected in the narration and actions of Dorothea. The characters and writing that I took with me after reading also had me wondering why I waited so long to read Middlemarch. No wonder she asked, "You've never read Middlemarch?" Have you?

Published

1871-1872

Mrs. Dalloway
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Reading Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway was an enjoyable day's work in sweatpants and a t-shirt that could double as a dress. I didn't read this book; I devoured it in one big gulp. Woolf's unique, lyrical style of writing and use of stream-of-consciousness is what makes the novel and what it's still known for today. This is the type of book you reread just to feel the same feelings and enjoy the same world you did the first time you read it.

Genre

  • Novel
  • Literary Fiction

Summary

Spend one day in Clarissa Dalloway's life (Mrs. Dalloway) leading up to a party that takes place that evening. This plotless novel will take you into the lives of London society. In contrast, Mrs. Dalloway considers her past relationships, current circumstances, and the people and lives around her.

Life-Changing

The style of Woolf's writing in Mrs. Dalloway is enough to change your life. It's completely her own style, unique to her. It's refreshing, lyrical, and beautifully written. With subject matter like life-long regret, mental illness, suicide, a big-picture look at life as a whole, and interconnectedness of people in a community, there's no way to not learn or take something from Mrs. Dalloway.

Published

1925

What the Living Do
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What the Living Do, by Marie Howe, is one of my favorite poetry collections. I first read it last year and have referred to it many times since then. Howe finds beauty and meaning in the small, mundane moments, memories, and objects in her life while dealing with difficult traumas and events from childhood to adulthood; she is able to honor her life by acknowledging and finding the beauty in them, which is something that struck me. There is no way to read What the Living Do and not find it beautiful.

Genre

  • Poetry

Summary

Howe's brother, who died due to complications of AIDS, remembers him, their upbringing, traumas, the structure of their family, and daily lifestyle and finds solace in the small, mundane moments that make life worth living.

Life-Changing

The focus of this collection is life, the seemingly small moments that make it wonderful, that bring us hope in times of difficulty, and that help us cope with the uncopeable. Difficult topics like abuse, death, family, trauma, loss, and AIDS are given a platform and spark thoughts and conversations we should be having with one another. If anything, Howe's ability to honor the mundane will help you to appreciate the small things that mean much more than we often take the time to notice.

Published

1997

The Alchemist
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I was skeptical when I first ordered The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. Every celebrity was reading it and it was what we today call "trending," but I wasn't sure the book was worth the hype it was getting. Once I started reading, I found The Alchemist has many common threads with The Epic of Gilgamesh, 1001 Arabian Nights, Mythology, and other classically allegorical literature. I immediately understood the appeal. It's a teaching book, a learning book, a little reminder of how important perspective is on our journeys in life.

Genre

  • Novel
  • Fantasy/Adventure Fiction
  • Coming of age novel

Summary

Santiago, a poor shepherd, has a reoccurring dream about treasure that he feels is prophetic and leading him to his destiny in life after getting the opinion of a gypsy woman. The journey that Santiago takes in search of the treasure from his dream is The Alchemist, but there is a twist, there is a treasure and it isn't at all where Santiago thinks it is.

Life-Changing

The Alchemist is a novel that is meant to teach a lesson and give perspective, and it does just that.

Published

1988

Frankenstein
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I actually watched Mary Shelley before reading Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, and it's a book I wish I would've read long ago, when I still said "the bomb," and read most books in my tiny, childhood bedroom. Growing up, my Papa Wally played Digger Deep in a show popular to Michiganders and Ohioans called Sir Graves Ghastly (also a horror). On visits to his house, we combed through his extensive VHS collection and watched old scary movies like the 1931 version of Frankenstein: The Man Who Made The Monster.

Reading Frankenstein took me back to those sweet, simple times with my Papa Wally, and as I turned page after page, I wanted to share all the marvelous details missing from the movie with him.

Genre

  • Novel
  • Gothic Fiction
  • Science Fiction
  • Horror Fiction

Summary

Dr, Victor Frankenstein, a scientist, uses science to try to triumph over life and death by using the parts of dead men to create new, human life. He is so horrified by the man he creates he abandons him and what follows is Frankenstein.

Life-Changing

This is not a book about a monster. I mean, it is, but it is much more than that. Frankenstein is about creation, specifically the creation of life and the death that follows each life. It's about crippling loneliness and isolation and the revenge that Victor Frankenstein's creation seeks against his creator. Every human should read Frankenstein to understand these central themes and how they play a part in all of our lives.

Published

1818

The Old Man and the Sea
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I can still picture Hemingway's old man, Santiago, from The Old Man and The Sea like he's a man I met once and not a character from a book, but the best characters stick with you that way. Santiago is cataloged in my brain along with the other beloved characters I've collected over the years. I read The Old Man and The Sea when I was nineteen and battling the crushing loss of a family member, and The Old Man and The Sea gave me perspective on the big-picture of life and of what is simultaneously beautiful and ugly in life.

Genre

  • Novel
  • Fiction
  • Allegory

Summary

Santiago, who has recently been unlucky in catching fish after a lifetime of working as a fisherman, has the battle of his life when trying to catch a marlin bigger than any he's ever caught before. Santiago's fight to catch the marlin, and the result of that fight, are The Old Man and The Sea.

Life-Changing

The central themes of The Old Man and the Sea are hard to ignore. Loss of youth, isolation, hardship and endurance, perseverance, and nature's effects on the human body and spirit are all major themes within Hemingway's The Old Man and The Sea. To read The Old Man and The Sea and not apply these prominent themes to your own life and deciphering their meaning would take some serious effort.

Published

1952

On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous
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I bought Ocean Vuong's On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous as soon as it came out and read it in bed during an awful case of the flu. One leg perched on the wall. Head hanging off the edge, arms outstretched with the book in hand. One pillow. No pillows. Five pillows. A pile of tissues in the bed with me. I read it in a few days, crawling into bed and finding a comfortable position, only to change it several times. Vuong's poetic story-telling and relevant subject matter pulled me in and kept my attention despite the flu fog I was in.

Genre

  • Novel
  • Literary Fiction
  • Coming of age novel

Summary

On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous is Little Dog's love letter to his mother, who can't read. Little Dog digs into their complicated and painful past by using his love of storytelling to convey a limitless amount of emotions, heal from his past, and honor the life he lived with his mother in all its beauty and pain.

Life-Changing

The themes in On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous are painfully relevant to the America Americans live in today. Immigration, poverty, trauma, abuse, mental illness, broken family structures, sexuality, loss, and growing and coming of age despite and through all of these varying issues are what many people are doing at this very moment in time. As I type these words, someone deals with trauma, mental illness, abuse, poverty, or loss. Someone is struggling with displacement and trying to make a home in America. Someone is coming of age, exploring their body and sexuality, and discovering what kind of human they are. The title is right; on earth, we really are briefly gorgeous, and this book addresses that in all its forms.

Published

2019

Wild
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I read Wild, by Cheryl Strayed, just in time, when I needed it the most. I took this book to work with me, riddled with page markers and notes in the margins so that I could read it on my lunch and fifteen-minute breaks. I broke the cardinal rule and folded the edges where my favorite lines were, highlighted it to death, and reread my favorite parts of Strayed's journey on the Pacific Crest Trail. Our strikingly similar lives allowed me to find peace in her journey to peace.

Genre

  • Memoir
  • Autobiography
  • Travel Literature

Summary

In the wake of her mother's sudden passing, Cheryl Strayed battles drug addiction and finds herself in a self-destructive spiral that leads to divorce and rock bottom. Strayed decides to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, hoping to find something in herself and outside of herself. Her months spent hiking on the Pacific Crest Trail, reshaping who she is after her mother's death, and reflecting on her past help her find peace.

Life-Changing

Strayed's ability to rebuild her life, refind and rebuild herself after a life-changing loss is inspiring. Imagine losing a parent and losing yourself in the process, and being bold enough that even at rock bottom, you know you need to do something major to find yourself again, so you buy some boots, leave society behind, and go hike for months on the Pacific Crest Trail. This life-changing decision urges the reader to jump feet first into their life, live true to themselves, and let go of what weighs them down.

Published

2012

One Hundred Years of Solitude
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At first, I didn't think I would enjoy One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel García Márquez. While I knew Márquez was a brilliant writer, and how renowned the book was as a classic work of magical realism, I never thought the subject matter was for me. I never thought I would enjoy it. Life is too short to read books you don't enjoy.

I was wrong. I made a list of classics I was determined to conquer last year, added One Hundred Years of Solitude to the list, and found the subject matter was relevant as a human being in a long line of family members whose history I felt I was bound to repeat.

Genre

  • Novel
  • Magical Realism
  • Tragedy

Summary

One Hundred Years of Solitude follows seven generations, or over a hundred years, of the Buendía family and the history of the town of Macondo as history inevitably repeats itself, time illudes them, and they are visited by ghosts.

Life-Changing

Have you ever felt like you were walking a path, taking an action, making a move that had been made by a long line of family members before you? Have you ever felt like you're on a Ferris wheel you cant hop off of? Have you ever wondered what they did right or wrong in comparison to your own path? We all repeat the history of our parents and theirs before them in some way, no matter how small. This book takes a look at time and history in a thoughtful, rich, and effortless way that we should all take a moment to discover.

Published

1967

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
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I once worked as a case manager in a behavioral health unit. Every day I found it hard not to take the weight of my work home with me. How could I help them better? What gifts could I give them that might help them when taking their next steps? Working in the service of others is a gigantic responsibility that shouldn't be taken lightly. My attempt at going above and beyond was providing literature. Stephen Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is a book I referred to often. I outlined each chapter, hoping they would read at least one line that might change their life the way it did mine. There are magical chapters in this classic self-help book, and we all need magic sometimes.

Genre

  • Self-help

Summary

Stephen Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People focuses on the importance of personal and interpersonal effectiveness by going inward to apply techniques that change one's behaviors and motives in order to make one more effective.

Life-Changing

Stephen Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is the monarch of self-help books. There is wisdom in going inward to see and experience outside changes and become a better human with a better, happier life. This is a dense book, packed with valuable information to take those next steps towards inner peace and outward results.

Published

1989

An Infinite Number of Parallel Universes
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An Infinite Number of Parallel Universes, by Randy Ribay, is my favorite YA novel. Friendship, coming of age, unity, and the acceptance that we are connected and need each other on a deep level to grow, how can An Infinite Number of Parallel Universes not make you feel all the things you either once felt as a senior, are currently feeling and experiencing, or will eventually feel when your time comes?

This book transported me to a difficult time, senior year being a whirlwind of growth, learning, love, and loss. I found that trip cathartic. I hope you do too.

Genre

  • Novel
  • Young Adult (YA) Fiction
  • Bildungsroman

Summary

While dealing with everyday struggles and the growing pains of senior year, four friends, who meet up weekly to play a game of Dungeons & Dragons, decide to take a getaway road trip, but their struggles come with them, and an innocent escape turns into a life-changing trip.

Life-Changing

YA can be life-changing too. Some of the first books we book lovers fall for are YA novels. YA novels are often the first spark in a life-long love of books that gets us thinking critically, asking questions about life and relationships, and helping us come to terms with our own coming of age. An Infinite Number of Parallel Universes highlights the importance of friendship, support, and unity as we grow into who we are meant to become.

Published

2015

The Age of Innocence
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Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence was on my to-be-read (TBR) pile for years, sitting there eagerly in wait for me to dust it off and give it the time it deserved. Reading The Age of Innocence with a cup of hot tea and my fuzzy slippers was the highlight of the winter of 2019. Wharton's attention to detail and the social structure in 1870 New York's elite society is what makes The Age of Innocence the classic it is today, if not for the steamy romance and Newland's life-changing decision.

Genre

  • Novel
  • Fiction

Summary

Newland Archer, engaged to be married to May Welland, has his whole life set out before him, but, just in time, he falls in love with Ellen Olenska creating a scandal that threatens to ruin his life and place in society.

Life-Changing

Where do you fit in society? Where does society live in you? What space does it take up, and how much? This 19th-century novel will take you to a time, or "age," not so different than our own. Wharton's examination of 19th-century issues brings to mind many worrisome parallels in today's society. We like to think the past is so far behind us that it isn't with us today, that we aren't carrying parts of it with us, or repeating patterns that people would have in the 19th-century, but we are. The Age of Innocence will have you looking deeply as to where you are in society, how society influences your, and others, thoughts and actions. How are you being influenced? How are you influencing those around you? What societal rules are you following? How does that influence the rest of your life?

Published

1920

Invisible Man
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The first few lines of Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man pulled a chord in me that kept me reading, and the book itself changed my life, how I view race and identity in America, and how I perceive those around me. The main character, the "invisible man," is another character I have healed onto all these years. Images of him sitting in his underground room, fighting in the horrific battle royal, and navigating the difficulties of his life as an "invisible man" have lived with me since my first year of college when a professor recommended it to me. I'll always be grateful for that recommendation, what I learned from it, and Ellison's realist yet surrealist writing.

Genre

  • American Novel
  • Literary Fiction
  • Bildungsroman

Summary

An unnamed, invisible man comes face-to-face with the reality of race in America after he gets awarded admission to an all-black college with an inhuman price tag. This is the beginning of many intimate revelations leading to the conclusion that society refuses to see him as he journeys from the south to Harlem, New York.

Life-Changing

The writing, the gritty and horrifying imagery, the themes of racism and race in America, and the combination of that realism and surrealism make Invisible Man the great American literary work we know it to be today. Every American should read this novel. If you do, you'll find honest parallels of the realities of racism in even the most surrealistic scenes in Invisible Man.

Published

1952

True Love
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I was eighteen when my boyfriend at the time surprised me with True Love by one of my favorite authors, Thich Nhat Hanh. Twelve years later, I still refer to this book. I still flip through its pages to find mantras and ideas on how I can love myself as a human being better, how I can communicate and show appreciation to those I love and care for more, and how I can be a better version of myself.

To this day, I still try my best to say, "I appreciate you," my adapted version of a method discussed within the book. "I appreciate you" has a power that "thank you" doesn't hold. Everyone wants and hungers for some level of appreciation. By saying this simple statement, I can show people I am not just grateful for what they've done for me at that moment, but that I appreciate them as a person.

Genre

  • Self-help

Summary

Thich Nhat Hanh shares the four essential elements of love: loving-kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity. Some of the ways he relates these essential elements are to be present, affirmations and mantras, and self-love.

Life-Changing

You do not need to be Buddhist, know anything about Buddhism, or be religious in any way to read this book. This book is more about learning useful techniques in Buddhism and applying them to your relationships to create healthy, loving relationships that have effective communication. It's a book about how to appreciate your partner(s) as a human being and show your love for them in the best way possible. It is not a book about converting to Buddhism or any religion.

When I was young and learning what love was, this book was there to show me what I was and would do wrong. It includes simple mantras and affirmations anyone can do regardless of their religious or nonreligious background to love better. Take what you can from it and apply it to your own beliefs and lifestyle to be a better partner in life, love yourself better, and love the people that inhabit this world with you better.

Published

1997

The Four Agreements
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The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom, by Miguel Ruiz, helped me during a time when I was often jumping to conclusions about why people were doing or saying particular things or why different events were happening in my life. By not jumping to conclusions, I was able to listen more to my intuition and pay attention to others' true attentions.

Genre

  • Self-help

Summary

Miguel Ruiz introduces the four agreements in The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom: 1. Be Impeccable With Your Word. 2. Don't Take Anything Personally. 3. Don't Make Assumptions. 4. Always Do Your Best. These four agreements are meant to transform your life so that you can find peace, happiness, and fulfillment.

Life-Changing

Ruiz takes a simple approach based on ancient Toltec wisdom to tackle complicated matters and bad habits that will help you make major life changes. These four agreements can act as basic guidelines or mantras in life. If you want to break bad habits, let go of negative thoughts, or make a change in life, The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom is a practical but holistic way to start.

Published

1997

My Body is A Book Of Rules
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I read this book in college. I read it once and read it two times over again. Then, a year later, I picked it up and searched its pages again. Coming of age. Mental illness. Psychotropic medications. Identity. Ethnic Identity. Sexuality. This book explores the limits or rules, and pushes them. We should be able to talk about and express all the things, but are told we shouldn't, are explored in Elissa Washuta's My Body is A Book of Rules. There are no apologies. There is no shame. There is just Washuta's truth on the page, organized and written in meaningful, clever ways.

Genre

  • Memoir
  • Autobiography

Summary

Washuta experiences the effects of trauma and bipolar disorder while trying to acclimate to her newfound adulthood, explore her sexuality, cope with psychotropic medications' effects, and figure out who she is in terms of her ethnic identity and upbringing.

Life-Changing

If you have, or currently do, struggle with mental health, sexuality, trauma, coming of age, ethnic identity, religion, or simply love to hear a woman scream from the rooftops, "This is my truth, and it is valid and beautiful!", you should read Washuta's My Body is A Book of Rules. Take time to notice the clever ways she organizes this little hybrid memoir, her word use, and the themes that act like threads throughout the entirety of the memoir.

Published

2014

How to Do the Work
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I'm currently reading How To Do The Work by Dr. Nicole LePera. On my daily walks, I always listen to an audiobook, and, on a whim, I decided to trade in my usual memoirs or novels for a self-help. I didn't expect anything from it but have seen How To Do The Work everywhere for weeks. It's been explosive on social media for its simple, holistic methods that anyone can try and succeed at.

While I was hesitant, I was only ten minutes into my walk when I realized there was something tangible for me in How To Do The Work. LePera's focus on simple but effective methods makes healing less intimidating, less like the work you dread doing, and more manageable. LePera is like the teacher in school you loved because their assignments were fun and actually taught you something you can apply.

Genre

  • Self-help

Summary

Dr. Nicole LePera draws from her experience as a psychologist and research in holistic psychology to take a different approach to help people take control of their mental health. LePera takes readers through the stages that helped her, and many patients overcome their trauma, break old, harmful life patterns, and find inner peace.

Life-Changing

LePera uses holistic psychology to recognize patterns, address emotions and trauma, heal, cope, and break bad habits and life patterns that leave you feeling stuck. If you have ever felt stuck, trapped, or struggled with your mental health or with trauma, or enjoy learning about psychology and mental health, How To Do The Work is a life-changing, simplistic approach to taking control of your mental health and residual traumas.

Published

2021

Daring Greatly
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Dr. Brené Brown's Daring Greatly is the self-help book we all need to gather the courage to be our true selves and live as our true selves. This book was transformative in how I viewed vulnerability. Being vulnerable has never been a weakness; it's courageous. It's a strength.

Daring Greatly is the book that helped me realize my instinct to be vulnerable in how I live my life was the right instinct and that I should lean into it and live in that space.

Genre

  • Self-help

Summary

In Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, Dr. Brené Brown inspires her readers to own their truth, be vulnerable, and have the courage to live every facet of their life with that same vulnerability and self-awareness.

Life-Changing

How many of us have difficulty opening up, being ourselves, saying how we feel, or expressing ourselves? Daring Greatly is a self-help book that motivates us to open up and be vulnerable in the way we live. If you struggle to show people your true self, to be vulnerable, or to be courageous in how you live your life, Daring Greatly is the perfect book to help you change your perspective on what true vulnerability is and make some much-needed changes.

Published

2012

Between the World and Me
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I think it's impossible to read this book and not feel all of the feelings. Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates, is too intimate and too raw not to be immersed in a series of relevant, enveloping emotions. I read Between the World and Me over a cup of hot coffee in the morning, and I didn't put it down, other than the occasional, necessary break until bedtime. The vulnerability of Coates' voice. For me, the meaning and intent behind his words and the emotions charging them while bearing to the readers and his son the inhuman realities of race in America were sobering. Coates taught himself, his son, and his readers' many things about race in America, and I am grateful for them all.

Genre

  • Autobiography
  • Memoir

Summary

Ta-Nehisi Coates explores the realities of being black in America in a heartwarming, heartbreaking letter to his son. In Between the World and Me, Coates uses his past experiences and historical events to enlighten himself, the readers, and his son on how to navigate life as a black man in America with clarity, honesty, and vulnerability.

Life-Changing

I think Toni Morrison said it best. If you look closely on the cover of Between the World and Me you'll see her commentary, "This is a required reading." Read it and begin to grasp what Coates is feeling and the emotion behind Between the World and Me. Read it and sympathize. Read it and change. Read it and grow. Read it and feel united or empowered. Read it and learn a lesson. Whatever your circumstances, race, personal experiences, there is something you can take from this book to heal or help others heal to be a better, more aware person.

Published

2015

The Hobbit
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I've read The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien twice, first when I was twenty-one and taking a break from the academic reading I was doing during college, and again after I graduated. The Hobbit is an escape, an immersive world with immersive characters. It is vibrant and before it's time. Tolkien created worlds and languages we still refer to today. The Hobbit is a cult classic with a massive fanbase, movies, and adaptations after all these years.

Genre

  • Novel
  • Fantasy

Summary

Bilbo Baggins, "the hobbit," has lived a quiet life he hired by Thorin unexpectedly and invited to take part in a journey far bigger than any in his life: break into Thorin's mountain crested home, guarded by a dragon, and get back Thorin's birthright (the treasure).

Life-Changing

Sometimes a small escape, a staycation, can be dramatically life-changing. This book is meant to be explored. Jump in and join the characters on a journey. Meet a treasure-hoarding dragon. Experience the wonder of the world Tolkien created and take a small break from reality. It will change your life.

Published

1937

How We Became Human
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I have taken my time with each of the poems in Joy Harjo's How We Become Human, reading each poem and spending some time with it, letting it digest, and sitting with the feelings and words left behind after reading. You can feel the patience and the pain. You can feel the sting of injustice and the humming of peace in the face of it. How We Become Human contains duality while honoring the vibrancy of indigenous life.

Genre

  • Poetry

Summary

This poetry collection includes poems collected from over the course of Joy Harjo's extensive career, nearly thirty years, and examines indigenous culture and its resurgence and resilience under injustice.

Life-Changing

How do we become human? What makes us human? What makes us up culturally? These questions are all answered in Harjo's How We Become Human in the lines of each poem, in subtle ways. Each poem has embedded striking bits of indigenous culture while shining a light on the injustices happening to indigenous people(s).

Published

2002

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
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If you've never read any books by Haruki Murakami, I suggest starting here with The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. A few years ago, a friend of mine said he was her favorite author. Given her style of writing and general disposition, I was curious. Anytime someone says, "This is my favorite author," I feel as if what they are really saying is, "These books are a part of me." Since she was a writer and I was familiar with her work, I wondered what parts of Murakami's work had made it into her writing. I never told her, but a few weeks later, I picked up this book and discovered it was the power Murakami gave the readers that drew her to him. Anyone can read his books, and each person who does has read a different book. The power is in the hand of the reader and their perception of the book itself.

Genre

  • Novel
  • Science Fiction
  • Psychological Fiction

Summary

Toru Okada looks for his wife's missing cat but ends up searching for his wife in an unexpected place: Underneath Tokyo. During his search in this strange, new world, Toru meets different characters, some helpful and some harmful,

Life-Changing

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, being a psychological thriller, is meant to penetrate the mind, force deep thought and contemplation on what is happening and why. The strange, cerebral place The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle will undoubtedly take you to is one most books don't dare to venture to. This book was a life-changing read for me. I think anyone who loves science fiction, philosophy, or psychological fiction, would find this book to be life-changing for them too.

Published

1994

Americanah
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Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, is a coming of age, a love story, a story of displacement, identity, being an African immigrant in America, race, and separation. The title Americanah is actually a word used in Nigeria to describe those who are, or put on a front, that they have been so Americanized they lose touch with parts of their own culture. Americanah is my favorite book by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is one of the great activists, writers, and minds of our time.

Genre

  • Novel
  • Fiction

Summary

Ifemelu, who is from Nigeria, immigrates to America to attend college. In the process, she is separated from Obinze, whom she loves deeply. They navigate separate struggles as displaced peoples attempting t build a life for themselves outside of Africa, experience growth and hardship, only to come back to a different home than they left.

Life-Changing

Americanah manages to wrap up a beautiful love story and coming of age with race, identity, and displacement. As these two people leave their cultures behind in search of building a life and are inevitably separated, they follow their own paths in foreign countries where they discover beautiful and ugly parts of the world before coming back together. The themes of identity, displacement, and culture ring so loudly in Americanah that, for me, it was a life-changing read that provided me valuable perspective.

Published

2013

The God of Small Things
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At any given time, I have a smattering of books throughout my home that I am reading. Usually, a book of poetry, a couple of novels, self-help, and an audiobook or two make up the books I regularly consume, give or take one or two. Currently, The God of Small Things, by Arundhati Roy, is one of them, and as I get closer and closer to the end, I find I am thinking deeper and deeper about what it is to be seen by another person amid everything we experience in our lives.

Genre

  • Novel
  • Psychological Fiction

Summary

Rahel and Esthappen cope with the difficulties of their upbringing in the shade of their bond and their youth's strength. They live in the safety of what they know until a seemingly small event, a family visit, changes everything.

Life-Changing

The God of Small Things is food for thought. Discrimination. Love laws. Forbidden love. Closeness. Being seen by another person. The subject matter in Roy's The God of Small Things will make you think about what love is, what understanding another person is, the effects of regret, and how minute life events can lead to crystalizing moments of monumental change.

Published

1997

The Blazing World and Other Writings
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I can never quite believe The Blazing World and Other Writings, by Margaret Cavendish, was written in 1616. Reading The Blazing World and Other Writings was a moment for me. I remember it clearly. I was only a few pages in when I looked up from the cafeteria table at college and wondered if everyone else could tell I was having a moment. By a moment, I mean that I was having one of those literary epiphanies where you wonder why you never read this book before, why you are just now getting around to reading it, how on earth the author wrote it when and how they did. You feel alive in the magic of that author's work and the physical manifestation of it. Books are magic. Reading The Blazing World and Other Writings further solidified that belief for me.

Genre

  • Novel
  • Science Fiction
  • Utopian Novel
  • Feminist Literature

Summary

A woman becomes empress of a new world inhabited by strange creatures. She then decides to use her power as an empress to invade the world she came from using the strange creatures she reigns over as an empress.

Life-Changing

Did I mention this was written in 1616 and that Margaret Cavendish was like, "Hey, I think I feel like being the first woman writer to take on sci-fi writing."? I'm sure she didn't say it in exactly those words because it was 1616, but The Blazing World and Other Writings is a novel that transcends the time and restrictions of 1616 in a miraculous way that is most definitely magical.

Published

1666

The Year of Magical Thinking
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I've had a soft spot for Joan Didion since picking up an old, yellowed copy of The Last Thing He Wanted in a used book store and reading it while eating tomatoes on toast. I wrapped myself up in the command of her voice, the simplicity of her words, and the meaning behind them. The Year of Magical Thinking is, like all her books, a work of existentialism, a look at grief and the odd shapes it takes as your brain tries to catch up with the loss.

Genre

  • Memoir
  • Autobiography

Summary

Didion deals with the sudden death of her husband and her adoptive daughter's deathly illnesses. As she attempts to find rationality and meaning behind the loss of her husband and her daughter's illnesses, she finds grief fills her up in a way she couldn't have imagined and deals with grief and mourning on her terms.

Life-Changing

Didion's examination of her own grief can prove to be illuminating for anyone who has lost a loved one. As a society, there are some emotions and events we are united in. Grief is chief amongst them. We all experience it. We all experience it in our own way, on our own terms, in our own unique circumstances, but we are united in the experience of it. The Year of Magical Thinking is a book that displays the isolation, disillusionment, denial, shock, and a myriad of other emotions that come with the series of traumas she experienced.

Published

2005

Christina's profile pictureChristina
Joined in 2021 27 guides
Christina is a writer with a BFA in Creative Writing, years of experience working with technology, and a passion for all things creative. She has a wide array of interests in subjects such as cooking, knitting, DIY, literature, and technology. Currently, she's still working as a freelance writer and book reviewer, writing a book, and excited to be exploring her many interests here at Howchoo.
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