110 Books That Will Change Your Life

Accidentally stumbling on a book that gives voice to your thoughts and questions, can be powerful.

But what if you were a bit more intentional about the books you read?

What if you could identify some of the books that have historically helped others? What if you could join a perennial discussion with fellow explorers, without ever having to leave your room?

I’ve tried to include various genres and viewpoints on the search for truth, life’s meaning, and the human condition.

Some will challenge you to rethink traditional expressions or understandings of religion.  Others may simply explore how writing, creativity, poetry, or travel can be vehicles on your personal quest to better understand life.

I hope you find this list useful in some way.  Feel free to add your book suggestions in the comments.


Philosophy For The Streets

Sophies World: A Novel about the History of Philosophy – Jostein Gaarder (Great overview on philosophy in the form of a mystery novel.)

Philosophy For Dummies – Tom Morris (Great overview on philosophy.)

Hope On A Tight RopeThis is a compilation of the best that Cornel West has to offer, in a short, yet deep book. You’ll get many of his quotations, speech excerpts, letters, and philosophy, organized by topic.)

The Stranger – Albert Camus (An existentialist novel that explores living in an often absurd world.)

The Metamorphosis – Franz Kafka (Short novel depicts a traveling salesman that wakes up as a giant bug.)

Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoevsky (Novel of an intellectual whose moral compass goes haywire, and the detective who hunts him down.)

Fear and Trembling – Søren Kierkegaard (His views on Faith)

Mans Search For Meaning – Viktor Frankl (Freud thought everything had to do with sex, Frankl says man’s deepest desire is to search for meaning and purpose.)

The Apology – Plato

The Republic – Plato

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance – Robert M. Pirsig (An Inquiry into Values)

Nausea – Jean-Paul Sartre (The philosophical and psychological struggles of a man coming to terms with his own existence.)

The Razor’s Edge – Somerset Maugham (A young American in search of the absolute.)

On Bullshit – Harry G. Frankfurt (A bullshitter “does not reject the authority of the truth, as the liar does, and oppose himself to it. He pays no attention to it at all. By virtue of this, bullshit is a greater enemy of the truth than lies are.”)

The Truth – Harry G. Frankfurt (Sequal to “On Bullshit.” Frankfurt takes the position that a “deplorable mistake” would be unleashed abroad if there should develop in today’s world a widespread lack of caring for the “value and importance” of truth.)

Slaghterhouse-Five – Kurt Vonnegut Jr. (An anti war story)

Soul Pancake – Rainn Wilson (If you like the online communities motto: Chew On Life’s Big Questions, you’ll probably like the book.)

Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury (His novel presents a future American society where critical thought through reading is outlawed.)

A Brief History Of TimeGrand Design – Stephen Hawkins (Some questions he tackles: Why is there a universe–why is there something rather than nothing? Why do we exist? Why are the laws of nature what they are? Did the universe need a designer and creator?)

Origin Of Species – Charles Darwin

The Matrix and Philosophy – William Irwin (The many faces of Keanu Reeves as hero Neo-Christ, Buddha, Socrates-are explored in these essays.)

Ultimate Lost and Philosophy – William Irwin (“explores meaning and philosophy of all six seasons of Lost.”)

Man and His Symbols – Carl Gustav Jung (World-famous Swiss psychologist explains to the layperson his enormously influential theory of symbolism as revealed in dreams.)

Ishmael: An Adventure of Mind & Spirit – Daniel Quinn ( Through a series of philosophical conversations, Ishmael lays out what is wrong with the world, and how it can be fixed. Humans need to see that we belong to the planet, and not the other way around.


Life & Work

The Four Hour Work Week – Tim Ferris (Tim shows you his plan on how to escape the 9-5)

Rich Dad, Poor Dad & Cash Flow Quadrant– Robert Kiyosaki (He had two fathers, one biological, the other one he adopted due to his financial philosophies.  It solidified what I felt about competing views on work, money, and how to make a living. Cash Flow Quadrant goes into more detail. You get to see which quadrant you prefer: Employee/Self Employed/Business Owner/Investor.)

Getting Things Donee – David Allen (Tired of losing control?  This book reveals the science to getting stuff done.)

7 Habits of Highly Effective PeopleStephen Covey (All about attaining goals by aligning oneself to what he calls “true north.”)

The Art Of Non Conformity – Chris Guillebeau (Set your own rules, live the life you want, and change the world.)

The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work – Alain De Botton (We spend our whole lives working, but do we think about why we do what we do, and what it means to us.)

The Greatest Miracle In The World – Og Mandino (Tale of a very successful author who encounters a wise old man, and as a result of their mystical relationship, reveals ageless wisdom, knowledge, and his laws for finding happiness and success.)

The Tipping Point – Malcom Gladwell (How little things can make a big difference.)

Stirring It Up – Gary Hirshberg (How to make money and save the world.)

The Power of Less – Leo Bauta (As times become more complex, so does our stress.  Leo gives some sound tips to reverse this.)




Bible – The Message (Arguably the most influencial book of all times.  Strange stuff, good stuff, and religion aside, life changing stuff.)

The Complete Works of C.S. Lewis (novelist, academic, medievalist, literary critic, essayist, lay theologian and Christian apologist.)

The Essential Ghandi – Louis Fischer (Writings on his life, work, and ideas.)

The Orthodox Heretic – Peter Rollins (Irish philosopher/po-mo theologian upends some of Christians’ most cherished platitudes about God.)

How (Not) To Speak Of God – Peter Rollins (“Rollins summarizes some of the theological ideas that the so-called emerging church is currently exploring: the importance of doubt and silence, the limits of apologetics, and the idea that God is concealed even as God is revealed.” – Publisher Weekly)

Blue Like JazzDonald Miller (A spiritual memoir revealing his nonreligious thoughts on Christian Spirituality.)

Searching For God Knows What – Donald Miller (“He says the religion ought not to be presented as a formula, its tenets broken down into bullet points to fit modern Western thought patterns. At its heart, Miller argues, Christianity is relationship.” – Publishers Weekly)

The Pilgrims Progress – John Bunyan (A Christian allegory depicting the dangerous journey of a man from one land to the world that is to come)

Acts Of Faith – Eboo Patel (The story of an American Muslim, in the struggle for the soul of a generation.)

Life Of Pi – Yann Martel (One character says its “a story that will make you believe in God.”)

Velvet Elvis – Rob Bell (Repainting the Christian Faith)

Jesus Wants To Save Christians – Rob Bell (Chapter titles read like these: “Swollen-bellied black babies, Soccer moms on Prozac.” Interested?)

A New Kind Of Christianity – Brian McLaren (The author asks 10 questions that are challenging todays Christians.)

Pagan Christianity? – Frank Viola & George Barna (Have you ever really explored the roots of our church practices?  This book will take you there.)

The Kingdom of God is Within You– Leo Tolstoy

A Return To Love – Marianne Williamson (Authors reflections on “The Course In Miracles”)

Strength To Love – Martin Luther King Jr. (Coretta Scott King stated that this was the one book of her husbands, that most people told her had changed their lives.  I agree.)

A Case For God – Karen Armstrong (A nuanced exploration of the part that religion plays in human life.)

Doubt – Jennifer Michael Hecht (The Great Doubters and Their Legacy of Innovation from Socrates and Jesus to Thomas Jefferson and Emily Dickinson)

Religionless ChristianityJeffrey C. Pugh (Interpretation of Dietrich Bonhoeffer for todays time.)

Flirting With Faith – Joan Ball (A deeply personal account of her spiritual journey from atheism to a faith filled life.)

Siddhartha – Hermanne Hess (A novel, based loosely on the story of the Buddha, takes the reader on a journey of spiritual discovery and enlightenment.)

It’s Really All About God – Samir Selmanovic (Reflections of a Muslim Atheist Jewish Christian)

The Prophets – Abraham Joshua Heschel (In the jewish tradition, prophets are people who witness the world around them with outstanding passion.)

In Praise Of Folly – Erasmus (Some historians say his book was one of the catalysts of the Protestant Reformation

The Great DoubtJonathan Paul Gross (Spirituality beyond dogma.)

Confessions – Augustine (He’s trying to figure out what God is just like so many of us.)


Writing, Poetry, & Art

Zen in the Art of Writing – Ray Bradbury (Amazing insights into life & his own writing.)

Writing the Spiritual Journey – Elizabeth J. Andrew (The art and practice of spiritual memoir.  Will help you write your own!)

Bird By Bird – Anne Lamott (She’ll get you to write that book you’ve been thinking about, and get you thinking about life as well. She has some other great books as well.)

Writing Down The Bones – Natalie Goldberg (“Wherein we discover that many of the “rules” for good writing and good sex are the same: Keep your hand moving, lose control, and don’t think.” – Amazon review)

Creative Journal Writing – Stephanie Dowrick (The art and heart of reflection)

Writing To Change The World – Mary Pipher (This book may just inspire you to make your own mark on the world.)

The Complete Collected Poems of Maya Angelou – Maya Angelou

Leaves Of Grass – Walt Whitman (Whitman’s poetry praises nature and the individual human’s role in it.)

Art and Illusionn – Ernest H. Gombrich (Read to learn more about the mental processes that take place when we look at art.)

Illuminations – Walter Benjamin (Essays dealing with modern issues related to artistic expression.)

Odes – John Keats (His poems pose profound philosophical questions.)

The Rose That Grew From Concrete – Tupac Shakur (A collection of his poetry before he became famous)

The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man – James Joyce


Culture, Politics, & General Lit.


Manufacturing Consent – Noam Chomsky (How much should you trust the media?)

Race Matters & Democracy Matters – Cornel West (He’ll make you rethink the subject of Race.  He’ll also remind you of why true democracy is worth fighting for.)

People’s History of The United States – Howard Zinn (What really happened depends on who you ask.  Zinn shares the history of US from the view of the oppressed, and marginalized.)

Nineteen Eighty-Four(1984) – George Orwell (A story of rebellion against Big brother, individuality, and truth.)

Animal FarmGeorge Orwell (This engaging story and an allegory shows George didn’t like communism much.)

V for Vendetta – Alan Moore (“…story of the loss of freedom and identity in a totalitarian world.”)

To Kill A MockingbirdHarper Lee (An honest look at race and class in the Deep South of the 1930s.)

Decoded – Jay-Z (A book of his rhymes, and the man behind them.)

Revolutionary Suicide – Huey P. Newton (Tracing the birth of a revolutionary.)

Empire of Illusion – Chris Hedges (The end of literacy and the triumph of spectacle.)

Narrative of The Life of Fredrick Douglass – Fredrick Douglass (The great quest of the African American experience.)

Pedagogy of the Oppressed – Paulo Freire

The Complete Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (The greatest detective to ever live,or not live, knows mystery.)

Lord Of The Rings & The Hobbit – J.R.R Tolkien (Hobbits go on a journey of a lifetime. Classic.)

The Complete William Shakespeare – William Shakespeare (You know this guy…Complete works.)

Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide To Long Term Travel – Rolf Potts (His mantra: anyone with an adventurous spirit can achieve the feat of taking extended time off from work to experience the world.)

Art of Pilgrimage – Phil Cousineau (The guide to making travel Sacred)

Walden – Henry David Thoreau (This book speaks of independence, self-reliance, spiritual discovery, and the value of being alone in nature.)

The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho (A simple fable, based on simple truths)

Sacred Travels: Recovering The Ancient Art Of Pilgrimage

Catcher in The Rye – JD Salinger (A teenager searches for truth and rails against the “phoniness” of the adult world.)

The Road Less Traveled & People Of The Lie – M. Scott Peck (Author attempts to show that a spiritual or even religious dimension is required to aid in the understanding of human nature.)

The Death of Ivan IIyichLeo Tolstoy

The Odyssey – Homer (Poetry..Greek hero’s, and long journeys home.)

Three Sisters – Chekhov (“Chekhov was a master of composing life’s largest problems into beautiful language and ordinary situations which the entire world could understand.” – Amazon review)

The Bluest Eye – Toni Morrison (Hard to “enjoy” this tragic story of a young girls life…but that’s life.)

Peace Pilgrim – Peace Pilgrim (“Walking until given shelter and fasting until given food,” she carried a simple yet powerfully enduring message of peace.)

Earth The book (Presented by The Daily Show – A visitors guide to the human race)

A Tale Of Two  Cities – Charles Dickens (A classic that reveals the hearts of mankind…beautiful & ugly.)

East of Eden – John Steinbeck (The novel highlights the conflicts of two generations of brothers.  Think Adam, Eve, Cain, Abel, and the garden of eden.)

The Color Purple – Alice Walker (Maybe you already saw the movie?  Story deals with the lives of black women in Georgia during the 1930′s.)

Go Tell It On The Mountain – James Baldwin

Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austin (19th-century British mating rituals exposed.  I’ve seen the movie…twice. Every guy has a secret.;-)

Things Fall Apart – Chinua Achebe

Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte (This gothic novel is full of social criticism.  Major themes: God and religion, morality, social class, love, passion, and more.)

Into The Wild – Jon Krakauer (Top student and athlete Christopher McCandless abandoned his possessions, gave his entire $24,000 savings account to charity and hitchhiked to Alaska, where he went to live in the wilderness. The author explores why.)


QUOTATIONA man practices the art of adventure when he breaks the chain of routine and renews his life through reading new books, traveling to new places, making new friends, taking up new hobbies and adopting new viewpoints. – Wilfred Peterson




  • Metaphysicalsingularity says:

    Good list! I *love* that you added a comic book (V)


    “Cunt” by Inga Muscio (too complex to describe well, you'd have to read it)

    And for the religious fundamentalist who is looking to expand just a little:

    “The Year of Living Biblically” by A.J.Jacobs (one man's decision to take the bible literally… and how it changed him)

    “Foreskin's lament” by Shalom Auslander ( Click on “Watch the video” at http://www.shalomauslander.com/ … it sums it up nicely. (plus a lot of the author's experience, growing up Jewish))

    “Man and his symbols” edited by Carl Jung (theory of symbolism)

  • […] 110 Books That Will Change Your Life→ ←These Are The Birthdays Of Our […]

  • Veron says:

    Oh! I haven't read that A.J. Jacobs book. Thanks for all of your suggestions! AND yes I did consider “Cunt” for this list. It ahhhh…almost made it ;-> It did get me thinking about my limited understanding of feminist movement, and how many of the books I've read are written by men.

  • Un super blog….

    No pensaba que se podia hacer algo asi con wordpress….

  • […] What I find interesting…Is that…the book seems to go past mere gut instincts, and talk numbers.  It just may be a book I add to my reading list. […]

  • […] you might want to subscribe to the RSS feed for updates on this topic.Here’s a list of 10 Books that have shaped my thinking. This list, by no means, is my top 10, nor is it necessarily listed in […]

  • […] are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them. – Joseph […]

  • What a great list.

    this is SUCH a hard question for me to answer. I’d have to take a few hours to do right by it.

    CS Lewis is right at the top for me. I love N T Wright. Some fiction has been very powerful to me… where to begin….

    May you be blessed this Easter Wkd.

  • Anonymous says:

    Hi Lisa!
    Yes, I must say, CS Lewis has played a huge role in helping me wrap my mind around so many things. Mere Christianity in particular.

  • Dieter Kahl says:

    The Shack. Read it, love it. It’s against the industry of religion, but is for spirituality. It’s the new testament in a nut shell. A warm, comforting, nut shell. Fiction novel though. The themes are true none-the-less.

  • Agdrews says:

    You left off two of my favorites.
    The Little Prince
    The Prophet

  • Anonymous says:

    I really appreciate your two suggestions.  i will be adding to my list.  I reviewed them both, and they sound very interesting!

  • […] Over the years, as I’ve taken this explore truth project more seriously, I’ve become more intentional about what books I read. […]

  • […] get me wrong, I consider myself fairly well read, and understand the basics of many of the topics covered in the […]

  • Cate says:

    2 of my personal favs;
    Tuesdays with Morrie: A professor dying of ASL teaches the secrets to life to one of his favorite students.

    The Green Mile: A group of men working on Death Row encounter a true miracle of God.

    For both, read the book and see the movie. Both have touched me… It made me more aware of how to world works, and how wonderful a perfect world would be.

  • Mike Robbins says:

    Good list. I’ve read some. Catcher in the Rye is incredible. Have you read The Painted Bird. From what you’ve read, you’d like it.

    Thanks for sharing!

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