There are probably a handful of books out there that have changed the way you see everything — fiction and non-fiction. Some of them you read in high school or earlier, and others you discovered or rediscovered in your adult life. I went to AskReddit to learn what books have changed people’s lives. Consider this your Spring reading list.
Thinking Fast and slow by Daniel Kahneman
Flowers for Algernon absolutely hit me hard.
It really made me think about intelligence and knowledge as a blessing and a curse. The whole “ignorance is bliss” versus “once you see, you cannot un-see” concept really made me think about knowledge in a whole new light.
Also, it completely twisted my brain with the internal debate of whether romance is based more on personality match or intelligence match.
The Psychopath Test. The most intriguing part is a true story of a man who fakes insanity to get off on an assault charge, but spends many years (even after he would have been out of prison), locked up in a mental health facility.
He keeps trying to tell them that he’s not insane, but no one believes him. He acts passive and calm, and they say that he can’t be sane because he is thriving in the mental hospital and a normal man would be angry.
So he acts angry and tries to prove he doesn’t belong there, and they say his psychosis is progressing.
….How do you prove you’re sane?
If you give a mouse a cookie Basically taught me appeasement before first grade.
100 years of solitude. It gave me Goosebumps.
Maybe also, Love in the Time of Cholera. Epic.
“A brief history of time” time dilation made me put the book down and consider it for a week until my peasant brain accepted/understood it.
Where fiction becomes reality: Describes cryptocurrency, 7 years before BitCoin was created.
Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami or any of his works, for that matter. The guy portrays the metaphysical so poetically that it actually feels tangible. It’s mind-blowing.
The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.
A long read, worth every page.
It’s slow early, but picks up pace very fast.
Sigmund Freud called it “the most magnificent book ever written”.
Not a book, but a short story. The Last Question by Isaac* Asimov was amazing. To date the only story that surprised me.
I read the Handmaid’s Tale back to back with 1984 in high school in rural southern Mississippi during the 2000 elections. That was one hell of a case of paranoia.
Count of Monte Cristo.
I’ve read many books in my life but this was just an absolutely amazing book to read. It’s a thrilling story about revenge and the lengths the protagonist of the story goes to gain it, is incredible. The prose is also beautiful.
This is a definitely a book to read before you die. It has many wise words and i have gained many lessons in life from reading this. It truly is a complete book.
House of Leaves.
The Stand by Stephen King It was the first book that consumed me so badly. I remember I started reading it early evening and stopped in the morning. Too good.
The Giver. Know it was from high school but what a great book.
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. It really was the book that made me question science and ethics like never before. I’m still not too sure what to think of the society he was describing in there.
Slaughterhouse 5, just because of the idea that time was an illusion.
Also Fight Club, same crazy twist ending as the movie.
The most recent one I finished was Storm of Swords. It was an absolute roller coaster of a book.
It’s already been mentioned, but Catch-22. It’s a perfect mix of comedy and tragedy, and doesn’t let (nor want) you to get attached to a character in any way. If you do, they typically (a) get killed, (b) have something else terrible happen to them, or (c) have a trait revealed about them hat makes you despise them. There’s one partial exception, but I’ll go into it later.
Neuromancer- hauntingly beautiful linguistics cloak a standard “one last big job” style plot in ethereal poetry to bring the world to life.
Casino Royale- The Bond novel that started it all still holds up well in every regard except the rampant sexism.
Snow Crash- A man with monomolecular glass knives faces off against a mafia boss/pizza baron who’s armed with a skateboard and a straight razor. The whole book is as crazy as that one scene.
The “His Dark Materials” series by Philip Pullman. I was raised Catholic, but after finishing the third book in the trilogy I was like “… Nope, yeah, pretty sure God doesn’t exist.”
It was pretty intense.
Ender’s Game. While the premise was a bit odd (8-year-olds commanding small platoons), I liked the take on null-G fighting in the first bit, coupled with the multiple bluffs all around all three of the Wiggin children.
I first read it about 10 years ago and I’m still to read anything as good.
1984 – George Orwell. With the current situation, “War is Peace” is as up-to-date as ever.
Zen & The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance – (most recent for me) amazing read about philosophy and mental health that is woven into a story about a motorcycle trip across the US. Fascinating and fairly complex, but easy to digest as it flips back at forth at the right points.
‘Beloved’ by Toni Morrison. That book is ridiculously complex; it’s amazing.
Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time is the longest, slowest, most beautiful thing I’ve ever read. You’ll just be reading along, getting lost in the florid prose and all of a sudden, out of nowhere, he says something that changes the way you see the world.
Hallucinations by Oliver Sacks.
I’ve enjoyed his work before, so it was amazing to read about his personal experiments with hallucinogens, but the stories from his patients were amazing. His description of Anton’s Syndrome changed the way I understand perception completely. I knew it was possible for people to deny facts placed in front of them, but the extremity patients denying that they are blind!
The Stranger by Albert Camus is something special. It paints a picture of absurdism that seems all too real, and yet it is permeated by surreality. It feels like a possible dream that you might have. I know many people who found it to be quite dark and depressing, but I find it oddly hopeful too.
Another Albert Camus novel that illustrates absurdity in a more clearly positive way is The Plague. It’s a bout a city, Oran, that is overrun by the plague, and the lives of the doomed citizens who reside within its walls. It’s a wonderful story that compresses our mortality into a tangible thing, utilizing the plague as an immediate threat.
Beyond that, his philosophical essays are also wonderful, with The Myth of Sisyphus particularly effecting me.
In a somewhat similar vibe, Jean-Paul Sartre has some wonderful novels, plays, and essays.
A People’s History of the United States – Howard Zinn. The Four Agreements – Don Miguel Ruiz.
2001 a Space Odyssey made me rethink how I viewed good. Also The Godfather by Mario Puzo, is amazing. You can take lessons from each of the characters and apply then to your life. Also if you like the movie the book is SO much better.
- A lesson that sticks with you through adult-hood
The Little Prince. I got this for my high school graduation. There is a great deal that grown-ups can learn from it.
My personal favorite is Glamorama by Bret Easton Ellis. I’d never heard of it before but I was writing a paper in a graduate seminar on fashion and illusion and the professor suggested it to me. Gave me nightmares.