The power of a book is that a book not only educates you, but it can also change your life. There are millions of stories of people online who have read books that have impacted their lives in a major way. Some people have recovered from addictions, stopped themselves after being on the brink of suicide, and become unstuck after feeling stuck for years. And they did all these things merely from reading the right books. Here are 30 books that just may actually change your life.
30 Books That Can Change Your Life
1. The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri
One of the surest signs of notoriety is to be known solely by one’s first name, with the mention of just that first name making clear who is being spoken of. So it is with Dante Alighieri (1265-1321), known simply as Dante thanks to the success of the Divine Comedy, one of the
seminal works in Western literature. With Divine Comedy, Dante is often considered the master of contemporary Italian, as well as a forerunner of the Renaissance, which began to flourish in Florence around the same time.
The Divine Comedy tells of Dante’s journey through Hell (the Inferno), Purgatory, and Paradise, guided by famous poets including Virgil. Dante’s epic discusses religion, philosophy, and a wide range of subject matter throughout his travels. Dante took nearly 13 years to compose the Divine Comedy, all the while living in exile from his home city of Florence. Dante Alighieri, especially when one considers his time and environment, was bold and fearless, following the calling and mission of the artist in the purest sense. He not only took his contemporaries to task in an enormous fashion, but he also embraced the timeless challenges that metaphysical questions present. Dante had the nerve to force his reader to question life’s toughest mysteries and offer at least one possible blueprint for redemption. His mind, his language, and his contributions to art, culture, and intellect remain unsurpassed.
Why will this book change your life? You’ll understand art and history so much more than you ever thought and how pervasive Dante’s work has become in the minds of people. The thoughts and ideas in this book have perpetuated myths and the way people think for generations. Once you read the book you’ll view the way people think in an entirely different way.
“Dante and Shakespeare divide the world between them—there is no third.”T.S. Eliot
2. Rules for the Direction of the Mind by René Descartes
Rene Descartes. You are, I am sure, aware of his ideas, in mathematics or philosophy or physics. The most common idea of his that people are most aware of, is cartesian coordinate—the two perpendicular lines with X and Y marked on them. Very, very common. (Cartesian geometry is the study of geometry using a coordinate system.) Or you must have heard of a phrase from him. Perhaps the most famous one-liner in all of philosophy — I think therefore I am. For his many contributions, he is considered the founding father of modern Western philosophy.
My point is Descartes was a genius. Sometime around 1628, he began working on methods for proper scientific and philosophical thinking entitled Rules for the direction of the mind. Of the 36 rules he planned to write, he only put down 21, the first 12 rules of which outlined the principles of the scientific method. The later nine were specific to mathematics which you probably don’t need to study.
Rule 1: The aim of our studies must be the direction of our mind so that it may form solid and true judgments on whatever matters arise.
Why will this book will change your life? It literally gives you rules for how to direct your mind. It gives you a firm idea for how to view life as a scientist. Scientists have a particular way of thinking and if you start thinking like a scientist you will literally change the way you think and hence change your life.
3. The Science of Getting Rich by Wallace D. Wattles
To be honest, when I first laid hands upon this book, I was not expecting much. I didn’t think it would provide anything much of value, like most Self-help books. But because I was already aware of much of the principles in this book, from my extensive reading, I could recognize the book’s values.
Take this idea for instance: “Focus on creation, not on competition.” This is the fundamental ideabehind the book Zero to One by billionaire Peter Thiel. Wallace doesn’t give you very specific advice like how to trade stocks or how to build an app. He is mainly concerned with the attitude and habits and philosophy you must have that can help you reach your goal. With principles, you will master the specifics of any trade.
One other thing I liked is that Wallace tries to convince you that making money is not a bad thing. It is not bad to want to make money. It is not bad to make money. The ‘science’ in the title should be replaced with philosophy because the book is not based on empirical evidence. But I am sure you can find sufficient empirical evidence for many of its principles. I wasn’t particularly impressed by the fundamental idea behind the book but many secondary principles. Probably because it has become a cliche.
“There are three motives for which we live; we live for the body, we live for the mind, we live for the soul. No one of these is better or holier than the other; all are alike desirable, and no one of the three—body, mind, or soul—can live fully if either of the others is cut short of full life and expression.”Wallace D. Wattles
How will this book change your life? Most people think money is evil and that desiring money is evil. Money is only evil if your main pursuit in life is money above all else. Also, it depends what you do with that money. Wallace finds a way to change the way you think about money. Because money is such a big part of our lives, it’s hard not to walk away from reading this book completely changed.
A novel by Franz Kafka
Published posthumously, The Trial is the terrifying tale of Josef K., a respectable bank officer
who is suddenly arrested for reasons unknown to him or anybody else. “Someone must have
slandered Josef K., for one morning, without having done anything truly wrong, he was
arrested.”. He must now defend himself against unknown charges in front of unknown people,
obeying absurd rules and protocols. We follow Josef K. from situation to situation as his desire
to learn the nature of his offense leads only to more confusion and greater strife.
The story is dark and gloomy, incoherent and nonsensical, like life. “It would have been so
pointless to kill himself that, even if he had wanted to, the pointlessness would have made him
unable.” If you like Dostovesky, you would love The Trial.
One of Kafka’s major works this surreal story of a young man caught up in the mindless
bureaucracy of the law has become synonymous with the anxieties and sense of alienation of
the modern age and with an ordinary person’s struggle against an unreasoning and
“One must lie low, no matter how much it went against the grain, and try to understand that this
great organization remained, so to speak, in a state of delicate balance, and that if someone
took it upon himself to alter the dispositions of things around him, he ran the risk of losing his
footing and falling to destruction, while the organization would simply right itself by some
compensating reaction in another part of its machinery – since everything interlocked – and
remain unchanged, unless, indeed, which was very probable, it became still more rigid, more
vigilant, severer, and more ruthless.”
Book by Niccolò Machiavelli
“If an injury has to be done to a man it should be so severe that his vengeance need not be
The chilling words from Machiavelli ring true throughout human history. It is ruthless in its
honesty and its analysis of “what needs to do be done rather than what is the right thing to do.”
Considered by many to be the father of political philosophy, Niccolo Machiavelli was an Italian
Renaissance diplomat. For many years he served as a senior official in the Florentine Republic
with responsibilities in diplomatic and military affairs.
Due to a power shift in Florence, he was imprisoned, tortured, and then released after found
innocent. He then retired to his farm estate where he devoted himself to writing.
Machiavelli uses rationality, common sense, his knowledge of history, and his experience as a
statesman and a human being to derive principles of warfare and diplomacy. “Never attempt to
win by force what can be won by deception.”
Because of the fear of rebuke from the Populus, honesty in such matters is difficult to find
except in the confines of one’s mind.
The Prince can prepare you for the real world. As Rick Riordan says, “The real world is where
the monsters are”. You don’t have to follow the immoral principles mentioned in the book but
being aware of them can save you from being harmed by the thieves, the conman, and the
psychos of the world. “It is necessary to be a fox to discover the snares and a lion to terrify the
The prince doesn’t just address deception and ruthlessness. It is not just for shrewd
businessmen and politicians. It addresses many issues fundamental to life and therefore
valuable even if you are living amongst the loveliest people on earth. “There is no other way to
guard yourself against flattery than by making men understand that telling you the truth will not
Apart from some nasty suggestions, he also gives tons of palatable motivational advice. “Where
the willingness is great, the difficulties cannot be great.”
“He who wishes to be obeyed must know how to command” No matter how sinister The Prince
may seem to us. It will forever go down as one of the most influential and chilling works in
“Of mankind, we may say in general they are fickle, hypocritical, and greedy of gain.”
Book by Marcus Aurelius
“If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your
estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.” This excerpt from
Meditation is perhaps the most powerful principle of life. It has the power to reduce suffering
better than any other thing humans have ever imagined.
Meditation was written by Marcus Aurelius, Roman emperors for about two decades. He was
the last of the rulers known as the Five Good Emperors (a term coined some 13 centuries later
by Niccolò Machiavelli). He is also one of the most accomplished and famous Stoic
philosophers. Although his greatest accomplishment, I would say, is winning a depiction in the
movie Gladiator—Sarcasm intended.
Meditation wasn’t meant to be published. It is the private thoughts of the world’s most powerful
man of his time advising himself on how to make good on the responsibilities and obligations of
his positions. Meditation begins with the things Marcus has learned from different people in his
life. “Of my grandfather, Verus, I have learned to be gentle and meek, and to refrain from all
anger and passion.” He learned not only from the Stoics but from the schools of Epicurus, Plato,
and Aristotle. Truth is real no matter where it comes from.
One of the main themes of Meditation, and stoic philosophy in general, is
- The power of the mind to control our perception. “You have power over your mind – not
outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”
- Mortality and shortness of our life. “Waste no more time arguing what a good man
should be. Be one.”
- Worrying only about the things we can control.
“Concentrate every minute like a Roman—like a man—on doing what’s in front of you with
precise and genuine seriousness, tenderly, willingly, with justice. And on freeing yourself from all
other distractions. Yes, you can—if you do
everything as if it were the last thing you were doing in your life, and stop being aimless, stop
letting your emotions override what your mind tells you, stop being hypocritical, self-centered,
irritable. Do you see how few things you have to do to live a satisfying and reverent life? If you
can manage this, that’s all even the gods can ask of you.”
The Picture of Dorian Gray
A novel by Oscar Wilde
Oscar Wilde tells a story of a beautiful, fashionable, and rich young man named Dorian Gray,
subject of a portrait by Basil Hallward, an artist infatuated by Dorian’s beauty. The artist believes
his art has been reinvigorated because of Dorian and marked a new phase of his career.
Through Basil, Dorian meets Lord Henry Wotton, an eloquent and witty aristocrat. Lord Henry
has a very peculiar philosophy of life from the prevailing Victorian sentiment. He has more of a
hedonistic world view: that beauty and sensual fulfillment are the only things worth pursuing in
Lord Henry begins his seduction of Dorian Gray, advising him to pursue pleasure: “We are
punished for our refusals. Every impulse that we strive to strangle broods in the mind, and
poisons us. The body sins once, and has done with its sin, for action is a mode of purification. . .
. Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing for the things it has forbidden to itself, with
desire for what its monstrous laws have made monstrous and unlawful. It has been said that the
great events of the world take place in the brain. It is in the brain, and the brain only, that the
great sins of the world take place also.”
Reminded of the impermanence of beauty, Dorian expresses a desire to sell his soul, so that the
portrait, rather than he, will age and fade. The wish is granted and he pursues every kind of
amoral experience he can. He stays young and beautiful while his portrait ages and records
every sin. After that, a ton of interesting things happen, but I encourage you to find out for
One of the most quotable books ever, The picture of Dorian Gray has beautiful aphorisms.
“Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.”
“There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked
Zero to One
Book by Blake Masters and Peter Thiel
“When a risk taker writes a book, read it. In the case of Peter Thiel, read it twice. Or, to be safe,
three times. This is a classic.”
- Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of Fooled by Randomness and The Black Swan
“This book delivers completely new and refreshing ideas on how to create value in the world.”
- Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook
“Peter Thiel has built multiple breakthrough companies, and Zero to One shows how.”
- Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla
Peter Thiel is an entrepreneur and investor. He started PayPal in 1998, led it as CEO, and took
it public in 2002, kickstarting the era of fast and secure online commerce. In 2004, he was the
first investor in Facebook and also launched a software company called Palantir Technologies.
He has provided early funding for Linkedin, SpaceX, Yelp, Tesla, and many more companies.
He is a partner at a venture capital firm and also started Thief fellowship and Thiel foundation.
And, by the way, he is also a billionaire.
Here’s an excerpt from the book that encapsulates the main idea form Zero to One:
“Every moment in business happens only once. The next Bill Gates will not build an operating
system. The next Larry Page or Sergey Brin won’t make a search engine. And the next Mark
Zuckerberg won’t create a social network. If you are copying these guys, you aren’t learning
Of course, it’s easier to copy a model than to make something new. Doing what we already
know how to do takes the world from 1 to n, adding more of something familiar. But every time
we create something new, we go from 0 to 1. The act of creation is singular, as is the moment of
creation, and the result is something fresh and strange.”
East of Eden
A novel by John Steinbeck
John Steinbeck was a Nobel prize winner in literature. East of Eden is regarded by many to be
Steinbeck’s most important work, including Steinbeck himself. He stated: “It has everything in it I
have been able to learn about my craft or profession in all these years,” and later said: “I think
everything else I have written has been, in a sense, practice for this.”
East of Eden is an epic family saga filled with rich characterization, drama, and wisdom. A
wisdom that is American and biblical and modern. The book will introduce you to people you
have met. Evils you have seen. Suffering you have suffered.
There are liars who believe their own lies, angels who believe other people’s lies. Folks who are
brilliant and hard-working and yet stay poor and those who are incompetent and lazy yet get
There are atheists with their skepticism and believers with their spiritual strength. Psychopaths
apparent to one while concealed to others.
These characters will show you how to deal with evil and betrayal and depression; Poverty and
wealth; suffering and happiness. It ties these themes together with references to and many
parallels with the biblical Book of Genesis, especially the story of Cain and Abel. But it does not
feel like a Christian book, written for glorifying the bible. Some of the most brilliant and righteous
characters are not religious at all.
“I believe that there is one story in the world, and only one. . . . Humans are caught—in their
lives, in their thoughts, in their hungers and ambitions, in their avarice and cruelty, and in their
kindness and generosity too—in a net of good and evil. . . . There is no other story. A man, after
he has brushed off the dust and chips of his life, will have left only the hard, clean questions:
Was it good or was it evil? Have I done well—or ill?”
A novel by Paulo Coelho
“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it”
The Alchemist is one of those books that inspire extreme emotions. Either people loathe it or
they love it. Both emotions are justified. The book is not high literature. It is simple and, dare I
say, cliched. Still, its simplicity in its structure and message, somehow, makes it beautiful.
Excerpt from the back cover:
“The Alchemist is the magical story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who yearns to
travel in search of a worldly treasure as extravagant as any ever found. From his home in Spain
he journeys to the markets of Tangiers and across the Egyptian desert to a fateful encounter
with the alchemist.
The story of the treasures Santiago finds along the way teaches us, as only a few stories have
done, about the essential wisdom of listening to our hearts, learning to read the omens strewn
along life’s path, and, above all, following our dreams.”
A novel by Herman Melville
“Call me Ishmael”, the famous line from Moby Dick fills every serious reader of this Great
American Novel with intense emotion, as intense as Captain Ahab’s hatred towards the albino
whale, Moby dick, who tore the captain’s legs off in a voyage years ago.
The book is the sailor Ishmael’s narrative of the revenge quest of the maniacal Captain Ahab
against the sperm whale. “Talk not to me of blasphemy, man; I’d strike the sun if it insulted me.”
It can be read as an allegory representing the foolishness of trying to control something which is
beyond your control. Pushing something that cannot be pushed. Wishing something that cannot
The book has a peculiar structure and a peculiar style. It digresses a lot from the story into each
and every single aspect of whaling. Melville stretches grammar, quotes well-known or obscure
sources, or swings from calm prose to high rhetoric, technical exposition, seaman’s slang,
mystic speculation, or wild prophetic archaism
“Better to sleep with a sober cannibal than a drunk Christian.
“I know not all that may be coming, but be it what it will, I’ll go to it laughing.”
“There are certain queer times and occasions in this strange mixed affair we call life when a
man takes this whole universe for a vast practical joke, though the wit thereof he but dimly
discerns, and more than suspects that the joke is at nobody’s expense but his own.”
Lord of the rings
Trilogy by J. R. R. Tolkien
“The heroes of the books I read, ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and the ‘Foundation’ series, always felt
a duty to save the world.” Elon Musk.
In 2019, the BBC listed The lord of the rings on its list of the 100 most influential novels. The
Lord of the Rings is undoubtedly one of the most classic stories ever told. The epic saga
introduced an entirely new realm of fantasy that had never been seen before.
With the book telling a magical story of endless adventures and whimsical creatures, J.R.R.
Tolkien not only came up with a fantasy-filled story for all ages to enjoy but also sparked the
interest in the fantasy genre itself. The book has influenced many aspects of our lives from
books to movies, music, games, and more.
“One ring to rule them all, one ring to find them, One ring to bring them all, and in the darkness
bind them; In the Land of Mordor where the shadows lie.”
A novel by Joseph Heller
Catch-22 is a satirical war novel set during World War 2. The novel examines the absurdity of
war and military life through the experiences of Captain John Yossarian, an American
bombardier stationed on a Mediterranean island during World War II, and chronicles his
desperate attempts to stay alive. Yossarian interprets the entire war as a personal attack and
becomes convinced that the military is deliberately trying to send him to an untimely death. He,
therefore, spends much of the book concocting ever more inventive ways of escaping his
The “catch” in Catch-22 explained in the novel:
“There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one’s
safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind.
Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he
would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more
missions and sane if he didn’t, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was
crazy and didn’t have to; but if he didn’t want to he was sane and had to”
Catch-22 makes a mockery out of the conventional notion of heroism, patriotism, and all such
similar concepts yet it isn’t just for taking a piss out of the war. It may be funny but it is deadly
insightful. It isn’t just about war, it is about life. “When I look up, I see people cashing in. I don’t
see heaven or saints or angels. I see people cashing in on every decent impulse and every
“…Anything worth dying for … is certainly worth living for.”
“It doesn’t make a damned bit of difference who wins the war to someone who’s dead.”
“What is a country? A country is a piece of land surrounded on all sides by boundaries, usually
unnatural. Englishmen are dying for England, Americans are dying for America, Germans are
dying for Germany, Russians are dying for Russia. There are now fifty or sixty countries fighting
in this war. Surely so many countries can’t all be worth dying for.”
Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid
Book by Douglas Hofstadter
This book, I’ll let the author explain as so many readers disagree what the book is about.
“In a word, WEB is a very personal attempt to say how it is that animate beings can come
out of inanimate matter. What is a self, and how can a self come out of stuff that is as selfless
as a stone or a puddle? What is an “I”, and why are such things found (at least so far) only
in association with, as poet Russell Edson once wonderfully phrased it, “teetering bulbs of
dread a dream”—that is, only in association with certain kinds of gooey lumps encased in
hard protective shells mounted atop mobile pedestals that roam the world on pairs of slightly
fuzzy, jointed stilts?
CEB approaches these questions by slowly building up an analogy that likens inanimate
molecules to meaningless symbols, and further likens selves (or “I”’s or “souls”, if you prefer
— whatever it is that distinguishes animate from inanimate matter) to certain special swirly,
twisty, vortex-like, and meaningful patterns that arise only in particular types of systems of
meaningless symbols. It is these strange, twisty patterns that the book spends so much time
on, because they are little known, little appreciated, counterintuitive, and quite filled with
mystery. And for reasons that should not be too difficult to fathom, I call such strange, loopy
patterns “strange loops” throughout the book, although in, later chapters, I also use the
phrase “tangled hierarchies” to describe basically the same idea.
This is in many ways why M. C. Escher — or more precisely, his art — is prominent in the
“golden braid”, because Escher, in his own special way, was just as fascinated as I am by
strange loops, and in fact, he addresses them in a variety of contexts, all wonderfully
disorienting and fascinating. When I was first working on my book, however, Es‹:her was totally
out of the picture (or out of the loop, as we now say); my working title was the rather mundane
phrase “Gödel’s Theorem and the Human Brain”, and I gave no thought to inserting
paradoxical pictures, let alone playful dialogues. It’s just that time and again, while writing
about my notion of strange loops, I would catch fleeting glimpses of this or that Escher print
flashing almost subliminally before my mind’s eye, and finally one day I realized that these
images were so connected in my own mind with the ideas that I was writing about that for me
to deprive my readers of the connection that I myself felt so strongly would be nothing less
than perverse. And so Escher’s art was welcomed on board. As for Bach, I’ll come back to his
entry into my “metaphorical fugue on minds and machines” a little later.
Back to strange loops, right now. CEB was inspired by my long-held conviction that the
“strange loop” notion holds the key to unraveling the mystery that we conscious beings call
“being” or “consciousness”. I was first hit by this idea when, as a teenager, I found myself
obsessively pondering the quintessential strange loop that lies at the core of the proof o Kurt
Gödel’s famous incompleteness theorem in mathematical logic — a rather arcane place, one
might well think, t‹i stumble across the secret behind the nature of selves and “I”’s, and yet I
practically heard it screaming up at me from the pages of Nagel and Newman that this was
what it was all about.”
Democracy in America
Book by Alexis de Tocqueville
Democracy in America is at once the best book ever written on democracy and the best
book ever written on America. Tocqueville connects the two subjects in his Introduction, and in
his title, by observing that America is the land of democracy. It is the country where democracy
is least hindered and most perfected, where democracy is at its most characteristic and at its
best. Today that claim might be contested, but it is at least arguable. If the twentieth century has
been an American century, it is because the work of America—not altogether
unsuccessful—has been to keep democracy strong where it is alive and to promote it where it is
weak or nonexistent.
He analyzes the federal constitution that was meant to facilitate democratic self-government and
keep it moderate. He shows that the people are sovereign, whether through the Constitution or
despite it, and he warns of the tyranny of the majority. In the very long last chapter of the first
volume, he examines aspects of American democracy peculiar to America, especially the
juxtaposition of the three races there, and he speculates about what these portend for America’s
In the second volume, Tocqueville turns the argument from the natural rise of democracy in
America to the influence of democracy on America, beginning with its intellectual movements.
Americans have a philosopher unknown to them—Descartes—whose precepts they follow and
whose books they never read. Descartes endorses their reliance on their own judgment, which
tells them they can do without his help. Americans suffer, consequently, from “individualism,” a
lamentable condition—which Tocqueville was the first to depict.”, excerpt from Editor’s
“Men will not accept truth at the hands of their enemies, and truth is seldom offered to them by
A novel by Leo Tolstoy
William Faulkner, it’s said, was once asked to name the three best novels ever. He replied:
“Anna Karenina, Anna Karenina, Anna Karenina.”
Well, if Faulkner considers Anna Karenina to be the best novel, you might as well give it a try.
Leo Tolstoy, if you have never heard of the guy, can easily be considered the greatest writer of
all time. Apart from Anna Karenina, Tolstoy also has a long epic “novel” War and Peace, another
candidate for the greatest piece of world literature.
The novel, Anna Karenina, centers around an extramarital affair between Anna, a married
aristocratic woman, and Cavalry officer Count Alexei Kirillovich Vronsky. Anna’s pursuit of love
and emotional honesty creates a scandal in the social circles of St. Petersburg and she is forced
to flee to Italy. When they return to Russia, the story further unravels.
When it comes to Tolstoy, here, I can’t seem to stop throwing the word great. Allow me to do
that one more time because Anna Karenina begins with one of the greatest opening lines in
“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
Few more gems from the book that might persuade you to pick up Anna Karenina:
“Love. The reason I dislike that word is that it means too much for me, far more than you can
“I think… if it is true that
there are as many minds as there
are heads, then there are as many
kinds of love as there are hearts.”
“He stepped down, trying not to look long at her, as if she were the sun, yet he saw her, like the
sun, even without looking.”
A novel by Ayn Rand
The book depicts a dystopian United States in which private businesses suffer under
increasingly burdensome laws and regulations. Railroad executive Dagny Taggart and her lover,
steel magnate Hank Rearden, struggle against “looters” who want to exploit their productivity.
Dagny and Hank discover that a mysterious figure called John Galt is persuading other
business leaders to abandon their companies and disappear as a strike of productive individuals
against the looters. The novel ends with the strikers planning to build a new capitalist society
based on Galt’s philosophy of reason and individualism.
Ayn Rand held that art is a re-creation of reality according to an artist’s metaphysical value
judgments. She advocated reason as the only means of acquiring knowledge and rejected faith
and religion. She supported rational and ethical egoism and rejected altruism. In politics, she
condemned the initiation of force as immoral and opposed collectivism and statism as well as
anarchism, instead supporting laissez-faire capitalism, which she defined as the system based
on recognizing individual rights, including property rights.
Atlas Shrugged is Ayn Rand’s magnum opus. Not only it is her fullest presentation of her
philosophy, but it is also the one novel, she said, that is “completely my sense of life, without
reservations.” She explained:
“the form of literature in which I feel . . . most at home, which represents my literary sense of life,
would be where everything is made by me—everything except the metaphysical human
abstractions. In other words, it has to be things as they might be, but from then on I want them
to be as they ought to be—as I want to make them. . . . I want to be in my own universe of my
own abstractions so that even the villains are stylized by me.”
Poor Richard’s Almanack
Book by Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin was perhaps the most brilliant of all the founding fathers. He certainly was a
better scientist and entrepreneur. A true polymath, he was, during his eighty-four year-long life,
America’s best scientist, diplomat, writer, and business strategist, and he was also one of its
most practical, though not most profound, political thinkers.
Franklin invented many things but the most interesting thing Franklin invented constantly was
himself. He was more comfortable exploring practical thoughts and real-life situations than
metaphysical abstractions or deductive proofs. He was a self-motivated and self-taught man
who used various methods to better himself. Creating and accumulating aphorisms as a
reminder was one of them.
Poor Richard’s Almanack was a yearly almanac published by Benjamin Franklin, who adopted
the pseudonym of “Poor Richard” or “Richard Saunders” for this purpose. The publication
appeared continually from 1732 to 1758. It contains brilliant and concise observations and
timeless wisdom that contain a general truth. This way you don’t need to extract the truth from a
story, or a myth, or a convoluted long text. The book presents it to you simply, to the point. The
maxims are punchy and easier to remember—Sometimes we just need a little flick to the
memory to avoid a mistake. Let’s say you are going to tell some secret to your friend that you
don’t want to get out. Like a catchy tune, these aphorisms are more likely to pop into your head.
“Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead.”
“Love your enemies, for they tell you your Faults.”
“If you would not be forgotten, as soon as you are dead and rotten, either write things worth
reading, or do things worth writing.”
“The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason.”
“Speak little, do much.”
Apart from this book, I also recommend the biography of Benjamin Franklin by Walter Isaacson.
12 Rules for Life
Book by Jordan Peterson
If you have been living under a rock inside a cave, within a hyperbolic time chamber, you might
not be familiar with Jordan Peterson. A polarizing figure, Peterson, might make some of the
folks reading this run away screaming.
While reading this book you must throw all the politics aside and judge the book on its merits.
Granted it is difficult to do that when Peterson keeps bringing up ideological grudges in the
book. “Scccccratccch the most clever postmodern-relativist professor’s Mercedes with a key,
and you will see how fast the mask of relativism (with its pretense that there can be neither right
nor wrong) and the cloak of radical tolerance come off.”
Although this is funny and true, it seems unnecessary. The book should be concerned more with
the subject matter than his beef with college professors and kids in the humanities
Besides that, the 12 rules for life is truly one of the best self-help books out there.
Every rule sounds like a piece of tough advice from a loving father or a command set down from
heaven: Stand up straight with your shoulders back. But being a psychologist, Peterson, is more
generous with further elaboration of his commandments than God. If you know Peterson, you
know he likes stories and myths. He uses stories from the Bible and anecdotes from his own life
generously to get the ideas through.
“You can only find out what you actually believe (rather than what you think you believe) by
watching how you act. You simply don’t know what you believe, before that. You are too
complex to understand yourself.”
The Ball and the Cross
A novel by G. K. Chesterton
The Ball And the Cross is about a dispute between two Scotsmen. One is a devout but naive
Catholic, the other a zealous but naive atheist. Because of their irreconcilable differences, they
decide to fight a duel to the death. This is not medieval times and dueling has been outlawed,
so the two combatants are forced to travel across the English countryside. They trick the
authorities and various philosophical types that try to stop them, in search of a place where they
can kill each other peacefully.
“I am not absentminded. It is the presence of mind that makes me unaware of everything else.”
Referred to as the “prince of paradox”, Chesterton is perhaps the most quotable guy I have
stumbled upon, or perhaps anyone can stumble upon. Like a realized Tyrion Lannister, he will
make you fall in love with his wit and wonder.
“Without education, we are in a horrible and deadly danger of taking educated people seriously”
“Whenever possible Chesterton made his points with popular sayings, proverbs, allegories—first
carefully turning them inside out,” said Time magazine about his style.
Chesterton was not just one of the greatest writers of the 20th century but also one of the
greatest thinkers of the 20th century. He wrote an essay in the Illustrated London News that
inspired Mohandas Gandhi to lead a movement to end British colonial rule in India.
A novel by Charles Dickens
“Perhaps Bleak House is his best novel. . . . When Dickens wrote Bleak House he had grown
up.” G. K. Chesterton
Considered to be Charles Dickens’s best work, Bleak House is a big and complicated book with
tons of different subplots and characters. It is told partly by an omniscient narrator and partly by
the novel’s heroine, Esther Summerson.
As the endless case of ‘Jarndyce and Jarndyce’ grinds its way through the Court of Chancery, it
draws together a disparate group of people: Ada and Richard Clare, whose inheritance is
gradually being devoured by legal costs; Esther Summerson, a ward of the court, whose
parentage is a source of deepening mystery; the menacing lawyer Tulkinghorn; the determined
sleuth Inspector Bucket; and even Jo, the destitute little crossing-sweeper. A savage, but often
comic indictment of a society that is rotten to the core, Bleak House is one of Dickens’s most
ambitious novels, with a range that extends from the drawing rooms of the aristocracy to the
poorest of London slums.
“LONDON. Michaelmas Term lately over, and the Lord Chancellor sitting in Lincoln’s Inn Hall.
Implacable November weather. As much mud in the streets as if the waters had but newly
retired from the face of the earth, and it would not be wonderful to meet a Megalosaurus, forty
feet long or so, waddling like an elephantine lizard up Holborn Hill. Smoke lowering down from
chimney-pots, making a soft black drizzle, with flakes of soot in it as big as full-grown
snow-flakes — gone into mourning, one might imagine, for the death of the sun. Dogs,
undistinguishable in mire. Horses, scarcely better; splashed to their very blinkers. Foot
passengers, jostling one another’s umbrellas in a general infection of ill-temper, and losing their
foot-hold at street-corners, where tens of thousands of other foot passengers have been
slipping and sliding since the day broke (if the day ever broke), adding new deposits to the crust
upon crust of mud, sticking at those points tenaciously to the pavement, and accumulating at
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
Book by Robert M. Pirsig
Robert M. Pirsig was born in 1928 in Minnesota. He studied chemistry, philosophy, and
journalism. He also studied Oriental philosophy at Banaras Hindu University in India.
Robert brings together all the things he has learned from his education and his life experiences
in this book. Phaedrus, our narrator, is on a cross-country motorcycle trip with his son during
which the maintenance of the motorcycle becomes an illustration of how we can unify the cold,
rational realm of technology with the warm, imaginative realm of artistry. As in Zen, the trick is to
become one with the activity, to engage in it fully, to see and appreciate all details–be it hiking in
the woods, penning an essay, or tightening the chain on a motorcycle.
The book details two types of personalities: those who are interested mostly in
gestalts—romantic viewpoints focused on being “in the moment”, and not on rational analysis.
And those who seek to know details, understand inner workings, and master
mechanics—classic viewpoints with application of rational analysis.
Robert also introduces something called the gumption trap and provides practical ways to avoid
it. A gumption trap is an event or mindset that can cause a person to lose enthusiasm and
become discouraged from starting or continuing a project.
“The study of the art of motorcycle maintenance is really a study of the art of rationality itself.
Working on a motorcycle, working well, caring, is to become part of a process, to achieve an
inner peace of mind. The motorcycle is primarily a mental phenomenon.” — Robert M. Pirsig
Crime and Punishment
Novel by Fyodor Dostoevsky
There is no doubt that Crime and Punishment remains the single most widely known Russian
novel. It was first published in the literary journal The Russian Messenger in twelve monthly
installments during 1866. The novel reflects the social upheaval and the major changes in
Russian society after centuries of serfdom. With growing migration to the cities, poverty became
a constant hardship for new urban dwellers. There was an increase in violence as a result of
difficult economic conditions. The murder rate rose, and the Russian press reported on
horrendous crimes in graphic detail. Drunkenness, prostitution, disease, unemployment, family
breakups, and abandoned children all came to typify the nature of Russian reality in the 1860s.
Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment has left an indelible mark on global literature and
our modern world and is still known worldwide as the quintessential Russian novel. Readers of
all backgrounds have debated its historical, cultural, and spiritual dimensions, probing the moral
and ethical dilemmas that Dostoevsky so brilliantly stages throughout his narrative. Yet, at its
heart, this masterpiece of literary realism is ultimately an immersive tale of passion and
“Pain and suffering are always inevitable for a large intelligence and a deep heart. The really
great men must, I think, have great sadness on earth.”
The Gulag Archipelago
Book by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
“The Gulag Archipelago helped to bring down an empire. Its importance can hardly be
exaggerated” Doris Lessing, Sunday Telegraph
A vast canvas of camps, prisons, transit centers, and secret police, of informers and spies and
interrogators but also of everyday heroism, The Gulag Archipelago is Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s
grand masterwork. Based on the testimony of some 200 survivors, and the recollection of
Solzhenitsyn’s own eleven years in labor camps and exile, it chronicles the story of those at the
heart of the Soviet Union who opposed Stalin, and for whom the key to survival lay not in hope
Aleksander Solzhenitsyn was born in Kislovodsk, Russia, in 1918. He was brought up in Rostov,
where he graduated in mathematics and physics in 1941. After distinguished service with the
Red Army in the Second World War, he was imprisoned from 1945 to 1953 for making
unfavorable remarks about Joseph Stalin. He was rehabilitated in 1956, but in 1969 he was
expelled from the Soviet Writers’ Union for denouncing official censorship of his work. He was
forcibly exiled from the Soviet Union in 1974 and deported to West Germany. Solzhenitsyn
wrote many books, of which One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, Cancer Ward, and The
Gulag Archipelago are his best known.
“By now we are even unsure whether we have the right to talk about the events of our own
Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago.
A novel by Cormac McCarthy
A father and son walk alone in post-apocalyptic America. It is cold, and the snow falls gray.
Nothing seems alive save the bleak wind carrying ash. Wildlife is extinct and bands of cannibals
roam around the landscape with human flesh stuck between their teeth. “On this road there are
no god spoke men. They are gone and I am left and they have taken with them the world.” The
unnamed man and his son of 10 are marching for the coast. They have nothing but a pistol
against lawless bands. But the love that the desperate father feels for his sickly son moves them
and the story along. “You have my whole heart. You always did.”
The road is an unflinching meditation on the worst and the best that we are capable of: ultimate
destructiveness, desperate tenacity, and the tenderness that keeps two people alive in the face
of total devastation.
“Just remember that the things you put into your head are there forever, he said. You might want
to think about that.
You forget some things, don’t you?
Yes. You forget what you want to remember and you remember what you want to forget.”
Novel series by J.k. Rowling
“Harry potter!! A life-changing book!!”, called out my editor, “I mean they are good books. But
life-changing!!”. Well, life-changing isn’t just about a book that transforms you into a productive
machine. It can be something that makes you fall in love with a good habit, like reading or
writing. After reading Harry Potter, you want to read something like that again. Feel all the
emotions it made you feel. A story that will live with you forever. Maybe you too want to write
something as bewitching. Like Dumbledore with his Pensieve, you too want to empty your head,
but on paper so that folks can dive into your memory like Harry potter dives in Dumbledore’s
How many children and young adults have the Harry Potter books turned into life-long readers
and writers? How many minds it has shaped? The inspiration that it has given them? The ideas
it has introduced?
“Of course, it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is
not real?” Professor Albus Dumbledore, Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and
A novel by William Styron
The statistics, the testimonies, and the rest of the historical record of the Holocaust tell a story of
unimaginable horror. William Styron’s novel Sophie’s Choice makes it personal, in a tale that
is both heartbreaking and riveting in its humanity and perception. It tells the story of three
people, an Auschwitz survivor, a beautiful Polish Catholic woman named Sophie Zawistowska,
who has found a reason to live because of Nathan, a Jewish scientist. “How could I have failed
to have the most helpless crush on such a generous mind and life-enlarging mentor. Nathan
was utterly, fatally glamorous.” Sophie.
The two befriend a young Southern writer called Stingo, who gradually understands the doom
that faces his new friends and learns the awful secret at the heart of Sophie’s survival. Sophie’s
choice is narrated retrospectively by Stingo. He is defined mainly by his motivation to perform
what he sees as a successful version of masculinity. In Stingo’s mind, a man is defined by his
professional success and his sexual prowess. Throughout the novel, Stingo’s actions are
motivated by his desire to write a successful novel and to get laid. Because he has not achieved
those milestones, he is insecure and anxious.
“There are friends one makes at a youthful age in whom one simply rejoices, for whom one
possesses a love and loyalty mysteriously lacking in the friendships made in after-years, no
matter how genuine.”
Many readers might get put off by my selection of a religious book, which the Bible certainly is.
But that’s not what it only is. It is also an excellent piece of literature, a source of ancient history
and wisdom. “Whatever else the Bible might be – and it really is a great work of literature”
“Most people who read the Bible do so in order to get the benefit of its ethical and spiritual
teachings, but the Bible has a secular side,
too.” Says Issac Asimov, the most famous science fiction author. “It is a history book covering
the first four thousand years of human civilization. The Bible is not a history book in the modern
sense, of course, since its writers lacked the benefit of modern archaeological techniques, did
not have our concept of dating and documentation, and had different standards of what was and
was not significant in history.”
“The Bible has noble poetry in it… and some good morals and a wealth of obscenity, and
upwards of a thousand lies.” Mark Twain
Whatever the case, the honest reading of the bible even in a nonreligious context can always
provide you with something, whether it’s wisdom, poetry, or spirituality.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is
not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in
evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hope, always
Stumbling on Happiness
Book by Daniel Gilbert
Think you know what makes you happy? This absolutely fantastic book will shatter your most
deeply held convictions about how your own mind works.” —Steven D. Levitt, author of
“A psychological detective story about one of the great mysteries of our lives . . . You ought to
read it. Trust me.” —Malcolm Gladwell, author of Blink.
Daniel Gilbert is a college professor of psychology at Harvard University. His research with Tim
Wilson on “affective forecasting” investigates how and how well people can make predictions
about the emotional impact of future events.
According to the author, we are terrible at predicting what will make us happy because of the
way our brain works. We are also terrible at predicting how miserable we will be if something
bad happens to us. “Our inability to recall how we really felt is why our wealth of experiences
turns out to be poverty of riches.”
For instance, imagine if you go blind – how do you think you are going to feel? Many would say
that they would rather kill themselves, but if you know any real blind person, you are aware that
they don’t seem as miserable as one might assume.
“We treat our future selves as though they were our children, spending most of the hours of
most of our days constructing tomorrows that we hope will make them happy… But our temporal
progeny are often thankless. We toil and sweat to give them just what we think they will like, and
they quit their jobs, grow their hair, move to or from San Francisco, and wonder how we could
ever have been stupid enough to think they’d like that. We fail to achieve the accolades and
rewards that we consider crucial to their well-being, and they end up thanking God that things
didn’t work out according to our shortsighted, misguided plan.”
Play by William Shakespeare
Hamlet is a student and a crown prince. While he was away, His uncle, Claudius, poisoned his
father, King Hamlet, in his sleep, and took his throne for himself. Most importantly, his uncle
married Hamlet’s mother, Gertrude, as well.
Both, his father’s death and his mother’s marriage send Hamlet into brooding and despair. But
his father’s ghost appears to him, telling the prince that he was murdered and demanding that
Hamlet avenge him.
Hamlet is obsessed with revenge. He thinks about it all the time. The problem is all he does is
think about it. Entangled by philosophical problems of life and death, he is frozen by inaction.
Was the ghost really his father or a devil? Who are his real friends? Whose side his mother
would take, his or his uncle’s? Hamlet works to get King Claudius to confess to the murder of his
father. A tragedy, The Hamlet, is bound to end in death and despair.
“Though this be madness, yet there is method in’t.” — Hamlet.