10 Life-Changing Books that Will Stay With You Forever

Head to the library or fire up your Kindle - it’s time to get inspired with this list of best books to read.

May 7, 2015
Man reading a life-changing book

Reading for the soul (Shutterstock) 

There are books that entertain, books that inform, books that enthrall - books that speak to the brain, the mind, the intellect and the emotions. And then there are books that seem to speak directly to the soul - life-changing books that make you question your core beliefs, staying with you long after you’ve finished reading.
These 10 masterpieces fall into the second category. Each is a pleasure to read, a treasure to ponder, and ultimately changes something deep inside of you - just for having experienced it.
Read on.

1. THE ALCHEMIST

BY: Paulo Coelho
YEAR: 1988
SYNOPSIS: Originally published in Portuguese, this inspiring tale of self-discovery follows Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who yearns to travel in search of a worldly treasure. But his quest takes him in a different - and far more satisfying - direction, to learn how to listen to his heart and follow his dreams.
THAT SPECIAL SOMETHING: Easy to read and highly descriptive, this masterpiece will inspire you to brave the path to pursuing your dreams - just like Santiago.

Life-changing books: The Alchemist

2. THE ARTIST’S WAY

BY: Julia Cameron
YEAR: 1992
SYNOPSIS: Essentially a self-help workbook on creativity, this life-changing book coaxes readers along a spiritual, artistic path. With tasks to complete at the end of each chapter, reading this book is a dynamic affair.  
THAT SPECIAL SOMETHING: Deep and yet simple, this book has the power to flip the creativity switch in anyone - from accountants to athletes and everywhere in between.

Life-changing books: The Artist's Way

3. LIFE OF PI

BY: Yann Martel
YEAR: 2001
SYNOPSIS: Pi Patel is the son of a zookeeper, with an encyclopedic knowledge of animals and a taste for philosophy. While immigrating to North America from India with his family, their ship sinks - and Pi finds himself alone in a lifeboat with a hyena, an orangutan, a wounded zebra, and Richard Parker, a 450-pound Bengal tiger - or does he? What follows is a fantastical tale of intrigue and adventure.
THAT SPECIAL SOMETHING: While this is not a book about religion, it does tell a tale about the importance of believing in something - be it God, Mother Nature, or your own strength.

Life-changing books: Life of Pi

4. THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED

BY: M. Scott Peck
YEAR: 1978
SYNOPSIS: A cross of psychology and spirituality, this non-fiction book is packed with insight and wisdom about the attributes that make for a fulfilled person. With an eloquent examination of complex, human concepts such as discipline and love, Peck theorizes four distinct stages of human spiritual development along the path to self-realization.
THAT SPECIAL SOMETHING: This quote says it all: "Problems call forth our courage and our wisdom; indeed, they create our courage and wisdom."

Life-changing books: The Road Less Traveled

5. THE HISTORY OF LOVE

BY: Nicole Kraus
YEAR: 2005
SYNOPSIS: This beautiful book-within-a-book tells the story of Leo Gursky and the love of his life, Alma. With an adventure across oceans and decades, the novel is fueled by the thrill of mystery and joy of connection.
THAT SPECIAL SOMETHING: This book will leave you thinking about Leo and Alma nonstop for days after you finish it - and while the story will fade from the front of your mind, it’ll never really leave you.

Life-changing books: The History of Love

6. CONVERSATIONS WITH GOD

BY: Neil Donald Walsch
YEAR: 1995
SYNOPSIS: The full name of this trilogy of books is Conversations with God: An Uncommon Dialogue - and it is indeed an uncommon dialogue. The entire series is a captivating back and forth conversation between the author and ‘God’ - on topics ranging from religion and spirituality to education, love and politics.
THAT SPECIAL SOMETHING: Regardless of your beliefs, these inspired and inspirational books will challenge you to think about the world around you and your own existence.

Life-changing books: Conversations with God

7. THE GIVING TREE

BY: Shel Silverstein
YEAR: 1964
SYNOPSIS: The Giving Tree is the beautiful, poignant story of a tree who loved a little boy. The tree loves the boy and does anything she can for him as he grows older - without regard for what she’s getting in return.
THAT SPECIAL SOMETHING: Ostensibly a children’s book, this parable has a clear message for readers of all ages - about the gift of giving, and accepting different the ways in with others return affection.

Life-changing books: The Giving Tree

8. FLOW: THE PSYCHOLOGY OF OPTIMAL EXPERIENCE

BY: Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
YEAR: 2013
SYNOPSIS: Csikszentmihalyi’s studies over the past two decades have revealed that ‘flow’ is what makes life’s experiences genuinely satisfying - a feel of deep concentration, immersion and absorption. This classic work on happiness touches on contemporary psychology, delving into issues such as family, art and sport to ultimately answer the question - how do we make our lives meaningful?
THAT SPECIAL SOMETHING: This life-changing book will help you to identify when you’re really happy - and channel the ‘flow’ to maximize those good vibes.

Life-changing books: Flow

9. SOPHIE’S WORLD

BY: Jostein Gaarder
YEAR: 1991
SYNOPSIS: A novel and a philosophical work in one, this life-changing book tells the story of Sophie Amundsen, a teenage girl living in Norway, and Alberto Knox, the middle-aged philosopher who introduces her to philosophy.
THAT SPECIAL SOMETHING: “Who are you?” and “Where does the world come from?” are the two cardinal questions that Sophie has to answer. You’ll ponder them too.

Life-changing books: Sophie's World

10. THE RED TENT

BY: Anita Diamant
YEAR: 1997
SYNOPSIS: This novel imagines the compelling story of Dinah - daughter of Leah and Jacob and sister of Joseph. Building on hints in the Book of Genesis, the author writes about the lives of women in biblical times, touching on mothers and daughters, midwifery, love, and living in a foreign land.
THAT SPECIAL SOMETHING: Strongly feminist and deeply touching, this story will change the way you think of biblical times.

Life-changing books: The Red Tent

10 MORE LIFE-CHANGING BOOKS: 

If you've already read (and loved!) the 10 life-changing books on this list, here's 10 more powerful novels, nonfiction works and poetry collections that you might enjoy: The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield, The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay, Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts, The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran, Better: A Surgeon's Notes on Performance by Atul Gawande, 1984 by George Orwell, Food Rules by Michael Pollan, Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll and Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer.

As well as managing Goodnet.org, Elana writes happy headlines with a particular focus on yoga, meditation and family matters. She has a background in online journalism and web content.