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Books and Films About Life Changing Encounters

Updated on August 28, 2011

Hitching Across Europe - Picture Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

Great Art About Life Changing Encounters

I was thrilled to find a request in the section of Hub Pages that offers ideas for new hubs all about books and movies focusing on life changing encounters. This is an extremely interesting and really fascinating question/request. What counts? Only non-fiction? What about the fine pieces of fiction, or classic coming of age stories? This hub is a mix of both, and is one that I'm sure I'll add to over time as I do more research and make more of a dent into that 385 book reading list (I'm an avid reader, but there are so many great books out there that when you have 40 friends who are also avid readers, well, the list grows).

When I was deciding what to include, there were works of fiction that I found incredible, inspiring, and formative to my own life. So if a work of fiction could be formative, then why shouldn't it count just as much as a biography, documentary, or some creative non-fiction?

I know this list is woefully incomplete, so it will continually be added to, and go ahead and feel free to leave comments about what I hit/missed on...might be you add to my reading list! The following are just some of the works that instantly popped into my head, so they definitely hold some sway for me.

Books and Movies About Life Changing Moments and/or Encounters

Timothy Ferriss - Author of "The 4 Hour Work Week"

Life Changing Non Fiction Works

Non-Fiction Books:

Dharma Bums, by Jack Kerouac. Actually if you tend to be a wandering soul like myself then any Kerouac book will do, but between all the energy that just pours of the pages of these creative non-fiction books, I actually prefer Dharma Bums to the more popular On the Road Again, although a friend of mine adamantly swears that Desolation Angels was Kerouac's finest work. Admittedly I haven't gotten to that one yet, so he may have a point.

Holy Cow, an Indian Adventure, by Sarah MacDonald. This is a really fascinating read. The author admits that when she first moved to India (she's Australian) that she was an "arrogant atheist," but the sheer diversity of the religions found in India fascinated her. What began as a kind of academic study became a quest to learn about and understand the various faiths of India became the author's own personal transformation thanks to such a diverse land. This is a really fascinating read and perspective regardless of your faith (or lack thereof), and gives a point of view and look at India that I haven't been able to find from any other book.

Through Painted Deserts, by Donald Miller. This is a modern road trip where a boy leaves college, relationships, and the old part of his life behind to take a life changing multiple month road trip with a friend who has done it once before. This is "Christian" literature, though the way I'd describe Donald Miller is this: if you're spiritual and hate normal "Christian" writing, then Miller is probably your guy.

The 4 Hour Work Week, by Timothy Ferriss. This is an odd one because it can be considered a self-help, self-improvement book, but Ferriss has very interesting stories from his own life, challenges most people's thinking processes, and argues that most people would prefer "lifestyle design" to conventional work and then reward retirement. It's been a very influential book in my life, and I'm not the self-help type, so that's as glowing a recommendation as I can give.

Edward Abbey, the author. If you're looking to go green permanently, and if living in isolation for periods of time going from one natural national beauty to another, then Abbey is the type of reading that you'll enjoy. If being out of Internet connection reach for 4 months at a time sounds like pure hell, then this probably isn't your cup of tea.

Fictional Works from Amazon

"Into the Wild" Music Video

Life Changing Fiction Works


Jesus' Son, by Denis Johnson. This is an amazing book, a collection of short stories that work together as an episodic novel. A lot of this is based on the true experiences of this author in the seventies, and the main character is a heroin addict who drifts from one place to another, one chapter to another, in various states of haze. The mix of poetic language, interesting characters, and hazy narration makes for an incredible book. The title is borrowed from the old blues song "Heroin."

The Outsiders, by S.E. Hinton. This is an older book, but is a great coming of age story written from the perspective of a trouble maker who really wasn't that bad a kid, but experiences the death of a loved one for the first time, and leaves childhood behind to become a man, however begrudgingly.

The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho. This book is an allegory, and is one of the best selling novels of all time. This is an enchanting and incredible tale, and the epitome of an actual globe trotting journey turning into a journey of self discovery.

Into the Wild, by John Krakauer. Okay, this is non-fiction, but since a good chunk is extrapolated from journals, memories of eye witness accounts, and narration by the author, this can fit into either category. This definitely qualifies as a story of self discovery, and is moving, intense, beautiful, and tragic all at once.

Stand By Me - One of the Best Movies Ever

Garden State - Love This Movie, All About Self Discovery

Quick List of Movies


This is a brief list, as I know there are more out there, but this is a collection of both fictional works and movies that qualify as works of art about "life changing encounters." Since that is a very general term, and a lot of different books and movies can fall under that umbrella, so this list not only refrains to movies that fall directly under that term, but which try to stay in the 'spirit' of what I think is meant by this term.


Jesus' Son is a great movie. Not as good as the book, but it's a good flick and really captures the growing over two decades, even from the worst of backgrounds.

Into the Wild is also based on the book and is a really touching movie, although I think the book caught the ending far better.

Garden State was loved by independent film critics, and hated by pop culture fluff heads who wanted to see a 2 hour "Scrubs" episode. This is an absolutely amazing movie, and one that I can watch over and over again.

Go may seem like a weird choice, since it is a really intense modern pop culture type movie, but beyond the crazy adventures and insane weekend, there is some serious growth, however strangely it happens, for some of these characters and helps to show the confusion that still remains for most people afterwards, and how hard lasting change is.

Stand By Me is maybe the best coming of age movie ever. If you've missed this one, you've missed a treat. Most people are stunned to realize that this is based on a Stephen King novella. Don't let that scare you, this is a true coming of age story, nothing supernatural, and the story is incredible.

American Graffiti is one of the most profitable and influential movies of all times, and the sheer number of future stars in this film is incredible. A great capture of the last day before everything changes.

Dead Poets Society gets me every time I watch it.

American Beauty I guess qualifies on the really darker side of this question. No one's the same by the end, no one ever will be, and this time it's not a good thing

Other Links of Interest

What Great Art About Life Changing Experiences Did I Miss?

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