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Ten Books to Change Your Life

Updated on June 11, 2010

This is a new list, as a lot of these books I've read only recently, but already I can tell that they have moved me in ways that my previous reads have not.

I strongly recommend each of these books, but odds are you won't read all ten. Why not start with just one? See how right I am.

The List

1. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint Exupery

Seriously, if you have not read this book, I do not know where you've been. It's been translated into what seems like must be every single language out there, and it's widely revered as One of The Greats... and rightly so! This book has guided and enchanged me since middle school; who wouldn't be intrigued by the simple story of a boy who has, essentially, fallen from a star? A child's priceless, precise questioning of the world, and the narrator's attempts to answer prove to be a quick and enveloping read.

2. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

This one is mostly a must-read for the adolescent crowd (though I'm sure those in college and the young-at-heart would find it just as useful). This book explores the life of a shy kid called Charlie who's just starting high school. But don't write it off if you're not fourteen years old because his inner life's complexities, written in the form of journalistic letters, will sweep you off your feet. I am in love with this character to this day because his narration gave me a guiding light in the dark, dark days of high school.

3. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

Read this book! If you have ever felt like you've lost your footing or your purpose in life (and if you haven't, who are you?), this book will change you in some way. The first on the list that's non-fiction, Gilbert's travels to Italy, India, and Indonesia and her journey towards enlightenment (whatever that may mean) will appeal to the lost soul in all of us. If you are at all spiritual, the book will mean even more to you, but either way it will be worth it. Seriously. Read this.

4. The Alchemist by Paul Coelho

I read this book when I was living in Germany in the summer of 2007, and I really feel like it goes down best when traveling. So if you plan on going away sometime soon, throw this in the bottom of your suitcase. It's the story of a shepherd who goes great lengths to follow a dream, and the wisdom that he gains along the way becomes more important than any treasure he could ever find. This book is a classic, and it's for a good reason. You can only gain from reading it.

5. Ask and It is Given by Esther and Jerry Hicks

Okay, so this one's a little different than the rest of the list, but it did change my life! It's more of a self-help or philosophy book than anything else, but the way of life that they outline is one of such positivity and joy that it's pretty much impossible to forget. There are simple things you can do to change your life for the better, to turn it around even. If you are sick of being scared or upset or depressed or alone, just check it out. You will be so surprised.

6. Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Another memoir, but this one will shed new light for you on all the current events issues between Islam and the West. Hirsi Ali grew up in a very traditionalist Muslim household in Somalia and Kenya (I think) before running away to Holland. As she comes to grips with what she truly believes, she realizes that it does not quite align with the way she grew up. This book is for anyone who has been disillusioned by adulthood, anyone who wants a new or refined perspective on the goings-on in the world, or anyone who just really wants to read about a damn interesting life.

7. A Child Called It by Dave Pelzer

The first leg of an autobiography that Pelzer wrote, and probably the most upsetting. It's the story of a boy abused by his alcoholic mother, and what is most amazing is that Pelzer stays in his childhood mind to tell the story. Instead of stepping outside the experience and explaining it, he just shows us what happened. It's a terribly sad (and sometimes graphic) but ultimately uplifting story of a boy's perseverance through the worst trauma and torture.

8. The World According to Garp by John Irving

Pretty much, this is just the best novel ever. It made me want to write, and Irving's writing style has greatly influenced my fiction. It's an amazingly crafted coming-of-age story. That's it.

9. Go Ask Alice by Anonymous

Embarrassingly enough, I must've read this book ten times in middle and high school. It's the anonymously written story of a girl who goes through some extreme times when she gets into drugs in high school. Some people insist that it's just anti-drug propaganda written by the government or someone with similar intentions, but "true" or not, it's an interesting story. It is probably most interesting to that age group (middle and high school, that is), but anyone could get into the characters and get something out of it.

10. Here is New York by E. B. White

This is only last on the list because not everyone lives or works in New York City (hard to believe, I know), and this is only a must-read if one of those two applies to you. More of an essay than a book, this piece by White just captures New York in a way that many other writers have not. It will change the way you view the city to read this book, whether you happen to agree or disagree with the way he categorizes New Yorkers. Either way, it's worth the half hour it will take!

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    • DonnaCosmato profile image

      Donna Cosmato 

      7 years ago from USA

      These are all good choices...I like The Little Prince and The World According to Garp the best personally! Voted up.

    • JayDeck profile image


      8 years ago from New Jersey

      Very nice list and exposition. I enjoyed Le Petit Prince as a young teen, was horrified by A Child Called It, laughed out loud and occasionally out of discomfort at Garp,and I always love E.B.White.

      Might I also suggest John Updike's short story collection Pigeon Feathers. It is a graduate course in the genre. Thanks.

    • ahostagesituation profile image


      8 years ago

      Great list. I haven't read some of these, and I'd like to check them out. I want to recc. Elie Weisel's "Night," Flannery O'Connor's "Everything that rises must Converge," and Victor Villasenor's "Rain of Gold." Thanks for the list!

    • BOOK AND A MOVIE profile image


      8 years ago

      Thanks for sharing your list. I'll be sure to check them out. My all time favorite is Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse. Simple story but with a profound message.

    • noorin profile image


      8 years ago from Canada

      I just finished, eat, pray , love and I luv it =) Nice hub, will keep it in mind, nxt time i go to the books store. Rated it up and will be following ya =)

    • helenathegreat profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Manhattan

      Hi I Do,

      That is my dad's favorite book, and I've tried many times to read it but could never get into the main character. I'm glad it's changed your life, though! That's the best kind of book.

    • I Do. profile image

      I Do. 

      8 years ago from N.Y, N.Y

      A really good book, in my opinion, is The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand.

      I haven't finished it yet. But if you read this book you'll eventually "understand" what type of person I am. I usually finish books in 2-4 weeks. I have taken my time with this book. I always thought I was "weird" and an "outcast" before I read this book. It's helped me put my whole life into perspective.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I love GOD'S MEDICINE IS BEST BY LINDA WISE, GO ASK ALICE, THE FOURTH SAPPHIRE TABLET OF MALKHYTZEDEK TUTHAMENHATEN and of course the latest: Free to Be Me by Arthur Vonshtain, the last one is going to change your life and you need the change!

    • rebekahELLE profile image


      9 years ago from Tampa Bay

      The Little Prince is quite possibly my favorite book. It's one of the few books I've read more than twice. I love it and I love my 50th anniversary edition. It's beautiful. It is one of the books that taught me the meaning of life. I also love Eat, Pray, Love and want to read her second book. EPL was such a great read, the kind of book you can't put down. The Alchemist is one I've always wanted to read, but haven't. I've heard of the Hicks, but have only sampled some of their work. I think I would probably add The Power Of Now, it's an excellent, amazing book. A nice hub. :]

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I cried over The Little Prince thirty-some years ago! It is timeless. It is not just for children.

    • karpouzian profile image


      9 years ago from Iowa

      Very interesting and unique choices. Not your typical 'must read' list. Usually not a lot of non-fiction on these lists, but I appreciate what you're doing. I can't say I agree with all of the choices, (most are -should- read imo).

    • helenathegreat profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Manhattan

      Let me know what you think about them, nasheed!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      ok i will read.

    • socio-literature profile image


      9 years ago from Ireland

      The Alchemest is best and transformative type.I suggest you all

    • loveprosperity profile image


      9 years ago

      I love Ask and it is Given// one of my favorite books! It really just makes you realize you can have everything you want by having a positve outlook.

    • LyrialZander profile image


      9 years ago

      Excellent suggestions, the ones I've read from the list are wonderful books, and it make me want to read the ones I haven't.

      The Little Prince was one of my favorites as a kid, and it actually helped me reach out to a girl that I was helping in a English class. She was new, and she only spoke Spanish, and was learning English as a second language. She loved the Spanish translation of it, and I noticed she had bought it to school. We shared a love of the book, so I brought in my English copy for her to read to help her learn.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      I recognized that book "God's Medicine Is Best (herbs, vitamins and minerals) by Linda Wise, someone made comment on it, I have to agree. It is really one of the best natural medicine manuals I have ever read. But I wanted to mention about "Go Ask Alice" is also my choice for a great read!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      "The Fourth Sapphire Tablet of Malkhytzedek Tuthamenhaten-DREAMS"

      This book is impressingly correct on how dreams evolved, explanation of dreams and the use of the information in our dreams. I vote this book: BOOK OF THE YEAR FOR 2009!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      God's Medicine Is Best (herbs, vitamins and minerals) by Linda Wise, is going to change your life...You want to have this book at home in case of emergency...This is my choice for book of the year 2008.

    • Nordy profile image


      10 years ago from Canada

      Thanks for the great hub! Interestingly, three of the books you mentioned: 'Eat, Pray, Love', 'Go Ask Alice', and 'The Alchemist' would have definitely ended up on my list if I wrote a similar hub. I will have to check out the rest.

      Out of curiosity - have you ever read 'The Life of Pi' or 'The Celestine Prophecy'? Also two amazing books that are probably best read when travelling!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      You have put together a great list, 'Go Ask Alice' was a great book, have you tried: 'Fledgling Jason Steed' by Mark Cooper. its a coming of age story with tears, lasughter and some heavy action. Jason Steed is a cross between Karate Kid and a young 007 James Bond, however, he has all the problems of growing up, getting a girl friend and even being put over his fathers knee.

      Your No 1 choice The little Prince is a classic.

    • helenathegreat profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Manhattan

      Thanks, summer! I hope you get the chance to take a look at any of them you might've missed.

    • helenathegreat profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Manhattan

      Thanks, summer! I hope you get the chance to take a look at any of them you might've missed.

    • summer10 profile image


      10 years ago from my happy place :)

      I loved "Go Ask Alice" and I think you've put together a great reading list!

    • helenathegreat profile imageAUTHOR


      11 years ago from Manhattan

      Oh, The Alchemist is a great book. It's also a relatively easy read so definitely worth it!

    • Woody Marx profile image

      Woody Marx 

      11 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Like Kenny I like The Little Prince, but unlike Kenny I have not read The Alchemist, however I want to! :)

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile image

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      11 years ago from Chennai

      I have read 'The Alchemist,' and 'The Little Prince,' only

      but have made a note of the rest. Thanks for sharing this reading list.

    • rb101182 profile image


      11 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      I love go ask alice!

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      Sadly I've only read Perks and Alice...but I do have my mom's 1971 copy of Le Petit Prince on my shelf, waiting for me to suddenly remember how to speak French. So not that many, but I need to read a lot more in general. I will read Eat, Love, Pray as soon as I find the time.

      You didn't ask for suggestions but The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is short and incredibly interesting, Middlesex is gorgeous and The Phantom Tollbooth is just something everyone should read and cherish.


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