Thought Catalog
April 16, 2015

16 People On The One Book That Made Them Rethink Everything

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What is the issue?
Semi-sorry for the apocalyptic title. But only semi, because books are one of the very few things that do have the potential to influence us in unforeseen ways, and can actually make us “rethink everything.” With that, here are a few people on the one book that had a particularly profound impact on them:

Flickr / Jules Morgan
Flickr / Jules Morgan

1. The Tibetan Book Of Living And Dying – Sogyal Rinpoche

One of the most influential books in my life has been The Tibetan Book Of Living And Dying. I was already pretty well read on Eastern philosophy but this book is more than just about the teachings of Buddhism. It’s an inspirational look at how to find meaning in your life. It’s the kind of book you can read multiple times and find new meanings and insight in every time you pick it up. – Koty N.

2. Rules for Radicals – Saul Alinsky

It’s the single best book I’ve ever read on organization building and advocacy, as well as an astonishingly clear eyed manifesto on the nature of man and politics. It’s also a window into a past that is at once distant yet very familiar. Regardless of your political views, his book is a must read to understand how change actually happens. – Ben G.

3. Unbroken – Laura Hillenbrand

This powerful World War ll epic of survival and redemption enlightened me as to the horrific dangers military must face in the name of one’s country.  I now possess a real and heightened reverence and admiration for all of our men and women who serve in the military, many of whom face unprecedented horror. Unbroken is a testament to the residence of the human mind, body, and spirit. – Jennifer D. 

4. Infinite Jest – David Foster Wallace

This book challenged my ability to understand reality. It is a Shakespearian drama and a screwball comedy satire wrapped into a dystopian and not-too-distant future. It made me rethink how I consume media, what I think of as ‘entertainment,’ and the meaning of being present in every day existence. – Brian P.

5. Rich Dad, Poor Dad – Robert Kiyosaki, Sharon Lechter

This book changed the way I viewed money, the education system, and how to be successful. It’s like a blueprint on how to get rich. – Ayodeiji A.

6. The Love Affairs Of Nathaniel P. – Adelle Waldman

The Love Affairs Of Nathaniel P is a book I sort of reluctantly found deeply insightful and hilarious, while simultaneously feeling a mixture of defensiveness and shame for sharing traits with the main character of the book, who the reader is clearly & rightfully meant to condemn. The way this book is ‘life-changing’ will be different depending on who you are; if you’re a 31-year-old white guy in Brooklyn like me, it will likely force you to see yourself in a very unflattering light. It’s a humbling and real experience, though; probably the world – or Brooklyn (probably just Brooklyn) – would be a better place if every white guy in their 30s in Brooklyn read Nathaniel P.  – Brandon G. 

7. Ulysses – James Joyce

Ulysses turned everything I thought I knew about storytelling and wordplay upside down. Reading each chapter is cracking a new code, which makes finishing this book still feel like one of my greatest life accomplishments. – Raven E. 

8. The Creative Habit – Twyla Tharp

I read this for a class in college, and I’m very glad that I didn’t “pretend to do the reading.” You could glean a lot of things from The Creative Habit, but it was really the first book I ever read that effectively drove home the unmatched importance of self-discipline in regards to any sort of serious creative endeavor. – Lance P.

9. The Four Hour Work Week – Tim Ferris

It makes you realize how arbitrary the rules that govern our world — specifically, the working world, really are. How many people just sit around at a desk for hours, hating themselves while not providing the best value to their company? Not sure the stats, but that sums up most people I know. Helped me realize that instead of living in a world that indirectly encourages the bare minimum, it’s better to create your own value system and get the most you possibly can out of your career and your life. – Ryan D. 

10. The War of Art – Steven Pressfield

This book is for any person who’s ever had a crazy dream that they’re still too afraid to follow. This book made me realize exactly why it’s so hard to put ourselves out there, to create something, or to try something different. It helped me to understand that my greatest critic is myself, and that the hardest part of following a dream is just admitting that you want it. I left this book with the state of mind that, although I was not invincible, I was capable of fighting for the life that I wanted. – Kim Q. 

11. The Forever War – Joe Haldeman

This Sci-Fi classic follows William Mandella, an elite soldier, set against a space opera back drop as he fights a war he doesn’t believe in for centuries as he skips across space in large time gaps -meaning he’s gone for two years and ten have passed on Earth. What really sets this book apart is its exploration of these decade long time gaps as William quickly becomes the oldest person in existence, and how he is left to try to connect with humans he can no longer understand. The perpetual and inescapable tragedy of the story is what truly defines it as a classic of the genre. – Brianne M. 

12. The Conscience of a Liberal: Reclaiming the Compassionate Agenda – Paul Wellstone

I was a republican before I read Paul Wellstone’s The Conscience of a Liberal – Chrissy S. 

13. Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy

 Pretentious I know! But it’s a classic for a reason. Despite taking place in 19th c. Russia, many of the relationship dynamics and even political dramas are completely relatable. For instance, there’s a guy who feels guilty about being a wealthy landowner and temporarily wants to “be among the farmers.” Makes you realize that a lot of what we consider trendy or contemporary is very old. – Annie A. 

14. Meditations – Marcus Aurelius

Because everybody hurts; it’s how you confront your condition that dictates whether you’re living your best possible life. – Andy M. 

15. The Lazy Person’s Guide To Success – Ernie Zelinski

I love this book because it’s a humorous but applicable take on how to define success according to your wants and needs, and in relation to your career. He really cracks down on the notion of “working long” hours equalling success, and instead asks us to see if our time isn’t most valuable and if we can’t shorten our own work days while still achieving a lot of the success we want, of which free time is a huge part for many people. – Kovie B.

16. We Learn Nothing – Tim Kreider

In this book of short essays, Kreider reminds us that we’re all human, and that through our ups and downs, our struggles and ambitions, we’re all just trying to figure it out.  You’ll feel lighter after you’re finished, I promise. – Joe M. TC mark

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