With thousands of classics out there, choosing one as a favorite is impossible. However, there are a few books (aside from spiritual texts) that can likely trigger personal growth and development, actually reshaping the way one sees and interacts with the world. These are the novels that have molded me into the person I am today:
1. The Epic of Gilgamesh.
The first “real” literary work in existence! This is the story of a wild, primitive hero who befriends his counterpart, King Gilgamesh. Themes of mortality are prevalent, as Gilgamesh is determined to discover the secret to eternal life.
2. Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman.
Poetry meditations by one of the best-loved American writers. Focuses on transcendentalism, an idea that we can surpass our material world via a connection to nature and our true selves.
3. Siddhartha, Hermann Hesse.
The story of an Indian’s spiritual journey as he seeks fulfilment by renouncing materialism and opting for an ascetic lifestyle.
4. The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.
A classic novella accompanied by cute drawings by the author. Under the façade of a children’s book, this story is actually very profound and can be appreciated by readers of any age. It tells the story of a little boy who leaves his fictional planet to visit other planets and eventually Earth, learning about adult behavior along the way. A very entertaining read with moralistic allegory. It’s no surprise that this is the most-translated book in the French language!
5. The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde.
A man sells his soul for eternal youth and beauty, leading to his moral disintegration. The book deals with themes of aesthetics and morality, written in Wilde’s witty and eloquent manner. (Beware—this book is known to be morally corrupting, depending on your interpretation of the ending. ;)
6. A Fine and Private Place, Peter S. Beagle.
A man who is not ready to die is caught between the living and the dead, trapped as a ghost in a cemetery. He meets a beautiful female ghost and experiences a love truly beyond the grave.
7. Lost Horizon, James Hilton.
A plane crashes and four Western kidnapping victims are taken to Tibet. In the magical paradise of Shangri La, they learn Eastern philosophy and wisdom.
8. The Stranger, Albert Camus.
An Algerian man commits a senseless murder on the beach and deals with the impending consequences. This simply written yet profound novel deals with existentialism and what it means to be human.
9. The Metamorphosis, Franz Kafka.
A salesman wakes up one day only to realize that he has turned into a human-sized insect overnight. He becomes alienated in his own home, a disgrace and burden to his family, facing issues of isolation, guilt, and inadequacy. This is one of the most influential novels of the 20th century! Warning: will undoubtedly invoke tears!
10. Alice in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass, Lewis Carroll.
Through fantasy, satire, and distorted logic, the reader follows Alice on her adventures during her personal journey of self-discovery.