Book-lovers read for a variety of reasons. Some of us like to unwind with a great fiction book that transports us to places we've never been, into lives that are different from our own. Others love the shiver that goes up your spine when you fall into a creepy ghost story that makes you think twice before turning off the light to go to bed. And who among us can resist a juicy romance novel that reminds us that chivalry isn't dead, no matter how our own love lives are going? Of course, the best nonfiction books can also teach us something, or open our eyes to elements of experiences we think we already know. Needless to say: books can also change lives, whether they're intended to be inspirational or just come to us at the perfect time.
As a kid, I was a serious bookworm. I was that kid with a thriller hidden under my desk during Math class, who preferred to curl up with a novel at recess to running around after a ball. Because I was painfully shy, the characters I met between those pages kept me company when I couldn't muster the courage to approach other kids. They showed me that I wasn't alone when classmates tried to shatter my spirit. As I grew older, I found my people, gained some self-confidence and didn't need the solace I found in books as much anymore. But they never lost their magic. I'm still a believer in the power of the page. These wonderful life-changing books will make you one too.
Note: We're just scratching the surface with these recommendations and will continue to update this list. Leave a comment below to let us know what books have changed your life.
One of Morrison's most treasured novels, this one follows a formerly enslaved woman who escapes to Ohio. But the traumas she experienced, especially the loss of her baby, follows her in the form of both literal and figurative specters. It's a stunning book that will stay with you forever.
This searing memoir follows a woman confronting the grief of losing her mother, her marriage and her own sense of self by hiking the Pacific Crest Trail on her own. It will remind all of us that we're more resilient than we think.
With elements of memoir, cultural criticism and plenty of wit, this essay collection explores Hong's own reckoning with her identity as the daughter of Korean immigrants, as well as the role race plays in America as a whole.
This novel about two men who have a secretive love affair that ends in tragedy was groundbreaking at the time, and it remains canonical in LGBTQ+ literature today.
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This memoir by a neurosurgeon grappling with his own terminal cancer diagnosis is both gutting and illuminating. In this day and age, its message of making the most of the time you're given is more impactful than ever.
This parable about following your dreams no matter what obstacles get in your way will get you thinking, every time. Buy a copy so you can reread it whenever you need its message the most.
A chilling look at an imaginary future in which the government is always watching, this sci-fi masterpiece will remind us all of the dangers that can arise when we stop paying attention.
If you've ever wondered what it is that makes humanity tick, Harari turns a wide historical lens on the question. It begins when consciousness does, and works its way toward modern time from there on a sweeping journey that will broaden your mind.
When Albom reconnects with his former college professor, Morrie, in the final months of his life, he's given a rare chance to absorb some of the old man's wisdom before it's too late. With this book, so can we.
What would happen if you listened to that little voice inside yourself, instead of trying to live up to everyone else's expectations? This memoir is both an account of what happened when Doyle began following her truth and a rallying cry for people everywhere to do the same.
In this dystopia, firemen don't put out fires – they set them. Houses that contain highly illegal printed books are set alight in this thought-provoking book about the power of the written word.
A riveting account of his time in Auschwitz and what keeps humanity going in spite of everything, this book embodies hope. When you need a boost to get you through tough times, give it a read.
A friend of mine loves this quirky, honest look at growing up so much, he used to buy a copy before every flight and leave it in the seat back pocket for others to read. It's a gift of a book, no matter where it finds you.
Two Afghan women born in very different times are connected by circumstances beyond their control in this unforgettable novel about love, fate, friendship and the resilience of the human spirit.
When my fourth-grade teacher handed me this book, my reading life changed forever. The story of four sisters helping each other through in their father's absence is as timeless as they come.
While technically for children, this gorgeous and philosophical little book has plenty of lessons for adults too. Read it on your own or gift it to a young reader to grow up alongside it, like so many have before.
A meditative and often hilarious guide to writing, life and being a human, Lamott will guide you through whatever you're facing the best way she knows how: one bird at a time.
A fantastical tale of a shipwreck, a boy, a tiger and the will to survive, this book takes readers on a journey in more ways than one. It's not just a wonderful adventure, but a look at how powerful storytelling can be.
Anyone who's ever white-knuckled through a hard time (and that's probably all of us) will find comfort and communion in this book about a truly horrible year and how Didion made it through.
The National Book Award-winning author contends with losing five men in her life in as many years in this heart-wrenching account of living through so much death.
In our frenetic, productivity-focused society, focusing your attention on what really matters feels like a revolutionary act. This book is part self-help, part manifesto, and totally perfect for our current moment.
Perhaps one of the most widely read coming-of-age stories, the adventures of Holden Caulfield will feel familiar to many of us. If you haven't read it since high school, give it another go to see how it lands now that you've got adult perspective.
Tackle the big questions with a grin on your face as Bryson tries to figure out how everything came to be, well, what it is. Even if you're not a science buff, this book will convert you.
A story about justice, prejudice and growing up, this classic story is beloved for good reason. Seen through the lens of current events, it's a more important read than it ever has been.
Part meditation, part essay collection and all inspiration, this beautiful little book will keep you moving forward, no matter what's holding you back.
In a collection of essays, poems and visuals, Rankine takes a hard look at how we stay in the room together as citizens of a culture rife with racial tension. It's a searing, challenging book that asks us all to look at how race infiltrates our society, and how we live alongside it.
Poet Ross Gay challenged himself to notice one thing that delighted him every day for a year and this insightful, uplifting book of essays is the result. Read them in order or pick it up and absorb one at random whenever you need a lift.
Frank documents her life in hiding during World War II. When you read it, you'll get an intimate look into all that she endured and be inspired her outlook and spirit. It's a must-read.
Using personal accounts of his own journey to antiracism as well as dispatches from history, ethics, law and science, Kendi leads readers on their own path to realizing the role racism plays in society and our lives and how we can all work to oppose it.
With "life-changing" right there in the title, this book clearly belongs on the list. But if you're late to the party on the power of asking whether items in your home spark joy (not to mention the pleasure of a well-organized sock drawer), join the rest of us here.
Once again, the title of this one tells you just about everything you need to know. It's a self-help book for people who hate self-help, and it'll have you laughing right along with realizing when you need to make a change.
So many of us supposed adults spend our days just going through the motions. This inspiring book uses wisdom from kids, the elderly and everyone in between to help inject a little magic back into our lives. You'll find yourself dog-earing every other page.
This genre-bending memoir tackles domestic abuse through a lens that will break open your understanding of not only the topic, but the form a story can take. It's a feat, and one every reader should discover.
These insightful, often transgressive essays dive into topics from beauty to pop culture, money to media using both personal accounts and political analysis. It's a broadening of perspectives many of us don't even realize we hold.
If you find yourself clicking over to social media or mindlessly staring off into space in the middle of a task without even realizing you're doing it, this book will help change the way you look at work.
Even therapists need therapy, as Gottlieb shares in this book that explores her perspective as both a clinician and a patient. If you're not already a therapy convert, you might be by the end.
A sharp, incisive look at what it means to live in a body with needs, this memoir takes on food, consumption, body image, size and the social baggage that comes with all of these.
Whether you consider yourself a creative person or just want to start thinking (and living) outside the box, the advice here can help inject a little magic into your life.
A powerful, heartbreaking book about prejudice, abuse, loneliness and the strength Angelou finds in herself and literature to survive it all, this memoir is a must-read.
Sometimes, it's not big, sweeping changes that can really make a difference. It's the little things that start from the ground up. The wisdom in this book that started with a viral graduation speech will inspire and energize you.