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20 Books Which Will Surely Change Your Life

20 Books Which Will Surely Change Your Life

Reading the right book at the right time can have a profound effect on a human being. The best books leave a reader with a shifted perspective, about the world, society, or himself. Although many books on this list chronicle some awful and disturbing events in history, they all offer a glimmer of hope for humanity in some way, and act as guides to how we should live our life.

Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger
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    What it’s about: 16-year-old Holden Caulfield drops out of school, flees to New York City, and searches for a meaning to his life in a world in which it seems, to him, that nobody cares either way.

    Why it will change your life: For many high school students, it’s the first (and only) assigned book they can actually relate to. Salinger truly captures the nuances of being an adolescent, unsure of where his life will lead him. If you re-read the book in adulthood, you’ll find you can no longer relate to poor Holden, but you definitely still sympathize with the poor guy.

    The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Stephen Chbosky
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      What it’s about: 15-year-old Charlie tells the story of his freshman year: the friends he meets, the ups and downs, and a life-altering realization about his past.

      Why it will change your life: While it probably won’t ever be assigned reading, every high school student should read this book before they’re too old to relate to Charlie, because we’ve all felt happy and sad at the same time and wondered how that could be – because we all deserve to feel infinite.

      Make Lemonade, Virginia Euwer Wolff

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        What it’s about:

        14-year-old LaVaughn begins working as a babysitter for Jolly, a teenage high-school dropout who is barely scraping by while raising her two young children.

        Why it will change your life: Jolly’s transformation throughout the novel will inspire those from all walks of life, especially those who feel like they’ll never amount to much. Make Lemonade also teaches readers to recognize their accomplishments in life, no matter how small they may seem at the time.

        From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, E.L. Konigsburg

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          What it’s about:

          Two children run away from home in New York, and find shelter in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. While there, they hope to uncover the mystery behind a sculpture of an angel believed to have been created by Michelangelo himself.

          Why it will change your life: The magic of The Big Apple is never quite the same as it was when you’re a child. The thought of two young children surviving on their own in New York, let alone figuring out a mystery that plagues even museum curators, is enough to keep that sense of wonder alive in even the most “grown-up” of adults.

          The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien

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            What it’s about:

            I would imagine anyone reading this knows what The Hobbit is about, but just in case you don’t: A loner hobbit who reluctantly goes on an adventure with thirteen dwarves and the magical Gandalf.

            Why it will change your life: Even those who aren’t into fantasy will be able to dive right into this prequel to the Lord of the Rings trilogy. It’s possibly the finest adventure tale ever written. Anyone who’s ever said “no” when propositioned with a day trip to parts unknown will surely think twice the next time they’re asked after reading this masterpiece.

            Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand

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              What it’s about:

              Professional businessmen and women fighting against government corruption that inhibits production in America, ultimately leading to the country’s downfall.

              Why it will change your life: No other novel (except maybe Rand’s The Fountainhead) captures the ideals of putting in a hard day’s work in such a blunt fashion. Warning: After getting through this massive novel, you’ll have a tough time dealing with idiocy in the workplace for a very long time. You won’t tolerate laziness, ineptitude, or the “not my job, not my problem” attitude that plagues many businesses throughout the country.

              First They Killed My Father, Loung Ung

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                What it’s about:

                A first-hand account of the Cambodian genocide of the 1970s.

                Why it will change your life: When you hear the word “genocide,” you probably think “Holocaust.” This eye-opening novel reveals the atrocities of one of the most brutally calculated mass-murders in modern history, a topic your history teachers probably never even mentioned. The book is also a testament to the triumph of the human spirit, and to the idea that, although there will always be evil in this world, good will always prevail in some way.

                The Diary of a Young Girl, Anne Frank

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                  What it’s about:

                  A personal journal kept during World War II by Anne Frank, a Jewish teenager who would ultimately be captured and killed by the Nazi regime.

                  Why it will change your life: Though the Holocaust is well-documented and understood as one of the most atrocious events in human history, Anne’s diary puts a name, face, and reality to the horrors that occurred during World War II at the hands of Adolf Hitler. However, we can also find solace in Anne’s words: “In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.”

                  Night, Elie Wiesel

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                    What it’s about:

                    A young man’s struggle to survive while also protecting his father after being captured by the Nazi regime and sent to Auschwitz.

                    Why it will change your life: In less than 100 pages, Wiesel paints a vivid picture of the horrors of a Nazi concentration camp, as well as his internal struggle of becoming caretaker to his father, his coming to terms with the loss of God, and his disgust with humanity. His words articulate what it is to be a true victim of war.

                    A Higher Call, Adam Makos and Larry Alexander

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                      What it’s about:

                      The historical novel recounts interweaving stories from two World War II pilots from opposing sides of battle.

                      Why it will change your life: We tend to see the two sides of a war as “good” and “bad.” This historical account shatters that image, as it sheds light on the life of a typical German man who was forced to fight for his country, regardless of whether or not he supported the cause. The heroic actions taken by both men exemplify courage at its finest.

                      To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee

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                        What it’s about:

                        The events leading up to, and the fall-out from, the trial and conviction of an innocent African American during Depression-era Georgia, as seen through the eyes the six-year-old daughter of the man’s attorney.

                        Why it will change your life: One of the most important novels in American history, To Kill a Mockingbird sheds light on the realities of race relations before the Civil Rights movement, as well as the injustices and corruption of our judicial system. Seeing all of this through the eyes of a young child who doesn’t quite understand everything makes the events of the novel that much more poignant.

                        Oh! The Places You’ll Go!, Dr. Seuss

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                          What it’s about:

                          Life. Period.

                          Why it will change your life: Whether you’re 5, 18, or 50, this book resonates with you in some way. Think of all that you’ve accomplished, all you hope for; all the time you’ve wasted, all the time you’ve spent working hard; all the times you were scared, and all the times you were elated. Everything you’ve ever felt and known is touched on in this silly book full of made-up words.

                          The Giving Tree, Shel Silverstein

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                            What it’s about:

                            A boy lives his life, always coming back to the tree he had climbed, swung on, and eaten apples from as a child. The tree is always eager to provide whatever she can to help the boy as he grows.

                            Why it will change your life: The way the boy’s needs and wants change as he grows simplifies societal life changes, and how, too often, we take, take, take, without ever appreciating what we have, or what we’ve been given. There are many interpretations of this short children’s story, but it’s well-agreed that it is not just for children.

                            The Last Lecture, Randy Pausch

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                              What it’s about:

                              Based on Randy’s “last lecture” to students at Carnegie Mellon University upon his diagnosis of terminal cancer, the book relates all the knowledge and wisdom the professor wishes to pass along to his children after his death.

                              Why it will change your life: His lessons revolve around one central theme: Have fun with life. Don’t let anyone, or anything, stop you from enjoying every precious second you have on Earth. You never know when it could all be taken away from you.

                              One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Ken Kesey

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                                What it’s about:

                                Life inside an insane asylum in 1950s America, as told through the eyes of one of the institution’s patients, “Chief” Bromden.

                                Why it will change your life: Kesey sheds light on the atrocious conditions of asylums in the 1950s, as well as the horrific treatment of the patients within them. The novel also portrays the characters as they are (human), rather than how they are perceived by the nurses and general public (crazy humans). Kesey also works his commentary on the inhumane practices of electroshock therapy and lobotomies as “treatment” for mental patients.

                                The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey

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                                  What it’s about:

                                  The popular self-help book discusses approaches to all aspects of life that will lead to a person to success.

                                  Why it will change your life: Covey offers advice that pertains to friendships, relationships, personal goals, and professional careers in such a way that makes everyone involved a winner. The book discusses the importance of continuous improvement; once a goal is reached, a person must set another goal, therefore guaranteeing constant growth. A great book for those who feel stagnant in life and in need of improvement.

                                  Gratitude: A Daily Journal, Jack Canfield
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                                    What it’s about: A journal focused on seeing the beauty in everything around you, and appreciating what you have.

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                                    Why it will change your life: Gratitude allows readers to take stock in their surroundings: What do they have? What do they need? Do they actually have too much? Am I as appreciative as I should be? In our daily life, it’s easy to get caught up in “how awful our week’s been” or how we don’t have the perfect job, house, etc., but by looking at what we do have, we gain an appreciation for all of it, and realize that our happiness is not something defined by others, but by ourselves.

                                    Steal Like an Artist, Austin Kleon

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                                      What it’s about:

                                      Kleon’s message to the world that “nothing is original,” and that writers, authors, poets, and musicians must free themselves from the idea that they must reinvent the wheel with every piece they create, and instead use influential works to create their own voice.

                                      Why it will change your life: Especially in the digital age, in which almost anything a person can think of has already been done, Steal Like an Artist allows artists get past the idea that their idea is not original, and move on to the realization that, since it is their idea, it surely is original. It also helps artists realize that sometimes simply going through the motions is the best inspiration for that creative break they’ve been looking for.

                                      Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, Susan Cain

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                                        What it’s about:

                                        A celebration of introverted people, from the everyday college student to successful actors, authors, musicians, and businessmen.

                                        Why it will change your life: American society often celebrates the extroverts who flaunt their accomplishments and make themselves known to the world, overlooking the accomplishments of those who did so quietly with little fanfare. Cain examines this phenomenon and why it persists, and also celebrates the lives of many self-proclaimed introverts, many of whom are household names.

                                        Ishmael, Daniel Quinn

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                                          What it’s about:

                                          A man and a gorilla converse about the preconceptions of modern society based on the mythological beliefs of religion, and the effect these preconceptions have had on humanity and the planet.

                                          Why it will change your life: Ishmael will absolutely shatter any preconceived notion you may have had about why we humans are here, where we have been, and where we will be in the future. It challenges the notion that we’re number one, top of the food chain, the Supreme Being that the planet was waiting for billions of years for, and warns us as to what will come if we continue to think this way. If any book on this list will change the way you see the world, this is the one.

                                          Featured photo credit: Pixabay via pixabay.com

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                                          Matt Duczeminski

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                                          Published on May 18, 2021

                                          How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

                                          How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

                                          We have two ears and one mouth for a reason—effective communication is dependent on using them in proportion, and this involves having good listening skills.

                                          The workplace of the 21st century may not look the same as it did before COVID-19 spread throughout the world like wildfire, but that doesn’t mean you can relax your standards at work. If anything, Zoom meetings, conference calls, and the continuous time spent behind a screen have created a higher level of expectations for meeting etiquette and communication. And this goes further than simply muting your microphone during a meeting.

                                          Effective workplace communication has been a topic of discussion for decades, yet, it is rarely addressed or implemented due to a lack of awareness and personal ownership by all parties.

                                          Effective communication isn’t just about speaking clearly or finding the appropriate choice of words. It starts with intentional listening and being present. Here’s how to improve your listening skills for effective workplace communication.

                                          Listen to Understand, Not to Speak

                                          There are stark differences between listening and hearing. Listening involves intention, focused effort, and concentration, whereas hearing simply involves low-level awareness that someone else is speaking. Listening is a voluntary activity that allows one to be present and in the moment while hearing is passive and effortless.[1]

                                          Which one would you prefer your colleagues to implement during your company-wide presentation? It’s a no-brainer.

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                                          Listening can be one of the most powerful tools in your communication arsenal because one must listen to understand the message being told to them. As a result of this deeper understanding, communication can be streamlined because there is a higher level of comprehension that will facilitate practical follow-up questions, conversations, and problem-solving. And just because you heard something doesn’t mean you actually understood it.

                                          We take this for granted daily, but that doesn’t mean we can use that as an excuse.

                                          Your brain is constantly scanning your environment for threats, opportunities, and situations to advance your ability to promote your survival. And yet, while we are long past the days of worrying about being eaten by wildlife, the neurocircuitry responsible for these mechanisms is still hard-wired into our psychology and neural processing.

                                          A classic example of this is the formation of memories. Case in point: where were you on June 3rd, 2014? For most of you reading this article, your mind will go completely blank, which isn’t necessarily bad.

                                          The brain is far too efficient to retain every detail about every event that happens in your life, mainly because many events that occur aren’t always that important. The brain doesn’t—and shouldn’t—care what you ate for lunch three weeks ago or what color shirt you wore golfing last month. But for those of you who remember where you were on June 3rd, 2014, this date probably holds some sort of significance to you. Maybe it was a birthday or an anniversary. Perhaps it was the day your child was born. It could have even been a day where you lost someone special in your life.

                                          Regardless of the circumstance, the brain is highly stimulated through emotion and engagement, which is why memories are usually stored in these situations. When the brain’s emotional centers become activated, the brain is far more likely to remember an event.[2] And this is also true when intention and focus are applied to listening to a conversation.

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                                          Utilizing these hard-wired primitive pathways of survival to optimize your communication in the workplace is a no-brainer—literally and figuratively.

                                          Intentional focus and concentrated efforts will pay off in the long run because you will retain more information and have an easier time recalling it down the road, making you look like a superstar in front of your colleagues and co-workers. Time to kiss those note-taking days away!

                                          Effective Communication Isn’t Always Through Words

                                          While we typically associate communication with words and verbal affirmations, communication can come in all shapes and forms. In the Zoom meeting era we live in, it has become far more challenging to utilize and understand these other forms of language. And this is because they are typically easier to see when we are sitting face to face with the person we speak to.[3]

                                          Body language can play a significant role in how our words and communication are interpreted, especially when there is a disconnection involved.[4] When someone tells you one thing, yet their body language screams something completely different, it’s challenging to let that go. Our brain immediately starts to search for more information and inevitably prompts us to follow up with questions that will provide greater clarity to the situation at hand. And in all reality, not saying something might be just as important as actually saying something.

                                          These commonly overlooked non-verbal communication choices can provide a plethora of information about the intentions, emotions, and motivations. We do this unconsciously, and it happens with every confrontation, conversation, and interaction we engage in. The magic lies in the utilization and active interpretation of these signals to improve your listening skills and your communication skills.

                                          Our brains were designed for interpreting our world, which is why we are so good at recognizing subtle nuances and underlying disconnect within our casual encounters. So, when we begin to notice conflicting messages between verbal and non-verbal communication, our brain takes us down a path of troubleshooting.

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                                          Which messages are consistent with this theme over time? Which statements aren’t aligning with what they’re really trying to tell me? How should I interpret their words and body language?

                                          Suppose we want to break things down even further. In that case, one must understand that body language is usually a subconscious event, meaning that we rarely think about our body language. This happens because our brain’s primary focus is to string together words and phrases for verbal communication, which usually requires a higher level of processing. This doesn’t mean that body language will always tell the truth, but it does provide clues to help us weigh information, which can be pretty beneficial in the long run.

                                          Actively interpreting body language can provide you with an edge in your communication skills. It can also be used as a tool to connect with the individual you are speaking to. This process is deeply ingrained into our human fabric and utilizes similar methods babies use while learning new skills from their parents’ traits during the early years of development.

                                          Mirroring a person’s posture or stance can create a subtle bond, facilitating a sense of feeling like one another. This process is triggered via the activation of specific brain regions through the stimulation of specialized neurons called mirror neurons.[5] These particular neurons become activated while watching an individual engage in an activity or task, facilitating learning, queuing, and understanding. They also allow the person watching an action to become more efficient at physically executing the action, creating changes in the brain, and altering the overall structure of the brain to enhance output for that chosen activity.

                                          Listening with intention can make you understand your colleague, and when paired together with mirroring body language, you can make your colleague feel like you two are alike. This simple trick can facilitate a greater bond of understanding and communication within all aspects of the conversation.

                                          Eliminate All Distractions, Once and for All

                                          As Jim Rohn says, “What is easy to do is also easy not to do.” And this is an underlying principle that will carry through in all aspects of communication. Distractions are a surefire way to ensure a lack of understanding or interpretation of a conversation, which in turn, will create inefficiencies and a poor foundation for communication.

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                                          This should come as no surprise, especially in this day in age where people are constantly distracted by social media, text messaging, and endlessly checking their emails. We’re stuck in a cultural norm that has hijacked our love for the addictive dopamine rush and altered our ability to truly focus our efforts on the task at hand. And these distractions aren’t just distractions for the time they’re being used. They use up coveted brainpower and central processes that secondarily delay our ability to get back on track.

                                          Gloria Mark, a researcher at UC Irvine, discovered that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds for our brains to reach their peak state of focus after an interruption.[6] Yes, you read that correctly—distractions are costly, error-prone, and yield little to no benefit outside of a bump to the ego when receiving a new like on your social media profile.

                                          Meetings should implement a no-phone policy, video conference calls should be set on their own browser with no other tabs open, and all updates, notifications, and email prompt should be immediately turned off, if possible, to eliminate all distractions during a meeting.

                                          These are just a few examples of how we can optimize our environment to facilitate the highest levels of communication within the workplace.

                                          Actions Speak Louder Than Words

                                          Effective communication in the workplace doesn’t have to be challenging, but it does have to be intentional. Knowledge can only take us so far, but once again, knowing something is very different than putting it into action.

                                          Just like riding a bike, the more often you do it, the easier it becomes. Master communicators are phenomenal listeners, which allows them to be effective communicators in the workplace and in life. If you genuinely want to own your communication, you must implement this information today and learn how to improve your listening skills.

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                                          Choose your words carefully, listen intently, and most of all, be present in the moment—because that’s what master communicators do, and you can do it, too!

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                                          Featured photo credit: Mailchimp via unsplash.com

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