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25 Fictional Books That Will Change Your Outlook

25 Fictional Books That Will Change Your Outlook

Readers tend to read for a variety of different reasons, but one of the biggest reasons is to broaden one’s perspective. We all need to step outside of our comfort zone in many areas, especially our tastes in literature. For that reason, we compiled a list of fictional books that will most definitely broaden your perspective.

1. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig

A professor relates his struggles with mental illness, with his philosophy, and with what it means to have a good life, all through the course of a motorcycle trip across of the United States. It’s truly life-changing.

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    2. The Kite Runner by Khaleed Hosseini

    A man struggles to find forgiveness and love amidst a war torn Afghanistan and his subsequent immigration to America. A work stuffed with florid prose and subtle depictions of small beauties throughout.

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      3. The Great Santini by Pat Conroy

      The story of growing up as the oldest son of an alcoholic, abusive, Air Force father, and how much you will always love him, regardless.

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        4. A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

        Sometimes called a “fart joke as literature,” this book is my personal favorite. It’s the tale of Ignatius P. Reilly, the walking embodiment of why the pursuit of knowledge is useless. It might come off as gibberish, or it might make you question why you read books at all.

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          5. Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinburg

          A book about a lesbian who begins to pass as a man and the struggles that come with being transgender in America. This one tells the struggle of equality for all, and ties into the labor movement.

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            6. The Ultimate HitchHiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

            Couple drab British humor, science-fiction, and thoughts on the nature of time and space and you get this unique work. Remember, the answer is 42.

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              7. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by David Eggers

              What would like to be nineteen, barely legally an adult and have custody of a six-year-old? Eggers nails the confusion of that tenuous age in this work.

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                8. Everything Is Illuminated by Johnathan Safran Foer

                A book about finding your roots, travelling to the country your people are from, and the nature of cultural memory played out over several decades. And a dog named Sammy Davis, Jr., Jr. This is a brilliant work.

                EverythingIsIlluminated

                  9. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

                  Set in an mental institution in the 1940’s or so, this book follows Randall Patrick McMurphy and hints at how mental illness is all relative, and how, sometimes, men never quite grow up.

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                    10. The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

                    A truly entertaining read, the story of a fat, lonely Dominican boy in New Jersey, the story of his beautiful mother in the Dominican Republic, and the story of loss, love, family, teenage romance, going to college, and living under a brutal dictatorship all in one.

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                      11. Immortality by Milan Kundera

                      Translated from the original Czech, this book is a beautiful account on the nature of aging, and the ways that a person can be many ages at once.

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                        12. 100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

                        Marquez uses mysticism to speak to the nature of time and family heritage in his work about one family in the fictional town of Maconda, Columbia. Just try to keep track of the number of the Jose Arcadio Buendias over the course of seven generations.

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                          13. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

                          Written in futuristic British/Cockney slang that is so dense it has its own Wikipedia translation page, this one is a challenging read. But once you get the hang of it, the question of whether it’s better to be good by choice or by force is brought to the fore.

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                            15. American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis

                            You may have heard of the movie, but the book is a tour-de-force, expounding on the nature of the 1980’s, a time when corporate businessmen where literally allowed to do anything they want. It makes you question the interchangeability of people and the nature of mental health.

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                              Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go return some videotapes.

                              16. Invisible Monsters by Chuck Palahniuk

                              From the author of Fight ClubInvisible Monsters is about Brandy Alexander, a striking beauty, and is told from the perspective of someone unable to communicate because they missing their lower jaw. It’s gut-wrenching and nasty and twisted in all the right ways and will make you appreciate the grace of ugliness.

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                                16. Slaughter-House Five by Kurt Vonnegut

                                A science fiction-infused recount of the massacre that was the Allied bombing of Dresden during World War II, this book will make you question the nature of experience and the limits of time and space.

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                                  17. The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien

                                  A book about the stories that may or may not have happened during the narrator’s experiences during Vietnam. This one hints at the nature of storytelling itself, and why exaggeration may be the only way to get your point across.

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                                    18. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon

                                    Told from the perspective of an autistic boy, this book hits perfectly on what it is like to have a family member with special needs. The author spent a lot of time working professional with special needs patients, and no other book approaches illustrating social disorders this way.

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                                      19. The Jungle By Upton Sinclair

                                      Set in the meat-packing industry in Chicago in the 1900’s, this book illustrates the story of Jurgus Rudkus, a Lithuanian immigrant who toils day and night. After losing everything, he finds solace in local politics and eventually embraces socialism.

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                                        20. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngoze Adichie

                                        This one follows the loves and struggles of a young Nigerian woman as see moves to America to attend school. While we think of America as the perfect end destination for many cultures, this one will make you question the struggle to fit in that many immigrants experience.

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                                          21. Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie

                                          A book that incorporates magical realism into a story surrounding the independence of India from British rule, this one will amaze you with prose and stretch your thoughts about destiny.

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                                            22. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

                                            Coming in at a staggering 1104 pages, Infinite Jest is a modern day Moby Dick that will make you question the nature of sanity, of the coming future, and addiction and recovery.

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                                              23. The Alchemist by Paolo Coehlo

                                              Set as a boy makes a pilgrimage from Spain across the desert of North Africa in pursuit of his destiny, Coehlo weaves a story that will change how you look on fate, love, and finding your place in the world.

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                                                24. On the Road by Jack Kerouac

                                                A whimsical novel about the Beat generation, this one will show you what the pathos of the 1960’s was all about, and give you insight into a movement that shaped America and the world at large.

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                                                  25. Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh

                                                  Ever wondered what it’s like to be addicted to heroin, to addiction, and to anarchy as a whole? This book will show you what it’s like to have been a punk rock kid, have grown up, and have the same need for thrills regardless of age.

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                                                    Featured photo credit: Geir Halvorsen via flickr.com

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                                                    Last Updated on December 9, 2019

                                                    5 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress Effectively

                                                    5 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress Effectively

                                                    Everyone experiences mental stress at one time or another. Maybe you’re starting a new career, job, or business, or you feel incredibly overwhelmed between work, parenting, and your love life (or a lack of it). It could even be that you simply feel that you have way too much to do and not enough time to do it,  plus, on top of everything, nothing seems to be going the way it should!

                                                    Yup, we all experience mental stress from time-to-time, and that’s okay as long as you have the tools, techniques and knowledge that allow you to fully relieve it once it comes.

                                                    Here are 5 tips for relieving mental stress when it comes so you can function at your best while feeling good (and doing well) in work, love, or life:

                                                    1. Get Rationally Optimistic

                                                    Mental stress starts with your perception of your experiences. For instance, most people get stressed out when they perceive their reality as “being wrong” in some way. Essentially, they have a set idea of how things “should be” at any given moment, and when reality ends up being different (not even necessarily bad), they get stressed.

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                                                    This process is simply a result of perception and can be easily “fixed” by recognizing that although life might not always be going as YOU think it should, it’s still going as it should—for your own benefit.

                                                    In fact, once you fully recognize that everything in your life ultimately happens for your own growth, progress, and development—so you can achieve your goals and dreams—your perception works in your favor. You soon process and respond to your experience of life differently, for your advantage. That’s the essence of becoming “rationally optimistic.”

                                                    The result: no more mental stress.

                                                    2. Unplug

                                                    Just like you might need to unplug your computer when it starts acting all crazy, you should also “unplug” your mind.

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                                                    How on earth do you unplug your mind? Simple: just meditate.

                                                    It isn’t nearly difficult or complicated as some people think, so, if you don’t already meditate, give it a try. Whether you meditate for 5 minutes, 30 minutes, or 2 hours, this is a surefire way to reduce mental stress.

                                                    Meditation has been scientifically proven to relax your body (resulting in less mental stress), while also reducing anxiety and high blood pressure.

                                                    3. Easy on the Caffeine

                                                    Yes, we know, we know—everyone loves a nice java buzz, and that’s okay, but there’s a fine line between a small caffeine pick-me-up and a racing heart and mind that throws you into a frenzy of mental stress.

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                                                    Try giving up caffeine for a while and see how you feel. And, if that’s completely out of the question for you, at least try to minimize it. You might find that lots of your mental stress mysteriously “disappears” as your caffeine intake goes down.

                                                    4. Attack Mental Stress Via the Back Door

                                                    That’s right: your body and mind are part of the whole being, and are constantly influencing and affecting each other. If you’re experiencing a lot of mental stress, try to reduce it by calming your body down—a calm body equals a calmer mind.

                                                    How do you calm your body down and reduce physical stress? A  great way to reduce physical stress (thereby reducing mental stress) is to take natural supplements that are proven to reduce stress and anxiety while lifting your mood. Three good ones to look into are kava-kava, St John’s wort, and rhodiola rosea:

                                                    • Kava-kava is a natural plant known to have mild sedative properties, and you should be able to find it at your natural health food store or vitamin store. It’s available in capsules or liquid extract form.
                                                    • St John’s wort is a natural flower used to treat depression. Again, it’s found at your local health store in capsules or liquid. Because it uplifts mood (enabling you to see the brighter side of all experiences) it helps relieve mental stress as well.
                                                    • Rhodiola rosea is a natural plant shown to reduce stress and uplift mood, and Russian athletes have been using it forever. Like the other two supplements mentioned, rhodiola rosea can be found at your natural health store in capsule or liquid form.

                                                    While these supplements are all natural and can be very helpful for most people, always check with your health care provider first as they can cause side-effects depending on your current health situation etc.

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                                                    5. Good Old-Fashioned Exercise

                                                    This tip has been around forever because it works. Nothing relieves mental stress like running, kickboxing—you name it. Anything super-physical will wipe out most of your mental stresses once the exercise endorphins (happy chemicals) are released into your brain.

                                                    The result: mental stress will be gone!

                                                    So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed or just plain stressed, try using some of the above tips. You can even print this out or save it to refer to regularly.

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                                                    Featured photo credit: Radu Florin via unsplash.com

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