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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.

      Pat-Conroy-The-Great-Santini

        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.

                  one-flew-over-the-cuckoos-nest

                    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 July 10, 2020

                                                    How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

                                                    How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

                                                    We all have them—those hurtful, frustrating, offensive, manipulative people in our lives. No matter how hard we try to surround ourselves with positive and kind people, there will always be those who will disrespect, insult, berate, and misuse you if we allow them to.

                                                    We may, for a variety of reasons, not be able to avoid them, but we can determine how we interact with them and how we allow them to interact with us.

                                                    So, how to take control of your life and stop being pushed around?

                                                    Learning to set clear firm boundaries with the people in our lives at work and in our personal lives is the best way to protect ourselves from the negative effects of this kind of behavior.

                                                    What Boundaries Are (And What They’re Not)

                                                    Boundaries are limits

                                                    —they are not threats or ultimatums. Boundaries inform or teach. They are not a form of punishment.

                                                    Boundaries are firm lines—determined by you—which cannot be crossed by those around you. They are guidelines for how you will allow others to treat you and what kind of behaviors you will expect.

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                                                    Healthy personal boundaries help protect you from physical or emotional pain. You may also need to set firm boundaries at work to ensure you and your time are not disrespected. Don’t allow others to take advantage of your kindness and generosity.

                                                    Clear boundaries communicate to others that you demand respect and consideration—that you are willing to stand up for yourself and that you will not be a doormat for anyone. They are a “no trespassing” sign that makes it very clear when a line has been crossed and that there will be consequences for doing so.

                                                    Boundaries are not set with the intention of changing other people. They may change how people interact with you, but they are more about enforcing your needs than attempting to change the general behavior and attitude of others.

                                                    How to Establish Boundaries and Take Control of Your Life

                                                    Here are some ways that you can establish boundaries and take control of your life.

                                                    1. Self-Awareness Comes First

                                                    Before you can establish boundaries with others, you first need to understand what your needs are.

                                                    You are entitled to respect. You have the right to protect yourself from inappropriate or offensive behavior. Setting boundaries is a way of honoring your needs.

                                                    To set appropriate boundaries, you need to be clear about what healthy behaviors look like—what healthy relationships look like.

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                                                    You first have to become more aware of your feelings and honest with yourself about your expectations and what you feel is appropriate behavior:

                                                    • Where do you need to establish better boundaries?
                                                    • When do you feel disrespected?
                                                    • When do you feel violated, frustrated, or angered by the behavior of others?
                                                    • In what situations do you feel you are being mistreated or taken advantage of?
                                                    • When do you want to be alone?
                                                    • How much space do you need?

                                                    You need to honor your own needs and boundaries before you can expect others to honor them. This allows you to take control of your life.

                                                    2. Clear Communication Is Essential

                                                    Inform others clearly and directly what your expectations are. It is essential to have clear communication if you want others to respect your boundaries. Explain in an honest and respectful tone what you find offensive or unacceptable.

                                                    Many people simply aren’t aware that they are behaving inappropriately. They may never have been taught proper manners or consideration for others.

                                                    3. Be Specific but Don’t Blame

                                                    Taking a blaming or punishing attitude automatically puts people on the defensive. People will not listen when they feel attacked. It’s part of human nature.

                                                    That said, you do not need to overexplain or defend yourself. Boundaries are not open to compromise.

                                                    Sample language:

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                                                    • “You may not…yell or raise your voice to me…”
                                                    • “I need…to be treated with respect…”
                                                    • “It’s not okay when…you take things from my desk without asking…”
                                                    • “I won’t…do your work…cover for you anymore…”
                                                    • “It’s not acceptable when…you ridicule or insult me…”
                                                    • “I am uncomfortable when…you use offensive language”
                                                    • “I will no longer be able to…lend you money…”

                                                    Being able to communicate these without sounding accusatory is essential if you want others to respect your boundaries so you can take control of your life.

                                                    4. Consequences Are Often Necessary

                                                    Determine what the appropriate consequences will be when boundaries are crossed. If it’s appropriate, be clear about those consequences upfront when communicating those boundaries to others.

                                                    Follow through. People won’t respect your boundaries if you don’t enforce them.

                                                    Standing our ground and forcing consequences doesn’t come easily to us. We want to be nice. We want people to like us, but we shouldn’t have to trade our self-respect to gain friends or to achieve success.

                                                    We may be tempted to let minor disrespect slide to avoid conflict, but as the familiar saying goes, “if you give people an inch, they’ll take a mile.”

                                                    It’s much easier to address offensive or inappropriate behavior now than to wait until that behavior has gotten completely out of hand.

                                                    It’s also important to remember that positive reinforcement is even more powerful than negative consequences. When people do alter the way they treat you, acknowledge it. Let people know that you notice and appreciate their efforts.

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                                                    Final Thoughts

                                                    Respect is always a valid reason for setting a boundary. Don’t defend yourself or your needs. Boundaries are often necessary to protect your time, your space, and your feelings. And these are essential if you want to take control of your life.

                                                    Start with the easiest boundaries first. Setting boundaries is a skill that needs to be practiced. Enlist support from others if necessary. Inform people immediately when they have crossed the line.

                                                    Don’t wait. Communicate politely and directly. Be clear about the consequences and follow them through.

                                                    The better you become at setting your own boundaries, the better you become at recognizing and respecting the boundaries of others.

                                                    Remember that establishing boundaries is your right. You are entitled to respect. You can’t control how other people behave, but you do have control over the way you allow people to treat you.

                                                    Learning to set boundaries is not always easy, but with time, it will become more comfortable. You may eventually find that boundaries become automatic and you no longer need to consciously set them.

                                                    They will simply become a natural extension of your self-respect.

                                                    Featured photo credit: Thomas Kelley via unsplash.com

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