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30 Classic Books That May Change Your Life

30 Classic Books That May Change Your Life

A classic novel need not be one that was penned a hundred years ago: rather, some of the traits that define the classic genre are timelessness, universality, truthfulness. Will this work remain relevant as time goes by? Can the reader learn something heartfelt from the story? Does the narrative flow beautifully? Does it resonate with the reader?

If these questions can be answered with a hearty “yes!”, then the book can indeed be considered a classic.

Universality is usually the most appreciated aspect of a book, in the sense that people of all different ages, social status, etc. can all relate to it, somehow. Being able to glean some measure of wisdom or insight from a book is invaluable, and it’s likely that every dedicated bibliophile out there can give you a list of the books that have greatly influenced their lives. Below is a list of 30 such books—if you haven’t read them yet, you might enjoy delving into them.

1. Ishmael, by Daniel Quinn

Ishmael

    Purposely didactic, this book forces us to re-examine what we believe to be Truth, and reinforces the fact that wisdom can come from the most unlikely sources.

    2. The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho

    Alchemist

      Sometimes, when we follow our dreams, we end up where we need to be, rather than where we think we want to be.

      3. Lord of the Flies, by William Golding

      Lord of the Flies

        Our feral natures are never far from the surface, as illustrated by what happens when a group of supposedly well-mannered young men gets shipwrecked on a tropical island.

        4. 1984, by George Orwell

        1984

          Many would say that issues addressed in this (prophetic?) book are coming into play now. You might wish to judge that for yourself.

          5. When Things Fall Apart, by Pema Chödrön

          Pema Chodron

            Pain is inevitable: suffering is optional. Tibetan Buddhist nun and teacher Pema Chödrön takes the reader through the different stages of grieving when life throws a curveball, giving gentle, compassionate advice on how to accept, acknowledge, and move beyond difficulty.

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            6. The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, by Sogyal Rinpoche

            Tibetan Book

              One of the most powerful books of Buddhist life philosophy, this tome guides people through the magnificent journey that is their own life and transition into death, and gives advice on how to care compassionately for others who are nearing death. In our modern world, where aging and death are verboten topics that terrify the average person, this is a refreshing perspective that softens aspects of life’s journey that may cause fear and anxiety for many.

              7. Lost in the Barrens, by Farley Mowat

              Mowat

                This isn’t your standard “coming of age” novel, but rather a tale of bravery, intercultural friendships, and respect of the natural world. It just happens to centre around two teenage boys. An alternate title for this book is Two Against the North.

                8. The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger

                Salinger

                  People tried to stifle Holden’s uniqueness, and he refused to acquiesce. Those who prefer to dwell outside dominant ideology may find an affinity with this tale.

                  9. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

                  Mockingbird

                    Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it, and this book takes into account massive injustices based on race and age.

                    10. Meditations, by Marcus Aurelius

                    Meditations Aurelius

                      Marcus Aurelius was one of the greatest Roman emperors, and this collection of meditations was written solely for his own use as he tried to make sense of the universe, and to create a standard of ethical behaviour to hold himself to.

                      11. The Trial, by Franz Kafka

                      Kafka Trial

                        A very telling illustration of the nightmare that is bureaucracy, injustice, and the powerlessness felt by a man in the face of all of it.

                        12. Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy

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                        Anna Karenina

                          Poignant and heartbreaking, it’s a tale of intense passion and love, and also details the repercussions of infidelity and jealousy.

                          13. The Beauty Myth, by Naomi Wolf

                          Beauty Myth

                            A must-read for anyone identifying as female, this book argues that modern ideals of beauty are mostly driven by the advertising industry, and that the “myth” of feminine beauty is a political and economic weapon used by a male-dominated world to undermine women’s advancement in society. Whether you agree or disagree with the premise, it’s worth a read, and a ponder.

                            14. The Giver, by Lois Lowry

                            Giver

                              A dystopian tale about a young boy growing up in a commune of sameness that is devoid of colour, emotion, or individuality. This young man has the ability to experience what the others are missing out on, and he selflessly sets out to bring that experience to others at the cost of his own life. An interesting exploration of living outside a norm of “safety”, and what beauty and havoc that may wreak.

                              15. His Dark Materials Trilogy, by Philip Pullman

                              Pullman

                                Shows the heroism and bravery that young people can possess, the possibility of multiple worlds and dimensions, as well as the dangers that can occur when a dominant ideology/religion gains too much power.

                                16. A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens

                                Xmas Carol

                                  Most of us were forced to study Great Expectations in high school, thus ruining our appreciation for Dickens forevermore, but this novel really does make us pause to consider the consequences of our actions. Every stone cast into a pond causes ripples, as Ebenezer Scrooge learned during his time spent with ghosts of past, present, and future.

                                  17. A Brief History of Time, by Stephen Hawking

                                  History of Time

                                    This is a very readable, accessible, and entertaining introduction to recent developments in physics and cosmology, as written by one of the most brilliant minds of our time.

                                    18. A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose, by Eckhart Tolle

                                    Tolle

                                      Transcend your ego and leave behind jealousy, anger, and unhappiness. Life in the moment, get back in touch with your inner stillness, and stop listening to the nay-saying of that obnoxious inner voice.

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                                      19. A Thousand Splendid Suns, by Khaled Hosseini

                                      1000 Suns

                                        Part historical fiction, part social commentary, and part kick-in-the-throat storytelling, this novel is a story of intense beauty and strength buried under the surface of the cruel and capricious life imposed upon two Afghani women. Ideal for those in the West who have preconceived notions about the lives of those living in the Middle East.

                                        20. The Gnostic Gospels, by Elaine Pagel

                                        Gnostic Gospels

                                          Many deeply religious Christians aren’t aware that there were several gospels removed from what is now known as the Bible. The gospels of Mary Magdalene, Thomas, and Judas are among them, and may be very eye-opening; both to the devout, and to those of other religions as well. It’s interesting to delve into writings that were suppressed by the Church for so long, especially since they contain philosophical ideas that don’t exactly mesh with established doctrine…

                                          21. The Unbearable Lightness of Being, by Milan Kundera

                                          Unbearable Lightness

                                            This “mad myth” cannot be categorized, and forces the reader to contemplate all manner of ideas: concepts of freedom, loyalty, love, betrayal, social responsibility, and what it means to be truly alive.

                                            22. The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry 

                                            Petit Prince

                                              Wonder, beauty, love, and loss, all viewed with the childlike innocence of a little Prince who lives on a small planet and is in love with a rose.

                                              “Goodbye,” said the fox. “And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

                                              23. Island of the Blue Dolphins, by Scott O’Dell

                                              Blue Dolphins

                                                Most people shy away from solitude, fearing they couldn’t survive on their own, but this story of a young girl’s life on an Aleutian island (based on a true story) shows the strength of human resilience, and the bonds that can form between us, and animal companions.

                                                24. Cat’s Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut

                                                Cats Cradle

                                                  This cult tale of global destruction preys on our deepest fears of witnessing Armageddon and, worse still, surviving it. Vonnegut’s classic use of sarcasm, irony, and absurdity helps to weave a tale that is as plausible as it is fantastical, showing how humanity’s juvenile idiocy can so easily bring about the destruction of the Earth.

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                                                  25. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley

                                                  Brave

                                                    From the Alpha-Plus mandarin class to the Epsilon-Minus Semi-Morons, designed to perform menial tasks, man is bred and educated to be blissfully content with his pre-destined role. Except one. Like Holden’s character in The Cather in the Rye, a young man who wasn’t wired to be “normal” lives outside societal expectations, and is celebrated for his differences. At first…

                                                    26. Dune, by Frank Herbert

                                                    Dune

                                                      An intricately woven commentary about ecology, family dynamics, politics, religion, technology, and overcoming fear to attain one’s potential.

                                                      27. We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families, by Philip Gourevitch

                                                      Wish to Inform

                                                        This is not an easy book to read. This is a book that will tear your heart out and leave you sobbing as you learn about the atrocities that were visited upon the Tutsi people by the Hutu majority, a topic most people in the West haven’t even heard about it. Delving into this book requires great bravery, and no reader will remain unscathed… but reading stories from other human beings who have survived great hardship can only serve to make us more compassionate.

                                                        28. Man’s Search for Meaning, by Viktor Frankl

                                                        Frankl

                                                          Frankl, a Holocaust survivor, penned this book after recovering from his time in Auschwitz, where he lost his entire family (including his pregnant wife). He maintains that people can survive anything as long as they have reason to do so. “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

                                                          29. The Teachings of Don Juan, by Carlos Castaneda

                                                          Castaneda

                                                            The most serious and most truthful of Castaneda’s work, it opened countless people’s minds to the mysteries that lie beyond the mundane everyday experience we’re all accustomed to.

                                                            30. The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron

                                                            Artists Way

                                                              The perfect “bible” for any creative soul, this book cheers you on when you feel like you can only look longingly at your creative passion (writing, painting, drawing…) because life’s stresses and responsibilities have gotten in the way. It can lead you through the aching fatigue that comes from working a job that takes you from home and back to it again without a glimpse of the sun, and help you rekindle your creativity, even in the smallest of ways.

                                                              All book cover images via Goodreads.com, except the Lord of the Flies, created by Nathaniel Winter-Hébert (published with permission by the artist).

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                                                              Catherine Winter

                                                              Catherine is a wordsmith covering lifestyle tips on Lifehack.

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                                                              Last Updated on November 19, 2019

                                                              20 Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity

                                                              20 Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity

                                                              Are you usually punctual or late? Do you finish things within the time you stipulate? Do you hand in your reports/work on time? Are you able to accomplish what you want to do before deadlines? Are you a good time manager?

                                                              If your answer is “no” to any of the questions above, that means you’re not managing your time as well as you want. Here are 20 time management tips to help you manage time better:

                                                              1. Create a Daily Plan

                                                              Plan your day before it unfolds. Do it in the morning or even better, the night before you sleep. The plan gives you a good overview of how the day will pan out. That way, you don’t get caught off guard. Your job for the day is to stick to the plan as best as possible.

                                                              2. Peg a Time Limit to Each Task

                                                              Be clear that you need to finish X task by 10am, Y task by 3pm, and Z item by 5:30pm. This prevents your work from dragging on and eating into time reserved for other activities.

                                                              3. Use a Calendar

                                                              Having a calendar is the most fundamental step to managing your daily activities. If you use outlook or lotus notes, calendar come as part of your mailing software.

                                                              I use it. It’s even better if you can sync your calendar to your mobile phone and other hardwares you use – that way, you can access your schedule no matter where you are. Here’re the 10 Best Calendar Apps to Stay on Track .

                                                              Find out more tips about how to use calendar for better time management here: How to Use a Calendar to Create Time and Space

                                                              4. Use an Organizer

                                                              An organizer helps you to be on top of everything in your life. It’s your central tool to organize information, to-do lists, projects, and other miscellaneous items.

                                                              These Top 15 Time Management Apps and Tools can help you organize better, pick one that fits your needs.

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                                                              5. Know Your Deadlines

                                                              When do you need to finish your tasks? Mark the deadlines out clearly in your calendar and organizer so you know when you need to finish them.

                                                              But make sure you don’t make these 10 Common Mistakes When Setting Deadlines.

                                                              6. Learn to Say “No”

                                                              Don’t take on more than you can handle. For the distractions that come in when you’re doing other things, give a firm no. Or defer it to a later period.

                                                              Leo Babauta, the founder of Zen Habits has some great insights on how to say no: The Gentle Art of Saying No

                                                              7. Target to Be Early

                                                              When you target to be on time, you’ll either be on time or late. Most of the times you’ll be late. However, if you target to be early, you’ll most likely be on time.

                                                              For appointments, strive to be early. For your deadlines, submit them earlier than required.

                                                              Learn from these tips about how to prepare yourself to be early, instead of just in time.

                                                              8. Time Box Your Activities

                                                              This means restricting your work to X amount of time. Why time boxing is good for you? Here’re 10 reasons why you should start time-boxing.

                                                              You can also read more about how to do time boxing here: #5 of 13 Strategies To Jumpstart Your Productivity.

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                                                              9. Have a Clock Visibly Placed Before You

                                                              Sometimes we are so engrossed in our work that we lose track of time. Having a huge clock in front of you will keep you aware of the time at the moment.

                                                              10. Set Reminders 15 Minutes Before

                                                              Most calendars have a reminder function. If you have an important meeting to attend, set that alarm 15 minutes before.

                                                              You can learn more about how reminders help you remember everything in this article: The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

                                                              11. Focus

                                                              Are you multi-tasking so much that you’re just not getting anything done? If so, focus on just one key task at one time. Multitasking is bad for you.

                                                              Close off all the applications you aren’t using. Close off the tabs in your browser that are taking away your attention. Focus solely on what you’re doing. You’ll be more efficient that way.

                                                              Lifehack’s CEO has written a definitive guide on how to focus, learn the tips: How to Focus and Maximize Your Productivity (the Definitive Guide)

                                                              12. Block out Distractions

                                                              What’s distracting you in your work? Instant messages? Phone ringing? Text messages popping in?

                                                              I hardly ever use chat nowadays. The only times when I log on is when I’m not intending to do any work. Otherwise it gets very distracting.

                                                              When I’m doing important work, I also switch off my phone. Calls during this time are recorded and I contact them afterward if it’s something important. This helps me concentrate better.

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                                                              Find more tips on how to minimize distractions to achieve more in How to Minimize Distraction to Get Things Done

                                                              13. Track Your Time Spent

                                                              When you start to track your time, you’re more aware of how you spend your time. For example, you can set a simple countdown timer to make sure that you finish a task within a period of time, say 30 minutes or 1 hour. The time pressure can push you to stay focused and work more efficiently.

                                                              You can find more time tracking apps here and pick one that works for you.

                                                              14. Don’t Fuss About Unimportant Details

                                                              You’re never get everything done in exactly the way you want. Trying to do so is being ineffective.

                                                              Trying to be perfect does you more harm than good, learn here about how perfectionism kills your productivity and how to ditch the perfectionism mindset.

                                                              15. Prioritize

                                                              Since you can’t do everything, learn to prioritize the important and let go of the rest.

                                                              Apply the 80/20 principle which is a key principle in prioritization. You can also take up this technique to prioritize everything on your plate: How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

                                                              16. Delegate

                                                              If there are things that can be better done by others or things that are not so important, consider delegating. This takes a load off and you can focus on the important tasks.

                                                              When you delegate some of your work, you free up your time and achieve more. Learn about how to effectively delegate works in this guide: How to Delegate Work (the Definitive Guide for Successful Leaders)

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                                                              17. Batch Similar Tasks Together

                                                              For related work, batch them together.

                                                              For example, my work can be categorized into these core groups:

                                                              1. writing (articles, my upcoming book)
                                                              2. coaching
                                                              3. workshop development
                                                              4. business development
                                                              5. administrative

                                                              I batch all the related tasks together so there’s synergy. If I need to make calls, I allocate a time slot to make all my calls. It really streamlines the process.

                                                              18. Eliminate Your Time Wasters

                                                              What takes your time away your work? Facebook? Twitter? Email checking? Stop checking them so often.

                                                              One thing you can do is make it hard to check them – remove them from your browser quick links / bookmarks and stuff them in a hard to access bookmarks folder. Replace your browser bookmarks with important work-related sites.

                                                              While you’ll still checking FB/Twitter no doubt, you’ll find it’s a lower frequency than before.

                                                              19. Cut off When You Need To

                                                              The number one reason why things overrun is because you don’t cut off when you have to.

                                                              Don’t be afraid to intercept in meetings or draw a line to cut-off. Otherwise, there’s never going to be an end and you’ll just eat into the time for later.

                                                              20. Leave Buffer Time In-Between

                                                              Don’t pack everything closely together. Leave a 5-10 minute buffer time in between each tasks. This helps you wrap up the previous task and start off on the next one.

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                                                              Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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