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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 January 3, 2020

                                                              The 10 Essential Habits of Positive People

                                                              The 10 Essential Habits of Positive People

                                                              Are you waiting for life events to turn out the way you want so that you can feel more positive about your life? Do you find yourself having pre-conditions to your sense of well-being, thinking that certain things must happen for you to be happier? Do you think there is no way that your life stresses can make you anything other than “stressed out” and that other people just don’t understand?  If your answer is “yes” to any of these questions, you might find yourself lingering in the land of negativity for too long!

                                                              The following are some tips to keep positive no matter what comes your way. This post will help you stop looking for what psychologists call “positivity” in all the wrong places!  Here are the ten essential habits of positive people.

                                                              1. Positive people don’t confuse quitting with letting go.

                                                              Instead of hanging on to ideas, beliefs, and even people that are no longer healthy for them, they trust their judgement to let go of negative forces in their lives.  Especially in terms of relationships, they subscribe to The Relationship Prayer which goes:

                                                               I will grant myself the ability to trust the healthy people in my life … 

                                                              To set limits with, or let go of, the negative ones … 

                                                              And to have the wisdom to know the DIFFERENCE!

                                                               2.  Positive people don’t just have a good day – they make a good day.

                                                              Waiting, hoping and wishing seldom have a place in the vocabulary of positive individuals. Rather, they use strong words that are pro-active and not reactive. Passivity leads to a lack of involvement, while positive people get very involved in constructing their lives. They work to make changes to feel better in tough times rather than wish their feelings away.

                                                              3. For the positive person, the past stays in the past.

                                                              Good and bad memories alike stay where they belong – in the past where they happened. They don’t spend much time pining for the good ol’ days because they are too busy making new memories now. The negative pulls from the past are used not for self-flagellation or unproductive regret, but rather productive regret where they use lessons learned as stepping stones towards a better future.

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                                                              4. Show me a positive person and I can show you a grateful person.

                                                              The most positive people are the most grateful people.  They do not focus on the potholes of their lives.  They focus on the pot of gold that awaits them every day, with new smells, sights, feelings and experiences.  They see life as a treasure chest full of wonder.

                                                              5. Rather than being stuck in their limitations, positive people are energized by their possibilities.

                                                              Optimistic people focus on what they can do, not what they can’t do.  They are not fooled to think that there is a perfect solution to every problem, and are confident that there are many solutions and possibilities.  They are not afraid to attempt new solutions to old problems, rather than spin their wheels expecting things to be different this time.  They refuse to be like Charlie Brown expecting that this time Lucy will not pull the football from him!

                                                              6. Positive people do not let their fears interfere with their lives!

                                                              Positive people have observed that those who are defined and pulled back by their fears never really truly live a full life. While proceeding with appropriate caution, they do not let fear keep them from trying new things. They realize that even failures are necessary steps for a successful life. They have confidence that they can get back up when they are knocked down by life events or their own mistakes, due to a strong belief in their personal resilience.

                                                              7. Positive people smile a lot!

                                                              When you feel positive on the inside it is like you are smiling from within, and these smiles are contagious. Furthermore, the more others are with positive people, the more they tend to smile too! They see the lightness in life, and have a sense of humor even when it is about themselves. Positive people have a high degree of self-respect, but refuse to take themselves too seriously!

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                                                              8. People who are positive are great communicators.

                                                              They realize that assertive, confident communication is the only way to connect with others in everyday life.  They avoid judgmental, angry interchanges, and do not let someone else’s blow up give them a reason to react in kind. Rather, they express themselves with tact and finesse.  They also refuse to be non-assertive and let people push them around. They refuse to own problems that belong to someone else.

                                                              9. Positive people realize that if you live long enough, there are times for great pain and sadness.

                                                              One of the most common misperceptions about positive people is that to be positive, you must always be happy. This can not be further from the truth. Anyone who has any depth at all is certainly not happy all the time.  Being sad, angry, disappointed are all essential emotions in life. How else would you ever develop empathy for others if you lived a life of denial and shallow emotions? Positive people do not run from the gamut of emotions, and accept that part of the healing process is to allow themselves to experience all types of feelings, not only the happy ones. A positive person always holds the hope that there is light at the end of the darkness.  

                                                              10. Positive person are empowered people – they refuse to blame others and are not victims in life.

                                                              Positive people seek the help and support of others who are supportive and safe.They limit interactions with those who are toxic in any manner, even if it comes to legal action and physical estrangement such as in the case of abuse. They have identified their own basic human rights, and they respect themselves too much to play the part of a victim. There is no place for holding grudges with a positive mindset. Forgiveness helps positive people become better, not bitter.

                                                              How about you?  How many habits of positive people do you personally find in yourself?  If you lack even a few of these 10 essential habits, you might find that the expected treasure at the end of the rainbow was not all that it was cracked up to be. How could it — if you keep on bringing a negative attitude around?

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                                                              I wish you well in keeping positive, because as we all know, there is certainly nothing positive about being negative!

                                                              Featured photo credit: Janaína Castelo Branco via flickr.com

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