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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 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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