Books are gateways into other worlds. Whether you want to experience another culture, an alien civilization, or learn how to stop procrastinating, a bookstore is your best bet. So head off to a Barnes and Noble, library, or just look through Amazon to find what you are looking for. Otherwise, we asked people “what were the books that changed your perspective on life?” And here are the answers.

“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.” - Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird

Hamlet - William Shakespeare

David Tennant playing Hamlet in the Royal Shakespeare Company
One of the great modern literary classics. Source: Thought Co

While technically a play, this list is coming in strong with William Shakespeare's Hamlet as the first entry. Never before has a character in a fictional setting been so aware of his surroundings, even transcending the play he’s literally in. And then to stage a play within a play to trap his father’s killer? Truly, there is a reason we still celebrate Shakespeare’s works even today. He was really ahead of his time. Other plays from one of the best selling authors of all time include:

  • Macbeth
  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream
  • The Tempest
  • Julius Caesar
  • Othello
  • Richard III
  • The Merchant of Venice
  • Much Ado About Nothing
  • As You Like It
  • Henry V

1984 - George Orwell

While it’s not in the best selling fiction books of all time, this is a life-changing book that deserves its own entry. Especially in this political climate, 1984 remains a staple in the literary community, and is the book that most people think of when they use the phrase “Orwellian.” This generally refers to authoritarian “Big Brother” watching you, but is open to debate as well. It can also imply that a word itself is meant to undermine the understanding of its meaning, which is ironic that “Orwellian” would be its own doublespeak. The manipulation and deceptive use of language is what Orwell seemed to mean, which means the term is not synonymous with authoritarian, even when used that way.

Pudd'nhead Wilson - Mark Twain

One of the most prominent novels in modern literature
Truly, a story ahead of its time. Source: Simon and Schuster

In a time of racial inequity and revived prejudice, it’s important to relive the debate that has been raging on since the days of slavery. This book was published in 1894, long before football, let alone a football player kneeling in protest, and went on to describe the hypocrisy of racism. If two twin were born and one was considered “white,” and the other “black,” and were forced to live in their perspective world perceptions, how would that affect them? Ever relevant even today, there’s a reason that Pudd'nhead Wilson was on nearly every top 100 “must read life changing books” list throughout modern literature.

The Day Philosophy Died - Casey Maddox

A very little-known entry on the list, this novel sets up a protagonist where we are learning more about their true nature every few chapters, a world that actually ends, and how to survive the apocalypse, and in a symbolism-packed backdrop of a postmodern world. This is one of those life changing fiction books that stays with you long after you’ve finished it. Your world won’t quite be the same, especially when you realize who the other characters are in the real world. So pick up The Day Philosophy Died if you don’t want to be quite the same person you were when you started the book.

To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee

This was the only book Harper Lee wrote for nearly 55 years
Harper Lee created a true masterpiece. Source: Business Insider

Another staple in the literature of Americana, as well as another ancient parable of racial inequality, is Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. Loosely based off people in her real life child as she was growing up, Lee attempted to express the injustice of systemic racism in America through one of the best selling fiction books of all time. Not only did the novel have a profound social effect, the fictional character Atticus Finch held legal president in at least two cases and Mrs. Lee held an honorary seat on the Alabama State Bar because her fictional character had become such a local hero.

Don Quixote - Miguel de Cervantes

Quixotic is a great word to use at parties
Sometimes a story character who believes too much in stories can be compelling. Source: Mental Floss

It’s not often that a book becomes so widely known and popular that is spawns its own word to describe a situation similar to the plot, but that’s exactly the case in this quixotic adventure. Don Quixote himself is an extremely idealistic character to the point of his exploits becoming wildly unrealistic. In losing his grasp on reality by becoming obsessed with knights and slaying dragons, the titular character becomes a buffoon instead of a glorious combatant, chasing after windmills and proclaiming them to be giants. This is one of those life changing fiction books that remind you it’s fine to have ideals, as long as they’re realistic. It’s fine to be faithful, but zeal can prove dangerous.

Any books that completely changed your life? Which ones did we leave out that had an impact on you? Let us know in the comments below!

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