16 Great Books to Change the World

Bookshelf Spectrum by Chotda

I did a book list for Flashlight Worthy recently, all about my choices for books related to Unconventional Living. You can see the original list here, but in this post I'll expand it a bit to feature books that can help you change the world.

If you've never read these books, I recommend you hop over to Amazon or to your local library. Barring that, you can always do what I do and spend two afternoons a week reading at Barnes & Noble. (I buy coffee and consider it "rent.")

Meaning of Life

It's hard to start with anything other than Man’s Search for Meaning. That pretty much has it covered. But after that, my favorite book in the world is probably Mountains Beyond Mountains, which tells the story of Dr. Paul Farmer and the organization he founded. And although it’s not a true autobiography (it’s compiled from various articles, sermons, and letters), The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. is as good as you’d expect it to be.

its-not-how-good-you-arePersonal Development

Wishcraft is one of the best “lifestyle design” books, published years before the industry was popular and still providing some great food for thought. I also like Finding Your Own North Star. Of course, Getting Things Done is the productivity classic, and well worth owning a copy. It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be is all about not letting the bad guys get you down, in advertising or in life.

Finally, if you want to create something (anything), check out The War of Art. Someone much wiser than me once said, “We are all artists, even if we don’t know how to draw.” This book will help you overcome the enemy of resistance and win the war of art – no matter which art form you work in.

ayn-rand-atlas-shruggedWhy Capitalism Is Good

I read three of Ayn Rand’s major books earlier this year, but I read them in backwards chronological order – Atlas Shrugged, The Fountainhead, and Anthem. Each contains similar ideas, but the writing was less polished in the beginning. If you can only read one, then Atlas Shrugged is the rightful masterpiece.

The book is 900+ pages, 60 pages of which is a single speech by one of the characters towards the end. In a nice application of abridgment, this guy has condensed it to 964 words.

endurance bookTravel

I don’t read a lot of travel books, but once in a while I find an especially good one that I really enjoy. I read Pico Iyer’s Video Night in Kathmandu after getting back from many of the same places he visited.

If you’re ever stranded off the coast of Antarctica without a ship or means of communication, Endurance will help you see through the situation. Even if that’s not your exact situation, the lessons of Shackleton may help you anyway.


I find that reading literary fiction helps me relax. Whenever I go on a trip, I try to take two novels and two non-fiction books with me. On the last trip, I read Harbor and Then We Came to the End for the novels.

As mentioned before (a few times, probably), I love most of Haruki Murakami’s work. If you want to blend fantasy and reality and head off into the underworld of Japan, Murakami is the master. Someone asked a while back if I had read The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, which is one of his longest books. At the time I hadn’t, but since then I’ve finished it. It is suitably great.


By the Way

I read a lot of books, but those have stood out to me more than many of the others. If you're looking for a good gift for someone this month, consider giving one of these books instead of a gift card.

Also, the last time we did this, I heard a lot of great recommendations from many of you. What books would you add now?


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Unconventional Guides:

Working for Yourself: Creating Personal Freedom
Discount Airfare: Surviving Stress and Maximizing Fun

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