We all have some book that we love so much that we keep re-reading—that resonates with us for years to come after we finish it.
The editors and reporters at Business Insider selected the books that changed our lives in some way, whether it made us re-evaluate something, think deeply about something of importance, or it left a lasting impact—even if that was just to make us laugh or cry.
From nonfiction books that taught us how to manage finances or study in school to novels that altered our views on life, here are the books that changed our lives.
'I was having an existential crisis after my freshman year of college, when I came across an old paperback of 'The Myth Of Sisyphus and Other Essays' by Albert Camus. The book argues that although the world is bleak and meaningless, we shouldn't give up. The modern hero lives a good life in the face of the absurd. For a 19-year-old English major, it was a useful pep talk.'
'It's a perfect meditation on modern collective consciousness and how that impacted culture, society and politics during one of the most critical parts in human history, the years between the first and second world wars.'
'I read it before I went to Wellesley, and it had the best hacks for studying and taking notes in class that I've ever come across. The goal is to study smarter -- not longer -- and to know what material is actually important to the professor. This is single-handedly the reason I graduated with honours, and I will give it to my children someday.'
'My grandpa is a Holocaust survivor, but he doesn't like to talk about what he went through. Reading 'Night' was very hard; while it gave me a good idea about a really terrible part of my grandpa's life, it also made me grateful for how strong he's always been for me and my family. I think we're all closer as a result.'
'I read this book when I was in college, and the main thing it's made me think about is the importance of actually giving a crap about what you're doing. The author, Robert Pirsig, has a passage about how when you're fixing your motorcycle, you should be fixing your motorcycle, not listening to music, or doing some other task concurrently. Do the thing you're doing, and be proud of doing it well. Pirsig also explored the concept of a 'gumption trap,' the ruts people fall in where they don't have the initiative to just get things done. As a big fan of just doing stuff, and owning it, and wanting to do that stuff well, this book continues to influence my life.'
'Dorothea Brooke is one of the most misguided but likable characters in any book I've ever read. Her ability to find love after her disastrous marriage to Edward Casaubon cheered me up after a bad breakup. The book is also a reflection on how the Dorotheas of the world--people who try to make a difference in their own small way--can add up to make the world a better place.'
''The Power of Now' changed my life because it taught me that most of the stress all of us create in our lives is really complete fiction bouncing around our heads. If you focus on what's happening to you, right now, anxiety goes away and peace, happiness takes its place.'
'This book provides an escape route if you find yourself overly fixated on all the terrible things that have happened in history. I am still working my way through the original Spanish 'Ficciones,' but I like the Andrew Hurley Translation of 'Collected Fictions.''
'This is the standard economics text taught at Columbia Business School, which Bernanke wrote before he became chairman of the Fed. Capitalism often feels like it's a random series of unpredictable and often chaotic events. But Bernanke and his co-authors break down the major economic forces into a series of formulas and correlated variables, which can be used to describe the economy in charts. The 'invisible hand' of the marketplace becomes very visible indeed once you understand the maths that governs its rules. It's depressing how few Americans are economically literate: A version of this book ought to be taught at high school level.'
'This was the first novel I ever read at, I believe, 10 years old. This was my 'official' introduction to science fiction and I never looked back. This book showed me a different world and taught me that my imagination could run even more wild than it normally would in everyday life.'
'The earliest book I can remember reading is Shel Silverstein's 'The Giving Tree.' I don't know how it changed my life except for the fact that I must have checked it out of the library a million times in kindergarten. I'm pretty sure I learned how to read at a young age by reading that aloud at home. I love the last part of the book, where the young boy is now an old man and all he wants is a quiet place to rest and the tree is there for him. It's just one of those enduring stories I'll never forget and I can't wait to share with my kids one day.'
'Thompson gets known primarily through F&L in Las Vegas, but '72 is by far his strongest work. It's exceptionally rare that a book makes you understand exactly what it was like to be in a certain place and time, but HST makes you feel like you're following the '72 primary -- all the rumours, nicknames, and mini crises -- and is just a glorious read for anyone interested in how presidents are actually elected. Moreover, it contains the single greatest anecdote about Nixon where he and Hunter, two mortal political enemies, hung out and talked about football.'
'Much more than the biography of one man, 'The Power Broker' is an examination of government, bureaucracy, and how concentrated power can achieve both wonderful things -- like finally giving New York's middle class residents a top grade park and beach system -- and terrible ones -- including the insensitive levelling of neighborhoods to build the abominable Cross-Bronx Expressway. This 1,200 page tome taught me valuable lessons about how governments work and power corrupts, and how even the smartest among us need to be checked.'
'Cliché, but true. I was 18 and about to graduate high school. The book affected my outlook for years and through college.'
Here's a favourite quote from the book:
'Here are my rules: what can be done with one substance must never be done with another. No two materials are alike. No two sites on earth are alike. No two buildings have the same purpose. The purpose, the site, the material determine the shape. Nothing can be reasonable or beautiful unless it's made by one central idea, and the idea sets every detail. A building is alive, like a man. Its integrity is to follow its own truth, its one single theme, and to serve its own single purpose. A man doesn't borrow pieces of his body. A building doesn't borrow hunks of its soul. Its maker gives it the soul and every wall, window and stairway to express it.'
'I first read it in 2001 as a Junior in high school, when the year 2013 felt impossibly far away. I found Kurzweil's futurist projections utterly awe-inspiring and his optimism infectious, and I can clearly trace the philosophy that currently guides my artwork, career moves, and general worldview back to this single edifying book.'
'Cathie Black's Basic Black changed my life. It's probably the only reason I have this job today. It's all about Black's career, and how she rose to the top of the publishing industry. When I was a college senior I read it, and I decided to start writing from the opposite perspective, of a student who has no idea where her career will take her up until finding a job. I documented every interview I went on, the first of which was Google.
What I wrote for that entry, which was originally for myself, was the first article I ever published on Business Insider while I was still working on the ad sales side. At the time, it was the most read single-page article (non slideshow) we had ever written with about 230,000 views. The success of that article ultimately led to my career change, and jumping from sales to edit. After it, I started submitting more and more articles and at my annual review that year, I mustered up enough courage to see if I could switch sides. Julie and Henry were kind enough to let me try and Nich, who published the Google article for me, took me under his wing. And here I am three years later!'
'It sounds silly. At a young age you focus on the sing-song rhyme scheme, the bright, silly colourful illustrations, and know that there's a positive message about succeeding at the end. But upon re-reading the book when older, one of the best takeaways is that it tells you that as much as life will have its highs -- 'You'll join the high fliers who soar to high heights' -- it will also have its inescapable lows -- 'I'm sorry to say so but, sadly, it's true that Bang-ups and Hang-ups can happen to you.' However, it reminds you that instead of getting stuck in a 'waiting place,' that you have the power to steer yourself in a positive direction to succeed. The fact that it's still a book that people give to loved ones after high school and college graduations speaks volumes.'
''Queer Greer' really helped me fully come to terms with my sexuality. It's a book I wish I had during high school when I was struggling to come out, as it reminded me that I'm not the only one.'
'Invisible Monsters is about a drop-dead gorgeous model who takes a hunting rifle blast to the face, disintegrating her jaw. Then she travels afterward trying to figure out who did it and why it happened. Those definitely realigned my perception a bit.'
'While everyone's been sounding the death of the travel guidebook, I love travel guides. I packed this massive tome while travelling around Europe during my junior year abroad in college, and it served as my bible. The book led me to hole-in-the-wall tavernas in Athens, awesome patisseries in Paris, and not entirely sketchy hostels all over Europe. That's when I really fell in love with travel.'
'Ruth Reichl's book about going undercover as the food critic for The New York Times made me think seriously about becoming a journalist. Her obvious passion for food came through in her writing, as did her integrity as a critic, and she made the job sound like a hell of a lot of fun.'
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