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Ask HN: Books that changed your life?
24 points by devmonk on Aug 25, 2010 | hide | past | favorite | 53 comments
What books have you read that changed your life for the better?

Definitely all three of these...

Plus recently "Made to Stick" has really changed how I think about ideas and sharing them with others. http://www.amazon.com/Made-Stick-Ideas-Survive-Others/dp/140...

Can't believe this hasn't been listed yet: Atlas Shrugged


Business: 7 Habits, 8th Habit, Getting Things Done, 4 Steps to Epiphany, Straight from the Gut

Spiritual: Book of Mormon, Book of Isaiah, The 4 Gospels in the New Testament

Relationship: The 5 Love Languages, Men are from Mars Women from Venus

Physical: Spark, The Vitamin D Solution

Man's search for meaning, by Viktor Frankel

The Republic, by Plato. It introduced me to a whole new way of thinking.

The Gita. I later came to know about the chariot allegory in the Kathopanishad (http://www.atmajyoti.org/up_katha_upanishad_17.asp), and thought that the writer's depiction of the charioteer as Krishna and the rider as Arjuna was just brilliant.

The Emergence of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind by Julian Jaynes.

A mind blowing explanation of consciousness. The jury is still out with most critics considering this wrong -- but nevertheless, it's an amazingly detailed (and well supported) theory of where consciousness, gods, schizophrenia etc come from.

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: http://www.amazon.com/o/ASIN/0300087012

I read this after listening to the following lecture: http://arc-tv.com/inspiring-heroes-great-leaders%E2%80%94fre.... His strength of character allowed him to escape slavery and abolish the practice in the United States.

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand: http://www.amazon.com/o/ASIN/0452011876/

Don't buy the mass-market paperback, the writing and margins are so small that it is a pain to read. Spend a little extra for the larger version I linked to.

One Hundred Years of Solitude- The English translation is some of the most beautiful writing I've ever read. The story is amazing and its understanding of people is unlike any I've encountered before, but the writing alone gave me a completely new understanding of what literature should really be.

It's been described as "the first piece of literature since the Book of Genesis that should be required reading for the entire human race." [1]

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gabriel_Garc%C3%ADa_M%C3%A1rque...

1984 - turned me from a die hard socialist to a rabid anti authoritarian.

Cosmos - helped me fall in love with Physics, and the sciences.

Tao Teh Ching - If I could tell you how it influenced me, we'd both have the wrong impression.

If you havent read it yet, I'd suggest you to read Huxley's Brave New World, as opposed to 1984.

Given it was written in 1932 it surprisingly exposes present-day concerns.

1984 has a lot to teach, and you could argue we've not learned them as history is rewritten, thoughts outlawed and truth redefined by our politicians and media.

But I'd agree that BNW has more to teach us about today - lots of us are losing/have lost the ability to think much beyond our next pleasurable experience.


I still can't get anything out of the Tao, finding it totally inscrutable :|

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch -- http://www.thelastlecture.com/

Everybody should read it, or at least watch the video on Youtube. It changed my life.

How does the book compare to the video?

Well the book has a lot more to offer. It is the super set of the 'Last Lecture' (video). More stories I can say.

I happened to bump onto the video at first (and watched over and over again) and finally decided to grab the book. Reading the book really like having myself in the story.

Go grab the book. It is worth a life.

absolutely loved it

Isaac Asimov - Foundation Series : taught me to have no fear 'cause Hari Seldon already figured it all out and I'm gonna be alright.

Yes! My mind was blown when I read this. Here are some others:

"A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again" by David Foster Wallace, pretty sure this book has changed how a generation writes. At least it convinced a generation they'll never be as good as DFW.

"Norwegian Wood" by Haruki Murakami, which I like to think of as a Japanese C.i.t.R.

G.E.B. - power through it, soldier!

"Making Certain it Goes On", by Richard Hugo. An instructional book on how to write poetry, or to basically do just about anything. I highly recommend it to all programmers.

Snow Crash and In the Beginning was the Command Line by Neal Stephenson both introduced me to tech culture in different ways with the same result: it got me more excited about tech than anything else and made me realize that I had to work in tech, and also filled me with respect for what hackers do and regret that I was never going to be a good hacker.

Snow Crash: http://www.amazon.com/o/ASIN/0553380958

In the Beginning was the Command Line: http://www.amazon.com/o/ASIN/0380815931

Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, R Pirsig

Recently each of Alain de Botton's books (Status Anxiety, Pleasures and Sorrows of Work and Essays on Love) had a valuable lesson to teach.

Alexander Pope's 'Essay on Criticism' (poem, not a book) was one the first poems that I gleaned something from, and that opened up a whole new library of potential reads.

The Demon Haunted World - Carl Sagan.

Corny as it sounds,, that book changed my way of thinking and indeed my life when I was around 18yo.

It doesn't sound corny at all - it really is an extremely good wee book. I occasionally like to debate with people what five books we think everyone should read by the time they leave school - The Demon Haunted World is on my list.

The Student as Nigger, Jerry Farber's collection of essays published circa 1970. Powerful, angry, and a product of its time (Farber was active in the civil rights movement), it exposed the university social dynamic in raw terms.

Parenting from the Inside-Out. If you're willing to work your way through it slowly, and do the exercises, it is invaluable. If you just read and understand it intellectually, the benefit is not nearly so great.

The Game by Neil Strauss.

An Island to Oneself - Tom Neale

Free version somewhere online - but I own a first run edition. Amazing book about what you can do if you really want to, and how strong the human mind can be.

As improbable as it may sound, Catch-22 by Joseph Heller.

Great book. I took from it that life is all FUBAR'd, you'll have to make it work for yourself :)

From a start up perspective, Reality Check by Guy Kawasaki is probably one of the most all around no bs start up book out there....

Leadership: Theory and Practice (Peter Northouse)

The Craft of Research (Wayne C. Booth, Gregory G. Colomb, Joseph M. Williams)

On Writing Well (Zig Ziglar)

Leadership: Theory and Practice: http://www.amazon.com/o/ASIN/076192566X/

The Craft of Research: http://www.amazon.com/o/ASIN/0226065847/

I thought 'On Writing Well' was written by William Zinsser. Amazon doesn't list any books by Ziglar with that title.

Yes you are right. My memory failed me ;)

Please add Amazon links to the book titles. You could even make a little money by including your Amazon Associate tag.

Godel, Escher, Bach at age 14 or so made me realise that I wanted to program more than anything else.

Non technical - Autobiography of an unknown Indian. Technical - Little Schemer.

Autobiography of an unknown Indian: http://www.amazon.com/o/ASIN/094032282X/

Little Schemer: http://www.amazon.com/o/ASIN/0262560992/

'The Schopenhauer Cure' and 'When Nietzsche Wept', both by Irvin D. Yalom

Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse. Foundation Series by Isaac Asimov.

Brave New World, 1984, The Metamorphosis, The Stranger, and...possibly Les Miserables if you have A LOT of free time.

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