Never really been one to enjoy popular books on philosophy (Alchemist was overrated, Monk who sold his Ferrari cliched, The Secret just boring ...IMO) and picked this up at a used book store. The book truly put a new perspective on life for me.
Perhaps it was a combination of the time when I read the book: Undue stress, massive imposter syndrome, that feeling of not moving ahead in life, and the oh-so-messed-up quarter life crisis, but this book was an absolute eyeopener for me.
Find your own meaning in life, and live your own philosophy instead of aping a "master" (spiritual or otherwise) because a "master" is someone who has shaped his own philosophy and that will almost NEVER completely apply to you. In the book, when the titular Siddhartha realises this and starts off on his own journey, something clicked within me and I started making genuine attempts to get past my (mostly) self-imposed problems in life. Can easily say this book helped me get through confusing times and come out better on the other side
Truly a life-changing book for me, and no wonder it's been popular for over half a century!
The Art of War, The War of Art (except the final bits of the book) and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance come in a close second, each having shaped the way I look at decision making processes and influenced my general life strategy
Perhaps reading it as an eBook on my phone, means that I didn't take it in well enough.
I am aware Shankaracharya did try to curb Buddhism but I wasn't aware of ganesha angle.
To give you a background I have struggled with back pain all my life. After dozens of MRIs, X rays, physiotherapy, ayurveda, yoga, posture exercises, and spending almost 100,000 in the last 15 years on this, a simple book saved me.
The effect was so powerful that I could feel the symptoms fading while I was reading it. It gave me my life back. A few weeks ago I finally had the courage to teach my little one to walk without worrying about bending my back.
Now I feel that more people suffering from back pain, chronic fatigue, etc should be made aware of it. Here is a intro video about it 
P.S. I credit hacker news for the source.
Here's Dr.Sarno's words at the end of movie trailer:
'All this because of one simple idea — that the mind and the body intimately connected'
also, the official website http://alltheragedoc.com/
People with multiple herniated discs, "pinched nerves", etc never have back pain yet people with no structural abnormality suffer from paralyzing pains.
The reason is your mind. The logic being your brain tries to hide difficult emotions aka stress and most specifically repressed anger (which you may be even unaware off) by creating physical pain by creating oxygen deprevation in some nerves (which is totally harmless like a cramp but feels like the end of the world to you).
So the pain is real and measurable even though harmless. Regardless, this creates fear and you start believing that the problem in your disc bulge, herniation, etc which is causing it. This is my own interpretation but it's the fear of pain more than pain that makes it into a debilitating pain.
Once you add all the advice on sitting like this and standing like that and getting into the car like this plus problems from your MRI, X Ray and more and more things you are doing wrong, you start believing there is something actually very wrong with you. Yet is not the cause of it but just your repressed emotions.
So long story short as soon as you start believing your body is fine and it your emotions causing the pain, the pain loses its purpose and goes away (that's why people who have been struggling for years get better in 2 to 3 weeks).
The best part is you don't even have to fix the emotions, Just knowing your issue is not structural will make you better.
Concretely, right after I read it, a break up that would have been very tense for me became straightforward and peaceful. Also, using NVC techniques, a fight with my friend got transformed into both of us getting tearful and pulling over the car to hug each other because we felt so connected.
I think it appeals to the programmer/mathematician in me, because to a large extent it is teaching me to be more precise, about distinguishing observations, evaluations, thoughts, feelings, etc. Of course the ultimate goal is to establish genuine and sincere connection with other people, but even if you can do that with one person (yourself?), the time is probably well spent.
Darwin's Doubt by Stephen Meyer. If God exists methodological naturalism can't be completely true. This book helped me see that there's still areas science can't fully explain, like the information explosion of the Cambrian Explosion.
Please don't burn me at the stake.
2. Man's Search for Meaning by Frankl - no matter how bad you think you have it, it can be worse, and you can find meaning.
3. The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen - it's the journey (not the destination) and <i>pay attention!</i>
I agree. I have a personality where when something bad happens I just assess my potential courses of action and act accordingly. Sometimes I get depressed, but I usually snap out of it and get back to work. However, I am married to someone with a chronic, debilitating illness. I'm struggling to help her keep hope. I think one of the tricky things to get around is that people with legitimately terrible situations don't want to hear "It could always be worse." They kind of have a point. Just because there's a person that has it worse doesn't mean they aren't suffering also. I think Frankl's book might be helpful, but I wouldn't really know where to start trying to convince her that it might help.
Meditations is an outstanding book. You don't have to read "through". You can browse and see what connects with you. What made a strong difference to me: the translation. First, I could not connect with the book. Then I found another translation and started liking it. Later I realized that the fist translation, while harder to read and understand, was much better. It was, like he wrote. Short. No unnecessary words.
"The Design of Everyday Things" by Donald A. Norman
The Design Bible. This book gave me objective ways to explain what would have previously been my "negative opinion".
Coming to grips with the reality that bad design is rampant reinforced my growing interest in product design.
"PiHKAL: A Chemical Love Story"
by Dr. Alexander Shulgin and Ann Shulgin
The Phenethylamine Bible. As a kid I was fascinated by Shulgin and his work advancing science for all of these genuinely good and positive reasons. I watched politicians with no understanding of science use hype to outlaw all of Shulgin's fascinating chemicals against the recommendations of experts in their relevant fields. Shulgin's work is open source and the 2nd half of PiHKAL was my first exposure to open source code.
It's about dealing with conflict. Resource management, especially in regards to conflict. Emotional management on a group level. And it applies to conflicts with yourself as well.
All of us have some kind of conflict to deal with, whether it's an unruly client, bullying boss, emotionally draining relative, burnt out staff. The book covers strategies in dealing with them. It even starts with covering how to identify people who may be enemies acting as friends.
While it sounds aggressive, a lot of it covers on how wars are best won without ever having any fighting. Sometimes you can just discourage people from attacking you. Sometimes you have to decide to withdraw, to engage, to intimidate, or to handle it from a much higher level, distracting or draining their resources before they can attack you.
To put it one way, it doesn't embrace violence for the sake of violence, e.g. Ares, god of war. But uses the possibility of violence to enforce peace, like Athena, goddess of wisdom.
I think part of the reason I'll never have a great deal of money is that the idea of tricking someone into buying a useless product makes me uncomfortable. As does adding more plastic and trash into the world.
Where does the actual advice start? This book is recommended pretty much every time someone asks a similar question, I might be willing to give it another shot if there's actual content somewhere in it.
Also, did this guy create a successful business outside of his self-help stuff before he started writing these books?
Prior to reading the book, I had a retire-early mindset. My idea was to work hard at high paying jobs and save a lot so I could retire early. After reading the book, I had the idea to create multiple streams of income in order to achieve the goal of retiring early.
Others have mentioned that it's not easy to find a lifestyle business that earns you enough income to live off of, and I've also had that problem. However, I've had partial success. I don't think I'd have ever pursued this path without reading 4HWW. It's not an instruction manual, though.
If you start hiring full time workers, then your business has to scale a lot. Like revenue has to go to 500-1M range so you have enough to pay full time workers as well as money for yourself. That's just a completely different beast.
For me I hired a few remote part-timers around the world. So it costs me an order of magnitude less. And they're all awesome, so I barely have to lift a finger.
For example, WP Curve was even able to automate the process of hiring dozens of developers. You would've that that it would require a very manual intervention by the owner: https://wpcurve.com/hiring-developers/
What kind of company did you start?
I would not do a lot different but as you ask; I would have started real business networking far sooner. I am a tech guy and always surrounded myself with business guys so I would not have to. I think that was not so smart. I always thought I would be bad at it, but it just is not very hard. And with the right contacts, you can grow and achieve things much faster.
I've never been able to get a successful low-maintenance business going, what kind of business did you start?
I have a SaaS. I have a support person, product manager, and developer. Between them they handle 90% of the day to day tasks.
I was not especially religious, or especially anything until that book convinced me that skepticism was a useful default setting.
I'll leave you here not with a book, but with one tiny piece of one tiny book:
The first chapter of "Illusions" by Richard Bach. As with other fantastic works that others have listed here, a distinguishing factor about these impactful or "life changing" works is that you can re-read them countless times and benefit from them anew on every read. This first chapter is one such work for me.
I'm not implying that the rest of "Illusions" is worse than this first chapter (on the contrary, it's great), but this chapter is short, yet so powerful, and best of all, it stands by itself.
Bonus, if you like to read brief but powerful pieces, pick up "The Prophet" by Kahlil Gibran and read the chapters that interest you. I'd suggest the "On Giving" chapter as a great start.
I knew corporate America (and even many startups) were so dysfunctional, but I didn't know what could replace it. The Toyota Way shows a bright path to the ideal. And makes me realize how far we are from that.
Deep Work gave me some good insight on how to get the most out of my days.
Sapiens vastly widened and shifted my understanding of the myths that make up our society.
When young and before I knew better, I had two surgeries that should not have been done. Or, for one, not executed in the manner it was; and it was only necessary because of an unavoidable gap in insurance coverage.
Ha, when I remind myself, the other was necessary because of a string of failures initially culminating in an incompetent doctor and the PT he lauded. Then compounded a year later by a surgeon who'd rather operate than image and then was quite lackadaisical about recovery.
Beyond the topic of doctors, we have so much sugar in our diet, in good part because ADM needs to move corn products for profit. I imagine they've now cornered the market on beet sugar, as well, although I don't know. And the cane sugar growers who continue to lobby very effectively e.g. with the leverage of Florida state and its political influence.
"Modern medicine" is very limited in what it can actually, thoroughly fix. Staying healthy is the bulwark, but with a lot of financially motivated people poking holes in this for their own benefit.
If I had to name one book, I guess Emerson's Essays: First and Second Series, (that first copy I had also included Representative Men) which I discovered when I was about 20, and read from almost every day for at least 10 years, and still never go more than a few days without....well, it's more myself than I am (to paraphrase Emerson, I think). Trying to track that quote down just now, I realized that Emerson's Uses of Great Men explains the matter far better than I could.
The first time I read it, it was like he'd described 10,000 things I'd experienced, and had thought couldn't possibly be described. That was 27 years ago. I can't imagine at all what difference not coming across him would have made, but I guess "it actually changed my life" would be a huge understatement. Also Russell, Hazlitt, Chesterton, Santayana, Stevenson, William James, Nietzsche etc have been hugely important, but....somehow, in various ways, none are quite such admirable characters, or teachers for all seasons. This:
"It is nothing for any man sitting in his chair to be overcome with the sense of the immediacy of life, to feel the spur of courage, the victory of good over evil, the value, now and forever, of all great-hearted endeavor. Such moments come to us all. But for a man to sit in his chair and write what shall call up these forces in the bosoms of others – that is desert, that is greatness. To do this was the gift of Emerson. The whole earth is enriched by every moment of converse with him. The shows and shams of life become transparent, the lost kingdoms are brought back, the shutters of the spirit are opened, and provinces and realms of our own existence lie gleaming before us." – JJ Chapman
 I almost added Thoreau, but he seems an extension of Emerson, unimaginable without him. Well, you could say that about Nietzsche too.
"Emerson. – Never have I felt so much at home in a book, and in my home, as – I may not praise it, it is too close to me." – Nietzsche
Your life changes when you read many books from many authors.
Even without the religious aspects, it's an incredible document. A lot of human nature is explained.
Personally, A Farewell to Arms has likely caused the biggest change. I became really absorbed in the book and at the same time in life was expecting my first child. I didn’t know the story at all, and was not expecting the ending in the least.
There have been many things in life that have taught me to enjoy what I have because it can all be gone in an instant. But that book combined with where I was in life cemented the lesson.
I’m interested in how Man’s Search caused a change in your life.
Helped me a lot getting to know computer vision from a practical aspect and became one of the best professional in my department and got to work on so much futuristic projects that would have be seen only in some film.
It's like a health book that reveals eating more vegetables and whole grains, and getting more exercise is the way to better health. That's useful info, but the hard part is motivating yourself to eat such and exercise often enough.
Always been a favorite.
Letters from a Stoic (Seneca). The pursuit of happiness is meaningless, focus on the pursuit of wisdom.
Poor Charlie's Almanac (Charles T. Munger). A library of mental/thinking models can take you a long way.
Of Human Bondage (Maugham). What is the meaning of life?
It's a science fiction book, but it made me question everything, made me change my way of thinking towards a lot of concepts, and integrate those new concepts it in my life. I can definitely say it changed my life.
(The ratings sorted on VNDB: https://vndb.org/v/all?q=;fil=tagspoil-0;rfil=;o=d;s=rating See how MLA leaves every other VN in its trail. It's absurd.)
Makes you think we closer to that than we think
I read this in high-school, and I can see very clearly how it has influenced my thinking up to the current day (and I'm 45 now). I would definitely say this book was a big part of influencing my to my strongly anti-state / anti-government position. I was so angry at the end of that book, and that still resonates with me today.
Orwell might not have been a libertarian himself, but his book helped make at least one, whether that's what he intended or not. :-)
I think a better form of government results from trying to achieve a balance between capitalism and socialism (Possibly other things too, I'm not a political science major). I'm not sure how far it should lean one way or the other, I just know that both ideologies lead to plenty of human suffering when allowed to completely dominate.
1984 is one of my all-time favorites. I love dystopian fiction. Have you also read Brave New World?
Runner-up would be `the end of religion` by Bruxy Cavey.
I still don't understand sleep, but, Walker breaks down sleeps benefits & shows the data to back up why we should be getting a full night's rest. He has given me a newfound respect for something I wantonly would throw away at my next personal whim. Silly me, it's been working against me the whole time.
Fewer late nights learning to code, and I'm making much better progress already in the memory department.
As for Cavey's book: Cavey takes a really interesting look at Jesus through a historical lens, coupled with all these little things I had missed in my own reading of the New Testament. It's full of goodies, and is one of those books I've got 20 copies of in my library to hand out like candy.
After reading about it, I've learned a lot more about sleep, but the greatest effect is that I really appreciate sleep more, make lots of time to optimize length and quality. Knowing all the info in the book it would be difficult to justify using an alarm clock to force yourself to rise before your body is ready.
Really cool book.
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain
I always felt my life was messed up and unfair because it seemed I managed to experience almost every suffering possible. This book opened up my eyes to how much someone could actually suffer and how it doesn't matter in the end in the long run.
I gained an entirely new perspective on love for mankind. There was a passage about taking the blame for all of humanity's sins onto oneself, realizing that this is true, and then forgiving yourself. It's a hard idea to explain or even agree with, but the principle moves me, and the more I think about it, the truer it seems.
Understanding the origin of my sacred text from scientific point of viewhelped me keep my faith while being able to accept modern, liberal society as my own.
Changed the way I think about the rat race, how the rules are agreed upon, what we mean when we think about winners and losers. Gave me a nice framework for dealing with all these roles I take on. Pointed me toward what's really important and how (and why) to help others get by.
Learn how to decide where to invest your energy (f#cks), which things you should really not worry about too much, and what happens if you don't choose wisely. Get an idea of why "being positive" about everything leads to "The Feedback Loop from Hell" and learn how to get out.
Best book ever.
I wish I had read that in my late 20's instead of in my mid-30s. If you are a successful technical person who has been or wants to be promoted to a supervisory or management position, it's a must read.
Books that have brought a lot of influence:
. 4hr Body
. Good Calories/bad Calories / How we get fat
. How to cook everything
. I will teach you to be rich
it helped me trough my mental illness, also other works by him are very strong.
Also a very good translation to lithuanian of
Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man
a 1964 book by Marshall McLuhan
The hobbit - came with the adventure game that my aunty had on her c64 got me into computers and reading aged about 7
Fear - Thich nhat hahn, read repeatably during recent hard times. Might need to re-read again soon...
I met Thich Nhat Hanh in 2005. It's a meeting that changed my life. I've been rereading The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching since then.
Weighing in at 75 pages, you can read this 176 year old classic in a weekend. For some reason Locke's Second Treatise on Government made it into the canon as the be-and-end-all of the classical liberal political philosophy, and this masterwork was overlooked. Just read it.
I was always interested and had a vaguely interested in Buddhism, but this book laid out everything about it nice and clear(well, in dense language at times), almost like paint-by-numbers. Everything just made sense from then on.
Here's a quote from the link below: "Napoleon Hill is the most famous conman you’ve probably never heard of. Born into poverty in rural Virginia at the end of the 19th century, Hill went on to write one of the most successful self-help books of the 20th century: Think and Grow Rich. In fact, he helped invent the genre. But it’s the untold story of Hill’s fraudulent business practices, tawdry sex life, and membership in a New York cult that makes him so fascinating..."
Sorry if this is off-topic, but thats what comes to mind when I think of a constant source of highly valuable information (besides HN)
One doesn’t read it so much as study and marvel it
Anything by John Gottman regarding the four horsemen of the relationship apocalypse. It really pinpointed some serious communication issues I had with romantic partners.
Code. It's what got me here!
It's an enduring classic for good reason.
“Self-awareness is like an onion. There are multiple layers to it, and the more you peel them back, the more likely you're going to start crying at inappropriate time.”
If you have never read it, do yourself a favor and do so.
These two allowed me to adopt a whole new perspective on not just gender but life and liberty in general. Also, great writing style!
Mans Search for Meaning - Viktor Frankl.
I know you asked for 1 and I am giving 2 recommendations but nothing wrong with being generous with good things.
Simple, instructional, profound in its ability to change me beyond words.
And fierce beyond imagination.
How to Win Friends and Influence People
The Keill Randor books got me influenced in martial arts.
It is the one book I always re-read every couple of years.
I first read in high school - it is a fairly short book.
(Inadvertently predicted Sep 11 attack while doing exercises in this book)
"One small step can change your life" by Robert Maurer
For the body:
"You Are Your Own Gym" by Mark Lauren
"In a nutshell" being the kind of open I mean means that every time you read/listen to somebody your prime interest is to understand them (even if they speak weird to nonsensical) and find how, when and why can this possibly make sense (if you fail - try harder and harder) rather than the opposite and being always willing to rationally disprove, correct and expand your view rather than to prove you're right to the others and yourself. In the majority of arguments (and whenever you read/listen to somebody whose views don't mach yours perfectly, an inaudible argument is happening inside your head and chances are you lack conscious awareness of this) each party seems mostly interested in defending its view and disproving that of the other but it usually is more beneficial to "be open" and think about how the opponent's view may possibly enrich mine.
Changed my view of people, for the better.
GEB convinced me that intelligence and consciousness could be mechanical. I already knew about chaos and fractals, so I already had the idea that mechanical things could be infinitely complicated and unpredictable. But GEB sealed the deal, and that was it: atheism.
21 Strategies of war is good
the 51st law is not so great.
Mastery Is ok
The last I heard from Robert Greene was that he was working on a book about the motivations of people. However, I haven't heard of any progress.