5 Books That Inspired Change in My Life

From travel to business, to what it means to be human

Photo by Eliott Reyna on Unsplash

Reading a book should have an impact on your life — you’d hope, at least.

While some provide entertainment, others teach you, and others change you. The latter can be dangerous, but can also be an open door to the next chapter of your life.

Whether you’re looking to start a new business, to understand yourself better, or to give some spice to your life, in this list, you will find something that suits you.

These are the 5 books that triggered a greater change in my life, in no particular order.

“One must always be careful of books,” said Tessa, “and what is inside them, for words have the power to change us.” — Cassandra Clare

“Lost Connections”, by Johann Hari

The book’s subtitle explains what it is about: “Why you’re depressed and how to find hope”. This masterpiece took author Johann Hari all over the world over a period of 10 years to interview experts in several fields. The goal: finding causes to depression other than the one he had been told all his life, that there was something wrong with his brain.

Hari makes use of scientific studies to show that there is more than meets the eye when the issue is depression. Besides physical causes (which have very little impact), most of the reasons we feel mentally unwell have to do with psychological and social factors. The author points out 8 causes why people feel depressed:

  • Disconnection from meaningful work
  • Disconnection from other people
  • Disconnection from meaningful values
  • Disconnection from childhood trauma
  • Disconnection from status and respect
  • Disconnection from the natural world
  • Disconnection from a hopeful or secure future
  • The role of genes and brain changes

In the second part of the book, he shows ways in which we can overcome that disconnection, based on real-world examples. Long-story-short, the solution lies in connecting the dots again, to make us feel in tune with all the important areas in our lives.

How it triggered change for me

It made me more aware of my surroundings and how certain situations in my life can be prevented. After reading “Lost Connections” I started forcing myself to go out into nature more and started saying “yes” to most invitations to be with friends and family in person.

Why you should read it

If you ever felt disconnected from the world and from others, and if you ever suspected you might be depressed, even if temporarily, reading this will grant you a holistic view over your life and, hopefully, lead you to find solutions for your depression other than pills and anti-depressants.

“The Social Animal”, by David Brooks

This book tells the story of Harold and Erica. But it also tells the story of me, of you, and everyone. The book’s subtitle, “A story of how success happens”, reflects what it is all about: a deep dig into the forces that shape our lives, without us realizing it.

Most success stories are explained at the surface level. But this one is told one level down, at the level of emotions, intuitions, genetic predispositions, and deep inner longings.

David Brooks, New York Times columnist, perfectly combines a fictional story with scientific studies that decipher how humans operate, teaching us lessons that make us more aware of our surroundings and can be used to make smarter choices in life.

How it triggered change for me

This book didn’t directly change my behavior but it made me incredibly more aware of how I and everyone acts. Awareness is the first step for any meaningful change in life.

Why you should read it

Give this book a try if you are interested in human psychology and societal behavior. It will unveil incredibly interesting patterns in your life and in the life of those around you. If you work in sales, this is also extremely powerful because it will allow you to understand other people better, and use that to your advantage.

“On the Road”, by Jack Kerouac

This is the travel bible, written by the travel god. Nobody was ever the epitome of traveler as Kerouac was. It is the book that sets countless young people on the road in search of the transformative journey that only travel can bring. It is also a reality-based story of a group of friends who worship alcohol, drugs, and lady company in the 50s, across America. It’s being free, in book format.

How it triggered change for me

I traveled to 30+ countries and lived in 4 of them. I traveled with family, friends, and backpacked alone for 3 months. I live a free life, open to anything that comes my way. Having grown up in a small Portuguese town, I never knew this was possible until I put my hands on this book. Definitely, the most life-changing book I ever came across.

Why you should read it

Be careful with this one. If you don’t want to leave the comfort of your traditional life, skip it. Otherwise, it will fill you up with an uncontrollable will to hit the road.

“The $100 Startup”, by Chris Guillebeau

Chris Guillebeau interviewed hundreds of people who started a side hustle. Each chapter features a story of someone who found a niche and built a business out of it, often in quite an unlikely way, almost by chance. Sometimes, it stays a side hustle, other times people turn it into a full-time job.

“The $100 Startup” is especially powerful if you read it around the same time as “The 4-hour work week”, as I did. The combination of both books will make your brain race non-stop with business ideas, and make you believe you can achieve anything.

How it triggered change for me

I quit my job.

Maybe I was a bit too radical here, after all the whole point of the book was to show how you can turn a side hustle into a profitable business. And my side hustle at the time was far from being profitable… But this book combined with “The 4-hour work week” led to this. I don’t regret it at all.

Why you should read it

It’s truly inspiring! If you have a side hustle or ever wanted to but could never find the perfect idea, this book is for you. After reading it, you will realize that you have opportunities all around you.

If you prefer audio format, you can also listen to Chris Guillebeau’s podcast, “Side Hustle School”, here.

“The 4 Hour Work Week”, by Tim Ferriss

As cliché as it is, I needed to include this book if I was making an honest list of the books that inspired change in my life.

Although it requires very little introduction, Tim Ferriss’ “The 4-hour work week” is a book that shows us how we can make life less about work and more about life itself. Although the title might be misleading, the point is not to work for 4 hours per week and spend the rest of the time lying in the sun. It’s about freeing up your days just so you can fill them up with activities that are meaningful for you.

How it triggered change for me

As I said above, this book and “The $100 Startup” combined made me quit my job shortly after I read them.

Why you should read it

If you dream of leaving the 9–5 world, reading this book is the very least you can do for your dream. If have no such aspirations, this is still a good read, as it will open up your horizons and equip you with practical tools to improve other areas of your life.

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Categories Articles, Read & Write

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