150+ Life-changing Books (a list by ALA Think Tank Librarians)

Librarians love to talk about books. LOVE. You’d think we do that all day long, but for some of us, chatting with patrons about books is a rare and cherished perk of the job.

So what happens when you ask an active Facebook group of librarians about the books that have changed their lives?

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You get answers. A mind-blowing amount of suggestions, both fiction and nonfiction.

Some of these profound books I’ve read, others are on my never ending TBR list, and at least a dozen I’ve never even heard of and I must discover.

lifechanging books

This list’s utter lack of organization is made up for by its richness and diversity. Sorry kids, but I didn’t have time to catalog by Dewey today. This compilation was copied/pasted straight from Facebook, so please forgive duplicates.

The results (in no particular order):

Night by Elie Weisel

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston

Bury My Heart at Wounded Kneeby Dee Brown

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger

Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis

The Stand by Stephen King

Tam Lin by Pamela Dean

The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism by Naoki Higashida

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Grace in the Wilderness by Aranka Siegel

Winnie the Pooh, The stories of Beatrix Potter, Saint Maybe, Jacob Have I Loved, Beloved, No God But God,  A Fine Balance, Wuthering Heights, Zealot, The Art of Loving, Reading Lolita in Tehran

Leaves of Grass be Walt Whitman

The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

Nausea by Sartre

The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoyevsky,

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Jonathan Livingston Seagull

The Dark Is Rising

Just Above My Head

I Capture the Castle, Dodie Smith

Wind in the Door by Madeline L’Engle

Les Miserables (Victor Hugo), Julian (Gore Vidal) The Truth About Stories (Thomas King), Archive Fever (Jacques Derrida)

Time Enough For Love by Heinlein

Jenny and the Jaws of Life by Jincy Willet

The Likeness by Tana French

Waiting by Ha Jin

The Dance of the Dissident Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd

Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Little, Big by John Crowley

Sandman by Neil Gaiman

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

Dandelion Wine and Fahrenheit 451 by Bradbury

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt

The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan

From the Teeth of Angels and A Child Across the Sky by Jonathan Carroll

The Passion by Jeanette Winterson

The poetry of Pablo Neruda

the entire Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder

I Know This Much is True by Wally Lamb

Why Women Want by Caroline Knapp. Also Art and Fear by David Bayles, Bodies Out of Bounds: Fatness and Transgression by Jana Evans Braziel, and The Zen of Creativity by John Daido Loori

Also Fall on Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

The short stories of Jonathan Carroll

Black Boy, The Autobiography of Malcolm X

The Immigrant Series by Howard Fast, Love Story by Erich Segal, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Tom Jones by Henry Fielding, Tell Me Something Happy Before I Go to Sleep by Joyce Dunbar

Catcher in the Rye

Dandelion Wine & Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey

Cloud Atlas

The Teacher Who Couldn’t Read

A Field of Buttercups by Joseph Hyams

Little Women

Blue Highways by William Least Heat Moon

Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck

Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath

Stone Fox

Beloved by Toni Morrison

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

The Hawk and the Dove by Penelope Wilcock

The Ethics of Ambiguity by Simone de Beauvoir

Ahab’s Wife by Sena Jeter Naslund

The Godfather by Mario Puzo

The Outsider, Albert Camus. Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad. And a YA novel about schizophrenia called Meeting Rozzy Halfway, by Caroline Leavitt

Things Fall Apart; Siddhartha; The Stranger; Me Talk Pretty One Day

The Horsemasters by Don Stanford

Anthem by Ayn Rand

The Brothers Karamazov (Dostoyevsky)

The Diversity of Life (E. O. Wilson)

Bastard Out of Carolina

1984 and Brave New World

Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac

The Sneetches. The Witch of Blackbird Pond. The Outsiders. The Stand. The Handmaid’s Tale. Letters of a Woman Homesteader. A People’s History of the United States. A Tree Grows In Brooklyn

Parable of the Sower by Octavia E Butler

Beyond God the Father: Toward a Philosophy of Women’s Liberation by Mary Daly

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

The Same Kind of Different as Me

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry

Positive by Paige Rawls

The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter

The Front Runner

The Color Purple

The Other Man Was Me

Diving Into the Wreck

Persepolis

Maus

Summer Sisters by Judy Blume

World Enough and Time: on Creativity and Slowing Down by Christian McEwan

Peace is every step, Sherlock Holmes, Istanbul and Snow by Orhan Pamuk

Animal Farm, 1984, and Fahrenheit 451

You Can Save the Animals” by Ingrid Newkirk

Cat’s Eye by Margret Atwood, Eva Luna by Isabell Allende, everything by Tom Robbins, Bruce Chatwin and Terry Pratchett

Gifted Hands

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

Last Exit to Brooklyn

The Orphan Master’s Son

Naked In The Promised Land by Lillian Faderman

Assata by Assata Shakur

The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers

The Bridges of Madison County

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

As a Man Thinketh. The Book of Mormon. Seven habits of highly effective people. Outliers. Bridge to Terrabithia.

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

The Name of the Wind

House of Leaves

Follow My Leader by James Garfield

Man’s Search For Meaning–Victor Frankl

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

The Velveteen Rabbit

David Copperfield, the Book of Mormon, and The Book Thief.

God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater by Kurt Vonnegut

Infinite Jest

The Wealthy Barber

The Incredible Journey of Edward Tulane

Biography of a face by Lucy Grealy

Killer Angels by Michael Shaara

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

The Illuminatus! Trilogy by Robert Anton Wilson

Looking for Alaska- John Green

Watership Down by Richard Adams

Rapture Practice by Aaron Hartzler; Faitheist : How an Atheist Found Common Ground with the Religious, by Chris Stedman; Biological Exuberance by Bruce Bagemihl; The Birthday of the World and other stories by Ursula K. Le Guin; The Brothers Lionheart and Ronia the Robbersdaughter – both by Astrid Lindgren

Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier

People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn

One by Richard Bach

People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn

Roots

Wonder

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

They Poured Fire on Us From the Sky

e.e. cummings and David Levithan’s The Lover’s Dictionary.
Toni Morrison, yes to A Handmaid’s Tale, Adrienne Rich, Alice Munro…

Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

Thank you, ALA Think Tank members, for your amazing suggestions! 

Readers: what books changed your view of the world?

3 thoughts on “150+ Life-changing Books (a list by ALA Think Tank Librarians)

  1. E. Michael Helms

    I found it disappointing (unless I overlooked it) that nothing by Mark Twain made the cut. Huckleberry Finn is a classic (as are other works by Twain/Clemens). His books had a profound affect on me while growing up. Perhaps Twain’s classics aren’t considered “politically correct” enough to make the list?

    Reply
    1. Kerry Ann Post author

      I’m sure many books were overlooked on the list. Twain should certainly be considered one of the most influential writers and humorists in literature!

      Reply
  2. Caroline Leavitt

    I am absolutely thrilled that my first novel, Meeting Rozzy Halfway (which isn’t a YA as stated, but that’s cool), made this list! Thank you, thank you, thank you all librarians!

    Caroline Leavitt

    Reply

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