Books can be incredibly powerful. They have the ability to suck us in, take us on adventures, and influence the way we think.
They can teach us, move us, give us new perspectives, and help shape us. And the most powerful ones change our lives forever.
I asked my Business Insider colleagues to share the one book that has significantly influenced them.
If you’re looking for life-changing books to read this fall, you may want to check these out:
‘The Road’ by Cormac McCarthy
“This book gave me a real sense of my own mortality. I’m usually grateful for this, but not always! It also made me appreciate fatherhood more.” –Nicholas Carlson, editor-in-chief of INSIDER
Amazon synopsis: A father and his son walk alone through burned America. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. It is cold enough to crack stones, and when the snow falls it is gray. The sky is dark. Their destination is the coast, although they don’t know what, if anything, awaits them there. They have nothing; just a pistol to defend themselves against the lawless bands that stalk the road, the clothes they are wearing, a cart of scavenged food — and each other.
“‘The Road’ is the profoundly moving story of a journey. It boldly imagines a future in which no hope remains, but in which the father and his son, “each the other’s world entire,” are sustained by love. Awesome in the totality of its vision, it is an unflinching meditation on the worst and the best that we are capable of: ultimate destructiveness, desperate tenacity, and the tenderness that keeps two people alive in the face of total devastation.”
‘The Tao of Pooh’ by Benjamin Hoff
“This book introduced me to the idea that simplicity isn’t the enemy of satisfaction; it’s the essence of it. The inclusion of such familiar and beloved characters also helped the ideas stick in my mind.” –Christina Sterbenz, weekend and features editor
Amazon synopsis: The how of Pooh? The Tao of who? The Tao of Pooh!?! In which it is revealed that one of the world’s great Taoist masters isn’t Chinese — or a venerable philosopher — but is in fact none other than that effortlessly calm, still, reflective bear. A. A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh! While Eeyore frets, and Piglet hesitates, and Rabbit calculates, and Owl pontificates, Pooh just is.
“And that’s a clue to the secret wisdom of the Taoists.”
‘Anna Karenina’ by Leo Tolstoy
“It was the rare work of fiction that actually changed how I saw the world. It made me want to be a more moral and better person.” –Paul Schrodt, entertainment editor
Amazon synopsis: “Considered by some to be the greatest novel ever written, ‘Anna Karenina’ is Tolstoy’s classic tale of love and adultery set against the backdrop of high society in Moscow and Saint Petersburg.
“A rich and complex masterpiece, the novel charts the disastrous course of a love affair between Anna, a beautiful married woman, and Count Vronsky, a wealthy army officer. Tolstoy seamlessly weaves together the lives of dozens of characters, and in doing so captures a breathtaking tapestry of late-nineteenth-century Russian society. As Matthew Arnold wrote in his celebrated essay on Tolstoy, ‘We are not to take ‘Anna Karenina’ as a work of art; we are to take it as a piece of life.'”
‘Where the Sidewalk Ends’ by Shel Silverstein
“This is one of my all-time favorite books. I feel in love with it as a kid, but it’s still just as fun to page through now that I’m an adult. Silverstein really had a way of engaging kids and getting them excited about reading (and reading poetry, no less!) — that’s no small feat.” –Ellen Hoffman, commerce editor
Amazon synopsis: “This classic poetry collection, which is both outrageously funny and profound, has been the most beloved of Shel Silverstein’s poetry books for generations.
“Where the sidewalk ends, Shel Silverstein’s world begins. There you’ll meet a boy who turns into a TV set and a girl who eats a whale. The Unicorn and the Bloath live there, and so does Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout who will not take the garbage out. It is a place where you wash your shadow and plant diamond gardens, a place where shoes fly, sisters are auctioned off, and crocodiles go to the dentist.”
‘Love Is a Mix Tape’ by Rob Sheffield
“As a cloistered adolescent music geek, ‘Love Is a Mixtape’ let me know that it was perfectly OK to spend your time listening to records and knowing way more than the average person about music. It’s also a story about falling in love and sharing both love and music with another person; I’ve bought it enough times (for friends), that I can find it in my local Barnes & Noble with my eyes closed.” –Brandt Ranj, commerce reporter
Amazon synopsis: “Mix tapes: Stick one into a deck and you’re transported to another time in your life. For Rob Sheffield, author of ‘Turn Around Bright Eyes’ that time was one of miraculous love and unbearable grief. A time that spanned seven years, it started when he met the girl of his dreams, and ended when he watched her die in his arms.
“Using the listings of fifteen of his favorite mix tapes, Rob shows that the power of music to build a bridge between people is stronger than death. You’ll read these words, perhaps surprisingly, with joy in your heart and a song in your head–the one that comes to mind when you think of the love of your life.”
‘Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid’ by Douglas R. Hofstadter
“This is an amazing book on math, art, physics, computers, and the nature of intelligence. It’s kind of hard to summarize in a couple sentences, but reading this book in high school was a huge influence on my decision to study math in college and beyond.” –Andy Kiersz, quant reporter
Amazon synopsis: “Everything is a symbol, and symbols can combine to form patterns. Patterns are beautiful and revelatory of larger truths. These are the central ideas in the thinking of Kurt Gödel, M.C. Escher, and Johann Sebastian Bach, perhaps the three greatest minds of the past quarter-millennium. In a stunning work of humanism, Hofstadter ties together the work of mathematician Gödel, graphic artist Escher, and composer Bach.
“Gödel, Escher, Bach, a Pulitzer Prize-winning treatise on genius, explores the workings of brilliant people’s brains with the help of historical examples and brainteaser puzzles. Not for the dim or the lazy, this book shows you, more clearly than most any other, what it means to see symbols and patterns where others see only the universe. Touching on math, computers, literature, music, and artificial intelligence, Gödel, Escher, Bach is a challenging and potentially life-changing piece of writing.”
‘The Woodlanders’ by Thomas Hardy
“Hardy is better known for novels like ‘Tess of the d’Ubervilles’ and ‘Far From the Madding Crowd,’ but ‘The Woodlanders’ was the first book I ever truly fell in love with. As a literature student, the technical brilliance of Hardy completely astounded me, but it was the power of the final few pages that has stuck with me years later. It’s the most beautiful of the Victorian novels and without question one of the most under-appreciated. Like all great reads, you’ll be thinking about ‘The Woodlanders’ long after you’re done reading it. It’ll haunt you.” –Adam Payne, digital fellow at Business Insider UK
Amazon synopsis: “When country-girl Grace Melbury returns home from her middle-class school she feels she has risen above her suitor, the simple woodsman Giles Winterborne. Though marriage had been discussed between her and Giles, Grace finds herself captivated by Dr. Edred Fitzpiers, a sophisticated newcomer to the area — a relationship that is encouraged by her socially ambitious father. Hardy’s novel of betrayal, disillusionment and moral compromise depicts a secluded community coming to terms with the disastrous impact of outside influences. And in his portrayal of Giles Winterborne, Hardy shows a man who responds deeply to the forces of the natural world, thought they ultimately betray him.”
‘Tuesdays With Morrie’ by Mitch Albom
“I read this book my senior year of high school and my senior year of college. I think it is the perfect book to read when you are about to start a new chapter of your life. The book gives you perspective and is written with so much heart, which is very refreshing. It helped prepare me to embrace new challenges and beginnings.” –Lauren Browning, associate social media editor at INSIDER
Amazon synopsis: “Maybe it was a grandparent, or a teacher, or a colleague. Someone older, patient and wise, who understood you when you were young and searching, helped you see the world as a more profound place, gave you sound advice to help you make your way through it. For Mitch Albom, that person was Morrie Schwartz, his college professor from nearly twenty years ago.
“Maybe, like Mitch, you lost track of this mentor as you made your way, and the insights faded, and the world seemed colder. Wouldn’t you like to see that person again, ask the bigger questions that still haunt you, receive wisdom for your busy life today the way you once did when you were younger?
“Mitch Albom had that second chance. He rediscovered Morrie in the last months of the older man’s life. Knowing he was dying, Morrie visited with Mitch in his study every Tuesday, just as they used to back in college. Their rekindled relationship turned into one final ‘class’: lessons in how to live.
“‘Tuesdays with Morrie’ is a magical chronicle of their time together, through which Mitch shares Morrie’s lasting gift with the world.”
‘Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone’ by JK Rowling
“This is the ultimate life-changing book because the reader can put themselves in Harry’s position and feel as if they, too, are entering the wizarding world and forever altering the course of history. The writing in the series also matures as Harry does, so young (and old) readers really get the feeling of growing up.” –Caitlin Harper, operations manager
Amazon synopsis: “Harry Potter has no idea how famous he is. That’s because he’s being raised by his miserable aunt and uncle who are terrified Harry will learn that he’s really a wizard, just as his parents were. But everything changes when Harry is summoned to attend an infamous school for wizards, and he begins to discover some clues about his illustrious birthright. From the surprising way he is greeted by a lovable giant, to the unique curriculum and colorful faculty at his unusual school, Harry finds himself drawn deep inside a mystical world he never knew existed and closer to his own noble destiny.”
‘Why I Write’ by George Orwell
“The is a book about understanding collective consciousness and breaking through that to think alone and seek truth. Orwell was one of the great questioners of our time. This book confronts you with the idea that no one is too small to think rigorously about huge concepts. They’re just too lazy, or too comfortable.” –Linette Lopez, senior finance correspondent
Amazon synopsis: “An illusion can become a half-truth, a mask can alter the expression of a face. The familiar arguments to the effect that democracy is ‘just the same as’ or ‘just as bad as’ totalitarianism never take account of this fact. All such arguments boil down to saying that half a loaf is the same as no bread.
“Whether puncturing the lies of politicians, wittily dissecting the English character or telling unpalatable truths about war, Orwell’s timeless, uncompromising essays are more relevant, entertaining and essential than ever in today’s era of spin.”