21 Life-Changing Books to Read in 2021

21 life changing books

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There are many reasons why you may be looking for inspiration: you could be about to embark on a new venture, perhaps you’re feeling demotivated, or maybe you just want to start the year off right. This list of life-changing books contains titles you’re sure to find inspiring, whatever your situation. It’s made up of a wide range of genres and topics to suit a variety of tastes. Plus, instead of consisting of the same life-changing books you find on every reading list, these are all unique picks.

1. The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion

In The Righteous Mind, social psychologist Jonathan Haidt explores two of the biggest reasons for division in society: politics and religion. He explores how these both impact our sense of morality — including why liberals, conservatives, and libertarians have such strong (but distinct) moral convictions.

If you want to know why people from different backgrounds, religions, and cultures have a diverse worldview from your own, you need to read this book. Consider this your first step toward a better understanding of your fellow humans.

2. Beware of Pity

Stefan Zweig was primarily a short-story writer, but Beware of Pity is a novel and his longest work. The title already tells you the moral of the story, but you’ll find that the more you read, the more engaged you become with the characters and the more impact the message starts to have on you.

3. Life Moves Pretty Fast: The Lessons We Learned from Eighties’ Movies (and Why We Don’t Learn Them from Movies Any More)

Revisit your favorite movies from the 80s — but in a more productive way than usual. In Life Moves Pretty Fast, Hadley Freeman examines how some of the classics from the 80s had plenty to teach us about women, youth, art, and more. She also addresses why these lessons are missing from more modern movies.

After you’ve finished the book, you’ll probably want to binge-watch all the movies you read about. Make sure you free up plenty of time before you embark on this one!

4. The Elegance of the Hedgehog

Author Muriel Barbery is a philosophy teacher as well as a writer. Her novel The Elegance of the Hedgehog combines an almost philosophical narrative with lifelike characters to give you a new perspective on topics including wealth, class, and intelligence.

5. Flowers for Algernon

Another book that will challenge what you think you know about intelligence (and happiness, for that matter) is Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes. Written from a first-person perspective, the writing style changes as the narrator goes through his own transformation. This book will break your heart.

6. The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference

Although The Tipping Point would deserve a place on a list of life-changing books anyway, it’s extra fitting for 2021. Malcolm Gladwell uses the concept of epidemiology to explain how a single small event can lead to a massive trend — and in more than just diseases. This book will change the way you see the world.

7. The Poisonwood Bible

In The Poisonwood Bible, a white evangelical family moves to the Belgian Congo shortly before the country’s fight for independence. As well as providing insight into life in the Central African nation during this time, the main characters all go through their own major life changes. Not only is this book an interesting reflection on human nature, it’s worth reading simply because Barbara Kingsolver writes beautifully.

8. Brave New World

After the almost dystopian year we’ve just lived through, what could be more appropriate than one of the best pieces of dystopian fiction ever written? This is no exaggeration, as you’ll see for yourself when you read Brave New World. Allow Aldous Huxley to terrify you — and then feel a bit more grateful for the world we do have.

9. An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth

Who better to change your views on life than an astronaut? An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth is much more than just a memoir. Colonel Chris Hadfield shares how his ways of approaching life have led to both success and happiness.

10. Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything

When economist Steven D. Levitt and journalist Stephen J. Dubner formed a partnership to write Freakonomics, they released upon the world some of the strangest economic research you’ll ever read. This book challenges conventional wisdom and uncovers connections in the most unexpected places. If you like the first book, there are three more you can read.


11. A Wrinkle in Time

If you never read A Wrinkle in Time when you were a kid, don’t wait any longer. Although it’s a children’s book, several of the themes are life-changing for adults as well. Madeleine L’Engle manages to mix love and friendship, science and wonder into a short book that you can finish over one weekend.

12. Wonder Women: 25 Innovators, Inventors, and Trailblazers Who Changed History

Women are often forgotten in the history books, despite some truly amazing achievements. Wonder Women by Sam Maggs aims to rectify that. You’ll wonder why never heard of many of these women before. If you’re a woman in a STEM field, or even just an entrepreneur who needs to remember anything is possible, this is a book you must read.

13. In Other Words

Those who are multilingual, or even just learning another language, will find plenty to relate to in the autobiographical work In Other Words. This book explores the challenges of expressing yourself in another language. Although a native-English speaker, Jhumpa Lahiri wrote the book in Italian and had it translated into English. Copies are bilingual, allowing you to read in either (or both) languages.

14. So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to become the next person to go viral online? So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson examines just that — but focusing just on when you gain public attention for the worst possible reasons. The book is humorous, at times disturbing, and you’ll learn things about the world you never thought you needed to know.

15. The Almost Moon

A quick warning: you may hate this novel. All the same, it deserves a place on this list — not least because it is so controversial. The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold is dark and complicated and may leave you questioning the ideas you have about morality.

16. How to Stop Worrying and Start Living

How to Make Friends and Influence People appears on virtually every list of books for business people. However, Dale Carnegie actually wrote several other books, including How to Stop Worrying and Start Living. It certainly deserves as much attention as the book he is most famous for — perhaps the title is just not as catchy?

17. Nine Stories

Continuing on the same theme, we have J.D. Salinger. You’ll find Catcher in the Rye on all sorts of book lists. However, in terms of life-changing books, Nine Stories deserves a spot just as much. Every single one of these short stories is superb — and you’ll keep thinking about it long after you’ve finished reading.

18. Something Happened

Yet another famous author who is best known for one book is Joseph Heller — with, of course, Catch-22. Something Happened is a stream-of-consciousness novel unlike anything you’ve read before. You spend the novel as if you’re living inside the narrator’s brain, witness to all his disturbing thoughts and fantasies. What could be more life changing than that?

19. The Handmaid’s Tale

Margaret Atwood puts her own unique take on dystopian fiction in The Handmaid’s Tale by imagining an extreme patriarchal society. Even if you’ve already seen the TV series, you need to read the book. Best of all, a sequel — The Testaments — just came out in 2019 (more than three decades after The Handmaid’s Tale was first published), meaning you’ll have something else to read straight after.

20. Little Fires Everywhere

Another book that has become a TV series is Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. It has several intertwined storylines with different mysteries that slowly unravel and a few ethical dilemmas that will make you think. Again, put in the time to read the book — it’s worth it.

21. Invitation to a Beheading

Let’s end with one more dystopian novel. Invitation to a Beheading is a confusing tale that only becomes more perplexing the more you read. At the same time, though, each chapter builds on the last to become ever more enthralling in classic Vladimir Nabokov style.

Making Time to Read

For many busy professionals, reading has become a luxury. However, there’s no need for 2021 to be that way. Free up your schedule to have more time to read life-changing books by contracting a virtual assistant.

A virtual administrative assistant can take care of all the routine tasks that are a drain on your time. This will give you more time to read life-changing books, helping you to regain your motivation in 2021. With a virtual assistant from MYVA360, you can outsource any tasks you lack the time to do yourself. Try out our services for yourself with a free trial.

Laura Holton

Laura is a professional writer specializing in content aimed at small businesses and entrepreneurs. She has helped countless startups find the information they needed to take their ventures to the next level.

Laura Holton

Laura is a professional writer specializing in content aimed at small businesses and entrepreneurs. She has helped countless startups find the information they needed to take their ventures to the next level.


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