Are you looking for powerful and thought-provoking books that make you think differently about the world? Don’t miss these life-changing books that will make you think about work, mental health, life, and love.
If you are soul searching for unique and diverse books that will make you think differently about the world and change your life, you are in the right place.
Discover books that open your eyes and expand your mind, books that will make you think about love and life, powerful books that make you smarter and more open, and books that force you to reconsider the meaning of life or old ways of thinking.
These thought-provoking books will teach you something new and maybe even change the way you travel, cook, interact with others, or organize your home.
Find life-changing fiction novels, books about racism and mental health, books to improve the way you work (and don’t work), and nonfiction books that will make you think more deeply.
You may also devour this book list featuring inspiring women in historical fiction.
P.S. Find many of these books to make you think here:
1. We get the month’s hottest new and upcoming titles from Book of the Month.
2. Try Audible Plus.
3. Find books via Kindle Unlimited Membership Plans.
4. As a member of Amazon Prime, don’t miss Amazon First Reads — early access to Kindle books.
Nonfiction Books That Make You Think
One of TUL’s top books of 2020, Untamed will make you think about life and love. A must-read LGBTQ+ memoir, Glennon offers courage and inspirational insight about love, addiction, divorce, and living your truest and most beautiful life. Follow Glennon Doyle on Instagram, too. You won’t regret it. Read more→
Before entering Smith College for undergrad, students in my year read Nickel and Dimed for assigned summer reading.
In 1998, Ehrenreich explores what it means to live (and not live) off of low-income wages under the poverty level. Offering realistic and hardcore insight into the impossibility of surviving in lower working-class America — even when you hold three jobs — Ehrenreich exploits a system that still plagues America today.
For meditative books that make you think more deeply about the healing process, I love love loved Harper’s The Beauty In Breaking. A Black ER physician, Harper shares her experiences overcoming trauma, sexism, divorce, and racism. As Harper says, there is beauty in breaking.
Harper not only examines the world as she sees it but also through her interactions with patients. Even though Harper has a science-based schooling, she advocates for yoga and meditation. Readers watch as Harper is unfairly overlooked for promotions as well as witness faults in the healthcare system. Read more→
Are you looking for nonfiction books that make you think differently about your personality type? Quiet is one of the books that changed the way I think about myself as an introvert (pretending to be an extrovert).
Cain examines the first impressions and stereotypes that we assign with intro- and extroverts in a world where sound trumps quiet. Discover the contributions of introverts, and seek reassurance that it is OK to be who you are, even if that means you prefer to work silently in the background.
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Books That Make You Think Differently About Travel
Bourdain’s travel books make you think outside the box. Whenever I travel, I hear his whispered wanderings in my ear. He saw people for who they were, never idealized a culture, and almost always realized his privileged errors.
A thought-provoking book, A Cook’s Tour talks about common ground across humanity. Food brings people together. Food is the conversation starter and a shared language, trailblazing a discourse about history and politics.
A Cook’s Tour lays out Bourdain’s life as a chef and his initial travels. Bourdain wasn’t always an infamous TV traveler, and his humble beginnings are guides for us all. A Cook’s Tour is a powerful book about human connection. Amazon | Goodreads
A Walk In The Woods is a nonfiction book that will make you laugh and re-rethink inexperienced hiking… As a famous travel writer, Bryson takes on an unlikely challenge: he amateur hikes parts of the Appalachian Trail.
Not exactly a role model for physical fitness or being outdoorsy, Bryson and his boozy friend, Katz, traipse into the woods. An adventure of a lifetime, they learn about their friendship, survival, and a different way of life. Perseverance is everything.
A Walk In The Woods is one of those books that challenges the way we think in regards to perceived impossible challenges. Bryson smashes stereotypes. Read More→
Who hasn’t dreamed of finding oneself in pasta, rice paddies, and meditation rooms? Eat, Pray, Love is one of the many great nonfiction books that make you think about the true meaning of life.
Gilbert finds herself at the crossroads of divorce and unhappiness. She travels around the world to Italy, India, and Indonesia, embracing, love, culture, and friendship, learning the power of compassion and how nature and silence can spark peace within. Read More→
Don’t miss more famous travel writers and their books here.
Life-Changing Books That Will Alter Your Habits & Work Flow
Whether you read or watch Marie Kondo, her tidying advice will most definitely change your life — as long as you are open to it.
Kondo is a pro and loves tidying. She believes the act of organization greatly enhances your life. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up teaches us how to find joy and reduce clutter, literally and figuratively.
Kondo recommends tidying as a way to connect in your relationships and surround yourself with meaningful memories. Through cleaning, we learn who we are (and how much crap we collect).
Kondo’s ideology will have you profoundly examining your bookshelf, closet, and even relationships. See how Kondo’s advice applies to decorating your home, literary-style.
Although not my all-time favorite motivational book (I don’t really have one), Heller forces entrepreneurs and creatives to think outside of the box in regard to their careers.
Heller believes that the way to overcome depression or unhappiness is to find meaning in our lives. By fulfilling our purpose and using our creative talents, we can be both successful and content. Don’t Keep Your Day Job is filled with inspirational business owners’ stories and how they achieved their dreams.
If you like Heller’s ideas, you may also want to check out And Then We Grew Up.
Although parts of Big Magic are a little more spiritual or ‘magical’ than I fully buy into, if you are looking for inspirational books that make you think about passion and creativity, Big Magic is your writing Bible.
Big Magic will encourage, inspire, and tell it like it is. You will close this powerful book more curious, brave, and uncaring.
Gilbert is both real and hilarious. You’ll appreciate her direct and intellectual advice drawn from her experiences as well as other great creatives. We’ve all been the red lobster at a medieval costume party.
Don’t forget that you can find many of these thought-provoking books here:
1. We get the month’s hottest new and upcoming titles from Book of the Month.
2. Try Audible Plus.
3. Find books via Kindle Unlimited Membership Plans.
4. As a member of Amazon Prime, don’t miss Amazon First Reads — early access to Kindle books.
Books That Make You Think Differently About Mental Health
A BOTM selection, Transcendent Kingdom is a thought-provoking book about racism, mental health, and science versus faith and religion. This is an unputdownable book, too, if you love fiction that reads like nonfiction or are looking for a book club novel.
Follow a family of Ghanaian immigrants whose lives are filled with tragedy, depression, and prescription pill addiction. Moving from Ghana to Alabama — where they are met with poverty and racism — feeds into their hardships, causing Gifty to question why her family is struggling so much.
A med student at Stanford, Gifty studies addiction to see if science can help her mother while trying to reconcile her belief in God. The relationships, pain, and storytelling will rock you to your core. Amazon | Goodreads
One of the absolute best books of 2020 about mental health, Matt Haig will stir up all of the emotions in his thought-provoking novel, The Midnight Library.
Set in England, Nora attempts to take her life. In a pill haze on the verge of death, she time travels to the Midnight Library where there are endless possibilities with different routes her life could have taken.
Nora is given the opportunity to see if changing her endless regrets — by living them again — would make her happier. Read more→
One of the best award-winning and translated books that will make you think differently about society, don’t miss The Vegetarian.
Set in Seoul, South Korea and a Man Booker Prize Winner, The Vegetarian is a beautiful and mesmerizing but also intensely disturbing novel about a young woman imprisoned within her own body and society.
Told in three different perspectives, Yeong-hye’s lives an ‘ordinary’ life married to a terrible husband. One night, she has an awful dream filled with blood and brutality. She decides to become a vegetarian, which is taboo to her family and Korean society.
Yeong-hye’s life begins to spiral into chaos, more abuse, abandonment, and entrapment. A hard but thought-provoking and powerful novel with many triggers, explore messages about women’s bodies, society, and mental health. Book Information→
A bestselling YA novel from John Green, Turtles All The Way Down follows Aza as she works to uncover the disappearance of a billionaire on the run.
Aza struggles through her own inward battles, and Turtles All The Way Down will leave readers cheering along for her in a world that sometimes feels like it’s spiraling out of control. Amazon | Goodreads
Books That Make You Think About & Fight Racism
One of the extremely powerful YA books that make you think about racism and BLM, The Hate U Give (THUG) is a must for adults and teens.
As a young black woman, Starr is trapped between two worlds: her preppy white school and her home in Garden Heights, a poorer neighborhood. When her unarmed and innocent cousin is shot and killed by a white police officer, Starr has to make the decision of her life. Does she fight? Or does she stay silent?
Racism, stereotypes, activism, and identity are just a few themes dissected in THUG. THUG is one of many newer YA books that makes you think more deeply about racism and racial tensions in the U.S — and the effects on teens. THUG is also a book that will make you rise. Amazon | Goodreads
One of the most talked-about books of 2020, even though it published in 2019, Ibram X. Kendi’s How To Be An Antiracist will teach you how to combat racism.
Kendi’s philosophy is that you are either a racist or an antiracist, and at times, we all alter between both. In order to be an antiracist, you have to be “one who is supporting an antiracist policy” through your words and actions.
Kendi discusses racism in our biology, ethnicity, culture, spaces, gender, and sexuality. He also points out how growing up as a young Black man, he perpetuated many of his own racist beliefs.
How To Be An Antiracist will teach you how to do the antiracist work needed to charge forward in a more equal society filled with equal opportunities. Read more→
Set in Connecticut, Ruth Jefferson is a black nurse facing white supremacist patients. When their baby goes into sudden cardiac arrest, Ruth — who was taken off of their case the previous day — must make a decision whether or not to intervene.
Ruth’s hesitation lands her in a heartbreaking trial where even her defender doesn’t fully understand how much race and the color of someone’s skin affect Ruth’s life.
If you are looking for a fictional book to read that will further your knowledge of the Black Lives Matter Movement and systematic racism that exists today, don’t miss Such A Fun Age. Through her strong characterization and diverse relationships, Reid tackles racism, classism, privilege, and prejudice.
Alix hires 26-year-old Emira to take care of her unique daughter, Briar. Emira is struggling to find her career while her other friends are becoming ‘adults.’
When a grocery store security guard stops Emira late at night and questions as to why she is with a white child, Alix becomes more and more obsessed with forming a relationship with Emira. Alix has a lot of guilt spurred from her past actions in high school.
A story full of loaded characters and toxic relationships, Such A Fun Age is one of the books that will make you think more deeply about the detrimental white savior complex and white women’s tears. Book Information→
When the yuppie Whitman family moves into Oak Knoll, North Carolina, building a fancy house and killing Valerie’s tree, no one can predict the tragic outcome of this story.
Told via the perspective of an omniscient neighborhood (or neighbor), racism, corruption, and disgusting men abusing power are at the heart of this story. From the beginning, you are aware of imminent tragedy, and the story carries you there until the bitter end.
Reminiscent of Little Fires Everywhere with a tad of Romeo and Juliet, uncover compelling characters in a relevant and provocative plot that will leave you thinking long after you close the novel. Book Information→
One of the newer books that will make you think more deeply about racism, The Black Friend by Frederick Joseph is a less academic version of Kendi’s How To Be An Antiracist in memoir form.
Joseph and prominent members of the Black community — including Angie Thomas — discuss racism and how to be a better white person. Joseph uses his own personal stories to discuss everyday racist acts to say, yup, that was racist regardless of what you think, and here’s how to fix it. Amazon | Goodreads
Friendship Books That Make You Think Outside The Box
A classic book that will make you think outside of the box, The Book Thief brings home the power of words. You’ll find yourself questioning traditional definitions of friendship, prejudice, and family. A WWII novel for teens and adults, friendship and heartache engulf this story.
Liesel is an adopted child and befriends the Jewish man hiding in her basement. Together, we learn how music, art, and words can shape and define our worlds and relationships. Warning: The Book Thief will probably make you cry, too. Read More→
Check out more books like The Book Thief in TUL’s top World War II Book List.
Although Stargirl is a middle-grade read, you cannot help but love the protagonist. Stargirl is one of those younger books to make you think outside of the box, including with your own dang name.
Stargirl is transitioning from homeschool to high school. Unlike the other kids in school, Stargirl walks to her own tune. Although she tries to fit in and even has an admirer, Stargirl knows that she has to be true to herself.
A bit eccentric and mature for her age, I just adore Stargirl’s attitude on life. She is truly a role model for the nonconformist. Stargirl teaches readers how to think differently about societal norms and acceptance. Amazon | Goodreads
If you are looking for coming-of-age and friendship books that make you think, Ask Again, Yes is both poignant and relatable.
Peter and Kate are childhood friends with European immigrant fathers that work together on the police force. One day, Peter’s mother shoots Kate’s dad, testing their friendship and love.
Over the course of 40 years, we watch both families evolve, fall apart, love others, disappear, and try to grow and move on from inescapable and intertwined pasts.
The perfect book club book, Ask Again, Yes is a must-read to get you thinking about forgiveness, pain, and guilt. This is one of those stories that changes you after reading it. Book Information→
If you are looking for books that make you think that you can also finish in a day, In Five Years is a 4-hour read. Set in NYC, this novel will leave you in tears and having all of the feels.
Would your life change if you had one seemingly real dream or premonition? What if some key facts were missing but you had no idea? Can we change the future?
Dannie Kohan has had the perfect life planned out ever since her brother died in a drunk driving accident. On the night of Dannie’s planned engagement, she falls asleep only to ‘see’ herself, 5 years in the future, in the arms of another man. Book Information→
Books To Make You Think About Different Or Unique Perspectives
Are you looking for books that make you think about others’ perspectives? In A Spark of Light, Picoult examines abortion with characters ranging from pro-life to pro-choice — and those on the fence.
Teenage Wren finds herself trapped in a hostage situation. Wren is seeking birth control at a clinic when the gunman enters. Unfortunately, Wren’s father is also one of the lead mediators.
Picoult forces readers to think differently about the black and white way we see abortions, pointing to the gray areas. Don’t miss our book review of A Spark of Light here→
As we headed to Iceland, I delved into Icelandic literature, both new and old. Woman At 1,000 Degrees is one of those books that will make you think differently about the world, humanity, and brutal histories.
Based on the first Prime Minister’s granddaughter, Helgason recreates a true story about Iceland during WWII. Unique to books about WW2, the protagonist’s father heads into battle to fight for Hitler.
Readers learn more about growing up as a displaced child of war, and how we either overcome or succumb to a devastating past. You’ll both love and dislike Herra.
Be careful; Woman at 1000 Degrees is another book to make you cry. Read The Full Book Review→
Books That Make You Think About Class, Socioeconomics & Wealth
I rarely declare a book one of my all-time favorites, but I truly love Richard Russo’s Empire Falls.
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, readers enter the working-class, blue-collar town of Empire Falls, Maine. This decaying town reminds me exactly of Riverdale…before underage Veronica somehow opened up a speakeasy and Archie took part in a fight club. You know what I mean.
Miles runs the local burger joint (Pops, anyone?!), is getting a divorce, and wants nothing more than a normal life for his daughter. Empire Falls is one those books that make you think more deeply about wealth, love, disappointment, and survival in America. Amazon | Goodreads
If you liked Empire Falls or Nickel And Dimed, check out indie title, Blood and Sand. As thought-provoking, new-adult fiction, watch as once rich Logan Cole loses it all.
With her father’s name ruined, Logan flees to Ramsbolt, Maine with hopes to start all over again. Welcomed in by the kindness of strangers, Logan slowly falls in love with her new bartending life.
These cocktails are life-changing and each holds meaning and personality. Logan is a reverse rags-to-riches story. Read TUL’s Book Review→
The Glass Castle is one of those books that make you think about the balance of living a happy life versus paying the bills. Also a movie, readers follow along as Walls learns what it is like growing up with parents’ heads stuck in the clouds.
With a dreamer father, Walls spends her childhood living in a precarious situation of having nothing but still possessing the undying love of her irresponsible family. The siblings ban together to care for each other.
Walls perseveres and succeeds as an adult while her parents choose to live homeless. In a story of resilience, The Glass Castle is a thought-provoking book with insight into living a fantasy life that never comes to fruition versus finding the balance of a healthy, happy, and productive existence. Amazon | Goodreads
One of the most relevant and thought-provoking books of 2020, Wilkerson discusses how like India, America has its own caste system. Ours began with slavery.
Most eye-opening to me was learning that the Nazi party looked to America as an example for how to manage marginalized groups and guard white supremacy.
Wilkerson defines caste as a system that holds everyone in their place and withholds privilege, resources, humanity, and kindness from people who are lowest on the contrived hierarchy. Caste is a social order that is so woven into the fabric of American society, it is second nature to us to uphold it. Book Information→
Books That Make You Think About The Role Of Government
The Handmaid’s Tale is one of the books that make you think about women’s rights and government power. Could this be our future?
Offred tells the story of how modern society transforms from what we know today into a strict social order. The Handmaids are used to procreate in a disturbing and wordless act of sex with others’ husbands. Kept like prisoners, readers enter a bizarre world of intolerance mixed with religion.
Jivan is Muslim living in a poverty-stricken area of India. When a terrorist organization attacks a commuter train in her neighborhood, the police arrest her.
Although innocent of the crime, the government needs a scapegoat, especially with a new corrupt political party hoping to win the elections.
Watch as three people in similar situations destroy each other to save themselves. Atmospheric and heart-wrenching, A Burning is one of best sociopolitical books to make you think more deeply about corruption in the government and abuse of power. Book Information→
Books That Make You Think Differently About Societal Expectations
If you are looking for books that will make you think differently about the world, Convenience Store Woman follows the life of a convenience store worker, Keiko Furukura, who lives in Tokyo, Japan.
Keiko believes that she can live a ‘normal’ existence only if she makes others and society happy. She must follow a prescribed way of life: get a ‘real’ full-time job, marry young, and have kids.
Even though Keiko tries to be the perfect convenient store worker, comically shouting out promotions and making sure the shelves are always stocked, she knows that everyone else critically judges her. When Keiko tries to conform, nothing feels right. She is miserable.
Convenience Store Woman is also the perfect thought-provoking book for Women In Translation month. Read more→
Although people either love John Green or don’t, all of his books make you think differently about the world. Green also writes the perfect YA books for those wanting more in life.
Paper Towns criticizes those overdeveloped gated communities that we see so much in our former Florida home. Conformity. Sure, Margo might be a self-indulgent twat at times, but that is part of the reason why Quentin loves her.
Margo disappears in the midst of their high school career, causing Q to follow a scavenger hunt where he learns about life, friendship, and coming of age.
Books That Make You Ponder The Meaning Of Life
Once diagnosed with terminal cancer, Randy Pausch decides to give his last lecture about the meaning of life.
Seize every day and every moment because it is true that life goes by quickly. Help others, move on, and dream big are just a few messages in this book that makes you think about life and death. Amazon | Goodreads
*Small Spoiler Alert Here*
If you were wheelchair-bound and couldn’t move any of your extremities, would you still want to live?
Me Before You is one of many heartbreaking books that make you think about terminating a suffering life and the definitions of living a quality life. Me Before You does not end happily ever after.
A somewhat controversial novel, Me Before You introduces boring ‘ole Louisa Clark to Will. Will used to be the glam boy living a life of luxury with a hot girlfriend and money from his successful career. Now confined to his wheelchair and dependent on everyone for help, he no longer wishes to live.
Powerful Classic Books That Make You Think
A Pulitzer Prize Winner, Beloved is one of many classic books to make you think and look at the world through new eyes. It will also stay with you for a long time after finishing it.
Born into and eventually escaping slavery in Kentucky, Sethe finds freedom in Ohio. Is she really free, though? Sethe can never fully escape her memories or past, including the death of a child. Read More →
If you are looking for a contemporary classic book that will make you think, Middlesex lands on almost every list — as it should.
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, uncover a world of family secrets, gender fluidity, and how we battle social constructs. There are also themes of migration from a tiny Greek village and assimilation to Detroit.
Fantasy And Science Fiction Books That Make You Think Differently About The World
Did you know that there are also fantastic and faith-based YA fantasy books that make you think differently about the world?
The Warrior Maiden is one of many global books that will force you to reexamine the treatment of women in the world. This Mulan retelling is about taking charge of your family and fate as a woman in Lithuania.
Mulan replaces her dead father’s spot in the war to save her mother’s home. Dressing up as a man, Mulan leads an army against the Teutonic Knights while finding love and her place in a male-dominated society.
Dickerson, a Christian writer, questions the role of faith in our lives. Does religion dictate tolerance or condemnation? Feminist yet fairytale, this YA story obliterates stereotypes. Read More→
Do you love fairy tale retellings? Check out these popular stories based on Mulan.
Do you ever feel like the world is fighting back after all that we have done to it? Are we creating our own Doomsday? The Unfortunate Expiration Of Mr. David S. Sparks is the perfect fantasy book to make you question reality.
David is struggling to determine which of his perceived worlds is real. One day he wakes up with his fairly normal family while the next, he is involved in a field of eyes, political movements, and modified plant engineering gone wrong. While trying to stay alive, David must determine whose side he is on, and who he can trust.
In a world that is filled with wires and people connected to storage clouds, you don’t want to miss this philosophical sci-fi thriller.
Sound like a book you want to read? Get the full review of The Unfortunate Expiration of Mr. David S. Sparks→
If you love science fiction, don’t miss TUL’s Books About Time Travel Reading List.
Beautiful Children’s Books That Make You Think
The Little Prince is one of my favorite stories of all time — perfect for any age. Also a childhood classic, this is one of those illustrated books to make you think differently about the fast-paced world and what is truly important.
A book about love and life, our Little Prince tries to figure out our motivations for work and how we interact with others. Why do we count the stars?
As the Little Prince learns to tame the fox, we discover what it is like to build trust and cultivate connections and friendship. The Little Prince is also a book that might make you cry. Amazon | Goodreads
One of the sweetest, simplest, and most powerful books that I’ve read in a long time, I can now see why everyone is talking about The Boy, The Mole, The Fox, and The Horse.
An illustrated graphic novel for the entire family, this story is a modern-day The Little Prince. The Boy… is mandatory reading for humanity. Plus, cake.
A mole and a boy begin talking about who they are and the imprint they wish to leave on the world. Success is love, connection, and kindness. Fear has no place in our lives. We can only control our own reactions. It’s OK to ask for help, and listening is just as important as talking. Book Information→
What Books Make You Think Differently About The World?
What books have made you think outside of the box or changed your life’s perspective? What books have caused you to question the world around you and encouraged you to make small life changes? Lastly, what is the most thought-provoking book that you’ve read recently?
This book list originally posted on April 15, 2019 and has been updated for 2021.