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The most transformative books of all time

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Darko Savic
Darko Savic Aug 25, 2020
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If you wanted to leave a strongly positive influence on someone's life using a single book, which is the one book you would recommend, and why?

Sure, everyone has read several amazing books, but if you had to zero it down to one - which one would you consider life-changing?
Creative contributions

Ernest Hemingway – The Old Man and the Sea

jnikola Aug 27, 2020
Imagine talking to a guy who was one of six children, great in sports and had a bright future, but at the age of 18 was recruited and fought in three wars, drank with Pablo Picasso and James Joyce, survived anthrax, got married four times, won a Nobel prize and at the end killed himself. Is he the guy who knows all the answers or just an entertaining drinking buddy? I was never much of a reader, but The Old Man and the Sea is my number one. I started reading it because it was the only book on a white shelf of my sister’s apartment during the coronavirus lockdown. Through the character of old Santiago, Hemingway describes life as a series of battles, which at the same time destroy and build us. By taking part in those battles, we find purpose, and therefore we never lose, just get damaged and repaired, often upgraded, taking different shapes throughout life. Here you have a book simple, modern, and entertaining enough to be accidentally picked up and read by anybody, but at the same time very powerful and challenging to provoke self-reflection and positive thinking. If it will be your drinking buddy or an answer to a million-dollar question, it’s your call.
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A (not so) humble "Apology" of Socrates, by Plato

Matteo Ferrari
Matteo Ferrari Oct 23, 2020
You have an inquiring mind, able to help people around you to let go of their preconceptions by encouraging critical thinking.
You are a playful thinker, with no great ambitions but with a desire for knowledge, because “The unexamined life is not worth living”.
You are considered by those who know you a wise person, believing that for everyone the most important and yet most difficult goal is “know thyself”.

Now pack all your beautiful ideals, shove them in your briefcase, and hope they will stand trial because some people decided to make an example of you: your skeptic's attitude looks a lot like atheism and that may corrupt the youth.

The Apology is a story of a martyrdom committed in the name of knowledge and adherence to one's ideals, but it is also a cautionary tale on how we often tend, as individuals and as a society, to condemn some of our most defining instincts: curiosity and critical thinking.
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"Sapiens" by Yuval Noah Harari

Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni Oct 26, 2020
Answers most questions regarding "why we are, the way we are?" convincingly and is a classic example of the extraction of knowledge from our history.
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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni4 years ago
"Sapiens" is a more serious kind of a book. For a fun read, try "It's not you, it's biology" by Joe Quirk. Although, the latter talks only about the biological aspect of humans. "Sapiens" talks about, more or less, everything related to humans - history, religion, capitalism, revolutions, you name it.
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Three Great books

Mohammad Shazaib
Mohammad Shazaib Aug 25, 2020
I have read plethora of books on variety of topics ranging from history to science fiction. The best books that gave me infinte lessons for my life. 1: The Story of Civilization Will Durant wrote one of the finest books on History of human civilisation. Comprised of 11 volumes, these books have recorded 100 centuries of human civilisation. It takes us back to the Stone Age, telling us about our forefathers; then moving along the timeline of centuries to modern civilization.  We get a Great deal knowledge from this book about our traditions , customs, values, religion and folklore. 2: Picture of Dorian Gray Written in his distinctively dazzling manner, Oscar Wilde’s story of a fashionable young man who sells his soul for eternal youth and beauty is the author’s most popular work. The tale of Dorian Gray’s moral disintegration caused a scandal when it first appeared in 1890, but though Wilde was attacked for the novel’s corrupting influence, he responded that there is, in fact, “a terrible moral in Dorian Gray.” 3 : The Myth of Sisyphus Throughout history, some books have changed the world. They have transformed the way we see ourselves—and each other. They have inspired debate, dissent, war and revolution. They have enlightened, outraged, provoked and comforted. They have enriched lives—and destroyed them. Inspired by the myth of a man condemned to ceaselessly push a rock up a mountain and watch it roll back to the valley below, The Myth of Sisyphus transformed twentieth-century philosophy with its impassioned argument for the value of life in a world without religious meaning.
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Always a clash between the two in my case...

Anja M
Anja M Sep 03, 2020
... But I choose: "The Scaffold" - Chingiz Aytmatov Aytmatov is not a generally known writer. He was a Soviet and Kyrgyz post-war writer portraying deep themes through the lives of ordinary people. However, he also uses a lot of fantasy and science fiction elements accompanying the lives of the characters and that's why he usually falls within the "magic realism" sub-genre. Another line of his main characters are animals.
So, in "The Scaffold", we parallelly follow the stories of a wolf couple trying to find a settlement, a shepherd and his family, and an excommunicated monk on a trip with a gang picking cannabis. As the stories and the characters' reminiscences go, they start to gradually intersect leading to an overwhelming and cathartic turn of events. The stories of never-settling life, idealism, faith, nostalgia, pain, are so well composed you want to both savor and save this book for more.
The themes and surroundings are very Soviet post-war, but the writing style differs from the classical Russian realism, so either with this or other books of his, as well as short stories he wrote, I definitely recommend you give it a go.
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'The Kite runner' by Khaled Hosseini

Nitish Oct 25, 2020
After the collapse of USSR, Afghanistan is under civil war till date. Many have been killed, and many more have been forced to exile. This is unfortunate but true indeed. The way the author has narrated this whole book is outstanding. The pain, grief a whole community has faced during the war, and how the several generations have been ruined for merely satisfying the ego of a bunch of people is remarkably written by the Hosseini. A must read!
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1984, George Orwell

Martina Pesce
Martina Pesce Oct 26, 2020
I know it's a classic, but it's so brilliant!
And, I'd say there are so many parallels with the current situation which make it even more brilliant now than when it was written.

  • The devices from the Party in every home to spy on you -> Alexa
  • The final where the protagonist actually belive in the "truth" of the party -> political opinions are considered true compared to objective data and facts, and if they are not considered so they are repeated until they are
  • the endless war and hate of the protagonist country (Eurasia) with the other countries -> the very actual nationalism and racism
  • the dictatorship of the Party -> the fascism like party raising everywhere (Poland, vox in Spain, Casa pound in Italy...)

Which other parallelisms can you see?
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One Hundred Years of Solitude

Subash Chapagain
Subash Chapagain Nov 03, 2020
Probably one of the crucial cornerstones in the world literature, especially for the genre of magical realism, this surreal novel by Gabriel Garcia Marquez beats my list everytime I try to create one (yeah, for the fiction, of course.) What sets this book apart is two-fold: first, this is a landmark that popularized the genre of magical realism- making the non-real look and feel real (and gave the author the honorary title of Father of Magical Realism). Second, the book brought about the Colombian and to a larger extent the Latin American culture to the forefront of the world's eyesight. No wonder there have been instances when people visiting Colombo genuinely asked for the village of Macondo- the set and the backdrop of the story that makes One hundred years of solitude. In the book, Marquez have touched great many aspects of human conditions: familial ties, revenge, bondage, rage, and possibly every other emotional cue that we can harbor. The story of the Buendia family feels as legitimate and real, nevertheless making the reader gasp in surprise and awe as he plots the story giving a multi-centennial narration. A lot of uncanny incidents happen (or are anticipated to happen): kids born out of incest might have a pig's tail, some members of the family live for two or more centuries, ants take over the house, soldiers sustain innumerable injuries. However, amidst these improbable incident, Marquez uses numbers and incidents to subdue the skepticism of the reader- he persuades us into believing that indeed there is a thin line between fantasy and reality.
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Kafka on the shore

Nitish Feb 11, 2021
Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami is one of the few books I have read more than two times. Literally, It's a pearl in the ocean of literature. This book has transformed me from an occasional reader to a continuous seeker of magical realism of books. I wish to have words to describe its mesmerising story, flow, the and labyrinth of kafkaesque, which undoubtedly captivates the reader- a must-read for the one who enjoys the third dimension of reality.
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The 4 disciplines of execution by C. McChesney, S. Covey and J. Huling

Darko Savic
Darko Savic Nov 02, 2020
Some books are sufficiently transformative for hyperspecialized people. For example this one can in my opinion make the difference between success and failure for someone who is on a mission.
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The Last Temptation of Christ by Nikos Kazantzakis (1955)

Ana Suarez Oct 29, 2020
It is challenging to choose one book by Kazantzakis. This book’s merit is that the internal struggle between flesh and spirit (evil, selfishness – good, brotherhood, sympathy, compassion) is not presented as a dichotomy but rather as a decision to follow the path God has destined (“The doors of heaven and hell are adjacent and identical".
Even though it is based on the Gospels, the novel proposes Jesus as a human character, in constant tension. There is no heroism in him; instead, he is a plain man haunted by his Mission. At the very last minute, he even fantasizes about escaping his fate and living a “normal” life away from the burden of being the redeemer of humanity.

Every man and woman have their own struggle, and Kazantzakis remarks the need to fight the enemy inside each one of us: “If the soul within us does not change, Judas, the world outside us will never change. The enemy is within, the Romans are within, salvation starts from within!”

It is also remarkable the treatment of Judas’ betrayal. The Bible proposes him as a traitor, as a symbol of evil, as Jesus’ counterpart. Kazantzakis, instead, portrays Judas as one of the principal personages for redemption. In one of the dialogues with him, Judas asks: “If you had to betray your master, would you do it?”. Jesus’ reply is one of the most moving scenes in the book: “No, I’m afraid I wouldn’t be able to. That is why God pitied me and gave me the easier task: to be crucified.”

Kazantzakis was born in Crete under the Ottoman Empire. He always fought for Greek independence and against all forms of imperialism, and that does not escape this book: “Love is not unarmed,” said Jesus, looking at the centurion’s cold blue eyes, his freshly shaven cheeks, and fat, short-fingered hands. ‘Love too makes war and runs to the assault.’”

Aesthetically, it is an exquisite text (as all of Kazantzakis’ works); this statement from Report to Greco (2012) summarizes it all: "Beauty is merciless. You do not look at it; it looks at you and does not forgive" .

Ps.: There is a well-known movie by Martin Scorsese that does not measure up, but it is still highly recommendable.

[1]Kazantzakis, N. (2012). The Last Temptation of Christ [Scribd version]. Retrieved from: https://www.scribd.com/book/224253705/The-Last-Temptation-of-Christ

[2]Kazantakis, N. (2012). Report to Greco [Scribd version]. Retrieved from: https://www.scribd.com/book/224747688/Report-to-Greco

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