Are you a traveler or reader looking for books that make you think differently? Find wanderlust-inducing inspiration or returning nostalgia to change the way you think about the world. Some of these books will make you smarter while others are the most powerful books that will make you cry. All will make you think outside of the box.
Are you perusing the shelves for unique and uncorked global book lists and book recommendations that make you think and books for deep thinkers?
Discover books that make you think outside of the box, books that make you think about love, and books that make you think about the meaning of life. These are some of the most powerful books of all time, in my humbly uncorked opinion. Of course, find fiction books that will change your life and nonfiction books to make you think.
I added in a few fun books lists that are exclusive to TUL, including WWII books set around the world, finding love in unique places, spooky books for adults, and my favorite travel writers.
Scroll down for some of my favorite book lists or read on to learn about books that make you think differently.
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Great Nonfiction Books That Make You Think
Before entering Smith College for undergrad, students in my year read Nickel and Dimed for assigned summer reading.
In 1998, Ehrenreich explored 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.
Nickel and Dimed is an eye-opening book that will change the way you think about the income gap and assumptions we make about the poor.
When I woke up to the news of Bourdain’s death, I could barely breathe all day. Feeling like I was underwater, my travel idol had left this world, prematurely.
Bourdain whispered his wanderings in my ear over and over again as I traveled the world. He saw people for who they were, never idealized a culture, and almost always realized his privileged errors.
As a book to make you think about food and the world, A Cook’s Tour talks about common ground. Food brings people together. Food is the conversation starter, 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.
If I ever become a published author, writing travel memoirs, my voice might match Bill Bryson’s wit and sarcasm. A Walk In The Woods is a nonfiction book that makes you laugh and should land on everyone’s bookshelf.
One of my favorite nonfiction writers, Bryson takes on an unlikely challenge: hiking 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. In 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.
Do you love travel memoirs as much as I celebrate finding a new brewery? Head over to TUL’s favorite inspirational travel writers.
Books That Make You Smarter
Looking for nonfiction books that make you smarter? Quiet is one of the books that changed the way I think about myself.
Back in the day, I always used to consider myself an introvert even though I pushed hard to appear as an extrovert. And why is this?
Cain examines the impressions and stereotypes that we assign with intro- and extroverts in a world where the flamboyancy trumps quiet. Discover the contributions of introverts and reassurance that it is OK to be who you are, even if that means you prefer to work silently in the background.
I loved Quiet as an audiobook and this is one of my favorite books that makes you think about stereotyping and collective values. Read More→
Most Powerful Books
A Pulitzer Prize Winner, Beloved is one of many classic books to make you think and look at the world through new eyes. You shouldn’t miss Beloved throughout your formal or informal education. I studied the title in both high school and undergraduate classes and Beloved is one of those deep books that stays with you forever.
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.
Beloved is one of the most powerful books of all time. Read More →
Another extremely powerful book that is also highly relevant is The Hate U Give. The Hate U Give exemplifies the Black Lives Matter movement and gives strength and voice to a story that deserves a place in literature.
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 books that makes you think differently about current racism and racial tensions in the U.S. THUG is also a book that will make you cry and rise.
Books That Will Change Your Life
Whether you read or watch Marie Kondo, her tidying advice will change your life.
Honestly, I will never understand the Twitter backlash Kondo received in the bookish community. Kondo is a pro that loves tidying and believes the act of organization greatly enhances your life. Kondo’s book teaches us to think about how we find joy and reduce clutter, literally and figuratively.
We collect many items over the years. Some bring us joy. Others litter our homes and should be thanked and discarded.
Marie 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). I know that I reexamined how much ‘stuff’ I have and what I waste on a daily basis. Kondo’s Japanse ascetic and culture are new and eye-opening to this American.
Kondo’s ideology will have you profoundly examining your bookshelf, closet, and even relationships.
Who hasn’t dreamed of change and finding oneself in pasta, rice paddies, and meditation rooms? Eat, Pray, Love is one of those meaningful books that so many people can relate to.
Elizabeth Gilbert finds herself at the crossroads of divorce, unhappiness, and a messy life that she so badly wants to reclaim. Instead of proverbially driving her situation off of a cliff, Gilbert decides to travel around the world, embracing, love, culture, and friendship. She learns the power of compassion and how nature and silence can spark peace within.
Gilbert has enhanced my travels and her books make me woke to the world. When I moved to Indonesia, her life lessons and honesty coursed through my veins.
Eat, Pray, Love is one of many great nonfiction books that make you think about the true meaning of life. Read More→
Books That Make You Think Outside The Box
A classic, The Book Thief brings home the power of words and is one of those books that makes you think outside the box and 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 who befriends the Jewish man hiding in her basement. Together, we learn how music, art, and words can shape and define our worlds. Warning: The Book Thief is one of those books that will make you cry. 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 title, you cannot help but love her. Stargirl is one of those younger books guaranteed 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, as a book, teaches readers how to think differently about societal norms and acceptance. Stargirl is one of the deepest books for middle schoolers that is still fun.
Books That Change The Way You Think
Are you looking for books that change the way you think? Picoult is always in tune with modern issues.
In A Spark of Light, Picoult decides to examine the controversy surrounding abortion. With characters ranging from anti-abortion to pro-choice and on the fence, teenage Wren finds herself trapped in a hostage situation. Wren is merely seeking birth control yet now her life is part of a deadly situation. Even worse, her father is one of the lead mediators.
Picoult forces readers to think differently about the black and white way we see abortions, pointing on the gray areas. A Spark of Light is also a powerful book that shares diverse and conflicting perspectives.
Interested to read more? Check out TUL’s full book review of A Spark of Light.
Books That Make You Cry
Now made into 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 preserves and succeeds as an adult while her parents choose to live homelessly. In a story of resilience, The Glass Castle is a thought-provoking book with insight into living a dream-filled life that never comes to fruition versus finding the balance of a healthy, happy, and productive existence.
The Glass Castle is one of those books sure to make you cry.
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 and its brutal histories.
Based on the first Prime Minister’s granddaughter, Helgason recreates a true story about Iceland during WWII. Unique to this war story, 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. TW for rape, incest, abuse, and brutality. Be careful; Woman at 1000 Degrees is another book to make you cry. Read The Full Book Review→
Books For Deep Thinkers
With the Hulu series out, I had to pick up The Handmaid’s Tale, especially with the striking garb making news during recent US protests. This book will truly make you think about women’s rights and is one of the most powerful books for deep thinkers. 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.
Perverse yet somehow witty, The Handmaid’s Tale is a satire in an overly regulated and hypocritical society. TW: Rape
Although people either love John Green or don’t, all of his books make you think differently about the world. Green writes the perfect YA books for deep thinkers.
For me, Paper Towns touches upon those overdeveloped gated communities that we see so much in Florida. 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. Paper Towns is a book to make you think about the purpose of life.
Fantasy Books That Make You Think
Let’s take a moment to step back and get more lighthearted with fantasy books that will make you think.
The Warrior Maiden is one of many global books that make you think differently in relation to 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 forces you to think differently about the world around us. Read More→
Check out this book list of popular Mulan retellings.
Do you ever feel like the world is attacking back after all that we have done to it? Are we creating our own Doomsday? The Unfortunate… is the perfect fantasy book to make you think about where society is heading.
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→
Books That Will Make You Think About The Meaning Of Life
The Little Prince is one of my favorite stories of all time–perfect for any age. Also a childhood classic, this book will make you think differently about the fast-paced world and what is important. The Little Prince is one of my favorite life-changing books to re-read over and over again.
An illustrated 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. There is a small TW for implied suicide, although scholars have debated this. Find The Little Prince gifts here. The Little Prince is also a book that might make you cry.
Once diagnosed with terminal cancer, Randy Pausch decides to give his last lecture about the merits 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 a book that makes you think differently about life and death. The Last Lecture is truly one of the best meaningful books about life.
If you were wheelchair-bound and couldn’t move any of your extremities, would you still want to live? 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 in the disabled world, 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.
Louisa must determine what true love means to her while discovering how to live your life to the fullest. Me Before You is one of those books that will make you cry, too.
More Fun Lists With Books That Make You Think:
While book lists set around the world are my jam, The Uncorked Librarian loves bringing light to books that make readers think differently about life. These are a few of TUL’s favorite and most popular book lists.
Be sure to click on the image to head over to your favorite lists.
Scary and Spooky Books That Will Change The Way You Think
I am such a wimp. Does anyone else struggle to read scary books late at night? However, this tipsy reader can appreciate a historical witch read or bone-chilling book to cool off with on the beach.
These three books lists pull together spooky, fun, and witchy titles from bloggers, bookstagrammers, teachers, and librarians. Maybe these titles will jolt you into seeing the world differently. [Cue evil laugh.]
Books That Make You Think: Diverse Books For Youth
As a former youth service librarian, I loved reading the latest realistic fiction books for teens. YA fantasy is one of my not-so-guilty pleasures, too.
Below, find book lists for teens, middle-grade students, and children. From learning about life as a refugee to living with depression or coming of age as a transgendered child, these are the best books to make you think differently and grow.
Best Indie Books That Make You Think Outside Of The Box
One of the best aspects of book blogging is working directly with authors. Indie authors and publishing thrive on TUL. Sometimes lesser known and on tight budgets, these authors need our help and support.
When was the last time you read a book from an indie author/publisher? Up until last year, I rarely read anything indie. I assumed these titles were poorly written and created by authors who could not find solid publishers. Ouch. Man, I sucked. Maybe it’s time to think differently about indie books.
Did you know that many authors choose to go indie for freedom? Or that most work full-time jobs in addition to writing? Do you know how many mind-blowingly amazing indie books are out there that no one will ever hear about? As a former librarian, my system would never purchase indie titles. YET, most of my favorite books last year were…INDIE.
Don’t get me wrong: Bad indie books exist, which is why I am showcasing my favorites. These indies offer good books that make you think.
Books That Will Make You Smarter For The Guy In Your Life
While I don’t like to suggest books based on gender assumptions, too often people ask me what books they should buy for the guy in their life. Usually, this means dad. Anyone can read and love these titles. BUT, in case you wanted books for Father’s Day, I had to create at least one book list with titles I enjoy. Find memoirs, cookbooks, and newer titles in Books For Him. These books will make you think about how to better your dinners too…
Great Books That Make You Think About Love All Over The World
Personally, I am not a romance novel enthusiast. Occasionally, though, I am a sucker for a good love story, especially if that romance lands across oceans.
Love comes in many different forms, too. What and whom do you love? Mexican tacos? Your pups? Where do you find love? How about the local hospital? Scotland? During times of war?
Some of my favorite book bloggers and readers helped create this Love Stories book list. I promise these fiction books will change the way you think and love.
Did you that books will change the way you think? The most meaningful books are those that open our eyes and help us think outside of the box. I hope these books help guide you, inspire your decision making, and encourage you to live your best life.
How would you rate these books? Which books for thinking are your favorite or make you smarter and better? DM with books that changed the way you think.