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Sometimes we want to read to be entertained, experience another time or world, or simply just pass some time. While a great book will leave an impression on your heart, others may be soon forgotten once you put them back on the shelf.

But some books will capture your mind and challenge your view of the world. These can range from thought-provoking dystopian novels to mind-boggling nonfiction reads.

Fictional Books That Make You Think

Well-written stories will not only entertain you, but also convey ideas about life and the world that may challenge some of your perceptions. Here are some fiction books that can offer a different perspective of the world around you.

1. Animal Farm by George Orwell

This seemingly childish novel tells about a group of farm animals who rebel against their owner to take over the farm. Things go well at first, but the pigs soon start to take charge, constantly changing the rules and taking advantage of the other animals. The story, published in 1945, was written as an allegory for the Soviet Union under Communist Party rule.

2. The Giver by Lois Lowry 

The protagonist of this story is a boy who was chosen to be The Receiver of all the memories of the community after his dystopian society orders that all experiences, both of happiness and sorrow, be collected and kept away from the people. 

3. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

This book features an interesting narrator: Death itself. The story follows an adopted child named Liesel who becomes friends with the Jewish man hiding in her basement in Nazi Germany.

4. Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe

This classic tale, set on a deserted island, may appear to be just a series of one adventure after another, but Robinson Crusoe’s experience explores many moral themes, including repentance and killing in self-defense.

5. White Stallion of Lipizza by Marguerite Henry 

This children’s book explores the world of the famous Lipizzaner Stallions, who perform intricate acrobatic moves and dances. The story takes a close look at the instruction and care that the trainers give these horses to harness their natural movements. 

6. Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

Despite this being a middle-grade book, protagonist Stargirl’s transition from homeschool to high school is a great look at someone being true to herself. The story will challenge your thinking about societal norms as well as appearances.

7. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Don’t let this classic children’s book fool you with its innocent-looking characters: the story takes a close look into how beliefs shape the way we live, and how changing them can transform our entire lives. 

8. The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

Master storyteller C.S. Lewis offers a unique twist in this novel: the narrator is a senior demon writing to his nephew and protégée, Wormwood. The mentor is teaching Wormwood how to entice his assigned human to choose evil over good, starting with little things. The book will challenge your perspective of what it means to make moral choices in everyday life.

9. Little Lord Fauntleroy by Frances Hodgson Burnett 

Another children’s classic, Frances Hodgson Burnett skillfully weaves a tale of how goodness and believing the best in others can affect them and eventually transform their lives. When you’re having trouble seeing the best in other people, this book will be a breath of fresh air. 

10. The Little Duke by Charlotte Mary Yonge

This historical story of Duke Richard’s childhood explores important themes of revenge and forgiveness: what do you do with the person who murdered your father? What about another child who treats you shamelessly in his kingdom—when the tables are turned and he becomes a prisoner in your castle, how would you treat him? 

11. Ishmael by Daniel Quinn

This award-winning philosophical novel follows a nameless narrator, who responds to an ad in the newspaper that states “Teacher seeks pupil. Must have an earnest desire to save the world. Apply in person.” In this unique and captivating story, Quinn examines the subtle cultural biases that drive our modern civilization, and explores themes of ethics and sutainability.

Nonfiction Books to Challenge Your Thinking

Nonfiction books can also include those that you simply forget after you read them, and those that stay with you for years to come. Here are some nonfiction books that we believe will give you something to chew on:

12. Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell 

In this book, Gladwell debunks the myth that “prodigy” is behind success and instead offers the idea that hard work and knowing how to seize opportunities are what help us succeed. The book will challenge you to work harder to achieve greatness. 

13. The Story of My Life by Helen Keller 

This autobiography of the deaf-mute child who grew up to be an educated and successful lady will surely challenge your excuses: how can someone who had every disadvantage in life still find the courage and energy to pursue education and a meaningful life? 

14. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl 

Borne out of Frankl’s four years in death camps during the Nazi regime, the book shares his findings of which kinds of prisoners survived the years of brutal treatment: those who were living for some greater purpose. 

15. Walden by Henry David Thoreau 

Originally published as “Life in the Woods,” this memoir-type book contains Thoreau’s reflections on living in simple, natural surroundings, after living in a cabin near Walden Pond for more than two years and two months. 

16. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman 

Nobel prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman and his colleague Amos Tversky are considered the godfathers of Behavioral Economics. In this book, Kahneman shows us how the mind works through two systems: fast, emotional, and intuitive processes, or slower, logical, and deliberative ways. 

17. A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink

Bestselling author Daniel Pink explores the differences between left- and right-brain thinking. He looks at the value of the right hemisphere, and its skills in humor, empathy, and design, particularly as the Information Age transitions into the Conceptual Age. 

18. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo 

Marie Kondo has become a household name with her ideas about decluttering and organizing, but does tidying up actually have an effect on your life? Read this book and see how it can make a difference for you. 

19. The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan 

This book challenges the way you think about food by looking at what you eat, but also at how food makes it way to your table, including the policies regulating it and how it affects the world at large. 

Read Challenging Books

As you choose more books to add to your TBR (to be read) list, be sure to include some that will challenge your thinking.

That way, you not only get some time to relax with an entertaining read, but you will also expand your perspective of life and the world. 

What was the last book that made you think? Tell us about it in the comments below!


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