Q&A: What is a Life-Changing Book?

Quora is a question-and-answer site where questions are asked, answered, edited, and organized by its community of users. I'm one of them, and my answers have been viewed nearly 300,000 times, as of this writing. On December 11th, 2017, I answered the question, "What is a Life-Changing Book?", and here is my answer:

I’m going to restrict my answer to just one, even though I’m on my way to reading 1,000 books before I turn 30, and having finished nearly 500 so far, I can say that at least 100 have radically altered the trajectory of my life.

But, just ONE…OK fine. Here goes:

I take notes on every single book I read (I have thousands of pages of notes by now), but I can say that my 6 pages of notes from Meditations is something I return to OFTEN.

Without boring you with the details, Marcus Aurelius was a Roman Emper Emperor 2,000 years ago and he ruled the Empire back when there was a major civil war, invasions from the North, etc. He had marital troubles, health problems, on and on and on and on.

But what he realized (and this is part of the branch of philosophy called Stoicism) that events could be separated into things he COULD control, and things he could NOT control.

Meditations is a famous, FAMOUS book and it has experienced a suddent sudden revival in popularity over the last few decades, and for good reason.

Here are just a few of my notes from the book:

“At some point you have to recognize what world it is that you belong to; what power rules it and from what source you spring; that there is a limit to the time assigned you, and if you don't use it to free yourself it will be gone and will never return.”

“Don't ever forget what proportion of the world you make up.”

“You could leave life right now. Let that determine what you do, say, and think.”

“Accept death in a cheerful spirit, as nothing but the dissolution of the elements from which each living thing is composed. If it doesn't hurt the individual elements to change continually into one another, why are people afraid of all of them changing and separating? It's a natural thing. And nothing natural is evil.”

“Is it your reputation that is bothering you? But look at how soon we're all forgotten. The abyss of endless time that swallows all. The emptiness of all those applauding hands.”

“Say nothing untrue, do nothing unjust.”

This book is AMAZING. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

And it’s extremely readable, even though it was written 2,000 years ago.

It taught me that life is hard. Life is full of suffering. And a lot of it is going to be unfair. But there is nowhere more impenetrable than your own mind, and your willpower, your self-discipline, your resiliency, can all help you carry the day.

All the best,

Matt Karamazov