What Is The Most Meaningful Book That I Can Read?
Posted on 12th of September, 2018


Books that are really meaningful are rare, but one thing that I can tell is to stay far away from all of those so called "self-help" books. Most, if not all, of them are written by charlatans who are only preying on people who are desperate or down on their luck. If you are looking for meaning, it is far better to read books with true accounts of some of the things certain people had to endure. Even fiction titles are much better at providing meaning than those self-help books, trust me on that.
To me all books are meaningful in some way or another, although obviously some are more meaningful than others. One of my all time favorites is the Yann Martel book, Life of Pi. I think that most people have either read the book or at the very least watched the movie, but here is a summary just in case; It's about a young Indian boy who immigrated to America along with his family and the animals from the zoo that they operated. Unfortunately the boat sinks during the trip and Pi is left stranded on a lifeboat with an assortment of wild animals, including a massive Bengal tiger that is named Richard Parker. On one level the book is about the journey Pi has to make to survive and inhabit the same space as a ferocious animal, but it also has a deeper meaning that only becomes clear towards the end of the book.
This is one of those questions that are very difficult to answer because different things have different meanings to different people. I could find meaning in a children's book because it might have been something that my grandmother used to read to me all the time, whereas to somebody else it might not have the same meaning. This is why I have tried to pick books that have a something about them that I believe could be meaningful to everyone who read them.

My first pick is East of Eden by John Steinbeck, who was a Nobel Prize winner. Because East of Eden is such a dense story, my recommendation would be to really take your time with it and not rush or try and find deeper meanings right away. I believe that the book was Steinbeck's way of conveying everything about the Salinas Valley to his sons when they were young boys and the book certainly succeeds in this. The time frame for East of Eden is the turn of the twentieth century up until the end of the first World War, while the setting is primarily the Salinas Valley in California. Steinbeck based the title of the book on a verse from the Bible that was related to Cain and Abel, with biblical themes also prevalent in the story. The use of Biblical allusion didn't go down too well with critics back when the book was released, but readers definitely took to it and it is still a classic. Steinbeck has a lot of good books, but this is the one that most people would credit with being the most meaningful.

My second pick is The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien, who himself was a soldier. It is basically a collection of short stories that are linked by their setting, which is the Vietnam War. While the book is set in a war zone, the theme is more about peace. The characters in this book also carry a lot of guilt for their actions, which is something that I think a lot of people can relate to. I'm not sure how much the Vietnam War impacted people from other countries, but I think that if you are American, then this book should be very meaningful to you.

Lastly, I would recommend Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut. This is a novel that has been called everything from dark comedy and satire to meta fiction and science fiction, which is all true. Most people will be familiar with the story and I'm not going to repeat all of that here, but one of the themes that makes this book so meaningful, to me at least, is that of fate and free will. When the author describes the Tralfamadorians and the way in which they experience time, I was blown away. The description of how a person who dies is still very much alive in the past is such a unique way of looking at things and I am sure it has helped a lot of readers to cope better with the loss of a loved one.
I cannot speak for all readers obviously, but I'll share the books that have been the most meaningful for me so far. Granted, I'm still in my early twenties, so I have a lot of living and a lot of reading left to do, but these are the books that are near and dear to me.

- El amor en los tiempos del cólera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez - English readers will know this one as Love in the Time of Cholera and it is an absolutely beautiful book. It is about two people who fall in love during their youth, but after a lot of drama the girl breaks up with the guy. She ends up getting engaged to another guy (who has the approval of her dad, which the other guy didn't), marrying him and living quite an ordinary life. The guy she originally broke up with still loves her deeply, though and still thinks that he has a shot at her heart. To me this book is about true love and it moved me deeply enough that I cried in public while reading it. If this isn't meaningful, then I don't know what is.

- La sombra del viento by Carlos Ruiz Zafón - English readers will know this one as The Shadow of the Wind. This is another book that really moved me and I can heartily recommend it along with it's prequel, El juego del ángel, which was published after it. It is about a boy who learns about the secret cemetery of forgotten books from his father. The catch is that everyone who knows about must choose one of the books to preserve for the rest of their life. After choosing his book, the boy tries to find more by the same author, but without any luck. This is a very simplified description as the book actually also features a story within the story, but read the book to see why it is so meaningful, you won't be disappointed. Suffice to say that it stayed with me so much that I actually saved up to visit Barcelona myself.

- The Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling - Ok, so this one is a bit of a cheat as it is an entire series instead of a single book, but come on, who can pick! This is a series that I think a lot of kids grew up with and it holds special meaning because it teaches you to cope with being an outcast, which is also something all kids deal with.

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