Six Thought-Provoking Books to Add to Your TBR List

There are many ways to work towards improving yourself, and it varies depending on the person and what they’re looking to improve. I’ve been on the quest of finding thought-provoking books that will help me expand my general knowledge of literature and open myself up to new stories I wouldn’t otherwise choose to read. It’s been a fun journey so far—though I’ve had to slow it down a bit since starting this new semester—so I thought I’d share what I’ve read with you in case you’re also looking to improve or expand your knowledge of literature.

  1. 1. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers

    Funny story: I actually went into this book having no idea what it was about but thought I’d give it a shot, and boy was this a wild ride. Dave Eggers is quite an interesting person, which makes for a very interesting memoir. Though it’s doused with crazy amounts of narcissistic self-pity and can sometimes put you in a mood, and not to mention the insane amount of grammatical errors—though I felt it gave the book a bit more character—I found the story really intriguing and I couldn’t put the book down. His early life was far from ordinary and uneventful, and he just has a way with words that makes you empathize with him yet feel completely disgusted with him all at the same time—sounds mean, I know, but it’s the truth.

  2. 2. The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri

    In high school, I was required to read the Inferno, but ever since then I’ve been intrigued by what the rest of the epic poem was all about. Why did we only read the first book? I had to know how it ended. Let me tell you now, the Inferno was probably the most eventful and intriguing of the three books, which is probably why most of us are only required to read that one, but that doesn’t make Purgatorio or Paradiso any less important. Reading the Divine Comedy in its entirety definitely challenged me, as I found myself getting lost a few times but still powered through it. I didn’t quite get all the biblical references and had to do some digging here and there to keep up. I enjoyed the challenge, though, and reading all three parts helped me finally tie the whole story together.

  3. 3. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

    Oh, my goodness. If you’re looking for a book that will challenge your vocabulary to its very limit, this book is for you. I was trying to find some books that would force me to look up new words and expand my vocabulary, and this book definitely delivered. I was constantly reading with my dictionary.com app open on my phone next to me. Aside from the particularly strange storyline making me feel a bit uncomfortable at times, it was so compelling to read. This brilliantly disturbing novel takes you into the twisted, delusional mind of the main character, Humbert Humbert, a 37 year old man who falls in love with a 12 year old girl...enough said. Nabokov is able to portray Humbert in a way that is so sickeningly real it makes you wonder how the hell he was able to get such a close depiction of someone so chilling and disturbing.

  4. 4. 1984 by George Orwell

    A classic I was never required to read in high school, which I find quite depressing. I wanted to know what the heck I was missing out on, so I got my hands on a copy and fell in love. I could go on about how this dystopian-esque novel stole my heart—unlike many others I know who’ve read the book and are not too fond of it—but I’ll save you the bore. This book is just a classic that I truly believe everyone should read, especially if you’re an English major, and especially if you’re into all things psychologically chilling. Reading this book freaked me out because I could see how our society was somewhat slowly, but obviously not as dramatically, shaping into a society similar to the one in this story. Again, this book had a good chunk of new words scattered throughout that I had to look up, which helped me further expand my vocabulary.

  5. 5. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

    If you like to cry, read this book. It will get you emo af. Daniel Keyes is an absolute genius and this book is a true reflection of that. The story revolves around Charlie, a disabled man who’s taking part in some experiments to increase his IQ. The way Daniel Keyes is able to portray the entire journey and show the reader Charlie’s thoughts and emotions throughout every step of the process is astonishing. As the story progresses, you will again need your ol’faithful dictionary at your side—lots of smart talk going on. This story was so heart wrenchingly beautiful yet depressing. Seriously, if you decide to only read one of the books on this list, choose this one. You will not regret it. Or maybe you will—that’s for you to find out.

  6. 6. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

    I’m normally not a huge fan of reading biographies, but I knew this book was popular and thought I’d get out of my comfort zone and give it a shot. I was pleasantly surprised. This painful yet beautiful autobiography touched me to the very core. Maya Angelou was and still is by far one of the most inspiring women. Her struggles in life and how she blossomed into the woman she was are explained in this book. The reader is really able to experience the hardships with her and grow alongside her in this story. Maya Angelou’s recollections and experiences touch on many important issues that are still relevant to this day and really make you think twice about the state of the world around you.

I hope this list inspires you to pick up at least one of these books (or any other book you've been debating on reading) and keep expanding your vocabulary and knowlege of literature and the world around you. The world has so many beautiful stories to tell, just pick up a book around you and you'll see for yourself. You'll learn so much about yourself and the beauty of the world when you just open yourself up to the power of literature.