4 Books That Will Make You Question Your Life Choices

We all have these books right? I mean, as people who read we’re bound to come across at least one book that makes us question our current job, career, relationship, haircut, or any number of other life choices. This happens to me pretty often, with books and even TV shows on occasion. Aside from the books mentioned in Book Riot’s very similar post, which are strictly job-related, here are my top books that have made me sit and think to myself, “Self, wtf are you doing?!”

desert1. Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness by Edward Abbey

I grew up going to “deer camp” every fall with my dad and grandpa, along with a slew of other male relatives and family friends. I’m no stranger to the outdoors, but we’re not exactly BFFs, and I’ve never labeled myself an outdoorswoman in any way. But, Edward Abbey’s account of a summer spent as a ranger in Arches National Park (Moab, UT) was life-changing for me. Beautiful scenery, silly tales of park campers, moments of fear and disappointment give the sense that you’re really missing something if you haven’t done this. Most of us don’t have the luxury of taking an entire season off to pursue these lofty dreams, but the minute you do experience them—even in the tiniest of ways—it’s suddenly clear that you were, in fact, missing something.

After reading Desert Solitaire, I made it my mission to at least visit Arches and I did. It was the first National Park I’d been to and it will forever hold a special place in my heart. It’s beautiful and majestic, just like in the book. And it was a little terrifying, even in broad daylight, when you stop to consider the solitude, exposure, and wilderness that can quickly overcome you. (A pretty heavy, unexpected storm rolled in on us while we were there, as they often do, and trapped us in the car for a short while.)

wild2. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

I’m not rugged. I’m not weathered. I’m not sure I even possess the kind of physical and mental strength necessary for being super-outdoorswoman, but Wild made me believe that I could/can do anything! Legitimately, anything.

If you’ve ever not applied for a job or promotion because you lack experience, this might make you reconsider. Why is it that we (I’m referring to women, here) seem to continuously underestimate ourselves?! Sure, learn-as-you-go isn’t exactly a great trail strategy, or life strategy, but it does have its benefits. On the trail, Strayed overcomes physical obstacles and even bigger mental ones. She had me questioning why I’ve not tried more things or taken more risks when they could easily turn out to be the best choices.

ontheroad3. On the Road by Jack Kerouac

Or anything by the Beat Generation, for that matter. You’ll question your angst (current or otherwise). You’ll question your sense of adventure, love of travel and ideals of the world. It’s all a big ball of questions.

As Sal and Dean travel around America, you’ll long for the freedom of the 1950s (or the freedom you imagine existed then, because in reality, it was probably much, much different). Their wanderlust will inspire yours and in turn your angst with growing up. Why haven’t you traveled cross-country? The US isn’t that big and nothing is really that far away. Why haven’t you had these experiences, friendships and connections? Although it’s all fiction, there’s a hint of reality portrayed when you consider the context and suddenly you’re just a little—or very—jealous. You’ve been living life all wrong, man. It’s time to change!

eatpraylove4. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

Yeah, I know. Cliche chick-lit, but just hear me out!

In all honesty, the first half of this book was full of blind rage and hate (sorry, EG). Gilbert is married, lives in NYC, has a great job and seemingly everything else a 20-something girl with a dream to write could want. And what does she do? Whine and bitch, endlessly. She’s insufferable. Then there’s a turn and she has some revelations just like we all will.

Is she really insufferable or is that just her misery speaking? Suddenly, we’re on the bathroom floor crying, alone and you get it. Nothing is perfect, not even your dream job. (Thanks for the heads-up.) And the longer she engages in these activities, the more miserable she becomes. It’s great to have dreams and goals and desires, but Eat, Pray, Love definitely challenges some of the things we’ve been taught about success and happiness—and just what it means to really be successful and happy.

Clearly, the books that strike and inspire me most are about adventure, accompanied with a hint of personal/spiritual growth.