15 Books That Will Teach You Important Life Lessons (Like, More Important Than The Rest)

Indian children choose books at a stall at the World Book Fair in New Delhi on February 16, 2015. The New Delhi World Book Fair (NDWBF) is organised by the National Book Trust of India and runs from 14 - 22 February, 2015. AFP PHOTO / MONEY SHARMA (Photo credit should read MONEY SHARMA/AFP/Getty Images)
Source: MONEY SHARMA/AFP/Getty Images

Remember when you were a kid and you thought being a grown-up meant having all the answers? Well, now it's 2015 and we're still trying to figure out life. Terms like "life lessons" and "life hacks" pop up frequently — like right here! — but at the end of the day, we're all still searching for the answers to our biggest questions.

It isn't all bad. Life is an adventure, after all, and a huge part of the excitement comes from new discoveries. Because we're naturally impatient creatures, though, we want the answers and we want them now. And because we can all be pretty dense at times, we also forget that we've learned anything at all before now.

Well, here's your reminder. These are the books that taught you really important life lessons when you read them. If you haven't yet had the pleasure of enjoying these titles, I strongly suggest you pick them up and start learning from them today. 

'The Outsiders' by S.E. Hinton

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Life lesson: Stay gold.

“Stay gold, Ponyboy.” S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders is all about retaining your goodness when the world tries to beat and cheat it out of you. Remember it when you’re feeling nasty toward the world.

'Anne of Green Gables' by L.M. Montgomery

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Life lesson: Define yourself.

In Anne of Green Gables, L.M. Montgomery’s spunky heroine never let anyone misunderstand her. I’ve written about the life lessons found in Anne of Green Gables before, but it’s never the wrong time for a refresher read.

'Spinster' by Kate Bolick

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Life lesson: Be who and where you need to be.

In Spinster, Kate Bolick reflects on her series of conscious decisions to live life as a single woman. The abilities to resist societal pressures and to follow your innermost compulsions are essential to becoming a strong, successful adult.

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'We Should All Be Feminists' by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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Life lesson: We should all be feminists (obviously).

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s We Should All Be Feminists took the world by storm when it was released last year. If you haven’t already learned its titular life lesson — which Adichie draws from bell hooks — pick up this short read and give it a whirl.

'The Reputation Economy' by Michael Fertik and David Thompson

Life lesson: Don’t be a jerk on the Internet.

We all know social media can land you — or cost you — your dream job. In The Reputation Economy, Michael Fertik lays out a map of the near-future where your digital image is your fortune.

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'A Series of Unfortunate Events' by Lemony Snicket

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Life lesson: Never give up.

When everyone’s out to get you and life looks completely hopeless, remember to never quit trying to survive. Whether you realized it or not, Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events was all about grit and the human spirit.

'Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance' by Robert M. Pirsig

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Life lesson: Focus.

Mindfulness will improve your quality of life and save you a lot of hassles, but it can be difficult to master. Robert M. Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance has been training westerners in this East Asian brand of awareness since the 1970s. The bottom line: you can’t get anything done if you’re trying to do it all at once.

'To Kill a Mockingbird' by Harper Lee

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Life lesson: Don’t try to change others.

Don’t make the Ewells go to school. Don’t ask the Cunninghams to take charity. Don’t force Boo Radley to associate with folks. The overarching message in To Kill a Mockingbird is to avoid changing others, and just accept them where they are.

'1984' by George Orwell

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Life lesson: Question everything.

If there is one book that can turn you into a paranoid conspiracy theorist, it’s George Orwell’s 1984. The novel’s core message, however, is that nothing may be as it seems. Learning to think critically and question all you’re told is one of the most important skills you can have as an adult.

'The Year of Magical Thinking' by Joan Didion

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Life lesson: Deal with grief in your own way.

Joan Didion lost her husband while their daughter lay comatose. A gripping memoir of loss and recovery, The Year of Magical Thinking will teach you how to grieve in your own way, and how to own that grief when others question it.

'I Feel Bad about My Neck' by Nora Ephron

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Life lesson: Being a grown-up sucks unless you can laugh at it.

It’s funny, the things you start to feel poorly toward when you’re old. Thankfully, Nora Ephron’s I Feel Bad about My Neck is here to help you navigate those awkward twilight years with poise and humor.

'The Dark Tower' Series by Stephen King

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Life lesson: Never forget where you came from or where you are going.

Stephen King’s magnum opus Dark Tower series is the quintessential epic journey, fashioned and delivered as only King can tell it. Beginning with The Gunslinger, readers join Roland on his lifelong quest to save the eponymous Dark Tower. King’s hero never forgets the face of his father and never loses sight of his goal, qualities we can all use in our lives.

'The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants' by Ann Brashares

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Life lesson: Keep in touch with your friends.

After high school and college are over, it’s pretty difficult to stay close to your friends, at least geographically. But that should never stop you from keeping in touch. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants taught you how to stay friends with your friends, and that’s a beautiful thing.

'Fight Club' by Chuck Palahniuk

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Life lesson: Even underdogs have power.

Even in a culture of toxic consumerism, a working class individual can still exert power over the major players in society. Tyler Durden’s inspirational “Do not fuck with us” speech still resonates for those of us who read Fight Club and took its message to heart.

'Ender's Game' by Orson Scott Card

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Life lesson: The fight isn’t over until you’ve won it.

Any fight worth having is worth finishing, and sometimes working for the greater good means getting your feet wet and your hands dirty. If you’ve forgotten this life lesson, give Ender’s Game another read-through.