The best books to think differently and live unconventionally

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm a curious writer and compulsive traveler. My lifelong goal is to communicate the message “You don’t have to live your life the way others expect.” From 2002-2015 I went to every country in the world, chronicling the journey on my blog The Art of Non-Conformity. At first I thought the blog would be just about travel, but along the way I began meeting lots of people interested in living unconventionally. Ever since, I've been writing books, hosting events, and avoiding traditional employment by any means necessary. 


I wrote...

Gonzo Capitalism: How to Make Money in an Economy That Hates You

By Chris Guillebeau,

Book cover of Gonzo Capitalism: How to Make Money in an Economy That Hates You

What is my book about?

This is a book about power and money, and how the perception of both has shifted in recent years. I wanted to tell the stories of people who’ve used new platforms and systems to startling effect, from “sleepfluencers” to blockchain video game players and much more.

In short: read Gonzo Capitalism to learn how to thrive in a rapidly changing world.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Post-Birthday World

Chris Guillebeau Why did I love this book?

Such a powerful book! It's all about the danger of failing to choose, but presented in such a way that the lesson seeps in slowly. Perhaps an ultimate example of "show, don't tell."

I first read it during a difficult season in life where I too felt like I was facing two mutually exclusive options. Each of them foretold a loss and made me sad to contemplate the absence of the other. I then went back to the book a few years later for a second reading and found it just as powerful but less sad—perhaps because I'd improved in my ability to make clear choices.

By Lionel Shriver,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Post-Birthday World as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the Orange Prize winning author of We Need to Talk About Kevin, this is the novel Lionel Shriver wrote directly afterwards. The Post-Birthday World is an unflinching account of the choices that unfold before us and what our decisions really mean.

Irina McGovern's destiny hinges on a single kiss. Whether she gives into its temptation will determine whether she stays with her reliable partner Lawrence, or runs off with Ramsey, a hard-living snooker player.

Employing a parallel universe structure, Shriver spins Irina's competing futures with two drastically different men. An intellectual and fellow American, Lawrence is clever and supportive,…


Book cover of Wishcraft: How to Get What You Really Want

Chris Guillebeau Why did I love this book?

It's no exaggeration to say this book changed my life. I read it when I was briefly home in the US during a four-year stint as an aid worker in West Africa. It caused me to think deeply about the next stage of life, which involved going to every country and eventually starting a blog that became a whole new career.

If you've read any other "life design" books in the past two decades, one way or another the authors were influenced by Barbara Sher. Go back to where it started!

By Annie Gottlieb, Barbara Sher,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Wishcraft as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Cindy Fox was a waitress. Now she’s a pilot. Peter Johnson was a truck driver. Now he’s a dairy farmer. Tina Forbes was a struggling artist. Now she’s a successful one. Alan Rizzo was an editor. Now he’s a bookstore owner.

What they have in common—and what you can share—are Barbara Sher’s effective strategies for making real changes in your life. This human, practical program puts your vague yearnings and dreams to work for you—with concrete results. You’ll learn how to

• Discover your strengths and skills
• Turn your fears and negative feelings into positive tools
• Diagram the…


Book cover of A Wild Sheep Chase

Chris Guillebeau Why did I love this book?

This was the book that set me off on a decade-long journey of reading (and re-reading) Murakami. Along with The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, another favorite, I've re-read it at least twice.

So why is it about thinking differently? Because the book is written so differently! If you've read any recent speculative fiction, the author likely owes a debt to Murakami and his wondrous approach to narrative storytelling. You'll get lost in a bizarre, beautiful quest that takes on all sorts of twists and turns.

By Haruki Murakami,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked A Wild Sheep Chase as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Features a cast of bizarre characters, including a sheep with a mysterious star on its back, caught up in a Nietzschean quest for power.


Book cover of How to Live on Twenty-Four Hours a Day

Chris Guillebeau Why did I love this book?

A very early (published in 1908!) example of the personal development genre. Some of Bennett's recommendations may seem a little outdated now, but the concept of "you should work on improving yourself, and here's how" still feels fresh and original. 

A secret publishing dream of mine is to update this book and introduce it to a new generation of readers. But don't wait until I'm able to do that (or until someone beats me to it). Jump in now and read the original.

By Arnold Bennett,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked How to Live on Twenty-Four Hours a Day as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

2019 Reprint of 1910 Edition. Full facsimile of the original edition, not reproduced with Optical Recognition software. In the book, first published in 1908, Bennett addressed the large and growing number of white-collar workers that had accumulated since the advent of the Industrial Revolution. In his view, these workers put in eight hours a day, 40 hours a week, at jobs they did not enjoy, and at worst hated. They worked to make a living, but their daily existence consisted of waking up, getting ready for work, working as little as possible during the workday, going home, unwinding, going to…


Book cover of My Life as a Russian Novel: A Memoir

Chris Guillebeau Why did I love this book?

Emmanuel Carrère just thinks differently! Sometimes described as the #1 non-fiction writer in France, this deeply personal memoir from him touched me with its sensitivity and embrace of awkwardness.

I don't know how else to describe it except to say: wow, this guy truly lives. I feel jealous of him as a writer, yet also different enough that it doesn’t really bother me. Instead, I just end up inspired.

By Emmanuel Carrere, Linda Coverdale (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked My Life as a Russian Novel as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'As a writer, Carrere is straight berserk' Junot Diaz

In this non-fiction novel - road trip, confession, and erotic tour de force - Emmanuel Carrere pursues two consuming obsessions: the disappearance of his grandfather amid suspicions that he was a Nazi collaborator in the Second World War; and a violently passionate affair with a woman that he loves but which ends in destruction. Moving between Paris and Kotelnich, a grisly post-Soviet town, Carrere weaves his story into a travelogue of a journey inward, travelling fearlessly into the depths of his tortured psyche.


You might also like...

A School for Unusual Girls

By Kathleen Baldwin,

Book cover of A School for Unusual Girls

Kathleen Baldwin Author Of Sanctuary for Seers: A Stranje House Novel

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Loves God Mother to Many Wilderness Adventurer History Enthusiast

Kathleen's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

A spy school for girls amidst Jane Austen’s high society.

Daughters of the Beau Monde who don’t fit London society’s strict mold are banished to Stranje House, where the headmistress trains these unusually gifted girls to enter the dangerous world of spies in the Napoleonic wars. #1 NYT bestselling author Meg Cabot calls this exciting historical series "completely original and totally engrossing."

A School for Unusual Girls

By Kathleen Baldwin,

What is this book about?

A School for Unusual Girls is the first captivating installment in the Stranje House series for young adults by award-winning author Kathleen Baldwin. #1 New York Times bestselling author Meg Cabot calls this romantic Regency adventure "completely original and totally engrossing."

It's 1814. Napoleon is exiled on Elba. Europe is in shambles. Britain is at war on four fronts. And Stranje House, a School for Unusual Girls, has become one of Regency England's dark little secrets. The daughters of the beau monde who don't fit high society's constrictive mold are banished to Stranje House to be reformed into marriageable young…


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