I'd like to preface this list by saying that my taste in books is VERY broad. But because of this, I can guarantee that there is something on this list that will suit your particular interest and maybe help you learn something fascinating!
The following books are not listed in any particular order, mainly because I couldn't pick favorites amongst this list:
1. "A Higher Call" - Adam Makos
This book was recommended to me by a history teacher I had in high school and was one of my first experiences with reading nonfiction for fun. It details a riveting encounter between a German pilot and an American pilot during World War II. The book taught me a lot about the meaning of courage through its wartime narratives and the unexpected decisions made by men who appeared to be enemies.
2. "The Alchemist" - Paulo Coelho
When I think of life-changing books, this is one of the first that comes to mind. I have read it at least three times since first reading a few years ago. Coelho tells the story of a young shepherd boy's journey in order to convey messages about wisdom, following your dreams, and listening to your heart as you travel through life.
3. "The Disappearing Spoon" - Sam Kean
I don't have a ton to say about this book other than that I read it while taking AP Chemistry in high school. This book is HILARIOUS. In short, it is a history of the periodic table. Now, before you tune out because the periodic table brings back stressful memories of high school or college science, this book is nothing like that. It uses humor and adventure to detail the stories of each of the elements throughout history.
4. "Radium Girls" - Kate Moore
This book was also recommended to me by my high school history teacher (he recommended A LOT of books for me to read in high school). Moore phenomenally explains one of the biggest American scandals of the 20th century but was a scandal I knew nothing about prior to reading. It explores the stories of women who worked in radium-dial factories and their battle for workers' rights.
5. "Man's Search for Meaning" - Viktor Frankl
I think I enjoyed this book because I read it during a time in my life when I needed to hear the message. In this book, Frankl, who is a psychiatrist, explains how humans can find meaning in the unavoidable suffering of life and still move forward with a purpose. He explains everything in the context of his experiences and the experiences of others in Nazi death camps during World War II, which is quite fascinating.
6. "Just Mercy" - Bryan Stevenson
This book, which is also nonfiction, details the journey of Stevenson as a young lawyer working within the criminal justice system in the United States to defend the poor and those who have been wrongly condemned. The main focus of the book is Stevenson's experience defending Walter McMillian, a man who insists he didn't commit the murder that he's been sentenced to death for. This book gave me an insight into the US criminal justice system and some of its corruption while also giving me better definitions of justice and mercy.
7. "Rebel Queen" - Michelle Moran
If you're into historical fiction, this book has your name written on it. Moran explores Britain's colonization of India through the stories of the Rebel Queen and her all-female army. This books teaches quite a bit about India's history but is also filled with the adventure, love, and plot twists that fictional stories are well known for. Plus, reading a book about an entire army of badass women - absolute yes.
8. "The Last Lecture" - Randy Pausch
This book is essentially the script of Randy Pausch's last lecture at Carnegie Mellon after being diagnosed with terminal cancer. But don't assume this book will bring nothing but tears because Pausch uses this lecture to bestow lots of little pieces of wisdom on every single reader.
9. "Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind" - Yuval Noah Harari
Let me start by saying that Chris Evans (Captain America) has recommended this book. I read this book a couple of years ago on an airplane trip out of pure curiosity and it has recently become fairly popular amongst celebrities and their followers (even Barack Obama and Bill Gates). This book combines history and biology (amongst other things) to explore and explain what it truly means to be human.
10. "The Gifts of Imperfection" - Brené Brown
I don't have much to say about this book because my explanation cannot do this justice. If you aren't familiar with the research done by Brown, I HIGHLY recommend looking into it and this book is a good place to start. She combines storytelling, her own research, and experiences to discuss topics like vulnerability and courage within personal development.
11. "Power of Now" - Eckhart Tolle
Once again, I don't have a ton to say about this book because I cannot do it justice and reading it involves a personal journey or connection between you and the words of Tolle. While spiritual in nature, this book focuses on increasing personal awareness of one's thoughts and actions, connecting to your self and the world, and allowing (teaching) yourself to exist fully in the now.