Want to rock your inner world? Trade literature of the minute for these timeless novels that will hit home.

Your life is your work, and your work is everything. The struggles and successes of a Creative in this world provide a life’s worth of material, as these oeuvres show.

by Virginia Woolf

Art is long, life is short: in a multilayered stream-of-consciousness narrative that pings from one existentially challenged character to another, Woolf demonstrates that reaching for immortality is a risky business. Her protagonists include an upper-class couple who fail to find meaning in chasing rainbows. Only a clear-eyed artist who takes ten years to finish a portrait is allowed to stop time: she realizes that everything passes away, but “not words, not paint.” From 1927, Woolf’s work still feels avant-garde.
Buy Now: $11 at Barnes & Noble

by James Joyce

The story of Stephen Dedalus, published in 1916, is a mirror of Joyce’s own life and will resonate with anyone embroiled in the writing life. Famously introspective, the protagonist of this novel set in Dublin is caught in a struggle between worldliness and asceticism. Joyce’s signature stream-of-consciousness sections can be a challenge to slog through, but fellow aesthetes won’t complain. 
Buy Now: $16 at Barnes & Noble.

by Thomas Wolfe

Like so many first novelists, Wolfe drew heavily from his own life in this 1929 debut, a coming-of-age tale about a driven young writer, Eugene Gant. Wolfe traces Gant’s intellectual pilgrimage from small-town Carolina to Cambridge to roiling Manhattan in the 1920s. His manuscript ran 1,100-plus pages; editor Max Perkins whittled it down to 544 pages of heart-stopping prose that influenced writers from Faulkner to Philip Roth. 
Buy Now: $14 at Barnes & Noble