Books That Will Stay With Me, Part 1

There is no better way I can think of to explain who I am than to talk about the books that have shaped who I have become. That’s why I have decided that one of my first posts here on my new blog/website would be a tag that I have seen floating around Facebook a few times over the years. The idea is to list the 10 books that will stay with you. Note that this list is not the same as a list of favorite books (which would be much harder to narrow down, anyway). I have decided to split this into two parts, since I am not simply listing the books, but adding a little paragraph about each of them. I am all about keeping things short, hence the decision to split it into two. The second part will be posted in one week. Once it is live, I will update this post with a link.

First off, a disclaimer: this is in no particular order, and it is by no means a complete or definitive list, and will probably change every single time I make a list like it.

With that out of the way, here goes.

  1. Harry Potter. Sadly unoriginal, but this list would be a lie if I did not include it, so here it is. I grew up with Harry Potter, having first discovered his books as a 10-year-old, and devouring the final book the night it was published only a few weeks after I graduated from high school. I am enthusiastic Harry Potter nerd to this day, and would have to honestly admit that I think these books are part of the reason I feel so strongly about acceptance, tolerance, public service, and being open-minded.
  2. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. My mother introduced me to the musical when I was about 12, but it wasn’t until my sophomore year of college that I decided to give the book a try. I read it on my rather long commute on public transit every day going to school and finished it in a surprisingly short amount of time. Since then (now almost eight years ago), this book and the story seems to be constantly at the back of my mind, and I have thought about it more than any other book I’ve ever read except for Harry Potter. This book shaped the value that I place on compassion and opened my eyes to issues regarding social justice. I also find the themes of redemption and salvation so utterly touching that they bring tears to my eyes almost every time I think about them.
  3. Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg. I read this book a few weeks after it was first published several years ago now and it is hard to state the impact that it has had on me. Not only have I found it helpful on a practical level, but I found it enormously comforting. It felt like a pat on the back telling me that I wasn’t alone in how I saw things and that I wasn’t making any of it up. And it helped give me the courage to pursue what I wanted, even when it was difficult. I will always be infinitely grateful for this book.
  4. Macbeth. I am a complete Shakespeare addict, and Macbeth was my gateway play. I was introduced to this work quite young, but I remember being fascinated with the rhythm of the lines and the complexity of what these incredible characters were saying. I also remember being particularly intrigued with the complexity of Lady Macbeth and thinking that I had never come across a character like her before. Most of it probably went over my head at the time, but I was hooked and it has remained my favorite Shakespeare play (if I could only pick one).
  5. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. This is a relatively recent read for me, so I hesitate slightly to add it because it has not yet stood the test of time. However, it was powerful enough and important enough to me that I think it deserves to be on this list. I don’t think that I have ever seen religion presented so beautifully or in such an inspiring way as in this book. This is a book as full of heartbreaking moments as hilarious ones, and the deftness of this blend absolutely amazed me. Gilead showed me that literature could be more than I ever thought it could. It’s an embarrassingly late revelation, but let’s just be happy I got there in the end, right? (And I know I still have a great deal to learn.)

There you have it: the first five books that will stay with me. Stay tuned for part two, coming up next week!

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