What Books Made a Difference? (Yes, We’re Talking to You)

We’re try­ing out some­thing a lit­tle dif­fer­ent today, and we hope that you’ll par­tic­i­pate because by giv­ing more, you’ll get more in return. (So far we have 18 peo­ple par­tic­i­pat­ing, now it is your turn.)

We want to draw on the col­lec­tive wis­dom of our read­ers and find out what great books you’ve read, and which par­tic­u­lar one made a dif­fer­ence in your life. That is, what book has led you to look dif­fer­ent­ly at lit­er­a­ture, think­ing, career, love, friend­ship, death, or what­ev­er you con­sid­er impor­tant?

At some point lat­er next week, we’ll bun­dle the sub­mis­sions and post them for you. We’re hop­ing that this will give every­one a list of great and impor­tant books to read.

If you’d like to par­tic­i­pate, please make a sub­mis­sion in the com­ments below, or via email. In what­ev­er you write, please list the name of the book and the author, and then men­tion why the book mat­tered to you. (Your expla­na­tion can be as brief or as long as you like.) When we post the replies, we won’t use your names unless you oth­er­wise con­sent. And we’ll oth­er­wise pro­tect the pri­va­cy of your email address­es.

Final­ly, we’ll ran­dom­ly select one name from all of the sub­mis­sions, and send that con­trib­u­tor a nice $50 gift cer­tifi­cate from Amazon.com.

We look for­ward to hear­ing from you, and thanks for tak­ing part.

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Comments (63)
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  • alex says:

    Sev­er­al books have impact­ed my life. One that sticks out would have to be the Auto­bi­og­ra­phy of Mal­colm X(As told to Alex Haley).

    This book inspired me to read more, and look up every word unfa­mil­iar to me. Mal­colm X is an incred­i­ble man who cer­tain­ly had an impact on his­to­ry. I would rec­om­mend this book to every­one.

    Anoth­er is A his­to­ry of near­ly every­thing by Bill Bryson. Wow this book is incred­i­ble. At close to 500 pages Bryson cov­ers every­thing from the moment the uni­verse expand­ed from the intense­ly dense mat­ter that was(aka the big bang) to mans ori­gin. Read­ing this book has impact­ed the way I look at every­thing from bac­te­ria to Aster­oids.

    I’m most proud of these two books in my col­lec­tion. I hope oth­ers appre­ci­ate them as much as me

    • sioban says:

      none of you seem to realise, but you are changed and affect­ed by each and every book that you have ever read, and so it will con­tin­ue until you either can­not read any­more or die.

  • Jamie says:

    I read “Great Expec­ta­tions” by Charles Dick­ens when I was 15 and it had a pro­found impact on me. I relat­ed to Pip so well. At 15, I was shy. And a hope­less roman­tic. I think it was the first time I had felt such a bond with a char­ac­ter. I tri­umphed with his suc­cess­es, felt the blow of fail­ure in his defeats, and felt sor­row when he broke his own prin­ci­ples. I saw val­ues in Pip that I want­ed to emu­late in my own life — a ded­i­ca­tion to pur­su­ing my dreams, over­com­ing my weak­ness­es, and treat­ing oth­ers respect­ful­ly regard­less of what frus­tra­tions I may have in my own life. Pip’s real­iza­tion that “through­out life our worst weak­ness­es and mean­ness­es are usu­al­ly com­mit­ted for the sake of those whom we most despise” struck a chord with me and has been in the back of my mind ever since. And who could ever for­get the heart­break­ing rejec­tion when he final­ly con­fess­es his undy­ing affec­tion for Estel­la?

  • Andrea says:

    Man’s Search for Mean­ing by Vic­tor Fran­kl is one of the best books I have read. The book describes the authors impris­on­ment in sev­er­al con­cen­tra­tion camps. Faced with ter­ri­ble suf­fer­ing and loss he
    sur­vives by find­ing mean­ing in the midst of this. He dis­cov­ers that all of our free­doms can be tak­en from us.…except one.…the free­dom to choose how we think and act under the very worst of cir­cum­stances.

  • Tim says:

    One title that has had a big impact on me through­out my teach­ing career has been Neil Post­man’s Teach­ing as a Sub­ver­sive Activ­i­ty. His con­cepts of help­ing kids devel­op their instincts for eval­u­at­ing and ana­lyz­ing all the mes­sages tossed at them dur­ing their lives (he called it their crap detec­tor) are more valid today than when he wrote the book in the 70’s.

    If I can toss in a sec­ond but relat­ed (and rel­e­vant) title it would be Post­man’s clas­sic from the 80’s Amus­ing Our­selves to Death.

  • Ellen says:

    The Catch­er in the Rye by J. D. Salinger — This nov­el touched my heart deeply.

    The Stranger by Albert Camus — I love it so much. This book is for me pure phi­los­o­phy.

    All Qui­et on the West­ern Front by Erich Maria Remar­que — The nov­el showed me the utter cru­el­ty of the war.

  • Francesco says:

    The book that most influ­enced my life was “The Lord of the Rings” that I read when I was 15 years old.
    That book intro­duced me to the world of fan­ta­sy books. Ever since I keep read­ing this genre of books (plus a lot oth­ers of course), both in Eng­lish and in Ital­ian.

  • Dave says:

    The Illu­mi­nati Tril­o­gy by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wil­son. It’s chock full of free-think­ing anar­chism and did a lot to push me towards my cur­rent semi-lib­er­tar­i­an view point.

  • Spamboy says:

    Depend­ing on my age, dif­fer­ent books mat­tered to me at dif­fer­ent times in my life. Most recent­ly, “Cat’s Cra­dle” by Kurt Von­negut reignit­ed the pilot light of my imag­i­na­tion like no oth­er book had done in quite awhile. The whim­sy of its nar­ra­tive, which end­ed with the utter destruc­tion of our world thanks to mankind, was stark, shock­ing, yet refresh­ing when it seemed every oth­er book I read was just an exer­cise towards get­ting to a hap­py end­ing. Great book!

  • Papermaven says:

    “The Chaneysville Inci­dent” arrived in my library, as part of our rental col­lec­tion, in the mid-70s. Since then, I have giv­en away at least half a dozen copies, boughtit for oth­er libraries I’ve worked at, and had a brief cor­re­spon­dence with David Bradley, the author. It’s about time for me to reread it.

    This is the sto­ry of John Wash­ing­ton, a black his­to­ry pro­fes­sor who is called home to bury his father’s friend, Josh; and, by the way, final­ly tack­le the mys­tery his father left for him to solve. John occu­pies his father’s office, reads his books, recalls Josh’s sto­ries, tracks game through the hills, drinks tod­dies, avoids his girl­friend, and tries to make sense of his father’s hunt­ing acci­dent.

    There’s a some­thing here for every­one: mys­tery, fam­i­ly, love, hate, secrets, his­to­ry, and out­door pur­suits. Bradley tells the sto­ry in the first per­son, from John’s point of view. John com­bines intel­li­gence and keen ana­lyt­i­cal skill with an anger that makes his oth­er attrib­ut­es burn hot­ter. As an his­to­ri­an, he needs to under­stand, even though he knows his­to­ry is always too com­pli­cat­ed to under­stand ful­ly.

    Why is this book impor­tant? First, it’s an excel­lent sto­ry, well told. It’s grip­ping. Sec­ond, it tells one sto­ry of his­tor­i­cal atroc­i­ty based on race. Only one sto­ry, but it’s a para­ble for so many, many sto­ries of race, class, gen­der, eth­nic­i­ty, ori­en­ta­tion, .… Since I read it, I look at his­to­ry more crit­i­cal­ly (and maybe more sym­pa­thet­i­cal­ly), know­ing there is always at least one hid­den back­sto­ry. I believe — I hope — I bet­ter under­stand the social lega­cy of slav­ery, which still deeply divides this coun­try. I also look at hunters with a lit­tle more sym­pa­thy, and I fell in love with moun­tains I’ve nev­er seen. I also became inter­est­ed in sto­ry­telling and in telling my own sto­ries.

    John is a very real char­ac­ter, a black man liv­ing in acad­eme, a world con­struct­ed by “enlight­ened” white men. He feels con­sid­er­able ten­sion; how much of it is “real” and how much “in his mind”? His col­leagues admire his bril­liance but don’t under­stand his anger. He’s doing well, why is he still so angry? Why can’t he let go of the past and enjoy the present? He’s earned it.

    Don’t for­get the girl­friend. She mat­ters.

    Inter­est­ed? It’s still in print. Hound your indy book­store, go to Ama­zon, but­ter up your local librar­i­an. Get it. If only one of you, read­ing this, gets the book, I’ll be sat­is­fied. Even if you don’t get past the dis­ser­ta­tion on long dis­tance pub­lic trans­porta­tion.

  • Papermaven says:

    Two cor­rec­tions: Pub. date is 1981, and dying friend is Jack, not Josh. Sor­ry. I told you it was time for me to reread it. And, no, you may not bor­row my copy.

  • Amanda says:

    When I think about all the books that have changed my life and made me a bet­ter per­son, writer, thinker, teacher, etc., I feel so over­whelmed I’m dizzy. Lit­er­al­ly. Like right now.

    In this present moment I’d have to say the book that has has the most impact on me late­ly is Jonathan Safran Foer’s book Extreme­ly Loud and Incred­i­bly Close. I love Oscar. I love Oscar’s jour­ney. I love the mess­ing of Post‑9/11 cul­ture with “third-gen­er­a­tion mem­o­ry.” It’s as though that book has tak­en so much life from the past and made it all tan­gi­ble to us here in the present. I love the emo­tion­al com­plex­i­ty that’s repli­cat­ed in the grand­moth­er’s and grand­fa­ther’s man­u­script and let­ters, how they show how mem­o­ry is frag­ment­ed, over­whelm­ing, and some times incom­pre­hen­si­ble.

    Seri­ous­ly, I could go on and on. And I can think of hun­dreds of oth­er books that have changed me just as much. It’s just this one has been at the fore­front of my mind ever since I read it a cou­ple of months ago.

    Thanks for your blog. It’s awe­some.

  • Darcy says:

    A book that first opened up my eyes to the fact that there are many ways that one can exam­ine things:
    “Ways of See­ing” by John Berg­er.

    An amaz­ing sto­ry that, though writ­ten before 1900, is still rel­e­vant today as it speaks to our gen­er­al igno­rance of what real­ly is going on behind that cur­tain:
    “Flat­land” by Edwin Abbott Abbott.

    One last one, hard for me to pick a favorite sto­ry or nov­el of his, so I’ll just pick the author:
    Kurt Von­negut

    I’m a big fan of Open Cul­ture. Keep it up.

  • Harish says:

    Like most peo­ple have men­tioned its hard to pick The One book that changed my life. But if I real­ly had to, It will have to be:

    Zen and the Art of Motor­cy­cle Main­te­nance: An Inquiry into Val­ues
    by Robert M. Pir­sig

    Although I am not too much into phi­los­o­phy, this book real­ly made me see a lot of things dif­fer­ent­ly!

  • Greg says:

    While I know it’s prob­a­bly not the type of book to fit the cri­te­ria of what you are look­ing the fol­low­ing book has had a big impact for me:

    How to Read a Book by Mor­timer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren.

    Quite sim­ply it has enabled me to get more out of the books that I’ve read.

  • regina says:

    many: the first one was when I was nine years old:“sitio do pica­pau amare­lo” and I dont Know if it has a eng­lish translate.It is a chil­dren brasil­ian book write by Mon­teiro Loba­to . It is deli­cious . Since that I love books.
    Amor no tem­po do col­era de gabriel gar­cia Marquez.Its for me like: “lives is like art” (in por­tuguese: ” a vida imi­ta a arte”)because an old lover appears in my life after 31 years. And if I dont had read that book I think I would refused him.
    * I hope you can under­stand my eng­lish. I would pre­fer write in por­tuguese.

  • Megan says:

    A stel­lar book released last year that I believe will qui­et­ly grow to clas­sic sta­tus on par with Vic­tor Fran­kl and Elie Wiesel, is Richard F. Mol­li­ca’s “Heal­ing Invis­i­ble Wounds: Paths to Hope and Recov­ery in a Vio­lent World.”

    Mol­li­ca is the founder of the Har­vard Pro­gram in Refugee Trau­ma, and weaves his own mem­oir as a first gen­er­a­tion Amer­i­can grow­ing up in the Bronx togeth­er with the hope­ful sto­ries of sur­vivors of extreme vio­lence from around the world — refugees from the Khmer Rouge, sur­vivors of hor­rif­ic sex­u­al vio­lence, tor­ture and more.

    Mol­li­ca’s the­sis, rad­i­cal for a pro­fes­sor of med­i­cine, is that humans have the tools to heal them­selves from even the worst imag­in­able trau­mas. He gen­tly shows the recipe for self-recov­ery, and reveals that the “sur­vivor” is, in fact, the great­est hero for us all.

  • Bob Price says:

    As men­tioned before, the first book to help me eval­u­ate ideas and explore think­ing was “Zen and the Art of Motor­cy­cle Main­te­nance” by Robert Pir­sig. Sec­ond­ly, I must men­tion Her­mann Hesse for his “Jour­ney to the East”. For a young read­er, this became a por­tal for enjoy­ing books.

  • Carol Jurd says:

    For non-fic­tion — Mar­cus Aure­lius’ “Med­i­ta­tions”; a “how-to” man­u­al of human behav­iour, one that should be required read­ing for all aspir­ing politi­cians and lead­ers.
    Fic­tion — what a tough choice! “The Name of the Rose” by Umber­to Eco? , Ken­neth Gra­hame’s “The Wind in the Wil­lows”? “The Lord of the Rings”? Final­ly I think I must choose Dick­en’s “Our Mutu­al Friend”. Sev­er­al plots woven togeth­er, human emo­tion & pas­sion, humour and dark despair — it’s got the lot!

  • Allan says:

    From Kinder­garten to Cur­rent:

    The Hardy Boys — Franklin W. Dixon (et.al.)

    All Crea­tures Great & Small — James Her­riot

    The Lit­tle Prince — Antoine du Saint-Exu­pery

    Bat­tle Cry // Trin­i­ty — Leon Uris

    One Day in the Life of Ivan Deniso­vich — Alexan­der Solzhen­it­syn

    The Hob­bit & LOTR — JRR Tolkien

    The Star Throw­er — Loren Eise­ley

    One Hun­dred Years of Soli­tude — Gabriel Gar­cia Mar­quez

    Chaos — James Gle­ick

    The Bible — ed. God

  • Terry says:

    S.I. Hayakawa wrote a book called “Lan­guage in Thought and Action” which pro­vides a whole ratio­nale for read­ing fic­tion that I have nev­er for­got­ten. I grew up in a time and a house­hold where read­ing fic­tion was analagous to wast­ing your time. Hayakawa writes of fic­tion as a tool to increase your expe­ri­ence of life, to increase the num­ber and vari­ety of expe­ri­ences in your life, your appre­ci­a­tion of those expe­ri­ences, to under­stand oth­ers and so much more!

    Joseph Camp­bell has also writ­ten some sem­i­nal books that get at our appre­ci­a­tion of uni­ver­sal sto­ries.

  • chris says:

    Over the years, many books affect­ed me.

    Gard­ner’s _Grendel_ — Popped into the world, it isn’t like the mon­ster had a choice of parent­age, eth­nic­i­ty, learn­ing envi­ron­ment, or appetites. This one helped me with empa­thy.

    Bolles’ _What Col­or is Your Parachute_ — Using strengths to select a career instead of focus­ing on devel­op­ing weak areas seemed bril­liant.

    Rodriguez’ _Hunger of Memory_ — Unlike Gren­del, this guy whines. That made it absolute­ly impos­si­ble to feel empa­thy for him. I had to read this for a cre­den­tial­ing class, and I abhorred it. Hat­ing it has allowed me to avoid sim­i­lar whiney writ­ing in sub­se­quent years. Whiney stu­dent writ­ings are also a source of annoy­ance. [Thank good­ness the angst of Goth has near­ly passed. I can’t take much more pre­pu­bes­cent knuck­le bit­ing. Oh, woe is me! Get over it.]

    E.A. Poe’s col­lect­ed works — Short and punchy, his macabre tales pack a visu­al whal­lop that mod­ern longer sto­ries lack. He can cre­ate mood and tone in less than a page. When I need a break from stu­dent nar­ra­tives, I read a short sto­ry by Poe. There is a rea­son the guy’s writ­ing has sur­vived.

    Ter­ry Pratch­et­t’s nov­els about Dis­c­world — These are pure escapism sto­ries with a wry twist of humor. Not many books can make me laugh out loud when I read them. His have that effect.

    Any­thing James Joyce wrote tends to turn my stom­ach. Akin to knuck­le bit­ing, the spi­ral­ing inward intro­spec­tion gyre requires too much caf­feine to digest. This has allowed me to also avoid most rec­om­men­da­tions from _The New Yorker_ and oth­er elit­ist pub­li­ca­tions.

    Marzano’s _A Hand­book for Class­room Instruc­tion That Works_ — I don’t need anec­do­tal cutesy sto­ries or volu­mi­nous pages of the­o­ry. Hand­books work. Hand­books based on research are even bet­ter.

  • Morgan says:

    “Hiroshi­ma” by John Hersey

    Hersey retells what hap­pens when an atom­ic bomb falls on your city. Culled from inter­views with sur­vivors of the atom­ic bomb attack, this nar­ra­tive was orig­i­nal­ly pub­lished as an entire issue of The New York­er mag­a­zine. Haunt­ing

    “Time­less Way of Build­ing” and “Pat­tern Lan­guage” by Christo­pher Alexan­der, Sara Ishikawa, and Mur­ray Sil­ver­stein

    A new lan­guage and approach to cre­at­ing the spaces where we live. Bril­liant.

  • Cyen says:

    I see that Dave has also list­ed this book that I’m about to list also: The Illu­mi­nati Tril­o­gy by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wil­son. I would imag­ine this book had a sim­i­lar effect on a lot of peo­ple who read it. This book real­ly changed the way I think and intro­duced me to a lot of real­ly great infor­ma­tion. I went on to read almost all of Robert Anton Wilson’s books. He was a great philos­pher who was­n’t afraid to state his mind. He recent­ly passed away and I know a lot of peo­ple will and are miss­ing him. His great­est effect on me was the intro­duc­tion of “maybe log­ic”.

  • Praise of Idle­ness (Bertrand Russel)Fight Club (Chuck Palah­niuk)
    Stranger (Albert Camus)

  • David says:

    Zen and the Art of Motor­cy­cle Main­te­nance, Lila: An Inquiry into Morals by Robert Pir­sig — The first book of phi­los­o­phy I read (at 18) became the most sig­nif­i­cant, but Lila is by far the more far-reach­ing. After 18 years explor­ing philoso­phies I still return to Pir­sig for clar­i­ty. Although I see many par­ralels now with more “respectable” philoso­phers, such as Hume, there is also a very human dimen­sion to these books which man­ages always to move me. There is a sen­sa­tion for many who read Pir­sig of re-con­nect­ing with some long-for­got­ten well­spring of wis­dom long lost to the reduc­tion­ism of our dai­ly exis­tences.

  • John says:

    If the dev­il were alive he would be writ­ing the works of James Pur­dy. ‘The Can­dles of your Eyes’ changed my out­look on lit­er­a­ture for­ev­er.

  • Charlie says:

    A quar­ter cen­tu­ry ago, I set out on a bicy­cle trip across North Amer­i­ca, and a friend stuck a paper­back copy of Basho’s ‘Nar­row Road to a Far Province’ in one of my pan­niers.

    ‘Nar­row Road,’ or ‘Oku-no-Hosomichi,’ trans­lat­ed into Eng­lish by Dorothy Brit­ton and pub­lished by Kodan­sha Inter­na­tion­al, is a diary kept by the Japan­ese poet Basho in 1689 as he made a jour­ney into the north­ern provinces of Japan.

    When I was in the Sier­ras, delayed by snow, I read through ‘Nar­row Road’ two or three times. I don’t know whether the book affect­ed me more great­ly because I was trav­el­ing or my trav­el­ing affect­ed my per­cep­tion of the book (one of those zen­ny ques­tions), but I came away with a much bet­ter sense of the jour­ney that we all make through life, both the phys­i­cal and philo­soph­i­cal jour­ney, and a more hum­ble sense of my place among the sojourn­ers.

  • Valentina says:

    100 years of soli­tude, gabriel gar­cia mar­quez. epic. beau­ti­ful. my inspi­ra­tion to become a writer.

    soli­taire mys­tery by jostein gaarder
    i read this when i was about 14. i would sit in my room and tru­ly become part of the sto­ry, it became almost a a jour­ney into adult­hood

  • regina says:

    I read a book by brazil­ian author Mon­teiro Loba­to: ” o sitio do pica­pau amare­lo , that I dont Know if it has a a eng­lish trans­la­tion , when I was nine years. It is deli­cious and since that I live book.
    The book that change my live was ” o amor no tem­po do col­era ” , a fan­tas­tic love sto­ry by gabriel gar­cia mar­quez. And lives
    is like art for me : after 31 years and old love appears in my live too. And I think I let he comes to me because of the book.

  • Jason says:

    Chrono­log­i­cal­ly, I had have to say:

    Any Title by Dr. Seuss-These taught me to read, sound out words, have imag­i­na­tion, and stand up for ideals (e.g., The Lorax)

    Choose Your Own Adven­ture-the whole series

    Slaugh­ter­house 5 by Kurt Von­negut-Read at 12 or 13 this book cer­tain­ly opened my eyes to whole new world

    The Great Gats­by by F. Scott Fitzger­ald-Excess, mate­ri­al­ism, alco­holism, and the imi­nent threat of depres­sion. Oh, and what great par­ties!

    To Kill A Mock­ing­bird by Harp­er Lee-need I say more?

    The Pro­het by Kahlil Gibran-Sim­ple, ele­gant, this book reached me deeply.

    Tao Te Ching attrib­uted to Lao Tse-After read­ing the Tanakh, New Tes­ta­ment, and Qur’an, this just actu­al­ly struck a ratio­nal­ly spir­i­tu­al chord inside.

    The Sand­man by Neil Gaiman-Gaiman com­bines com­par­a­tive reli­gion, phi­los­o­phy, social com­men­tary, and fan­ta­sy all in one pack­age. Great read in a com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent for­mat!

    I’m sure I could keep this up all day, but these titles jump out of my mem­o­ry the fastest.

  • Don Smith says:

    I’d have to say my list is pret­ty short:
    1. The broth­ers karamo­zov
    As a teenag­er I was mys­ti­fied by the audac­i­ty of the grand inquisi­tor. I’d nev­er read such a suc­c­ing indict­ment of faith. As I got to my twen­ties I read the whole book, but in my late twen­ties I began to appre­ci­ate it. I’ve nev­er read a more pow­er­ful and real­is­tic tes­ta­ment to faith in my life, and as I’ve grown, my read­ing of the book has grown with me.
    The pow­er of myth:
    Again, anoth­er reli­geous book from my teen years that made sense, but again as I’ve grown, I’ve delved fur­ther into camp­bel­l’s work and always been reward­ed with insight.

  • Alicja says:

    Blue Cas­tle by Lucy Maud Mont­gomery – that’s the book I read while feel­ing depressed. A sen­tence “Fear is the orig­i­nal sin. Almost all the evil in the world has its ori­gin in the fact that some­one is afraid of some­thing. It is a cold, slimy ser­pent coil­ing about you. It is hor­ri­ble to live with fear; and it is of all things degrad­ing.” helps me live with eyes and heart open to the world, tak­ing risks, lov­ing and feel­ing joy when­ev­er pos­si­ble.

  • Am I the only Michel Fou­cault fan here?

    _History of Sex­u­al­i­ty, Vol. 1: An Introduction_

    _Discipline and Punish_

    Both of these books philo­soph­i­cal­ly ush­ered me into the mod­ern world, chang­ing the way I saw pow­er, sex, sex­u­al­i­ty, school, and noth­ing less than the Mod­ern Self.


    _Mr. Bligh’s Bad Language_ by Greg Den­ing

    Den­ing nar­rates the sto­ry of the mutiny on the Boun­ty, slip­ping in and out of 1st per­son nar­ra­tive, ethnog­ra­phy, cul­tur­al analy­sis, and arche­ol­o­gy. In short, the MOST impres­sive com­bined work of his­tor­i­cal schol­ar­ship and phi­los­o­phy I have ever read.

  • Pietro says:

    The Lord of the Rings
    The Chron­i­cles of Nar­nia
    Har­ry Pot­ter (all sev­en)
    The Bible

  • Tim says:

    1984 by George Orwell
    Was the first book I actu­al­ly enjoyed read­ing. It com­plete­ly blew my mind at the time (I was 16) and it opened my eyes to the pow­er of ideas and to the joy of read­ing a good book.

  • Jan Oonchitti says:

    I have two books that impact­ed my life; one from child­hood and one from ear­ly adult­hood. In the sixth grade, our teacher read The Secret Gar­den to us every day. I was cap­ti­vat­ed by the imag­i­na­tion, com­pas­sion, and touch of fan­ta­sy that this book awak­ened in me. Lat­er, I read Mich­n­er’s Hawaii and fell com­plete­ly in love with the his­tor­i­cal fic­tion genre. I LOVED cou­pling cre­ative sto­ry­telling with his­tor­i­cal facts. I felt I was being enter­tained and edu­cat­ed at the same time!

  • Dis­turb­ing the Peace, by Vaclav Hav­el.

    I read it as a junior in high school, picked up on the bar­gain pile at a B. Dal­tons. It impact­ed me because it illus­trat­ed the con­cept of learn­ing through­out life and how peo­ple can life with dig­ni­ty. I’ve loaned it out sev­er­al times and re-bought it at least three times.

  • fuzzo says:

    i read The Grapes of Wrath in the 7th grade. that was 43 years ago. stein­beck­’s ten­der and lov­ing prose and voice have nev­er left me.

    i don’t think it’s too much to say that i actu­al­ly, fac­tu­al­ly, love that book, and its author, very, very much.

  • Judy says:

    “The Cho­sen” by Chaim Potok. I read this book as a teenag­er. I remem­ber being com­plete­ly fas­ci­nat­ed with the Jew­ish cul­ture por­trayed in the nov­el, but the main impact came in the way Potok empha­sized the val­ues of intel­li­gence, intel­lec­tu­al achieve­ment, and com­pas­sion for oth­ers. I was incred­i­bly moved by the con­flict between these val­ues, and find myself re-read­ing this nov­el and the sequel “The Promise” almost year­ly for over 20 years.

  • Jack says:

    I’m going to go back to high school and say that Catch­er in the Rye had a big impact on my life.

    While the con­tent of the book in terms of char­ac­ter and sto­ry were acces­si­ble to me at 16, that isn’t real­ly what made the dif­fer­ence.

    It was only after read­ing some crit­i­cism and talk­ing with oth­ers in school and out that I began to see all that was going on in a nov­el beyond the plot: sym­bol­ism, irony, lan­guage and the rest.

    When I saw how much could go on in a book, how many things were going on simul­ta­ne­ous­ly, I became very impressed with the com­plex­i­ty of lit­er­a­ture as art. From then on I was pret­ty well hooked on books.

  • Davide Mana says:

    A few books that made me what I am, in no par­tic­u­lar order…

    . Richard Feyn­man — The Plea­sure of Find­ing Things Out
    A col­lec­tion of assort­ed writ­ings by a great sci­en­tist, shows the full palette of a sharp intel­li­gence ani­mat­ed by all-around curios­i­ty.

    . Charles Dar­win — The Ori­gin of Species
    A bril­liant mind work­ing out a com­plete par­a­digm shift from assort­ed clues, just like Sher­lock Holmes but bet­ter. This one got me hooked on palaeon­tol­ogy, still my main line of work.

    . Thor Hey­er­dahl — Kon Tiki
    Read it when I was ten or twelve.
    True life adven­ture and explo­ration — what more could a kid ask for?

    . Alan Watts — The Way of Zen
    The begin­ning of a life long inter­est in Zen phy­los­o­phy, I caught this one while in high school. Sure got me a few weird looks from class­mates…

    . Tom Rob­bins — Still Life With Wood­peck­er
    The core top­ics of the book might seem dat­ed, but the lan­guage fire­works are still as effec­tive as they were at the time of pub­li­ca­tion.

    . David Brin — Earth
    Mas­sive and demand­ing, a nov­el that shows what sci­ence fic­tion real­ly is and what could achieve as a tool for explor­ing pos­si­bil­i­ties. Great read.

  • Luella says:

    The Secret Life of Bees real­ly did some­thing for me. It’s a sto­ry of love, espe­cial­ly wom­an­ly love, a love that is so lack­ing in a world of angry men seething with prej­u­dice and the desire to kill peo­ple over super­fi­cial dif­fer­ences. Hav­ing grown up with men myself and with­out a moth­er, it made me real­ize that I real­ly do have this love in me and just need to find it and stir it up. It has changed the way I think of my mom, who I have been spend­ing time with as an adult, and activism. It real­ly sends a beau­ti­ful mes­sage about chang­ing the world through love and cel­e­bra­tion of diver­si­ty.

    Anoth­er book that has changed my life is “Crooked Cucum­ber: The Life and Zen Teach­ing of Shun­ryu Suzu­ki”. Although I am not prac­tic­ing Zen (yet), this book is like my Bible in that I plan to always read over it and reflect upon the mes­sages there­in. Suzu­ki had a hum­ble vision that in order to change this world, we need to change the way peo­ple think and live, not just to change the symp­toms of what is wrong. Not just to get rid of pop-prej­u­dice and hatred, but to get rid of labels entire­ly, to “fight” war and injus­tice with peace and under­stand­ing instead of anger. And so, so much more in this book. That’s just some of the stuff that is shap­ing the way I think right now.

  • Luella says:

    Sor­ry, I for­got the authors… “The Secret Life of Bees” by Sue Monk Kidd and “Crooked Cucum­ber: The Life and Zen Teach­ing of Shun­ryu Suzu­ki” by David Chad­wick.

  • Amanda says:

    After read­ing through these sug­ges­tions, I real­ized there’s a big hole: Poet­ry! So much poet­ry has affect­ed my life: Sylvia Plath’s _Ariel_; Camp­bell McGrath’s _Road Atlas_; James Wright’s _Above the River_; Bren­da Hill­man’s _Cascadia_…Walt Whit­man, Emi­ly Dick­in­son, Robert Bly…

    Read­ing Lyn Hejini­an’s _My Life_ actu­al­ly opened the door to my emo­tion­al under­stand­ing of lan­guage and mem­o­ry. It’s a gor­geous book.

    Poet­ry may not be the “win­ning pick” here, but it def­i­nite­ly should be cel­e­brat­ed! And not just in April.

    Thanks for read­ing my rant, and I hope you check out some of the books I men­tioned. :)

  • tharu says:

    The impor­tant books in my life include the fol­low­ing:

    “Black Like me” ‑J.H. Grif­fin ‑Impor­tant because I was raised by white peo­ple and I am an African Amer­i­can.
    I led a shel­tered life. In Jr High—it pro­vid­ed an under­stand­ing of the pain asso­ci­at­ed with what it meant to be Black in the real world.

    The Auto­bi­og­ra­phy of Mal­colm X because I was intrigued by his courage and he made more sense to me than MLK at the peak of their lead­er­ship-and Mal­colm’s meta­mor­pho­sis gave me hope!!

    Of Human Bondage by Som­er­set Maugham–first encounter with love as a hope­less pas­sion and tinged with cru­el­ty.

    Exo­dus-Leon Uris, The Slave- by Isaac Bashe­vis Singer, The Foun­tain­head & Atlas Shrugged-Ayn Rand,

    Rand was my first encounter with an orga­nized artic­u­la­tion of my own dif­fi­cul­ties with orga­nized reli­gion. Final­ly, any book that takes me into a dif­fer­ent time and cul­tur­al con­text have an influ­ence on my under­stand­ing of the world (peo­ple and life). Bless the minds that make those expe­ri­ences pos­si­ble.

  • Two books that may have changed my life were Tru­man Capote’s “In Cold Blood” — my fist adult book (at 14) that I read upon grad­u­at­ing to the adult sec­tion of the Munic­i­pal Library in Krakow. Hav­ing read all the clas­sic sci­ence fic­tion on the shelves, Capote’s mat­ter of fact prose was as dis­turb­ing to me as it was new. No aliens here among far away stars but a world almost ordi­nary and with­in reach, tan­gi­ble and so total­ly fright­en­ing. Read­ing it felt like being caged with a wild ani­mal, a quick fear fol­lowed repeat­ed­ly by the mind’s pangs of pride to sub­due the brute. This was no fic­tion yet it read stranger than any­thing else up till then.

    The oth­er book was “The Sec­ond Krish­na­mur­ti Read­er”. Hav­ing awak­ened to the bore­dom of a world full of ME, I was per­haps ready for this psy­cho­log­i­cal release and a process of “unlearn­ing” a rather ego-cen­tric world view. To learn to do each thing with “love”, that is with the deep­est engage­ment yet at the same time to be able to step back in expe­ri­ence to allow atten­tion a broad­er per­spec­tive was a rev­e­la­tion and it con­tin­ues to this day.

  • […] and we got a great response. Many of the titles are list­ed below. (The full list can be found at the bot­tom of this page.) As you review the list, a few trends will leap out. First, our read­ers have good taste. […]

  • jay says:

    Leav­ing Las Vegas
    John O’Brien

    only sub­mis­sion i can offer is that this
    offers the most beau­ti­ful


    you’ll read in quite a while
    (maybe ever..)

    in the sense
    my god.

    in the sense
    my god.

    hope you try read­ing
    what he wrote.

  • Kevin says:

    Enders Game. Orscon Scott Card
    Ender taught me that no mat­ter how small one may be. No mat­ter how mean­ing­less your exis­tence might be. No mat­ter how small you are on a uni­ver­sal scale you have the abil­i­ty to impact the world for good or evil. No mat­ter who you are, where you are, and how you came to be you have a chance to make your mark on human­i­ty. The book has had a giant impact on my life and I try and look to it every­day for inspi­ra­tion.

  • Mun­dane’s World, by Judy Grahn.

  • Mario says:

    I can’t help myself. I feel so jeal­ous when I get to know peo­ple who have read lots of books ‑not to men­tion those who have writ­ten them. That’s the rea­son I must pick “Faren­heit 451”.

  • byzie says:

    Seth Speaks by Jane Roberts and Macro­scope by Piers Antho­ny.

  • RoRo says:

    “The Spir­it Catch­es You and You Fall Down” by Anne Fadi­man.

    This book is one of the rare books that changed my life in that it helped me, as a health pro­fes­sion­al, “get” what cul­tur­al diver­si­ty means and the eth­no­cen­trism of West­ern Med­i­cine. It is about a Hmong fam­i­ly in Modesto and their strug­gles with our health care sys­tem. True Sto­ry.

  • Aurelius says:

    While there are sev­er­al books I con­sid­er impor­tant, I want to high­light just one here.
    “Mar­tin Eden” by Jack Lon­don. It’s not only a mas­ter­ful­ly writ­ten nov­el, but also it’s con­sid­ered his auto­bi­og­ra­phy.
    Read it, and let it put your world upside down for good or for a while.

  • NIc says:

    “A quite life with wood­peck­er” Tim Rob­bins

    It spoke to me on many lev­els cri­tiquing the way I thought about the world.

  • virr says:

    LMM’s books. All of them, but spe­cial­ly the Emi­ly of New Moon series. The Blue Cas­tle is also amaz­ing.

  • alice says:

    The book that I loved in my teens was ‘A Brave New World’ by Aldous Hux­ley.
    In my 20’s, ‘Mid­nights Chil­dren’ by Salman Rushdie
    In my 30’s Jane Austen for me and ‘His Dark Mar­te­ri­als’ by Philip Pul­man, for me and my chil­dren.
    In my 40’s — the book I have enjoyed most this year is ’ A very easy Death’ by Simone de Beau­voir.

  • dave says:

    “Around the Year with Emmet Fox.” A dai­ly com­pi­la­tion of Fox’s oth­er books. Read it and them 25 years ago, and this again now.
    Spiru­tu­al­i­ty in two syl­la­ble words that a two year old can under­stand. As was said to me years ago, “The world is filled with books and they all have answers in them. Find one.” This is the one for me.

  • Alexandre says:

    Many books have made an impact in my life, but none as much as “The Time­less Way of Build­ing” and “The Nature of Order”, by Christo­pher Alexan­der. They gave me a new and won­der­ful vision of what the world is made of.

  • Listen ToYourMotherEarth says:

    The Ring­ing Cedars Series, espe­cial­ly Bk 5 Who Are We? nnThese books have made a big­ger dif­fer­ence in my life than any oth­ers. nI found is while look­ing for books for my teen daugh­ter how­ev­er, which leads me to write that The Hitch­hik­ers guide to the galaxy book So Long and Thanks for all the Fish. The Xanth series by Piers Antho­ny also brought me laughs dur­ing dark peri­ods of teenage hood. nnHere are my Ram­blings on these book­snnAlo­ha — With You my beloved, I could cre­ate a Space of Love to last for eternity!nI am so in Love with the Ring­ing Cedars Series of books and I would like to find anoth­er per­son, or many peo­ple, who are also inter­est­ed in these con­cepts of liv­ing in har­mo­ny with Nature and turn­ing this Earth into a par­adise gar­den in one gen­er­a­tion, by pass­ing laws to give the land back to the peo­ple, espe­cial­ly to the children.nnSome of the fan­tas­ti­cal­ly amaz­ing things I have read in these remark­able books are soak­ing a seed under your tongue for 9 mins while stand­ing bare­foot where you will plant it, tele­path­ic chil­dren lead­ing a world race to neu­tral­ize all bul­lets and bombs, and pris­ons that have women and chil­dren try­ing to break in because of the beau­ti­ful Spaces of Love the pris­on­ers have cre­at­ed inside the barbed wire. Some more of my favorite sto­ries are The Bil­lion­aire, Fly­ing Saucers, These nine books are filled with many beau­ti­ful para­bles and sto­ries that inspire me to believe that we can turn the earth into a par­adise gar­den and our grand chil­dren will live in a world that is more beau­ti­ful than we have ever dared to dream!nnThese books are almost like a fairy tale, and yet I believe they are real, and I am look­ing for oth­ers who believe too. If you read them with an open mind, and give thought to the con­cepts men­tioned you will see that it is not mys­ti­cism, every action is ground­ed in log­i­cal practicality.nnMost peo­ple blow me off as an ide­al­is­tic. And I Am! Yet, I also look at what is Here Now with a prac­ti­cal and log­i­cal mind, bal­anced with cre­ative joy­ful imag­i­na­tion, and when I com­bine the two, I can some­times see the most beau­ti­ful direct actions to make my dreams come true.nnI have recent­ly come to live on My Space of Love where I am plant­i­ng fruit trees for my grand­chil­dren. I live with 14 yr old daugh­ter in Hawai’i, and I don’t par­tic­u­lar­ly desire more kids, but I might for the right man. A man who desires to cre­ate a ful­ly fledged human being, with puri­ty on our Space of Love.nI am also open to hav­ing oth­er peo­ple here to help keep this land beau­ti­ful by hand, I’ve been think­ing of using a weed whack­er late­ly, but would pre­fer not to. Many hands make light work :-)nnI hope every­one will read these books, and get inspired like many oth­er peo­ple all over the world have been. Hope­ful­ly some­one will make movies from them so the mes­sage can spread even faster! There are many peo­ple who will nev­er read a whole book, much less 9 books!nnA won­der­ful movie that I’ve heard asso­ci­at­ed with these books, although it looks like the movie is old­er than the books, is La Belle Verte, or The Green Beau­ti­ful. Its a very fun­ny movie!nnOne of the best and most sen­si­ble sto­ries in the books is the Wed­ding Rite. In this ancient way of get­ting mar­ried, the groom and bride get to spend months togeth­er plan­ning and cre­at­ing their Space of Love, which will be passed down to their chil­dren and the next 7 generations.nnThey vis­it every­one in each of their vil­lages and say only a short phrase while vis­it­ing, such as “what a clever cat you have” or ” My look at that beau­ti­ful cher­ry tree”. This is to give a clue as to what gift they would like that par­tic­u­lar per­son to bring to their wed­ding ceremony.nnWhen every­one is gath­ered, the groom tells every­one of the plans they have made, and where each tree is to grow, and when he points to where the cher­ry tree goes, the neigh­bor that came with the cher­ry tree, goes and stands in that spot. When he has fin­ished describ­ing their Fam­i­ly Domain, every­one gets to plant­i­ng what they have brought! Some peo­ple have brought seeds and they dance around throw­ing the seeds into the air to the sounds of the singing of the young maid­ens. A light and refresh­ing rain falls briefly.nnAnd in that way, their Space of Love is plant­ed in a very short time, and every­one par­tic­i­pat­ing will feel a sense of Joy and con­nec­tion with that place, which will endow the Space with Love and radi­ant health. The per­fect space to cre­ate new human life with­in! Its so much more beau­ti­ful the way it is writ­ten in the books.nnI have been inspired to grow my own food, and to cre­ate a Space of Love that will feed my daugh­ter and future gen­er­a­tions. I want to make this pos­si­ble for more peo­ple, by orga­niz­ing with oth­ers that also feel this dream in their hearts, to cre­ate and reac­ti­vate the ways that get the land back in the hands of the peo­ple, that we may be free once againnnAlo­ha, nLis­ten ToY­our­Moth­erE­arthnKapo­ho, Hawai’i

  • Ali Duvall says:

    I sup­pose the book I would site as being the most influ­en­tial on me as Solzhenitsyn‘s “Gulag Arch­i­pel­ago”. I had read a few books on 20th cen­tu­ry his­to­ry, the Sec­ond World War, the Holo­caust and so on, but noth­ing quite pre­pared me for this vast work from the great Russ­ian author. One review­er (I for­get who), says, “to not know this work, is to be a kind of his­tor­i­cal fool”. I couldn‘t agree more. It changed the way I see the world. Extreme­ly pow­er­ful.
    I will also quick­ly men­tion Vic­tor Serge, who it could be said, was even before Solzhen­it­syn to break the silence on Stalin‘s betray­al of the rev­o­lu­tion. Breath­tak­ing prose every­time. His best work being his non fic­tion in my view. Won­der­ful writer. ( Men in Prison, The Birth of our Pow­er 1930, 1931 ) .

  • Serene says:

    Reaper man by Sir Ter­ry changed my life, or at least how I view it. See­ing the progress of time and under­stand­ing the con­cept of mor­tal­i­ty through the eyes of Death him­self is an expe­ri­ence you don’t want to miss.

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