Books are important. They shape us and mold us in ways that we don't quite realize. It can be a book that opens our minds to see the world in a new way, inspire us to take on adventures we would have never dreamed, make us a more empathetic and caring member of the world.
I don't know if I would have ever moved to Paris if it weren't for books.
Growing up, books were my world. I read voraciously. I would literally come home from the library with a stack of books 3 feet high every week and plow through them. I couldn't get enough. I loved history, historical fiction, and biographies the most, but I was always up for a good mystery.
These books that we have chosen are ones that have stayed with us and shaped us. I'd like to think of my list as ever-evolving. Even though this post was my idea, I had a hard time narrowing down 5 books that I could pinpoint as being change-makers. Over time, I've gained perspective on some of these books and while I know they changed my life at the time, I don't know that they would resonate in the same way as I'm in a different place in my life now.
I am limiting myself to five, but this was hard! I have a feeling as soon as this is posted I'm going to think of 100 more that should be on the list and I may have to do a follow-up... I've tried to keep my picks diverse. And let me just start by seconding Crystal's choice of books by Jen Sincero. Truly books that have radically changed my mindset over the last couple of years. Ditto Alyssa's choice of To Kill a Mockingbird, profound. (Those don't count towards my limit of 5, FYI.)
1. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
A modern Greek epic. Reading this book was more than profound for me. Following a Greek family's story over generations, it explores how seemingly small decisions have long-lasting impacts. This tale is beautifully told and touches on many pivotal moments in 20th century American history. It's a book about belonging and finding one's identity. It's a novel full of heavy topics but is truly full of wonder and hope. One of my favorite books of all time.
2. The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
This novel crosses most young artists' library shelves at one time or another. My firm thought when I read it for the first time was that it was the first time I truly identified wholly with the character of Howard Roark. As time has worn on, I've come to have a more nuanced view of the book and its author, whose views have been the source of some pretty hateful rhetoric. I never did quite get into her other works and The Fountainhead still holds a special place on my library shelf, despite some of it's more troubling ideas.
3. A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
Like any person who lands in Paris, this book made its way into my hands. While it's been years since I re-read it, I can still palpably feel the excitement and possibility that the city promised and the book delivered. Perhaps most revelatory was the realization that so many famous and influential people lived an worked together in Paris during that magical time. This book is probably the reason why if I could transport myself to any time and place it would be Paris in the years between WWI and WWII.
4. East of Eden by John Steinbeck
I remember reading this book in contrast to The Grapes of Wrath, which I could never quite love as much as I was supposed to love. East of Eden felt immediately more real and visceral, but that may have been because I read it as a young teenager. For some reason, the memory of reading it stayed with me as one of the first truly "adult" books that I had read.
5. Profit First by Mike Michalowicz
This is the most recent addition to the list and completely different than the rest in that it's a book specifically about business. Its concept is completely simple, but helped me completely shift my mindset about money and business (along with those Jen Sincero books). Every business owner should read it in my opinion. Since implementing the accounting structure recommended in the book, I've been able to better manage not only my money but my time.
1. Empty Mansions by Bill Dedman
Crystal's affinity towards historical literature is completely evident in her top five book choices. The number one spot is held by the biography of C.W Clarks' daughter. She spent millions of dollars on homes and items that she never used, leaving them completely untouched.
2. The Vanderbilts by Jerry E. Patterson
Next up on Crystal's list is another novel about the intricacies of a wealthy family's dynamic.
3. How to Win Friends and Influence People
This is a pretty self explanatory book, who wouldn't love to master these skills?
4. Dior By Marie-France Pochna
Though this novel also focuses closely on history, its formatted closer to a biography rather than a story.
5. Badass book series by Jen Sincero
1. Media Sapiens-2 by Sergey Minaev
Kate read this book during her last year at University in Russia. She realized how media effects people through this book, opening her eyes to an entirely new world. This was the beginning of Kate's cautionary approach to how she navigates media.
2. The Bible
Though Kate never grew up in a religious family, she learned more about the church after moving to Houston and discovering more about her religious side.
3. 100 years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
This classic novel was one Kate couldn't put down. She was so heavily invested in this novel that she even read it while walking around town. The combination of fiction and reality make this story such an iconic tale.
4. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
Two years ago Kate stumbled upon this book through a long chain of recommendations. Though this is such a painful read, due to the horrific things the author endured, she felt heavily moved by the emotions of the Holocaust survivors. The moral of the story opened up her eyes to see the meaning of life never falls away despite the circumstances.
5. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
Within the last year Kate decided to finally take the plunge and finish this book. Though it took her over a year to digest this guidebook, she did it with a plan of action in mind. Utilizing the principles she learned in this book chapter by chapter has been completely life changing to her daily routine.
1. Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
A beautiful novel about a young boy who buys and trains dogs was definitely influential to Alyssa's dog-loving life. She adores the strong bond the boy and his animals share, perfectly exemplifying undying love.
2. The Giver by Lois Lowry
This book opened up her eyes to see how important the little things in life truly are and to never take anything for granted. This book will completely change your perspective on life.
3. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck By Mark Manson
Though this self help book has already made an appearance on our staff's list, it definitely deserves to be on here for a reason. Letting go of expectations, judgement and living for yourself are all key elements of this book, take the next step in finding your inner positivity during this time.
4. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Though most people have read this novel in their high school days, it still carries on an essential message to this day. This deeply moving story allows us to explore the intricacies and development of human behavior.
5. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
I recommend this book to anyone, not only is it enjoyable but a truly necessary read. This book helped Alyssa navigate her divorce, reshaping her pain into a burning motivation to find who she truly was.
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