13 People On The One Book That Changed Their Lives Forever


I remember reading White Oleander when I was 15. It was the first book that really struck a nerve with me on a personal level. The story of Astrid’s dark and haunting journey through the Los Angeles foster care system and her complicated relationship with her mother reminded me of similar complexities within my own family unit. Aside from the story, Janet Fitch is an incredible writer and this was the first book that really made me want to be writer and experiment with story-telling and language. I interviewed 13 friends and co-workers to see what books have always stayed with them.

Harry Potter. I was always a bookworm, but those books just completely transformed me. It was kind of like validation for being a reader, and I know I can pick them up and feel the exact same way I did when I was a kid.” – Ella

“I read The Circle by Dave Eggers over the summer, and I haven’t been able to get it out of my head since. The book’s about a Facebook/Google type mega-internet company, which ends up moving society and social interaction towards a direction that is over-invasive, increasingly boundary-less, and scarily enough, not seemingly too far from where we are today. It’s definitely influenced the way I think about the internet, and the pros of cons of the digital age in general.” – Lance

Tiny Beautiful Things. This book is a series of essays Cheryl Strayed wrote as advice columnist Dear Sugar. In answering other people’s questions about life and death and infidelity and addiction and depression and the like, she tells stories of her own molestation, run with heroin, 20-something divorce, mother’s death, etc. The point is: this book teaches you how to be human, and how to be the best kind: patient, open, honest, down-to-Earth. I basically tell everybody I meet to read it. It changed my whole life and I’ve heard nothing short of the same from other people as well.” – Brianna

Integrity by Stephen Carter was a game-changer for me. The book discusses the importance of integrity at an individual and societal level and gives criteria on how we can define it for ourselves, how it can be practiced, and why it is important. I wish everybody would read this book. It really spells out the importance of discerning your values, naming them, and practicing them as part and parcel of your life.” – Kovie

“It would have to be Édouard Levé’s Suicide. Although brief, it is incredibly powerful. It was his suicide note / manuscript, actually. It has influenced my writing. Another book that influenced me was Roberto Bolaño’s Nazi Literature In The Americas. It doesn’t have actual Nazis in it — they are fictitious and he manages to make caricatures of them. It’s humorous! He based the book off Juan Rodolfo Wilcock’s The The Temple Of Iconoclasts, which is really, really good (and funny as hell). Two more books that have influenced me: Haruki Murakami’s After Dark, because it was my first Murakami book I’ve read and it launched me into his magical world of talking cats, dream-like serenity, and effortless dialogue. And finally, Yukio Mishima’s The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea. That was my first Mishima book and I’ve been obsessively re-reading his works.” – Michael

Why Girls Are Weird by Pamela Ribon. At 18-years-old, this book spoke loudly to my young adult self. It was the first novel I had read that included real sex, real relationships, and real life situations. It’s perfectly hilarious, heartbreaking, and thought-provoking. Pamela Ribon has a way with words. So much so, I reached out to her years later, and she sent me my own signed copy. If you’re a female with a vagina, this is a must-read.” – Emma

“When I give people books as gifts I always start with one of the following: 1. The Giver. The movie butchered what was really magical about this book- it was immersing yourself in a place of sensory deprivation and then getting to experience sensations one at a time in the greatest detail… amazing. 2. Tuesday’s With Morrie. I felt like Morrie was able to tell me things about living through a tale of dying. That is on the back of this very intense relationship that’s built and it never fails to break my heart. Or 3.  The Perks of Being A Wallflower. I didn’t see the movie but I feel like this book changed the way I saw adolescence, while I was going through adolescence myself. Again, it changes the way I saw things and that has had a lifelong impact on me.” – Kera

On The Road. It made me wanna flee my small town and adventure, explore the country.” – Ty

Siddhartha, because every 8th grader needs to someday learn that for every true statement, there is an opposite one that is also true. That language and time lead people to stick to a fixed belief that is not the whole truth.” – Kyle

The Virgin Suicides. I will have to think about why I loved it so much but it has always been a standout to me.” – Lindsay

X-Men comics, preferably the earlier ones. I moved a lot as a kid and switched schools every few years so learning to fit in became a valuable skill. The thing about the X-Men that stuck with me was that they also didn’t fit in, they weren’t “normal” and yet by finding others as different as themselves they formed a team and basically a family. I could go on for days about how X-Men teaches against prejudice and class warfare, but it has something for everyone.” – Josh

The Harry Potter series was extremely influential in my life, especially during my parents’ divorce, which happened to have a lot of drama throughout my entire elementary, middle, and high school years. Rowling offered me an escape from my reality, as well as a family of sorts within her pages, which I loved dearly. In a way I think it kept me sane and away from other destructive avenues I could’ve chosen to use as an escape.” – Kimberly

Jaws. I read it when I was in second grade and it caused me to skip youth fiction almost entirely as a result. I’ve read it twice more since and gotten something entirely different out of it each time. After that I started reading Crichton and didn’t stop until high school.” – Timothy