Thursday, March 10, 2011

6 Books that Changed My Life

I have read so many good books, it’s impossible to choose one favorite (or two or five or ten). It depends on my mood, what I was doing in life when I read the book, etc. etc.

And everything I have read, from the silliest to the most intensely tedious, has affected me somehow. On the most superficial level books amuse us, but they can also educate us, expand our thinking, and elevate and intensify our perceptions of the world in which we live.

The following 6 books have been instigators in the narrative of my life. They have affected me, they have changed me in some way, they have caused me to do something and/or made me the person I am now.* What are your top 6? (Ok, so I started out with a list of 5...but then had to bump it up to 6...I am not good at making decisions.)

1. On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder – This is my favorite book from the Little House on the Prairie series. Wilder’s books were the first real chapter books my mama read to Sister1 and I (starting when I was in preschool or kindergarten?) and I attribute my life long love of reading to the hours and hours and hours she spent reading aloud every night before putting us to bed. (Wilder’s series was followed by The Boxcar Children, The Harvey Boys, Little Women, everything by Brian Jaques, and many many many more.) My parents read to me until I was in about 4th grade, by which time they read too slow and not enough to keep up with my voracious literary appetite.

2. Going Solo by Roald Dahl – This is my all-time most-read book (read my review here). Even though it’s by a British guy, Going Solo was the first book to get me intrigued by Africa. (An interest that has clearly escalated to a rather abnormally extreme degree.)

3. A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth – Depending on how you count, this is the longest (or top-5 longest) book in the English language. I read it one summer in high school and it definitely gets a place on my all-time favorites list because it has everything. Really – the entire human experience is encapsulated in Seth’s 591,552 words. And I consider it life-changing because A Suitable Boy started my minor obsession with India and Indian authors. I was planning on going to India long before Niger came into the picture (it might finally happen this summer!), and I have read so many books by Indian authors (Rohinton Mistry, Salman Rushdie, Kiran Desai, Amitav Gosh, Arundhati Roy, etc.).

4. We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families by Philip Gourevitch -  I impulse-bought this book at the BU bookstore just before Christmas break freshman year of college. It's the true story of the Rwandan genocide and is so powerful. (Have you seen Hotel Rwanda? Think of that movie, in book form.) This book got me interested in human rights and international responses to mass atrocities.

5. The End of Poverty by Jeffrey Sachs – I read this book for a college sociology course, piquing my interest in international development and shaping the rest of my college experience. Now that I know more about development/international relations/etc., I can’t say that I agree with Sachs on all his development theories, but I do give him credit for starting me thinking about them in the first place.

6. Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi – I loved this book (read my review here) – the writing style, the subjects, the combination of politics and people and experiences. This book inspires me to write - someday I want to write as well as Nafisi. 

*Note: religious books excluded.