I was going to do this post last week and then Cedric Doggery came into my life. I have barely had a chance to sit and relax, let alone write a blog post. A few years ago, on another blog, I made a similar list- the top 10 books that changed my life. Since then I have re-thought a bit about the list. Not all of these are beloved books (most are), but all of them stick in my memory as opening me up to something new. I am going to take them in order of my reading them.
- Pride and Prejudice – Most high school students, when I was in high school, read this their junior/senior year. I read it my freshman year. I fell in love with it right away. It was my first clue in life that I didn’t have to settle. It would take another 10 years for me to understand what that meant for me, but I saw Elizabeth as someone I could identify with right away. Not to mention, I love Mr. Darcy. I love a flawed character who is willing to change to be a better person.
- Night – I hummed and hawed about which Holocaust related book to add here. Why Night? Growing up Jewish, as I have mentioned before, means I have never not known about the Holocaust. Night was the first book I read by a survivor about his experience. It was something I read before I got to see some of the camps myself. It was something I read many times in the years after. It’s size may be small, but Wiesel packs a huge emotional punch with it. I think this was the book that made me decide to go on the March of the Living.
- A Confederacy of Dunces – I read this because a guy I liked suggested it. It was something that happened in the beginning of my college-era depression. The reason he loved it and the reason I love it are completely different. He ended up being a jackass, but I still love this book. I re-read it often, especially when I needed to remember how stupid life can be and that I wasn’t crazy.
- Fight Club – Another from the college-era depression and this was the one that first got me focused on pushing through the depression. Similar to the message of Pride and Prejudice, Fight Club reminded me that I am unique and different and not always special and entitled. It reminded me to work for what I wanted and to not just try to be what others wanted me to be.
- The Tao of Pooh – One summer, during the college-era depression, I took a job at a summer camp for Jewish teenagers in Wisconsin (this is an overly simplified explanation of the camp). Part of my job was to run a small book store for a few hours a week. I picked up this book and it’s sequel The Te of Piglet. I was coming to terms with the fact that Judaism was not what I wanted in life. It did not answer my questions, I did not believe in god, and I really only liked the food. I found the lesson of moving like water very helpful. The idea of not fighting obstacles, but moving around them was exactly what I needed. This was about me and my place in the world, not about a higher power.
- The Red Tent – I read this at the end of the college-era depression. Reading this pissed me off because I realized I needed to force a place for myself in Judaism. I had not believed in god since I was 15. Rabbi’s tried to explain how god was like a clockmaker and only stepped in to fix things. I saw the Death Camps in Poland and I knew this was bull shit. I still tried to find a way to be Jewish. I majored in religion in hopes of finding that place through study. As I veered into Hinduism, Buddhism, and Taoism I realized nobody has it right. Then I read this book and studied how religions developed. I knew Judaism had no place for me. I could pretend or force a place, but that we had to make up a story to include women, made me realize this was not the place for me.
- The Handmaid’s Tale – I read this in graduate school and I can’t remember what prompted me to finally pick it up. It hit close to home as a feminist. When I need a reminder of how important feminism is, I read passages from this book. It’s also my favorite dystopian future novel, but right now I am so tired of the genre.
- Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West– I was just ending graduate school when I finally read this. I love the Wizard of Oz series, but characters are typically one dimensional. I like complexity in characters, especially villains. I don’t want to change their story, I want to understand their motivation. This book hit me at a time when I needed to remember that not everything is black and white. It reminded me that we all see things differently.
- True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society – I read this while working in Fitchburg. My job is to help students learn how to evaluate information sources. Reading this book was a good look at how it’s not always as simple as a checklist of things to identify on a webpage. Our bias causes us to see the world in unique ways, but it is being manipulated constantly. Want to understand what I do? Read this book.
- The Elegance of the Hedgehog – I read this just a few years ago. Being true to yourself is easy, but sometimes I keeps you feeling more alone than you are. You look at the people around you and you don’t always connect with them the way you would if you just tried to fit in. Usually I am perfectly fine with that. I seek friends who are like me. I get frustrated with friends when they just do what they are suppose to do and are miserable. This is not a happy book. It was a reminder that all of us can find a real connection with someone else as long as we know who we are.
These are the top 10 books that have changed my life.