Hopefully we've all read books that have profoundly influenced our lives in one way or another. Here's my list:
  1. The Secret Garden by Francis Hodgson Burnett.
    This was my gateway to reading book. I loved to read as a kid but this book turned me from a casual reader into a voracious bibliophile. The imagery, the language, the story. I deeply, fiercely, love this book.
  2. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle.
    This book cultivated and encouraged my life-long love of physics.
  3. Black Boy by Richard Wright.
    I had never thought much about white privilege (probably because I have been a recipient my whole life) until reading this book. All of Richard Wright's books have broadened my horizons on issues of race and diversity more than other books have. Plus they are compulsively readable.
  4. Go Ask Alice.
    Yes, yes, I now know the book was written by a Mormon youth counselor. But at 12 y.o. I didn't know that. This story, frankly, scared the shit out of me. I could identify with the girls' angst at the beginning of the book, so it hooked me and did not let go.
  5. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand.
    How typical, right? A young person influenced by a diehard capitalist. Whatever. Her dire vision of a socialist society is not what I focused on. I loved her message of self-empowerment and pursuit of personal passion regardless of the odds. And, no, I did not become a total asshole for 4 months after reading the book. Instead, I got a job with Greenpeace.
  6. The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoyevsky.
    This book was my gateway to Russian authors. I love Dostoyevsky despite the fact that he makes me want to commit suicide while I'm reading his novels. Afterwards, however, I recognize the genius of the story and love him all over again.
  7. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon.
    I never read much historical fiction until I found this novel. But more than the historical part, it is Diana's writing style that almost - almost - made me want to become a writer. Gods, her words are like honey and silk. I want to roll around in them, cover myself in them, and devour them into my soul.
  8. Silent Spring by Rachel Carson.
    I read this book as a teenager because I identified as an environmentalist. This book ended up changing my life because I found my passion through it's urgent message.
  9. The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty by Anne Rice.
    Is it odd to see an erotic novel on this list? Maybe. I saw this book sitting so calmly on the bookstore shelf and had no idea what type of story it contained - other than it was about a fairy tale. I like her vampire stories, so why not? Let me add I was freshly 18 and still a virgin. A very sheltered virgin. Until this book. Holy mother of god. This book shattered my preconceptions about sex more profoundly than any porn video could. I battled between wanting to throw it away and keep reading.
  10. Many, many more books have influenced or changed my life somehow, but I think this list will suffice.