Books are like a great pair of sneakers. They fit you really well then years later they might no longer be useful but you know at one point they carried you. When I think of my favorite books they are linked to the personal events unfolding at the time of reading, so although my book tastes change, some of these are impossible to forget.
  1. The Glass Castle
    I remember a reviewer saying that some people are great writers and some have fascinating lives — Jeannette Walls has both. After reading this book I decided rather than just improving my writing, I needed to do something exciting because my personal experiences thus far had been quite vanilla.
  2. The Girl on the Train
    This, I would say, is my favorite book of the past year. Once I started I couldn't stop, and needed to be done in a matter of days. It still had enough depth that I lent it to a friend so we could discuss once she was finished.
  3. The War of Art
    I read this book when I first started working on ReadThisNext! It is what taught me to think of ideas as tangible beings with a mind of their own—you have to breathe life into them but eventually they'll start walking on their own. That has definitely been the case.
  4. Bird By Bird
    Every wonderful author seems to write a book on writing at some point. I've read other Anne Lamott books but this is by far my favorite, and the type of book that had me crying.
  5. Love Does
    Bob Goff was my business law instructor in college before he wrote this book, so although I had heard some of his stories, the book captures them better. I've re-read it twice and it inspires me to break the rules and "be secretly awesome."
  6. Dead Aid
    I became deeply interested in international development after a trip to Liberia in 2007. Growing up it bothered me that kids in other parts of the world didn't have access to education and I was baffled at why these other places were so conflict-ridden -- and this book sheds light on how it can actually be caused by the actions of developed countries.
  7. One Day (David Nicholls)
    This is a love story like my favorite movie "Casablanca" is a love story. What else can I say? It makes me happy because it seems so authentic.
  8. Beginner's Greek
    What I loved about this book is how complex the many characters were, that it wasn't just a main character and their one-dimensional friends, but a number of people all with their own desires and storylines. I read this the same year as One Day and they seem similar to me, but one has a more happy ending.
  9. Blue Clay People
    I read this at a friend's recommendation right before I went to Liberia. She had gone the year before. It's not mainstream but was a great prep to read a novel set in Liberia by a former peace corps worker who was based in Liberia.
  10. Chronicles of Narnia
    I grew up with my dad reading these to me before bed. I've re-read them as an adult. A couple weeks ago, a friend confused another friend's closet door for the door to the patio, and we nearly followed her through it -- think of how close we were to Narnia! But seriously, the idea of walking through a door into another world will never get old to me, and there can never be too many books written about it. Makes me wonder if there is in fact a door out of here somewhere. 😀
  11. State of Wonder
    At the time I read this, I was very much conflicted about the desires for career, romance and starting a family. Ann Patchett beautifully explores these themes in a Hear of Darkness-style novel that celebrates strong, brilliant women.
  12. A God In Ruins
    I didn't think it would be possible for me to like this more than Life After Life, the companion book, but — with my parents aging and the loss of a close relative, I found the question of "what kind of life do you want to have" and exploring how much is not promised but left to chance to be particularly resonant.