I'm a sophomore English major, so a lot of what I read takes place in survey courses, AKA partial texts. These are the books that I feel have most shaped or affected me, and I know I have only read a small sliver of everything. I'm sure this list will change.
  1. Maurice by E.M. Forster
    I got this book at Powell's in Portland, and devoured it on a road trip. Written secretly by Forster and published posthumously, this novel is short, moving, and personal. It focuses on a gay man in Edwardian England who comes to term with his sexuality and its implications.
  2. A Separate Peace by John Knowles
    I just read this a couple of weeks ago. A very dark, beautifully told story of masculine friendship, school ritual, and the specter of war. Homoerotic undertones and some wonderful prose.
  3. Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
    This is the funniest book I have ever read. And I have read it about four times. It's by a writer from Arrested Development so... Needless to say, it's satire at its best: weirdly specific and grandiose and heart-warming. I went to Seattle this summer and saw some of the places mentioned-it was delightful.
  4. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
    I read this in high school (and need to do it again). Just extraordinary. It's been dissected and analyzed and I have nothing new to offer except my admiration (but the madwoman in the attic?! Trope alert)
  5. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling
    A lot of people disparage Harry Potter. I get it. But I would be lying if I said I hadn't read this book so many times that the binding fell off. 870 pages of magic, friendship, adolescence, and complicated plotting. Harry Potter was the series that made me feel like a real reader, and I will never forget that. It really is magical for the people of my generation.
  6. Just Kids by Patti Smith
    This is what a memoir should be. I have never even really listened to Patti's music, but I wanted to read this book. Her stories about Robert Mapplethorpe, New York, and what it means to be an artist are moving and occasionally whimsical and wrapped in a cloud of comfort and wisdom.
  7. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
    I started this in middle/high school when I wanted to read the classics, but could never get into it. I read it last semester for Literary Criticism and loved it. The narrative structure, the moors, the passion, throwing hot applesauce at people... It's a gorgeous novel. I underlined something on every page, just about.
  8. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
    This doesn't really need any explanation. It's perfect. So is the movie. I got through part of the Go Set A Watchman audiobook (Reese Witherspoon!) but couldn't do it. TKAM is unmatched and it should be read by all.
  9. The Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson
    Not a specific book, per se, but the first time that I read poetry and felt emotionally connected. All of her poems are complex without opacity, and they pierce me right in the heart. "For love is immortality..."
  10. The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri
    I was only aware of Lahiri because I watch The Mindy Project, and Mindy Kaling used Lahiri's name for her character as an homage to Jhumpa. The Lowland is sweeping and expansive and rendered in specificity and it transports you. The characters are complicated and so is their morality. I think about this book randomly, and it still moves me. I saw a similar comment on the List App recently: you know something is good when you're still mulling it over months later.
  11. Honorable mentions: Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger, The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, Why Not Me by Mindy Kaling, Yes Please by Amy Poehler.